I was orphaned young. When I share that with people they tilt their head and say “aw, how young”? When I tell them I was 28 when Dad died and 30 when Mom died they roll their eyes and snort, as if to say “oh grow up, you aren’t an orphan”.
My definition of being an orphan though is when you no longer have your parents, but you’re young enough that you still need them in your day to day life. At 30 I was mentally and socially so immature that I did need them in my life. I’m still an orphan to this day.
The irony in retrospect is that I needed them because they weren’t there to begin with. I had always needed more dad and more mom in my life. It wasn’t because they coddled me and therefore didn’t give me tools to survive as an adult; it’s because they did the exact opposite. I ran feral my entire life leading up to their deaths, their involvement being the very bare minimum they had to give me to stay out of the realm of true neglect. I needed them before their deaths, and I needed them after their deaths.
I feel foolish when I think about how I have acted with people in my lives that had small roles that simulated dad or mom to me. Band directors in high school, work bosses, even siblings in my mind took on surrogate roles as models for how to behave, and how to achieve, and how to survive.
Unsurprisingly they all fell short.
You see, none of them saw me as their protege, their responsibility, their charge. No one felt it was their place to step up and step in and guide me to that degree. I was just the kid in their class that didn’t know to wash his hair every day, or the employee that worked hard but made inappropriate comments all the time, or the sibling that desperately needed connection with family but was always in the way. Over and over again my heart would be broken when it became clear that I was barely on anyone’s radar, and that the attention they gave me was simply because of our societal roles as teacher/student, boss/employee, brother/brother.
When it came to love, and sex, and self-respect, and relationships, I was equally lost. All someone had to do was to pay attention to me and i would do anything for them. I have dated people far too old for me because their stability and wisdom was attractive to me; irresistible if I’m being honest. I have had sexual encounters that haunt me 30 years later. I have trusted colleagues that have nearly destroyed me in the name of “business is business”.
Now I sit here, 54 years old, still orphaned, newly widowed. When I think about my place in the world I’m still that fragile young person that finds himself bending to the needs of whomever happens to be kind to me in that moment, still feeling foolish with how I act around people.
Today is Mother’s Day where I live. If there are mothers out there that are truly teaching and guiding their children, happy Mother’s Day to you. If you are a feral human like me, let’s just get through this day. We know how to do that.