It is impossible to understand the true, full experience of another human being. Such experience is shaped, colored and seasoned with every nuance of every day, with all of the circumstances and events and interactions with others they know. To empathize with someone who's lived through something similar is almost disingenuous: each one lives a unique life and has a completely personal experience.
2020 has been a very rough year. I doubt anyone could say otherwise.
For my family, it has been particularly difficult.
I had always used my father as a high-water mark in terms of longevity. Despite having a family history of heart trouble and being the last surviving member of his family, he managed to keep hanging on and thriving. This year, though, after a few rounds of battling mouth cancer, he finally passed on at the age of 90. We were not exceedingly close, and our own family story is pock marked with unpleasant periods and silent epochs, as he and my mom had divorced before I turned a year old. Even so, we did enjoy talking from time to time, and had a similarly varied set of interests in language, physics, electronics, music and chemistry.
In the mid 1980's, after my oldest brother passed away, dad re-entered our life in a significant way, moving into the house that my brother had owned. During one conversation, he, my older brother and I decided to start up a business together making and selling a waterless hand cleaner that dad had formulated back in the 1950s. Had we a greater sense of business acumen and were we less focused on determining which make and model our company car should be, we might have been very successful.
My mother had enjoyed some success in her life as an artist, having taking up the paint brush at a young age and coming to full blossom not long after she and my father were married. Over the course of the following half a century, she made a large impact on the art scene in the central California valley. She had a number of shows at various galleries, developed great friendships with local, prominent artists, and managed to raise three boys on her whatever income she could make in that time. In the late 1990's she was able to sell her tract home and buy a residential lot for a good price, and have a custom home constructed. This was her dream home, her art home, her creative zenith realized in physical form. It was a showplace, a gathering place, a studio and a sculpture as much as it was a residence.
She often said she could never imagine leaving this home.
Earlier this year she was taken to the hospital with chest pains. As quickly as that, she passed away not even 24 hours later. My brother called me that morning to deliver the news. Both of us were completely stunned and heartbroken.
I can say that it was a blessing to know that neither my mom or my dad lingered through a prolonged illness, but it doesn't make it any less painful to accept the facts.
This year has been very rough, more than I could have ever imagined any year could be. I think I can now empathize with others who have lost both parents for one reason or another. It is not a position I was hoping to gain, but that is how life goes. Some of it is what you bring to yourself, other parts are dealt to you.
I'm done with this year.