Feeling My Orphan Status

I found myself an orphan at age 64. Being past the stage of needing an orphanage, if such existed anymore, it was up to me to find my way in a world without my mother’s wisdom.

In the last few years of my mother’s life, her daughters haphazardly converted into caregivers. They mothered their mother by being sure she had food and taking her to the doctors. They dealt with problems and gave her advice.

Being half-way across the country, I missed the day-in-day-out adjustments that might have trained my heart and mind to let go of being mothered. Via phone calls and twice a year visits, I could see things changing. I worried about her welfare, especially after Dad died. She seemed so lost without him by her side.

Time passes and I think I’m adjusting to being motherless. Still I find myself wanting to ask my mother things. I rue the times that I only half-listened to her repeated family stories. I find myself trying to remember one of her folksy sayings.

Perhaps the annual rituals of Mother’s Day makes me feel my orphan status more keenly. I see my sisters struggling, each in their own way trying to adjust. It is like losing an anchor in your life.

Here we are together. I actually don't have that many photos like this. Usually I'm the one with the camera in hand.

Here we are together. I actually don’t have that many photos like this. Usually I’m the one with the camera in hand.


11 thoughts on “Feeling My Orphan Status

  1. I had a wonderful mother and the loss is greater than I imagined. My mom died the day before Mother’s Day, 15 years ago. She was my go-to person and I miss her wisdom everyday. It takes a while to adjust to being motherless. Like you, I have things I want to tell her and things I want to ask about. I wish I had paid more attention to little details. The good things are: She taught me to be a good human being. She taught me death is not final. She taught me to be my own anchor. While I may be an orphan, I am not motherless. My mother is there everyday in the small things I do. As time goes by you will find Gail by your side when you least expect it and you will laugh or cry but they are moments to cherish.


  2. I, too, find myself wishing I’d paid closer attention, taken notes, or had a recorder running to capture her stories! We always thought we’d hear them one more time, I guess, and took them for granted. And even a year and a half after her passing, something will happen and my first thought is “I need to tell Mom this” and I’m startled with the realization that she’s gone.

    You need to remember that you helped her achieve her lifelong dream of having her books published. And when her first book won the Ferguson History Award, she was over the moon. She mentioned often that she never, ever thought those things were possible–you made them possible and you made her so very happy.


  3. She and Dad were VERY proud of what you accomplished with your life, through your education and hard work. Never let anyone tell you that they weren’t.


  4. My heart goes out to you as Mother’s Day nears. No matter how old you are when your parents die, you become an orphan—and it is your turn to carry forward their legacy. Even if you don’t remember the details of your mother’s many stories, I have a feeling that the essence of them—and of her—has become part of you. And you have been telling stories of her in your blog, which I for one have very much appreciated (and I ought to have told you so more in the comments tis past month). It sounds as if she had a late flowering with her own writing, which must have been very satisfying to her. My mother has Alzheimer’s Disease, so for these past seven years I have been losing part of her gradually even as she is here with us. Still, her presence means so much to me and I too wish I had taken greater note of her stories and all she had to tell me over the years. (Not only that, I wish I had been more sensitive to the unspoken things she was reticent to tell me and had to hold inside.)
    Hoping that as you remember your mother on this Mother’s Day, you find a smile brightening up your face.


    • I like your line, “I have a feeling the essence of them–and of her– has become part of you.” Just now as I look at the post, I’m struck by how much alike my mother and I look in that picture.


  5. What a beautiful post – I am sure it is hard this week, so close to Mother’s Day. I take care of my mom now and although memories are hard to come by these days, I am learning so much and trying to embrace our time together.


  6. I lost my mom in 2005. She was 82 years old. My husband and I were on vacation, our of the country, when she died. I miss her everyday and wish she were here to let me bounce things off her. I know that she would be telling me “I told you what it was going to be like when you married a man so much older than you” even though my own father was 13 years older than she was



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