See your parents through a very limited lens. Think that they are here to teach you, to answer the phone when you have a question about a suspicious mole on your neck or an ache in your belly. Expect that they will always know how to fix it. Be rarely wrong.
Remember your parents as strong, capable people. Your father used to carry you to bed when you fell asleep watching the television and you’d wake up in the middle of the night feeling so protected. You had no idea that it was all downhill from here. When you’re older, no one carries you to bed, except for when you pass out drunk, and then it’s just sad. You’re not ready to experience that kind of sadness.
Remember your mom as a magical female creature with lotions and potions on her bedside table. Her hair would be done up and there’d be music wafting from the stereo. This was what a Woman was. Isn’t she beautiful? Yes. You know it and she “might”” know it. “Especially for someone so old,” you’d think to yourself. She was 37.
Your parents can do more than you. They can hike higher mountains, they can do advanced math, they can balance checkbooks, they can get drunk without getting too sloppy, they can hate the person they love. Study their behavior. Search for clues on how to do all of these things for yourself. Sneak into the liquor cabinet and drink something brown until you puke it all up on the floors that just got redone. SHIT. THOSE FLOORS WERE A BIG DEAL. THERE WAS A CONTRACTOR AND CONSTRUCTION WORKERS IN YOUR HOUSE. THERE WERE BLUEPRINTS AND FIGHTS ABOUT MONEY. Now there’s just your puke. Oh well.
You leave home to go away to college. Spread your wings, don’t care, xoxo do my laundry when I come back for Thanksgiving? You know they feel lost without you. You’re lost without them too but you don’t know it yet. How could you? They’re still strong, capable people. They’re still never wrong. They’re still not real.
Spend a couple years becoming a fully formed human being. Read some shit. Fuck some shit. Make a few mistakes. Emerge with 30% more understanding of how the world works. Go home for Christmas. The first thing you notice is that your father is stupid. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great guy. He knows how to use a drill. He knows how to love you. But he’s never read a fucking book and he’s a little racist, and, oh my god, did he just ask you what “grandiose” meant? Nooooooo. Feel embarrassed. Feel like you’ve just caught him masturbating and immediately look away. “I DON’T WANT TO KNOW YOU LIKE THIS, I DON’T WANT TO SEE ALL SIDES OF YOU, I JUST WANT YOU TO BE A ONE-DIMENSIONAL LOVE MACHINE WHO GIVES ME A SCALP MASSAGE AND HELPS ME PUT IKEA FURNITURE TOGETHER.”
Feel like a selfish shithead because you are. Actively try not to be. Your parents are complex people. Okay, okay, that’s fine. You can work with that.
Fast forward to a few summers later. You’re a CEO now. LOL, JK. You’re like, an associate editor at a magazine. You make 65k a year. You know how to do things, things you never thought you would figure out on your own, and it’s a relief. Your parents don’t seem all that special now. They were just wiser than a ten-year-old. Come home to visit them. Arrive to their house as an Associate Editor At A Big Magazine Who Has Their Own Apartment and then watch that identity get blown up with a shotgun. Regress to being a child. Act bratty. Go to Target with your mom and become incensed with rage when she farts in the Home Goods section. WTF? Your mom used to be this mysterious feminine goddess and now she’s wear ill-fitting jeans and farting in public?
Realize, for the first time ever, that your parents are getting old. You can hike higher mountains, you can do more advanced math and balance a checkbook. Their brains are turning into mush. Every time your parents ask you to repeat a question or shoot you a confused sheepish expression, hate them. Hate them with every fiber of being and then hate yourself for feeling this way. Know that this is because they’re going to die and you hate them for leaving you. You love them so much. Regret every time you acted cruel to them. Regret it and then snap at them again. Goddamn it, what’s wrong with you?!! Why can’t they stop annoying you? They’re going to die and you’re going to flashback to all of the times you acted badly to them. It’s going to be in a constant loop in your brain, so get your shit together and show how much you love them!!!
Believe that the purpose of having parents is to make sure you don’t die. Believe this until life does a funny thing and puts you in the role of the caretaker. Suddenly you’re responsible for your parents’ life in the same way they were for yours. “Gotcha!” says Life. “It’s your turn now to make them feel safe.”
Doubt that you could ever do this. Doubt that you could be half the person your parents were to you.
Try anyway. Try until they die.