Friday, April 19, 2013

Fathers and Mothers

 I got an email recently from a friend. He wanted me to know his father had died. It was a blessing really, for his father had been ill a long time and his mind had been “iffy” for even longer. My friend said he hardly knew his father, had never  been close, but he was sad and shocked at his depth of grief.

My mother never got along with her mother. Throughout my childhood I knew that when mother got a letter from grandma, it meant several teary days. And yet, when grandma died, my mother grieved. When my father died I felt suddenly naked in the world, as if some protection I’d hardly known was there had disappeared. When my mother died I was surprised at my reaction. I’d always been her mother, her confidant, her support, and yet at her death I felt like an orphan.

I’m not surprised. My friend’s FATHER had died. My mother’s MOTHER had died. We live with more icons than we realize, those figures Jung wrote about. They seem to draw from history, from all the civilizations throughout time. Primal figures. Mother. Father. Regardless of what they were in living form, they were representative of the great iconic MOTHER and FATHER. Those images we hold as our nurturer and protector.

What strange creatures, we humans are. But how lovely that we are—human, for it certainly keeps life interesting.


  1. No matter the relationship we had with our parents, there is a psychological umbilical chord that connects us to them. Upon their death, it is as if the chord is cut.

  2. No matter how old we are when our parents die, we sort of feel orphaned.

  3. I believe we create a fiction about our lives - it is not untrue but it is not true either - it is simply our story. Mothers and Fathers (or their absence) form a large part of that story, central characters really, whether they have a speaking part or not, and when they no longer appear on our stage, it challenges our narrative, both past and present, and of course future. What is our story now? What was it really? My father died long ago and I have been rewriting my story about him for years and I believe that will never fully settle into 'a truth'. My mother is alive, fully and happily so, and my story about her is also changing, deepening, and I feel fortunate to have that story inside me.