A parent’s day post – say what you need to say

photo of my stepbrother, me and my dad

My stepbrother Greg, me and my dad around 1980ish.

I wrote a version of this post in May for Mother’s Day and didn’t publish it on my blog because I worried it might be too sad or depress those of you who are fortunate to get to celebrate the day with your moms. I’m bringing it out and revising it for Father’s Day because I just watched a video that made me realize this is a message everyone needs to hear about relationships with either or both parents.

I tried so hard to not take tomorrow for granted during the decade my mom struggled with early onset emphysema. I talked to her almost daily and visited her in Missouri fairly often. But there I was in the hospital’s ICU with her in 2006 STILL assuming I’d be able to talk to her tomorrow. I had things I wanted to tell her and questions I wanted to ask her, but I couldn’t work up the nerve and didn’t want her think I’d given up on her making a recovery. Then one night while I was sleeping after a long day visiting her at the hospital, she took a turn for the worse. When I got to the hospital the next morning the nurses had heavily sedated her and she wasn’t talking. She never would talk again.

We talked so much … but it still wasn’t enough. I feel like I don’t know – or don’t remember what she told me – about many things from my childhood and from her life.

As Lorena (a medevac helicopter pilot in Alaska who writes about mindful living on her blog Big State, Big Life) talks about in this TEDxAnchorage video, having these types of conversations makes us uncomfortable. I wish I’d gotten uncomfortable and asked her questions, even recorded audio or video so I could hear her voice and so I wouldn’t forget the answers!

 

My reporter instinct means I have pages of questions, but here are some of the biggies that I wish I could hear her answer:

In what ways do you think I’m like you?

Is there anything you have always wanted to tell me but never have?

Is there anything that you wish had been different between us — or that you would still like to change?

What’s the one thing you would have done differently as a mom?

Do you think it’s easier or harder to be a mother now than when you were raising our family?

What was it about my father that made you choose to be with him?

What was the favorite place you ever visited?

What’s the most fun thing you ever did?

Is there a time of your life that you remember being your happiest time?

What has been your greatest accomplishment in life – so far?

And, what has been your biggest disappointment in life?

Is there anything you regret not having asked your mother, father or others before they died?

Then there are questions I wish I’d had the courage to ask her when I got to the hospital in September 2006 and realized the seriousness of her condition:

What are you thinking about now…about death?

Are there any special things you’d like anyone in particular to have?

What’s the best thing I can do for you right now?

What advice do you have for me?

So it’s too late for me and my mom or me and my Aunt Linda, but it’s not too late for me to talk to my dad and stepdad (my mom remarried when I was in second grade and had been married to my stepdad for about 27 years when she passed away). Honestly, the idea feels uncomfortable to me just as it did with my mom or my aunt, even more because I had a much deeper connection with the women in my family.

But Lorena’s video gave me this idea – I can use email to do this and make it less uncomfortable. I can write questions and they can write me questions, if they want, and it will be recorded electronically since my memory isn’t so great!

mother and daughter

Me and my mom in the mid-1990s. I think this was at a bbq the first time I brought Lee to Columbia.

Do you remember these “getting to know your friends” emails that were popular in the early-to-mid 2000s? I found this one in the emails that I’d kept from my mom. She completed this on Dec. 26, 2005, the last Christmas we had together. Lee and I were visiting family and friends in Columbia for Christmas and we always took her out for brunch on her birthday before driving back to Wichita.

1. Full name? Sandra Jean Frost

2. Were you named after anyone? No

3. Do you wish on stars? No

4. When did you last cry? Now, because MeLinda and Lee were leaving to go back to Kansas and they are so good to me.

5. What is your birth date? 12-26-39

6. Do you like reality t.v.? Some

7. If you were another person, would YOU be friends with yourself? Yes

8. Do you have a journal? No

9. Do you use sarcasm a lot? Some

10. What is your nickname? Mama Taco

11. Would you bungee jump? No, because I would not want to be that high to jump off anything.

12. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? No, I wear slip-ons.

13. Do you think that you are strong? No

14. What is your favorite ice cream flavor? Double strawberry

15. What is your least favorite thing about yourself? My belly

16. Who do you miss most? Roy because I loved him so much and cannot understand the things he must have been feeling.

17. What color pants and shoes are you wearing? Maroon sweats and white sweatshirt.

18. What are you listening to right now? The scanner. {She listened to a police scanner from the time I was in grade school! I used to joke that it was so she could hear when my brothers got in trouble before the police called her!}

19. Last thing you ate? Country omelet and grain and nut pancakes from Ihop that MeLinda and Lee took me out for lunch.

20. What is the furthest you have ever been from home? Canada

21. If you were a crayon, what color would you be? Lavender

22. What is the weather like right now? Chilly

23. Last person you talked to on the phone? My stepmother Ann

24. The first thing you notice about the opposite sex? Smile and/or eyes

25. Favorite smells? Baking bread, vanilla, cinnamon rolls

26. Favorite sport? Baseball

27. Hair color? Brown

28. Do you wear contacts? no

29. Last movie you watched? Home on the Range

30. What is your favorite day of the year? Christmas, because all the family gets together.

31. Scary movies or happy endings? Happy endings

32. Summer or winter? Summer

33. Hugs or kisses? Hugs

34. What is your favorite dessert? Banana split

35. What books are you reading? No books, a magazine – Woman’s Day

As I was writing this post yesterday, I realized that I had saved one of these emails with different questions that my dad filled out in 2002. I pulled up the email and smiled as I read through the answers, wondering how many would be different if he filled it out today. The questions, like the ones above, are about pretty trivial things compared to the other questions I proposed earlier in the post, but still meaningful to me.

On Father’s Day this year, I’m planning to send some questions to my dad and my stepdad. I’m hoping it’ll be the start of connecting in a new way. Maybe, just maybe, I’ve finally learned to stop assuming there will be a tomorrow for any of us and instead of waiting for someday, I’ll have these conversations now.

 

photo with our parents and his sister and brother-in-law

Left to right at a reception in 1999: Lee’s parents, my mom & stepdad, Lee & me, Lee’s sister (carrying their first child) and her husband

This entry was posted in Family.

One Comment

  1. Elyse June 16, 2013 at 12:52 pm #

    Thank you for mentioning I was pregnant – I was wondering why I looked so big! ;-)

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