Sometimes, like this morning, I wake up early and I can hear the rain bouncing off the roof, windows or porch. It is still mostly dark outside, the wind rustles through the trees. I get up, fix myself a cup of coffee and sit down petting the cat, when all of a sudden, I am missing visiting my parents early in the morning.
Sitting with my parents in the morning was a very regular occurrence. It was something we did all the time growing up (if they weren’t hungover and unable to get up which happened less often as they grew older). I even did it fairly often as an adult, I would drive over by six in the morning or so, sometimes with the raspberry filled powdered donuts you get from Hostess or one of the other imitations.
I would get there early, knock on the door and they would yell at me to come in. No matter where they lived the living room was always similar. A bevy of table lamps scattered in the room. A couch my mom would sit on and a chair my dad would use. A coffee table in between us all. Usually the drapes were thrown open and either the morning light would be poking in, or like this morning it would still be dark and grey with rain slapping the windows.
I would sit down on the couch near my mom. You could tell the air had the smell of secondhand smoke, but it was early morning, so it wasn’t filled with smoke itself. Also, the air was usually fresher smelling then other smokers’ houses, my parents kept a plethora of plants in the house, sometimes the ceiling would be covered in vines like they were living under a forest canopy, they also almost always had a window cranked open.
My mom would get me a cup of coffee, always with slightly too much sugar (no matter how often I told her I didn’t need that much) and we would start talking. This even happened when I was 10-12. My parents drank instant coffee and my mom would fix me up instant coffee in a plastic drink cup using hot tap water. I was always destined to be an instant coffee drinker, I guess.
The living room would be brightly lit while the TV played Good Morning America when I was younger, and as I got older and the decades started going by it became just the news. The channel would occasionally be changed in the background as we all sat there, listening to the birds outside.
We would just talk about everything. I might have had screaming fights with my parents when they were drunk, but never in the morning. The morning was safe, the get together was sober. Conversations in the morning were reassuring no matter what happened the night before, affection was always exchanged (hugs and kisses) and everyone would just talk about everything. This was always the best time to bring up new or sensitive topics and things would just be mellow.
It was the only time I talked about certain things that have happened and they would just listen. Sometimes if it was just my dad (if my mom was sleeping, which happened a small percentage of the time) I would talk about things that I have never uttered to another person, not even my hubby. It felt like it was a time I could be honest about everything I had been through or was bothered by. Don’t get me wrong, my hubby has always listened and been accepting. I just can’t get over the anxiety that he might one day decide he couldn’t accept. It is stupid because I know he would be ok with me no matter what, but the anxiety is always there about that.
I think talking in the morning was partially a learned response, a coping mechanism for things that happened in the darkest of night. I had an opposite experience growing up in the late-night hours before everyone went to bed (the darkest part of the night when everyone would be drunk). When I was a kid, I grew up in a mass of broken Vietnam Vets who had all done horrible things both in Vietnam and since then. They were my family, I loved them, and no matter what society wants to say, they were good people. However, most of them were emotionally broken and they didn’t understand proper boundaries between an adult and their bad experiences and putting that on a child (my dad had the best understanding out of all the men, but even he wasn’t good at it).
Fairly regularly one of them would confess to me in the late hours things they had done and been through. This was after the evening drunkenness had hit and people were coming down. They treated me almost as if I was a priest at their confessional. I have learned from my therapist that I stood in as someone who could help them carry their baggage by acting in that role, but it also gave me baggage and guilt for things that I have never done or even witnessed. I think I would have made a good sin eater in the middle ages.
This meant that mornings with my parents were almost the polar opposite. There were no secrets I had to keep. My parents never dropped any emotional bombs during this time. It was a time I could tell my own secrets back instead. I couldn’t tell you why I didn’t bring these troubled thoughts up at other times, or with other people, but mornings were safe and they were always supportive (even if they weren’t the night before).
So I woke up this morning, all my table lamps are on and I am sitting here listening to the rain, with the strongest wish that I could sit with my parents this morning and have a cup of coffee with them. I knew the last year and a half of their lives that the time was running out, so I prepared and did it as often as I could. That doesn’t change the feelings though when they are gone and all of a sudden you just miss having a cup of coffee in the morning with them. No matter what preparation you do, it doesn’t change how the feelings hit you.
Sometimes getting older sucks.