My six year old daughter was singing in the kitchen today and I told her what a good singer she was. She asked “Did you sing as well as me when you were six?” And the answer is, I don’t know, and I no longer have anyone to ask.
I’m not sure whether you can really refer to yourself as becoming an ‘orphan’ once you are a grown up. I’m very grown up, almost middle-aged by some people’s reckoning, but I still feel the particular impact of knowing that both my parents are now dead. Although I have a half brother and sister from my father’s first marriage, they are a generation older than me and I did not live with them when I was growing up – I grew up as an only child. And that is what makes me feel this newly conferred ‘orphanhood’ more acutely. In a way I feel as though I have been severed from my childhood. If I can’t remember something that happened when I was four, now there is no one else who can. I relied on my mother’s recollections of my childhood, particularly for the years before about the age of 4. Now that she is gone there is no longer a reliable witness to my childhood. I know this comes to all of us but I think having young children makes me feel this absence more keenly. What was I like at 4? Is my 4 year-old similar or different to me at the same age? If my 6 year old pulls a certain face, there is no longer any one to say - “you look just like your mother when she was your age”. I’m not going to wallow in self-pity about my ‘orphanhood’ because in the scheme of things it is really not so significant. We all lose our parents eventually - some of us sooner than others. At least I had one parent who lived to see me a happy adult and mother of my own children. But still, I think this particular type of aloneness will take a bit of getting used to.