I’m An Orphan…

I have been an Orphan for almost 20 years now.

My Father, Rob Roy Wirt, (oh yeah, we’re very Scottish and German) was born in 1922, served in WW2, worked as a Supervisor in a sugar beet factory for 47 years, was the lead singer in a barbershop quartet, and the most handsome, intelligent man I’ve ever known. He died in March of 1990, when I was 20.

Dad was a Hepcat (1940s & 1950s “hipster”)

I’ve been thinking about him quite a bit lately (especially with Veterans’ Day recently passed) and I often tend to feel a bit cheated out of time with him, as I was the youngest, Daddys little girl, and he was gone too soon…

A shiny bunch of memories for me include all the times he mowed the back yard on a weekend day, then relaxed with a cold beer while leaning on the brace of the big, rusty, swing set from my older brothers’ childhood, so that I could swing HIGH without the metal legs coming up off the ground…

He was the one who taught me how to pump my legs in the correct rhythm to go higher, and I cherish that type of recollection dearly.

My parents divorced when I was 13, and after Dad moved out and the house I grew up in was sold, I didn’t see very much of him until I was old enough to drive to visit him at his apartment in Kerman, but a few scenes stand out in my mind…

Dad attended my Grandma’s memorial when I was 17, and that was the only time I ever saw my Dad inside of a church. Rob Roy (Bob to most), was a firm believer in science, which precluded any belief in a personal diety, as far as I know.

I adore the memory of Dad attending Danny’s band’s participation in an outdoor Battle of the Bands one summer…Dad brought a lawn chair, a cooler of beer, and the Fresno Bee newspaper, and set up his spot as FAR from the stage as he could get, while still remaining inside the fencing surrounding the venue.

Dad supported our interests as well as his own…

My Mom, my Brother Lew, and I moved from our big ole house on a 1/4 acre (with a pool) to an extra-long, single-wide mobile home in the mobile home park next to the senior village that Grandma lived in.

That was the first (of many) moves in my life, that I remember (we moved to my childhood home when I was 2).

My left forearm. Compass rose to commemorate my travels all over the US.

My Mom, Joyce A. Rader, was a Renaissance Woman. She was a Cosmetologist, a Seamstress, a Bus Driver (with the class D license required), a Security Guard, Church Choir Soloist, Boy Scout Troop Leader, a Go-Go Dancer in the ’60s, and likely a few more things I’m not aware of…

She was so steady, and certain, and she DEFINITELY stopped a shit-ton of generational trauma in its tracks for my siblings and me…

She didn’t tell me that much about her childhood, but she was born during the Great Depression, Grandpa Rader was a mean drunk (he died the year before I was born, so I never met him), and Mom, Uncle Al, and Aunt Nancy all spent time in foster care.

Also, Mom’s weight fluctuated after having 4 kids over 12 years and at least one serious back surgery, but she never (NEVER) mentioned weight to me unless I asked her a question about the subject.

Joyce Russell did NOT contribute to my eating disorders/weight issues. The rest of my existence did, but Mom didn’t.

She was truly STELLAR.

Just over 2 years before My Mom died (in 2002), I quit drinking, and went back to school…

The day I realized that I needed assistance dealing with my drinking problem, I called my Mom to tell her that I was getting help, and to let her know that I want to make her proud of me, as I felt I had done little to nothing to be proud of.

She replied, “I am always proud of you. I love you.”

Joyce in AR, mid ’90s

I was attending my last semester at Fresno City College in 2002, planning graduation with my AA, honor roll, and Dean’s Medallion, when Mom was hospitalized again (COPD) with breathing issues. I visited her and she insisted that I miss as few classes as possible. She was/is SO supportive and proud of me for existing, that good things I did/do are just gravy!

Mom died just before I found out that I had been accepted at UC Berkeley for my BA. I had been concerned about how to get her safely through my FCC graduation ceremony in a big arena, but she ended up with the best seat in the house!

I am blessed and truly lucky to have such wonderful, caring, intelligent, funny, talented, human parents…

…but I’ve been an orphan since 2002.

“When you say goodbye to a parent…
You are suddenly living in a whole new world.
You are no longer ‘the child’ and regardless of how long you have officially been ‘grown up’ for, you realise you actually never were until this moment. The shock of this adjustment will shake your very core.

When you have finally said goodbye to both your parents, assuming you were lucky enough to have had two. You are an orphan on this earth and that never, ever gets easier to take no matter how old and grey you are yourself and no matter how many children of your own you have.

You see, a part of your body is physically connected to the people that made it and also a part of your soul. When they no longer live, it is as if you are missing something practical that you need – like a finger or an arm. Because really, you are. You are missing your parent and that is something far more necessary than any limb.
And yet the connection is so strong it carries on somehow, no-one knows how exactly. But they are there. In some way, shape or form they are still guiding you if you listen closely enough. You can hear the words they would choose to say to you.
You can feel the warmth of their approval, their smile when a goal is achieved, their all-consuming love filling the air around you when a baby is born they haven’t met.

If you watch your children very closely you will see that they too have a connection with your parents long after they are gone. They will say things that resonate with you because it brings so many memories of the parent you are missing. They will carry on traits, thoughts and sometimes they will even see them in their dreams.
This is not something we can explain.

Love is a very mystical and wondrous entity.
It is far better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all and grief, grief is the price of that love. The deeper the love the stronger the grief.
When you say goodbye to a parent, do not forget to connect with that little girl who still lives inside you somewhere.
Take very good care of her, for she, she will be alone and scared.

When you say goodbye to your parents, you lose an identity, a place in the world. When the people who put you on this earth are no longer here, it changes everything.
Look after yourself the way they looked after you and listen out for them when you need it the most.
They never really leave.”

© Donna Ashworth

I am Rob Roy and Joyce’s child.

I am an orphan, yet I am loved.