Most people wait for their parents to die with a mixture of tremendous sadness and plans for a new swimming pool. – Edward St. Aubyn
I’m writing a new novel. And my protagonist is a late-night TV show host. His dad is a legendary musician who has fallen on hard times.
And in my research, I found a YouTube clip of Prince’s now legendary appearance on the short-lived revival of The Arsenio Hall Show. And I got flooded with a ton of nostalgia.
I remember the night that show aired. I texted my dad “Turn to channel 34 now!” We must’ve texted back and forth twenty times that night. And we’d started making plans to see Prince on tour.
Sadly, since both Prince and my Dad have passed away, this cannot happen in this lifetime.
This Prince story and many like it were brought into sharp focus after I read Lisa Schmidt’s amazing article 10 Things That Changed Me After the Death of a Parent.
I can safely say that my life wouldn’t be the same if both or even either one of my parents were still around.
- I probably wouldn’t be a coach.
- I don’t think I’d be a published author.
- I know I wouldn’t be living in New York.
I could go on and on.
I opened with that quotation from English author Edward St. Aubyn. That quote really landed for me because I don’t believe I really started living the life I wanted to live until my parents passed away.
Don’t get me wrong, it breaks my heart that I couldn’t call my Dad to tell him “guess who I met in Times Square today.” Or to call my Mom and tell her “I met someone and I really like her.”
Or the one that one day will shatter my heart:
“I’m going to be a Dad. Y’all are gonna be grandparents.”
Side note: I’m not expecting a baby. I’m speaking hypothetically here. Though I did meet someone in Times Square last weekend. A political figure whose name I’d rather not mention. She’s in the news…y’know, a lot.
I lost my parents both before I turned 40. My Mom passed in February 2009 and we lost Dad two days before Christmas 2014. A day doesn’t go by that I don’t wish I could call them to share something happening in my life.
Tony Hall was a gifted musician. I credit him for my sense of humor, my taste in music, my creative genius, and my loves of baseball and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Ann Ivey Hall was where I got my literary gift. Thanks to her nurturing love and support, I fell in love with the English Language. And she also is why I am a coach today thanks to her love of supporting people.
In Schmidt’s amazing article, one thing that really stuck out to me is that we’re both members of a club. Adult orphans…
Let’s not get it twisted, I’m a highly intelligent grown man. I’m an accomplished man. And I’m a loving man.
But there are times at even at my age, I still need my mommy and daddy. You still need to ask, “how do you cook that thing that I love so much?” or to have mommy and daddy support you in nursing a broken heart.
Let’s not overlook the aspect of grief. Grief can be dangerous. My ruptured gallbladder in 2009 I believe was directly caused by my grief over losing my mom. And thanks to some stress eating and bad habits, I managed to gain over 50 pounds after my Dad passed away.
Y’know, three of the most remarkable accomplishments I’ve had have been after my parents have passed away – my book, Accomplishment Coaching, and moving to the New York area.
And I’m adding to those every day.
In closing I’d like to reflect on my Accomplishment Coaching graduation dinner. We’re at this cozy Italian restaurant in New York’s financial district. The company rented out the entire restaurant so we had it for ourselves.
We all had a moment to speak in front of the team about someone who has meant a lot to us. Most of these people were guests of my teammates. Mine wasn’t there…in person.
I chose to tell a story about my Dad. There were a lot of tears as I stood up and spoke.
“Tony Hall, this is for you,” I finished between sobs.
As my coaching family applauded, through cloudy eyes I looked to the back of the room and I saw them. I saw my Mom and Dad standing in the back of the room. They were healthy, happy, and proud.
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My relationship with my parents was and is complicated. They were complicated people. And I regret the hell out of not being able to share my successes with them in person.
But I firmly believe that if they were still around, I’d be a far different person than I am today. Good, bad, or indifferent – I would not be the person I am today.
Photo by Thomas Leuthard