I have become my parents

Cleaning up the garage again and I stumbled across this photo in a box.

This may just be my favorite picture of my parents. Everything about them is represented in one picture, yet it was invisible at the time. It’s Grateful Dead and 80’s perms. Corona cerveza and cigarette smoke mixed with engine exhaust. (Boats, Jet Skis, ATCs, Dune Buggies, Sand Rails, etc. There was always some kind of an engine running!)

We were at the river this trip, Lake Havasu, back in the reeds somewhere “exploring”.  My dad is goofing off to avoid the spot light and my mom is forever quietly smiling in the background.  The sun setting on the lake warmly reflects in the pontoon boats canopy. My dad looks younger than I ever remember him being, my mom happier and more relaxed than my memory serves.  Looking closely I see that I, as well as all of my sisters are visible in contours of my moms face, and both of my dads daughters are found in his too.  Squinting I can see the grand kids too.  Evident in the crinkle of an eye, a cheekbone or curve of a lip.

So much of who I am and those I love represented in this 4×6 frame.

Swept away with nostalgia it takes me a moment to notice that there are tears streaming down my face. This was the beginning.  The beginning of them.  Of us as a family.  This was the honey moon.  Family trips to the river or Mexico or Glamis.  Before the fights that rattled the windows and scared the dogs.  Pre-periods and PMS, before the house became a war zone. Before everyone grew up, moved out, and back in and out again. Prior to the arguments and accusations, before the drugs and alcohol and sex and babies.  When we were just kids having fun and so were they.  I think that’s why I love this picture.

As I have grown older, my parents have become real people.

My husband and I are fast approaching the ages they were in this picture. Coming to terms with aging, loss, death, the future, our kids growing up, our parents growing old and we see our youth fleeting away like the afternoon sun on a warm summer lake. We are fighting the march of time and doing a dang mediocre job.  Caught in the tug of war between youth and old age, we are in the middle.  Duh! That’s why its called middle aged.  Too young to stay in, stay still, slow down.  Too old to go out, go hard, keep going.

My parents are in their 70’s yet this is how I choose to think of them. This is what I see when I look at them even now.  Mom’s wrist may rattle a little with early Parkinson’s but it’s the silver bangles from the Ensenada street vendor and not the tremors that catch my eye.  Dad has a little less facial hair and definitely more gray, but he’s still goofy and the Grateful Dead will continue to play. A lot has happened to these two in the 30 years since this photo was snapped,  and a lot has happened to us kids too. Just like those reedy water ways at the river, life’s hard to navigate, sometimes the engine gets gummed up, sometimes the path ahead turns out to be a dead end, sometimes a light summer storm turns out to be a monsoon.

Back in those days I had all kinds of complaints about my parents.

They were AWFUL! What they thought, how they acted, what they allowed.  They just didn’t get it.  They were so out of touch.  Then they were old, they were the parents, they were definitely not cool. These days not so much.  We still disagree on some things, what’s the fun if not? Yet I can see now how close we all are.  I can only hope that 30 years from now Ollie finds a photo that shows her us, her parents, not as parents but as real people.  I can’t know what will have transpired over those years, or how our lives or faces may change but no matter our faults, our choices, our past wrongs or rights, I think we all want to be remembered like this youthful, sun drenched, laugh filled photo.




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