This month, millions of people in the United States will mark May 9 by celebrating Mother’s Day. According to reports, last year people spent a record $25 billion—yes, billion—on Mother’s Day. I, however, won’t be one of them. I haven’t been since 2013, when my mom died.
And then next month, people will celebrate their dads on Father’s Day. Again, I won’t be one of them. That is because last year, in the midst of the pandemic, my dad passed away. As I sat and held his hand on the day he died, I felt the sense of my place in life slowly slipping away along with him.
In the days that followed, I found myself struggling with my new reality. I must admit that the word orphan drifted into my mind more than once.
You see, after my mom died, even though I felt lost, I was still able to find comfort in the fact that I could reach out and touch one of the two people who were always my anchors in life. But then last July, when my dad died, he took that last connection with him. The two people who knew me better than anyone else in this world were gone, and I found myself in a whole new world.
Suddenly, I was no longer a part of the sandwich generation. I was done seeking ways to balance caring for parents and children at the same time. I could no longer connect with friends over the challenges and questions that arise when dealing with aging parents.
I would listen to people complain about the demands of their parents and find myself angry, wishing I still had the luxury of being able to have things to complain about. I was realizing that half a sandwich just doesn’t seem very fulfilling.
The Other Side
But there was still the other side—my kids. People would always remind me of that. “You still have your kids,” they would say when I mentioned no longer having my parents—as if that would make it all better.
And while that was true, even that side of the sandwich was beginning to crumble. The kids are getting older and starting to spread their wings and head out on their own. In fact, just two weeks after packing up my dad’s room at the nursing home, I found myself doing the same thing in my son’s room to prepare for his move to college in Arizona. And then seven months later, we did it again when my oldest daughter, Maddie, moved to Florida.
Suddenly, two more tethers in my life had come undone, and I felt myself floating a little farther into the open sea of the unknown. Repeatedly I would tell myself: “This is how it’s supposed to be. We raise our children, get them ready to go out on their own, and then we let them go.” It has now become my mantra.
The Journey Goes On
Life is ever-changing. Before we know it, we are saying goodbye to people we never wanted to. The kids who used to make us cards with crayon-drawn hearts and presents with lots of glitter set off on their own adventures. And days like Mother’s Day carry with them an extra tinge of sadness.
We will feel adrift, lost in a sea of the unknown, struggling to see the light on the horizon. But we will have faith and float along, reminding ourselves that this is how it’s supposed to go.