Although I no longer need my parents for basic survival (food, clothes, a roof over my head, keys to the car on the weekend), I have come to realize in my adult years that I still need my parents. I need them for guidance and support through all the new experiences that come with aging: how to maintain a home and how to fix a car and how raise kids and what is an appropriate wedding gift for a friend and which insurance plan to sign up for during open enrollment. And don't even get me started on the free babysitting. I don't know what we'd do without Nana and Papa's
I am reminded every few years how much I still need my parents. At 23 and 27 and 31 and 33 and yet again at 35, as I watch my friends and loved ones lose their moms and dads. As I sit in pews with tissues clutched in my hands, as I stand silently beside fresh graves, as I scroll through Facebook and see the heartbreaking news. I watch as families splinter, because let's face it, moms are usually the glue that keep us all together, and grieving husbands don't quite seem to know how to take over that role. I watch my friends, my peers, take the place of their parents, checking in on siblings and hosting Christmas dinner and determining what to do with Mom's closet full of clothes when it's time to move.
Friends, I don't know how you do it. I don't know where you draw the strength to step into these new roles, to speak at funerals and organize fundraisers, all while you manage your careers and families. I have so much admiration for the way that you don't give up in the face of your grief, but how you lean into it and make something beautiful and profound out of your loss. I am watching you as the years pass and the inevitable day that I am in your shoes draws ever closer. I hope that you will help me when the time comes, that you will show me how you kept calm and kept going.
Mom and Dad, I don't say this enough, and I don't want to use my best words after you are gone. I love you. I appreciate you so very much, more than perhaps you even know. I would not be the person I am today without your influence, your love, and sometimes your example of what not to do. I am so glad we've had all these years together. I am so glad my kids have had all these years with you. I don't know how I'll go on when you're gone. I imagine my mind will play tricks on me, so that I still turn my head when I see a black Nissan truck to see if you are behind the wheel, or still text you first when I have a question.
I know that when we can no longer make new memories together, that I will cherish every last one I have. Even times we fought. Even times you drove me crazy. Even times I was convinced I was right and you were wrong. I will never forget how it felt to be small and climb into your lap. I will never forget how your hands can never be still when you talk. I will never forget the times you kissed me on the head and told me you were proud of me. I will never forget the things I learned from standing next to you, whether it was in the kitchen or the garage or at church or at a family reunion. I will never forget the places you took me, the ideas you instilled in me, the home you created for me.
I want my own kids to have the kind of childhood I enjoyed, with bike rides through the neighborhood and basketball games on Saturday mornings and breakfast for dinner and trips to the library. I want to embarrass them in front of their friends when they think they're too old for hugs and kisses at school drop off. I want to accompany them on field trips and mission trips and college visits. I want to ban them from reading books with content I deem too mature for them (remember "You can't read Sweet Valley High until you're in high school"?) and I want them to read those books secretly in their closets after I've gone to bed because their 12 year old selves are too curious to wait two more years to find out what happens to Elizabeth and Jessica after the party at Bruce Putnam's house. I want to bust them for sneaking out to TP someone's house and I want to believe them when they say they've been falsely accused of vandalizing someone else's locker.
I want to provide for my kids but also teach them how to work hard for the things they want in life. That new shoes and food on the table are a given, but getting into college and med school will require years of study and sacrifice. I want them to feel like home is a haven, that no matter who doesn't like them this week or which friend they've fought with, when they walk in the door, they are loved unconditionally. I want them to share my faith in God, but I also want them to know that I will do my best to answer any questions they have along the way. I want my kids to know that they can count on me, that I will always show up to cheer them at their games or help them change a flat tire.
I want my kids to keep needing me long after they've turned 18 and moved into their own homes, because I want to have the same relationship with them that I've enjoyed as a daughter. Mom and Dad, I hope we still have many more years together, because the bathroom sink is clogged and my car is making a funny noise again. Also I love you.