I Just Realized That My Parents Are Going To Die

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When I was a little kid, I was always afraid of the world. I had significant anxiety that kept my nerves constantly elevated, and I always thought the world was one moment away from swallowing me alive. I feared earthquakes, fires, masked gunmen, gang violence that I somehow thought I’d be the victim of, tornadoes, kidnapping, car accidents, cancer, AIDS, and terrorism. But despite all these fears, I only ever thought I’d be the one to get hurt. I never thought my parents would be the ones to die in the drive by, just me. They’d always be fine–they had something protecting them from the world that I didn’t. And so I didn’t worry about their safety or their mortality, even as I watched friends’ parents grow sick and die. I always thought my parents would be fine. Nothing could touch them.

But here I am, suddenly obsessed with their mortality. I insist that they see doctors and bully them into exercising. I call more frequently but finding talking to be more painful. I plan their funerals. My mom has always loved lavender. Is that an appropriate funeral flower? I don’t care, that’s what we’re having.

My dad was 21 when his dad died, which is almost five years younger than I am today. It’s too hard for me to even think about. It’s too much to bear. My sister, L, was 11 when her mom died. My dad spoke at the funeral while we held hands. Last year, we found that somebody had transcribed the speeches from her funeral into a document for L, and she, my other sister, and I sat on the floor, while she read to us what our dad said. We’re going to have to do this again, someday.

This is not a new idea. Your parents are going to die, or maybe they already have. I will die. You will die. There is nothing revolutionary about this. You’ll leave children behind, or maybe they’ll leave you. Everybody leaves somebody. Everybody had a parent at some point.

It’s not worth stewing over, because it’s an inevitability and a part of life. In a few days, I’ll snap out of this and go back to ignoring my parents’ phone calls while I’m at bars and forget that life has an expiration date. But right now, it’s hard to stomach the fact that one day my parents won’t be able to come in and save the day, stand next to my hospital bed for hours while I sleep because the ER ran out of chairs, and be the parents I still desperately need.

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