I’m Now an (Adult) Orphan

I lost my mother in the Autumn of 2021. She had been suffering a multi year battle against dementia. Her passing was long expected during her decline in health over the last year of her life.

I had been on vacation. My normally annual (save 2020, because of…you know) trip to Orlando to Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights. On the day of my departure, I received a phone call from my brother that my mother’s nursing home had placed her on hospice. Is that the way you say that? I don’t know. I debated whether I should go, but since it didn’t seem like there would be any immediate issue, my brother and I decided I would go on the trip.

Two hours after I returned home, my brother called again to tell me my mother had passed.

I had conflicted feelings. On the one hand, I had sort of mourned my mother a couple of years prior. Her dementia was pretty bad, and she was not just forgetting what year it was, or how old I was, but also seemingly simple things. Like how a door works. At that time I came to the conclusion my mother wasn’t around. This wasn’t her, this wasn’t the person I knew. On that day in late September her physical being had caught up with my perception. And her suffering was over.

My parents divorced when I was a teenager. I never learned what I would consider the true story. Mom had her version; Dad had his. Of course, those versions didn’t match. I also don’t know how much truth was in either of the stories, and neither of them was ever going to be open about it, so it will forever remain the story of two people who grew apart and stopped loving each other.

Anyway…

Both parents eventually remarried. My mother’s second marriage didn’t last. I definitely don’t know any details behind that one.

My father and his wife stayed married — for better or for worse — until death did them part.

Over the past several years when I would call home on the various holidays I would always hear of my father’s various health problems. From my stepmother. Not from my father directly. My dad wasn’t exactly an open book with his story. Or feelings. Or…I don’t know. Anything.

Thus the reporting duties fell on his wife. A perfectly lovely woman, mind you. But every health issue was a crisis; every call could be his last hurrah. This went on for a decently long time.

She’s a worrier.

Not that it was all hyperbolic. The man definitely had health issues, and he also didn’t seem to care what doctors told him. He went through a lot. Medications. Heart problems. Surgeries. He always pulled through, grumbling all the way.

In 2021 my father’s diabetes reached the point where injuries weren’t healing. A partial amputation of his foot followed. Even that he grumbled about — not so much that the doctors had to amputate, but more all the after care he had to go through. The inconvenience of it all.

I had decided to spend my 2021 birthday in Orlando at Disney World. I went, had a great time. Constantly sent photos home to my family. When I returned home I spoke with my stepmother. She informed me my father had been in the hospital. She hadn’t told me sooner, because she didn’t want to ruin my birthday trip. She just quietly replied to my photos in a very positive manner.

That hospital stay lasted several weeks. He came home for a very brief period, and then went back. And back again. And so on. But hey, he always seemed to pull through. Worse for the wear, grumpier than ever, but with us. So I wasn’t sure how serious it was. I had called him on his birthday in January (2022) and told him he wasn’t allowed to make me a full orphan that soon after my mother. He laughed and said it certainly wasn’t the plan.

On a Sunday evening in April I received a series of text messages from my stepmother. She informed me Dad was continuing to have difficulties, and they had appointments with various doctors. They would know more by the end of the week. I thanked her for telling me, and figured I’d call the following weekend if she didn’t get back to me before then.

The following Friday morning my father passed away in the hospital. My last conversation with him had been jokingly telling him not to die on me.

orphan, noun

a child deprived by death of one or usually both parents

(www.m-w.com)

I may be an adult, but now my birth parents are gone. In just over seven months. And it’s weird and strange and I know I’m not the only one particularly after this pandemic, but it makes me feel like a kid. A sad, mourning, orphaned kid.

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