Memories of My Parents

Jennifer Redwine

parents My parents have now both died--both around the same time of year, but eleven years apart. They both were tired when they died, both ended up bedridden, though for different reasons and for vastly different time periods. I miss them both dearly, but this time, my mother's death brought up many unresolved issues I had when my father died. He died of cirrhosis of the liver, something I wasn't told about until years later. (The shame around his alcoholism prevented my mother from telling anyone the cause of his death, and since he was paraplegic and had bedsores that wouldn't heal, and had been in and out of the hospital, it was easy to dismiss his death as being somewhat natural--part of the denial system)

I never got a change to say my goodbyes to either of my parents, and in both cases they suffered quite a bit before their deaths. In both cases, I had many regrets that I didn't tell them how much I loved them or resolve the years of conflict and distance between us.

My father had fibrocitis, but they didn't diagnose this until after he was hospitalized for falling down the stairs and becoming paralysed. Because he had this mysterious pain all over his body, and because I think even he thought it might be psychosomatic, he drank to escape his physical and emotional pain. This was what killedhim in the end. Ironically, it was also the reason they finally diagnosed his fibrocititis, because he was in the hospital so long from the drunken fall he took they had time to run all the tests necessary for its diagnosis. Unfortunately, by this time the alcohol had already destroyed his liver and his days were numbered. My mother never told me this, and I didn't go to visit him in the nursing home that last Christmas or Spring breaks. I wish I had.

My mother came down with dermatomyositis, an autoimmune disease that strikes people randomly, which if caught in time, often can be managed with anti-inflammatory drugs. She didn't get diagnosed with it until she was very ill, though, when she'd stopped eating and gotten a bad bedsore on her tailbone. While she was in the hospital, she was treated very poorly, shuffled from the cardiac floor to the "non-critical" (I call it the death floor) to the "rehab" facility (more like the dungeon), and back again, many times. Somewhere along the line, she got a virulent staph infection, which slowly took over her whole body until it killed her. In this day of antibiotics and high-tech medicine, it's so ironic that the same thing that killed so many civil war soldiers killed her.

My parents were idealists. I remember that they argued a lot about politics, mostly in a friendly way, or in a way that was intellectually stimulating for them. It was scary for a little girl, though, and I often was frightened of my father in particular. We grew distant, andI never really regained the "daddy's little girl" relationship that I'd had when I was very small. I never told him I loved him, and I never forgave him, while he was alive, for being scary and for turning his back on me when I had problems with my brother. I never told my mother that I forgave her, either, and I feel to this day that i should have been nicer to her in what I didn't realize were her last few years. Momma and Daddy, I miss you.

You loving daughter,

You can send email to Jennifer at: [email protected]
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date of post 05-19-97

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