When My Parents Are Gone

Do you know how your parents will die? I think I do. My mother will die from lung cancer or emphysema because she has smoked for many years and already coughs uncontrollably. At night I can hear her wheezing and it will make my bones stiffen. I’m just waiting for that phone call that will change everything.

My father will die of a heart attack because there is a high level of calcium surrounding his heart. I was under the impression that calcium was a good thing, made for strong bones etc. But I guess there can be the deadly kind of calcium, the kind that basically makes it so you’re living on borrowed time.

Of course there are a myriad of ways they could go. In the past two years, my father has almost died from swine flu (seriously) and prostate cancer. He could easily develop the cancer again and be dead as a doornail. My mother could be hit by a truck tomorrow. I mean, there are a lot of opportunities for everyone to die. In the case of my parents, however, lung cancer and a heart attack seem to practically be a guarantee. And I sort of hate them for that. I wish my mother never smoked cigarettes (I never did) and my father stayed away from meat and potatoes. If they had taken care of themselves better, I could’ve been surprised by their demise, wouldn’t have been able to see it from a mile away. And that would’ve been better, right?

Sometimes I think about the things I will no longer be able to stomach when they’re gone, the things that will be ruined forever. For my father, I know I will no longer be able to listen to Cat Stevens again without weeping uncontrollably. It’s his favorite. There’s also this one Blind Faith song on my iTunes that he played for me a lot when I was younger. When he’s gone, I might have to delete it. It’s funny because today that song provides me with such a warm sense of nostalgia and takes me back to memories of driving with my father along the California coast. But when he’s no longer here, the song will be misery. It will evoke the kind of nostalgia that cuts you off at the knees.

Other things that will probably make me sob: Electronic Fry’s in the Valley, a restaurant called Houston’s in Santa Monica, the Pacific Coast Highway (that’s where he lives), My So-Called Life, Car 54, Where Are You?, spunky Jewish women with curly hair (my father’s favorite), and Zankou Chicken. Yep. Those things are a source of joy for me now, but will inevitably serve as triggers once it’s over for him.

With my mother, it’s sort of less specific. I know I’ll never be able listen to Neil Young again though. And last year, we went on a trip to Maine and when she dies, I’ll probably never be able to go back there. I suppose the Valley will be a no good terrible place for me. It’s where she grew up.

But with my mother, moments will stop me in my tracks rather than places or things. A memory I have of her looking young and vibrant on a warm summer day will forever be etched into my mind. My father was dropping us off (it was post-divorce) and as we pulled up, she was retrieving something from her car. She was wearing a denim skirt, a blue shirt, and looked tan and beautiful. My father remarked, “Your mother looks…good.” And that was that.

Other moments that will make me very sad: The week my mother stayed with me in Los Angeles after one of my surgeries. We got along for seven full days and stayed up watching VH1 till one in the morning. A night we laid in bed watching a special on crocodiles. Gosh, a lot of our memories involving watching TV. Um, my mother going through menopause and crying because I forgot to get her whipped cream on her ice cream sundae from Baskin Robbins. By the way, menopause is some crazy shit. Once my mom played Andrea Bocelli for a week straight and puttered around the house in her nightgown.

So those are the things that will hurt me when they’re gone. It feels morbid thinking about it now when they’re still here, but I just can’t help it. Does anyone have the same problem? Am I crazy? I’d really like to know. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.

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