Today would have been my mother’s 88th birthday. She passed away last September after a long and difficult bout with Alzheimer’s. While I miss her, my father, and my stepfather very much, probably the hardest reality to contend with since her passing has been the stark realization that I am now the patriarch of the family. Really? Me? I kind of feel like I am still in my late 20s or my 30s, not the family patriarch. Why did everyone ahead of me have to pass away so soon? Where did the time go? What does one do as the family patriarch?
It doesn’t feel like all that long ago when I was a kid playing games like kick the can in the back yard with my friends; or a teen playing middle school football; or a student skipping college classes; or a parent helping raise my boys. There was always some kind of mental safety net set in place against the certainty of time and having to face my own mortality, by knowing there were parents and/or grandparents who were still alive. That is no longer the case. Of all my cousins, my brother and I are the only ones unfortunate enough who have lost both of our parents, plus a step-parent.
Now, I am standing at the top of the ancestral food chain looking down at the lives my offspring as they are forging their future and wondering about what kind of legacy will I leave behind for them. That is a rather daunting thought given the amazing legacies left by my forbearers. Can I begin to show the bravery that my mother showed in her fight with Alzheimer’s? Can I pass down the sage advice and counsel that my father and stepfather did? Can I possibly live up to the legacy of my grandparents? Can I even begin to know what to do as the family patriarch when the time comes for me to pass the torch?
All these questions, and many more have occupied a portion of my thoughts since mom died last September. But, the more I think about it, the more I realize that none of us really has a clear roadmap to the future. We all basically plod through life doing the best that we can. Sometimes we find our way without difficulty, while at other times we have to take detours and face challenges. All I can hope for is that with both God’s blessed guidance and Kathy’s enduring love, I can be as wonderful of a patriarch as my ancestors (both patriarchs and matriarchs) were before me. And in that faith, I will find inner peace as time continues its march ever onward.