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Essay: Aging Parents

A few years ago, my neighbor died just short of her ninety-fifth birthday. She was fortunate to live so long and to die at home with her daughter at her side.

My mother died when she was sixty-one—in the hospital in a coma. I was not with her that morning because I was taking care of my toddler. I regret my absence—and also regret that my toddler grew up without knowing my mother.

My father died when he was seventy-five—suddenly and unexpectedly. I was not with him either but camping in the Upper Peninsula. He was not young exactly but not what we call “old” anymore. Nowadays, I have many friends who are taking care of aging parents. It is not an easy job and requires significant emotional and financial resources. I never had to bear this particular burden and in some ways I am grateful.

But I’m sad, too. My parents died sooner than I ever imagined they would—and long before we were able to resolve our many misunderstandings, enjoy each other’s company more fully.

So sometimes I imagine my mom and me having coffee at my kitchen table, saying the things we didn’t say. Like goodbye and, also, hello.