I have been called a lot of unflattering things in my life. One of the earlier ones of that series was that I was hard-hearted, which I countered by pointing out that I was perhaps harder on myself than anybody else. Thankfully, my accuser concurred. One of the recent epithets in the same vein is that I’m cold and calculated, and I use my head to think rather than my heart; I believe it is a fair assessment. Then again, using my head is the only way I know how to think (which, of course, is exactly the sort of cynical comments that earned me the said assessment.)
The first of the series came during my teenage years, when my mother accused of a lack of “sentiments,” and looking for literal meanings in what is said rather than the searching for the sentiments behind them. In other words, being too hung up on the syntax rather than the semantics. Again a fair assessment.
My mother passed away on the 4th of February 2013 after a long, drawn-out and poignantly unwinnable battle against Parkinson’s disease. Mindful of her assessment of my psyche, I have been searching for my sentiments, like any true introvert. But as usual, I was looking for them in my head, not in my heart, and found none there. Having been through the loss of one parent, and seen the predictable onslaught of the disease, I knew what to expect. I also knew that I had to anticipate a storm surge of unfathomable emotions. But none came. Perhaps I was a lot closer to my father than my mother, and for good reasons. Besides, the loss of the first parent is always much more of a shock.
The loss of the second parent, however, brings into focus other realities. Parents are more than important people in our lives. They are also our links to our extended families, and the placeholders for our context in the family tree and our sense of belonging in this world. When the first one falls, we lose and miss the person. When the second one falls, we also lose a part of ourselves, with the extended family ties losing their strength, and our context, significance and justification becoming a bit fuzzier.
Hopefully, by the time the second loss hits, we have all created enough anchor points in our lives to still feel rooted. But to those of us who have emigrated and lost a lot of the context in life, the loss of the second parent has one more rude surprise. It represents the end of the illusion of a lost home. In one of his essays, Albert Camus wrote that in a world divested of colors and illusions, man feels an alien. His exile is complete because he is deprived of the hopes for a promised land or the memories of a lost home. With both my parents now gone, I feel as though my lost home is home no more.