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On Being An Orphan

Updated on July 22, 2014
Sallie Mullinger profile image

Sallie is a retired mother and grandmother who has written short stories for most of her life. Her stories are from her heart to yours.

We think that our parents will always be there. And then one day we realize that time has flown and with it, taken them away...

April, 2007

So that is what I now am. An orphan.

Who ever thinks of themselves as an orphan? It brings to mind Annie…and Daddy Warbucks…and a mean Miss Hannigan overseeing every move you make. While I am not THAT sort of orphan, I AM, nevertheless, an orphan


A description, which reminds me…I no longer have parents…I am parent-less…I am without the 2 people who created me and dreamed for me and hoped for me……a strange feeling I can tell you. A lonely feeling..akin somehow to being in a roomful of people, all talking and laughing, and yet strangely you feel as tho you might as well be on an island.

Oh yeah..I get it that Im not alone..and certainly not unusual….afterall, everyone, at some point, will become an orphan….but I am not everyone…I am only me..and this new status has me somewhat feeling weird….A friend described me as a "stinking rich orphan" a joke to illustrate that I did inherit a few bucks from my recently deceased mother. Considering that…I guess being an orphan has its plusses. I dont have to buy a Mother’s Day card this year. I always had trouble with those anyway, because we didnt have the greatest relationship and all the cards are meant for moms and daughters who did. Hallmark never mastered the "I guess Im glad youre my mother, but if I had been asked, I would have probably chosen someone else" card. I dont have to do the hours drive to pick her up and bring her back to my house so that everyone can sit around and try to be glad that Nana is here in spite of the fact that they would rather be anywhere else. I dont have to hear her say "and tell me again why you leave the skins on your red potatoes in potato salad?" or "I thought you said you had LOST weight?"

I no longer have to worry if the laundry isnt folded when shes here…..or if that damned dust bunny I must have missed when I vacuumed for the 20th time before she came, comes rolling out onto the kitchen floor…nor do I have to make sure the shower curtain is CLOSED! so that she wont be able to see that someone hasnt scrubbed the tub in a few weeks. So yes….I am reminded in a rather macabre way that being an orphan has some plusses. Its certainly freeing…and there is a delicious feeling of knowing that her relentless criticisms are over and that whatever I do, I do because its now my choice and not something I needed to do in order to please her.

I wont ever have to hear again how hard she worked to give me things she didnt have when she was a girl…or how much of a handful I was as a child..or how I would never eat brussels sprouts (did anyone?) or how long she was in labor with me. But then….I will also never again hear her say that I had beautiful hair when I was little…or soft hands…or how much my Dad loved me…Ill never hear her sing and I do miss that for she had a lovely voice. Ill never see her handwriting on a card sent just for me….and always signed…"Love you always, Mom. Ill never again taste her Thanksgiving stuffing (which I so loved) or her potato salad (without skins)..I wont have to roll my eyes when she hears a Glenn Miller song and gets teary eyed at the memory of young love and her youth with my Dad. I will never hear her say "your Dad would be so proud" or hear her voice calling me Sallie Anne..for no one else ever did that.

And so, yes, there are tons of plusses for being an orphan, even a "stinking rich orphan" but I have become uneasily familiar with the minuses. I no longer can pick up the phone and just call my mother which was a habit I got into mostly out of guilt. Now I can no longer do it and I wish I could. I can no longer, in moments of undeniable honesty, tell her that I am grateful for being taught to cook and how to iron and how to keep a neat house and which flowers are which and how to grow African Violets.

I wish we had taken trips together…Ireland..the birthplace of her ancestors…I dont have "more time" to tell her that Im sorry for not being all I might have been…for not peeling the damned potatoes for not saying "I love you" more…I simply ran out of time..and its strange..because I knew this day would come. No one lives forever. I thought I had the time.

I wish I had known her better..to not have assumed that she was only the woman I saw in my minds eye. For she was more and its the "more" I wish I had gotten to know.

I wish I had been more patient. More understanding. More.

For what would it have cost me? Nothing. Loving someone costs you nothing and reaps you so much. I do not blame only myself for time lost and feelings not spoken about. She set the standard and I, her child, followed. But I regret. Oh how I regret.

She wasnt perfect.

Not even what the books call a good mother.

But, she was the only mother I had and stinking rich or not…I hate being an orphan.

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