• author
    • Maya Stiles Parsons Spier

      Columnist, Editor-in-Chief
    • November 17, 2014 in Columnists

    Life is the straw — I am the camel

    There’s no age at which one is ready to be an orphan.
    Me, to people who were losing a parent

    I’ve been scared, of late, and I know why.

    My father is dying. My mother and brother are already gone. Of our four, I will be the last.

    This is ordinary and I know it, but, like getting old, it’s never happened to me before, so I’m startled, staggered and flattened by it. And, I’m tired.

    I stand in at the precipice and look down on my life and, my God, it’s a lot of work. More than the average amount, actually (if you had ever seen my house, you’d know why). So much to fix. A full time job. Not much money to show for it, even with a good salary. So much to move, to divest. So much stuff and so little of it worth having.

    I’ve spent my life running from bandage situation to bandage situation – always trying to repair what I’d already broken or allowed to be broken by others – so much so that I’ve never truly been able to get my feet under me and make any really sensible plans. Now I am faced with the fallout of this after three generations-worth of it and I’m a titch overwhelmed. The temptation to just sit down and stare at my feet is compelling.

    And I’m scared. I just had a dream come true – a real, live, marvelous, magical, well-earned miracle that tells me that yeah, I really am good enough. And it terrifies me. Now that I have it, how long will I get to keep it? Will it be pulled away at the last minute, like so much in my life? Will I think I’m fine, only to find out I’m an also-ran – again. Again, as it’s been for most of my life.

    You’d think that I would be grateful for all the gifts life has brought me. You’d think I’d appreciate that I have all sorts of talents that many would give anything to have. And y’know what, I do! I am grateful beyond words – I appreciate everything I am, have and can do. And yet…

    I don’t trust. I understand that my inability to trust was set in motion long before I had any choices. It was broken in the three weeks I was in an adoption nursery – unloved, unbonded – merely tended. Your lifetime of believing in trust is created literally in your first month of life and that’s when mine was broken. I trust some people, but I don’t trust life and I don’t entirely trust myself.

    I’ve failed so spectacularly before.

    So now, when I have within my grasp the most amazing achievement – this gift of affirmation – the proof that who I am and what I have to say is really that valuable – I’m flat out terrified that, at the last moment, I will get the word that someone better than me has been found and I am bumped. Booted. Out. Again. As usual. As always. Less than. Not as good.

    I also know that a good part of why I’m feeling this way comes back to the second sentence. My father is dying. This hurts so much. It doesn’t matter that I’ll be 60 years old next year. My inner toddler, my still-resident little kid is curled up wailing “I don’t want my daddy to be dead!” She doesn’t make sense. She doesn’t even think she has to.

    This is the father who helped make me feel too worthless to live. This is the man for whom I was never good enough. Who cast doubts on my ever amounting to much to pretty much anyone who would listen. I know this because one of his coworkers told me so when he explained that my baby brother would be allowed to drive his tractor but I never would. Who wrote letter after letter to his mother explaining that I would never do a damned thing in life. Who gave me lists of reasons why I wasn’t worth a good goddamn, that he hadn’t wanted me in the first place and still didn’t, was sure I was out to break him, told me I was my biological mother’s deepest shame – that man. That man I still love because I get him. I do. How could I not understand? He raised me that way because that’s how he was raised.

    Despite the years of rejection, I reached out to him after my mother died and, after several years of indefatigable love, he actually responded. Actually came to like me (mostly) and love me (mostly) and call me sweetie and by my childhood nickname of Mouse.

    He’ll be gone, soon, and it’s killing me. After over 40 years without his love, I’m not ready to be without it — and him. It’s got me reverting to a grieving, ravaged four year old.

    The least little thing goes wrong and I’m screaming and howling, but that’s just the straw and I’m the camel. It’s not about how I can’t find the bird food. It’s about how I can’t find the bird food AND MY FATHER IS DYING. It’s not just about worrying that this dream of mine will be snatched away because there’s so many people out there who are better than me, even at the best thing I do – it’s because I’m worried about this AND MY FATHER IS DYING.

    And on it goes.

    It’s an ordinary grief. It happens every day and to people far less prepared, with far fewer resources than I have, but still, I don’t feel as if I have enough to cope.

    Even though I know I will. Why? Because I’ve already lost so much and I have learned the skills of grief. I have already survived the loss of my brother, my unborn son and my mother. I survived my childhood, for cripes’ sake. I can do this.

    In the meantime, though, despite knowing damn good and well why, I’m an absolute wreck.

    I’m hoping people who know why will be a little extra patient with me. I’m working on being patient with myself…

    • A beautiful piece that touches me deeply. I’m glad you had a few years of reconciliation. When my mother died, I cried because I knew for certain that now I would never have a real mother. It amazes me how long I held onto that hope. I know that four year old. I still battle with her. You’ve created a loving relation with so many people. Know that you are loved back. That can be a form of parenting. But I don’t need to tell you that. You know.

        • Maya North

        • November 17, 2014 at 9:09 pm
        • Reply

        I didn’t really have that with either my mother or my brother and, to an extent, I will truly never get the resolution for which I have yearned for so long. I used my memory of desolation to learn to love and I have perfect faith that I am loved back. And yeah, I really do know. I love you, too… <3

    • You are valued. And loved. You are exceptional. No one can ever take anything away from you. You are a force, Maya. An experience. You are absolutely perfect in every way.

        • Maya North

        • November 17, 2014 at 11:01 am
        • Reply

        I love you so…

      • Terri Connett

      • November 17, 2014 at 12:00 pm
      • Reply

      Raw, honest, powerful, forgiving, loving. You are really something, Maya North!

        • Maya North

        • November 17, 2014 at 9:10 pm
        • Reply

        Oh, love, thank you. It’s such a journey, but not to take it is to stay where it hurt far more. Big hugs, dearheart…

    • Maya, a wise person once said to me,”sometimes you need to divorce your parents” so you can survive.” You definitely deserve your time in the sun. You have done better than I would have ever done with a father like yours. So sorry you still struggle. I am a believer in that you can never get back those feelings lost by a parent when you were a child. Better to take care of yourself. You are a great person and I know it is hard for you to believe in yourself.

      • Maya, for some reason another name came up. I think I solved the issue. I was sharing a website as manager and I forgot to change myself out of it.

    • When people die – all of life suddenly becomes rocky ground, and you stumble… just trying to walk along. When people die – even people you have issues with – it shakes up everything you know about the world. It’s like the sun coming up in the west all of a sudden. AND – it tweaks your own fears of death, and suddenly EVERYTHING seems unreliable and untrustworthy.
      This is all normal.
      You can have these feelings… look at them, just accept them at face value, and say… “And, I am okay, just the way I am. Even when I feel this way.”
      You are okay, Maya. Your sun is just coming up in the west at the moment. But it won’t always.
      And… I know the “orphan” feeling. I was finally orphaned at 44, but only technically. My father finally died 27 years after having his stroke. My mother died when I was 27, amid a troubled relationship. That was the year I truly felt orphaned.
      It sucks. It’s scary. You feel like “you’re next.”
      And those feelings are also normal, and even when you think them… you’re okay.

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