I stride toward the stone with purpose. I have not been here in a while–fifteen months, to be exact–but now I’m on a mission. My husband and I both admire the stone–a simple monument that would have been met with approval by both parties. We wipe away some lawn clippings, then he leaves and I am alone with them.
“Hi,” I say. “How are you doing?” Great. I’m standing at the grave of my deceased parents for the first time since my mother’s remains were placed beside my father’s and I’m talking to them the way I used to when I called them collect from college. I have to hold myself back from asking, “How’s the weather there?”
Instead, I say, “I miss you.” I tell them I think of them every day and I still cannot believe they’re gone. I can feel my eyes begin to water and since I hate to cry, I reach into my pocket to pull out a tissue, then press the tissue against my eyes in an effort to stuff the tears back in.
Then I talk to my mom. “I know you did what you knew how to do. I know you were a product of how you were raised and since I can’t know what that was like, I know you did the best you could. You gave me what you were able to give me. I will love you forever and I forgive you for what you did not, could not, give me.”
I’m really crying now and the tissue is beginning to shred. I reach into my pocket for the last tissue I have. Then I talk to my dad. “I miss you more now than when you left. I cherish the times we spent alone together when you taught me how to shoot a gun, how to use a level, how to measure twice and cut once, how to mix the perfect vat of cement. I treasure the things you taught me just by your example: integrity, trust, staying true to your word, honesty, being humble, and, above all else, always being kind.”
My two tissues are falling to bits, but I need to talk to my parents together. “I hope you can see how your family is doing. How your grandchildren are thriving, how your great-grandchildren are growing so fast. I hope you are proud of your son. I hope you are proud of me. Please, please let me live a life in which you are proud of me.”
My tissues are now both completely disintegrated. I kiss my fingertips lightly, then tap my hand gently on each of their names. Then I turn and walk toward my husband, toward the rest of our day, toward a life in which I will never again see my parents but will always have them close to me as I continue to feel their strong presence in my life.
I walk away with shredded tissues, but with a strong resolve to live a life that will be true to who I am while always thinking of the lessons my strong immigrant parents taught me. Ever onward I now stumble into the somewhat scary, completely unknown future.