Kathy Mattea sings a song, “Who’s Gonna Know.” It’s a slow ballad that rocked my world back in 1994. She sings a chorus of:
Cause who’s gonna know but me
Who’ll help me recall those small memories
When I’m all that’s left of this family of three
Who’s gonna know but me
I remember thinking, “that’s me.” I’m the only product of my parents. There are his kids. And her kid. But I’m the only “theirs.” But that song played on radios 23 years ago. It’s now 2017, and my Kathy Mattea cassette, yes…I said cassette, is long gone. In those years, a lot has happened. I graduated from college. I moved away. My parents got divorced in 1997, the same year I got married. My dad remarried three years later, my mom remarried later. I had a baby. And another. And life just went along.
While life was happening, I never thought much about that family of three. I have my dad. I have my mom. And I’m busy raising two amazing kids. And I’m getting older. Which means my parents are too. And “BAM” it’s now 2017, and they’re both slipping away from me in all senses of the word.
My mom has dementia and Parkinson’s. I am now her court appointed conservator and guardian, as the task was too daunting for her husband to handle. She resides in a facility full time, and no longer recognizes me, her own flesh and blood. My dad is being very well taken car of by his wife, as his memory fails him a little more each day. And he’s beating prostrate cancer as I type.
My parents are alive, I know this makes me ultimately luckier than others. But the parents of that family of three are not capable of the memories that we shared. And ohmygoodness…I miss them like hell. I was to say to my dad…”do you remember…”but I don’t because I don’t want to frustrate him. I want to call my mom and ask her about that peach cobbler she made, but I can’t because she’s not capable of conversation. And I wish that I had a sibling, who I could revert to, who I could reminisce with, but I don’t.
I could go on and on, listing what I miss. But it won’t change one damn thing. I can riddle myself with guilt, either my own, or by letting others dump it on me. But that won’t change a damn thing either. This is a “it is what it is” scenario.
So I do the best I can. I embrace the lucid moments with my mom, though she has yet to recognize me this year. I will repeat this and that to my dad, 27 times if that’s what it takes. And some days, I’m making appointments with a dermatologist for a teenager, and dealing with Medicare. But I’m didn’t the best I can. I’m missing a soccer banquet because I have to drive home, as the $500 plane ticket really wasn’t an option. I’m constantly struggling to trade one guilt with another.
But it’s what I’ll continue to do, as long as this life will let me. I’ll find the joy in holding my mom’s frail, cold hand. I’ll feed her and giggle when she eats things like peas, that she always passionately hated. I’ll repeat to my dad, time and again, when I’m coming to town. I’ll smile and answer him, every time he asks, “how old are the kids?” I’ll do what I can to grasp the fingertips of what’s left of this family of three.