I am an orphan. My mother died almost 11 years ago and my father died just a few days ago. I will have to find an alternate person to walk me down the aisle one day. I will have to rely on my friends and my mother-in-law when I have children. However, my parents did not leave me defenseless.
My mother taught me early to be strong and independent. I remember a story from when she was in high school in the sixties. She was just over five foot two and she wore fashionable micro-mini dresses. There was a certain math teacher who would write equations on the chalkboard too high for her to reach in the hopes that she would stretch her arm and show some panties. Instead, my mother would resolutely re-write the equation at a lower point on the board and continue with her work. She worked in a national department store chain and let me know that there was another chain for whom she would never work because they were not friendly to gay couples and families.
My father taught me that speaking carefully and with conviction is essential. We worked on science projects together and discussed books. In middle school, he supported me as I fought to be a part of the Superior Learners Program and again a short time later, when I realized it was not the academic challenge I had imagined and wanted to leave the program. As a child, I listened to political debates and topical news with him on National Public Radio and I still consider this an important part of my life. We spent hours discussing what we heard and he never shied away from exploring complex topics with me.
Today as I reflect upon the gifts my parents have given me, I think the most important gift was that of appreciation. I sometimes worry that I didn’t express this appreciation enough to my mother, though I know she understood the egotistic tendencies of teenagers. I feel certain that I gave my father a clear understanding of how much he meant to me. I think the best way to honor their memory is to try to live each day in a manner that would make them proud. I try to stand up for myself and those who can’t stand up for themselves. I try to give each person I meet a smile or kind word. I try to devote the same attention that my parents gave to the world around us.
There will always be a void in my heart and I will miss both parents greatly as I cross life’s milestones and make minor choices daily. I trust that I will be able to reach these goals and makes these decisions with the knowledge and love I felt from my parents. I believe that I am my parents’ daughter.