One of the few moments where my dad gets to smile. It’s a good one.

Parentless Parents

I’ve only seen my dad cry on two occasions. I’ll tell you about the first.

When I was around 13 years old, my grandparents died. Death was still such a confusing concept to me at that age. I thought that grandma and grandparents were going away for a long while — vacationing. But that wasn’t the case. I ran around the house with my little brother without a care in the world. Smiles wide as the sun, and giggles as annoying as a bee’s hum. But…my dad. Well, he was devastated.

Everything seemed to irk him that much more. And the dark gloom that shadowed his face seemed darker than ever. He always seemed devoid of emotions except that of anger, but even that somehow managed to grow stronger. At the time, I didn’t understand why. I guess I was lucky that it wasn’t my parents, my mom and him who past away. That my mom was still there to keep me safe from the grief of loss, shielding me from it by coddling me with lots of love. My dad lost that.

My brother and I were messing around one evening, before we started ascending the stairs as silent ninjas. Before we reached my grandparents room, my brother had decided that he wanted to head back down to the kitchen. I stayed. I can’t remember if it was coincidence or because I heard the tortured cries of a beast, but either way I stayed.

I sat their, two steps from my grandparent’s room, listening to my dad cry. I know this because I peaked into the room. Just a quick peak, not long enough for him to notice. But in just those few seconds that I laid eyes on my dad, in that room, bawling his eyes out, mouth agape and so tensely contorted, that had to be one of the most heart-wrenching, gruesome images I’ve seen. He was so vulnerable, so emotional, so broken — parentless. At that moment, he was like me — a kid — who just needed their parents.

I’ve started reading Mitch Albom’s For One More Day, which has been a difficult read for me because in a sense the book is putting me in my father’s shoes. My father and I have never gotten along, and we’ve always been better off not speaking a word to one another. But, this novel, and one particular passage, so far, is showing my father in a different light. A side that I feel sorry for.

Chick in For One More Day says,

My mother, had she been alive, might have found a way through to me because she was always good at that, taking my arm and saying, “Come on, Charley, what’s the story?” But she wasn’t around, and that’s the thing when your parents die, you feel like instead of going into every fight with backup, you are going into every fight alone.

Maybe, this was the moment that my dad realized that the rest of his life was going to be fought alone. His parents had been there his whole life, whether he liked it or not, judging his actions, giving him guidance, whether or not he took it. But it was there. And now it wasn’t.

I can’t help but think that the loss of my grandparents is one of the main reasons as to why he has been fighting everything alone. He’s so closed up, not just with me, but everyone. He has so many brothers and sisters — at least 10, off the top of my head — but they hardly keep in contact. And other than his immediate family, my mom, brother, and I, he has no one else. I guess the thing about parents is that no matter the situation you eventually confide in them, even that which you won’t tell others. And if all else fails, parents always seem to know when their children are in need of help.

I always wondered why my dad was the cold, unwavering, cynical, closed-off person that he is. Maybe he just misses his parents.

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