Two things in the last 24 hours have made me think again about parental relationships - something I pondered quite a bit last year after reading "Mother, Missing" by Joyce Carol Oates - and what the absence of a parent can mean.
On the news yesterday was a piece about a deal that the NHS has made with the manufacturer of a drug for the treatment of bone cancer. I think as cancers go this is one that is pretty impossible to cure outright, but it is possible to use treatment to extend survival time, and this new drug can improve that further by 6-12 months. A good friend of mine's mother was diagnosed with bone cancer this time last year. She's had surgery and radiotherapy I think, and is back at work part-time - but she is definitely not cured.... As the GP who let the phrase "Let's try and make your remaining time more comfortable" slip indicated.
My friend is permanently estranged from her father and not particularly close to her sibling, who lives several hundred miles away. If her Mum dies, actually that should be when her Mum dies, that will be it for her close family.
A flash-forward example of a young woman who had lost her Mum and didn't know her father was on a dreadful C4 documentary last night, entitled "Animal Au Pair". It followed the fortunes of a woman farm-owner come reindeer breeder (?) and her search for an au pair both for her son and her animals. It became clear quite quickly that she was the least tolerant and sympathetic woman possible - basically wanting a live in farm-hand and nanny (two full time jobs) who she could pay a pittance to and order around.
The girl who lasted the longest (7 weeks) was from Zimbabwe, she looked bout 19. Her mother had died of lung cancer at the age of 49. She had some family in Zim, but wanted to come back to England, where she was born, and as it developed, find her long lost father. She was a beautiful young woman, still obviously reeling from her mother's death, living with this nightmare woman. Luckily, she found her father, and he seemed to want to know her again - so hopefully she will have a new "home".
I can't imagine losing - in whatever way - both parents as a child or young adult. To not have a "home" to visit and people who were there everyday when you were growing up. Now that I'm building my own family, my husband provides that safe haven more than my parents, but that is only a recent development.
To me, my parents are my anchors, we don't speak as often as we should or I'd like; and with an ocean between us (even only a little one), it has been nearly a year since I've seen them. I must fix that this summer. But they are still there, a repository of memories, a place to retreat for comfort if something bad were to happen. They are the 2nd people I call, after my husband, when I have big news like a new job, or even silly things like having re-decorated the hallway.
They're both in their late 50s so I guess they could well be around for another 20 years or so in them yet, but then there might not be. I'll miss them so much when they are gone.