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Playing the Numbers Game

I have played the numbers game for years.  85. 68. 72. 91.  These numbers may not mean anything to most people, but for over half my life they were a measure of my own good fortune.  I would read in the newspaper that a woman died at age 72, and up until recently my mom was still alive at 90.  Ok…deep breath…we’re doing okay.

Now my mom is gone – and I have the audacity to feel cheated.  Living to 90 is having a good long run (and my mom certainly did).  In that respect she was blessed and I am thankful.  The fallout of having a child late in life, however, is that most people MY age have parents who are currently in their 60’s.  Assuming all goes well, they are looking at having their parents around for another 20-30 years!

I feel too young to have lost both parents – cheated out of years most everyone else my age still has to look forward to.  Of course I can’t feel this way for too long.  I recall the handful of friends I have who lost their mothers while they were young women in their early 20’s.  They have lived half their lives motherless – in that respect, I have no cause to feel ripped off.

Then there is the Welch Family.  Four children growing up who lost their father in a sudden car accident, only to have their mother diagnosed with cancer a month later.  The youngest child was 4 when her father died, and 8 years old when her mother finally passed away.  Needless to say, those events altered the course of this family forever.

They write about it in The Kids Are All Right, the latest selection I received from my online book club.  I wasn’t expecting that this memoir, written with all four siblings varying points of view, would captivate me right now as my own loss feels so great.  But just like before, I discovered that I could barely put it down.  Reading it straight through on a recent cross-country plane flight, I only closed the book to gain my composure and wipe away the tears that would periodically stream down my face.

A child who loses their parents at age 8 has a different experience than one who does at 19, or 16, or 14 (the ages of the other siblings in the book).  Not to say one age makes it easier or harder than another – it is all just different.  How we react to our experiences comes not only from how we view the world, but how we process what happens to us.  (As motivation speakers say, “It’s not what happens to you, it’s how you handle it that counts!”)  Without parents there to guide and support you, it’s easy get a bit lost and stumble along the way.

The take-away message the Welch kids want to put out there is that they managed (eventually) to come together and make it to a good place.  Important to say, I think, especially after all the challenges each experienced on their parentless journeys.  But for me, the reminder is just how important parents (especially moms!) really are.  If done properly, the mother is the center of the family, the rudder that keeps the whole family afloat.  I think sometimes we moms forget what a powerful and important “job” we have.  I know this Zen Mama Wannabe certainly loses site of that a good deal of the time.  And yet, without us, where would our families be?

How radically different the Welch kids lives would have been if they lost their parents/mother at MY age, not in their formative years?  How radically different would MY life have been if I lost my mom when I was 8, or 14, or 19?  How different would my life be NOW if my mom had not died this summer and I was able to spend more time with her?

Last week actress Gloria Stuart passed away at age 100.  Again, I couldn’t help but think about all the years HER daughter had with her.  (There I go sounded gypped again).  Yes, even now, I still play the numbers game.  Old habits die hard I guess.  Maybe I am just waiting for the day when I can say, like the Welch kids did, I’m all right.

(I received a copy of this book through From Left to Right, a virtual blogging book club.  For more information, check out:  http://FromLefttoRight.com).

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10 Responses to “Playing the Numbers Game”

  1. Cristie Says:
    October 11th, 2010 at 2:54 am

    I totally get feeling gipped. I was 30 when my mom died and I felt like a child still! I think the truth is you are never old enough to lose your mom. We all manage, but we all wish we could still have our mommies-no matter how old we get.;)

  2. Zen Mama Wannabe Says:
    October 11th, 2010 at 7:01 am

    I think that is SO true, Cristie….”you are never old enough to lose your mom.” Good reminder of just how important being a mom truly is. (Good for me to focus on anyway, dealing with my kids, in terms of thinking of just what an impact I can have on their lives and what type of impact I want it to be). Thanks!

  3. Emily Says:
    October 11th, 2010 at 1:46 pm

    Your post made me think about my mother and her siblings. My mom is the oldest of 6 kids — there are 18 years between her and her youngest sibling. Their mom (my grandma) died fairly young at age 64. My mom was in her 40’s, married and a mother of two, and was devastated and her youngest sibling was still single and in her 20’s and was devastated by in a different way. We are never old enough to lose our mother, and at the same time, it means something very different at every age. Great post.

  4. Sharon Says:
    October 11th, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    My mother is 89 and every year we take a cruise together. I ask myself all the time, will there be another trip? Should I plan it? My mother-in-law is also turning 89. It is hard when the moms age, and you realize your days with them can end anytime.

    Thanks for the post. It is thoughtful and insightful.

  5. The Kids Are All Right by Diana and Liz Welch, with Amanda and Dan Welch – A From Left to Write Book Club | Says:
    October 11th, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    […] Zen Mama Wannabe from Zen Mama Wannabe has been playing the numbers game […]

  6. liz welch Says:
    October 12th, 2010 at 5:42 am

    Wow, what a beautiful post! And so true–mothers do matter. And the thing we Welches realized by writing this book together is just how much our mom mattered to us, and how she really is the reason we turned out “all right.” I think that is because we never, not once, questioned her love for us. I can say the same for my father, but to see my mom struggle after he died, to see her battle cancer AND work to put food on the table and make sure we had a roof over our heads (for those of you who have not read the book, we grew up incredibly privlieged and then, when my father died, he left my mother 1.2 million dollars in debt in 1982…) so she lost her partner, and her way of life and her home. And then her good health to cancer. But she never lost her temper with us. Or her ability to love us. And that is what mattes most.

  7. liz welch Says:
    October 12th, 2010 at 5:44 am

    ps–me again! One thing that struck me about reading this post is that recently, my husband lost his mother. Sylvia was 80, a stroke victim for the last 6 years of her life. I never got to speak with her as a result as I met my husband three years ago. But I did get to spend time with her, lots during her last days. And I got to see, from an adult point of view, just how devastating it is to lost a mother, no matter how old you are.

  8. Linsey Krolik Says:
    October 12th, 2010 at 8:52 am

    I feel like it really is inherent for mothers to self-sacrificing love for their kids. I know that I push through a lot of stuff (illness, etc.) to take care of my kids and I can only imagine that I would probably do more if their father had been lost to them as well. Liz, your story is such an amazing example of a mother’s love. And siblings too. It is wonderful that you have come together to write this book.

  9. Emily Says:
    October 12th, 2010 at 11:35 am

    I lost my dad when he was 81 years old and I was just 34 so I know exactly how you feel. So sorry about your mom. Losing a parent when you are a child is more tragic, of course, but losing one as an adult does not make it hurt any less.

  10. Jacki Says:
    October 12th, 2010 at 11:42 am

    I am sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine what it will one day be like without mine, even if I am 83 years old. This post was wonderfully written and very healt felt. Thanks for writing it.

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