My parents both died when both we and they were far to young, I was 29 when my Mom passed away from cancer. My Dad re married soon after her passing, and years later in 2005 he committed suicide after suffering a long illness. Sadly I have very few photo’s of my parents or family, and on a recent trip back to South Africa, discovered some old boxes of slides. My Dad must have given these to me while he was still alive, and as I was in the process of immigrating to the UK at the time, would have stashed these away to ”look at later” That was 16 years ago, so I was thrilled to rediscover these.
I had the slides digitised and for the first time could look at the photo’s properly, in detail. While looking though the images I was overcome with sadness. This is all that is left– only a few pictures of a beautiful childhood memory. Growing up one doesn’t always have the best relationship with parents. We don’t take their advise, and rebel against everything. We might make their lives so difficult, and hurt them without thinking. As children we are selfish, as adults we are cruel. We don’t take the time to get to know them not just as our parents, but as people in their own right. We are impatient with them, judge their decisions harshly, and blame them for our own mis-fortunes. I look at the photo’s now and don’t see the alcoholic father, the depressed bi-polar mother. I see two young beautiful people who clearly loved each other, and us. My parents were young once, they had dreams and aspirations, and wanted to move mountains, but lost their way amongst the challenges of life. I loved them both dearly, and told them often, but didn’t show it often enough.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes an orphan as ”a child deprived by death of one or usually both parents ” or ” one deprived of some protection or advantage” . I feel deprived, of been able to tell my parents that we turned out okay after all, that I have found much happiness, that they are great grand parents many times over. I feel deprived of the sense of belonging to my own family, because they are gone. Nothing can ever fill the void. I just feel deprived of everything I grew up with, because they are not here to remember and share things with me, and my children are deprived of knowing them at all.
And so it is again the start of a New Year, and with it comes anniversaries that we don’t always want, but like it or not, ”that” day will pop up again out of nowhere. For me a sense of melancholy always, sometimes I don’t know even why, until I realise what the day is – a birthday? Date of passing? Tomorrow is such a day – the 7th of January. It would have been my parents 58th Wedding anniversary. I look at the old photos again, and it as I’m also writing about a return trip to South Africa, recently looked at a photo I had taken while there. It then dawned on me that the very same beach that my Mom sat with us as young children, while my Dad took a photo, is the very same scene I have taken some 50 years later. Precious and happy memories on both occasions, to be relived over and over.