“Parental bonds, transcends planes. It stands the test of time.”
This quote is from a recent poem I wrote as a message to my parents and as a message to myself.
The poem, titled “Conflicted,” depicts the mental struggles I’ve faced following the death of my parents. It mentions the abundance of grief that I feel, the loneliness and anger that I’ve experienced, and the conflicted emotions that trouble me.
I have not always had a great relationship with my parents. My mother was in and out of my life since the day I was born. She struggled with substance abuse and substance distribution. She was in and out of prison. I was born in 1998 with drugs in my system and the state took me away from her just days after I was born.
My grandmother adopted me, as well as my siblings, who came before me. My poem credits my grandmother for saving my life. When my grandmother fell on hard times in 2015, we moved in with my mother, who had just gotten a new apartment. It was during this time that I grew to have a better relationship with her.
My mother passed away in 2018, when I was away at college, the second semester of my freshman year. She suffered from an asthma attack.
The conflicted emotions that I speak of in the poem are how growing up I had anger and resentment towards my mother during times she wasn’t there for me. However, I felt love and grief for her after she passed away.
My relationship with my father had put even more strain on me. I did not know who my father was until he reached out to me in 2016. Before then, I only had known his name. My mother never spoke about him to me — not that she was around enough to do so.
When my father reached out to me, he was sick and in a special care facility. He struggled with heart problems. My father also struggled with substance abuse and substance distribution.
After he left the care facility, he ended up back in prison. During his time behind bars, my dad was in and out of contact with me. However, through letters and phone calls, I built a relationship with him.
My dad got out of prison in August 2019, and I met him for the first time. He passed away in February 2020 due to his ongoing heart issues.
Following his death, my emotions continued to be conflicted. I grew up not knowing my father and hating him for it. Then, growing to know and love him during the time I had him in my life and experiencing such grief and regret after losing him.
My poem ends with me validating my emotions. I tell myself that it is OK to experience these contradicting emotions of love and resentment, grief and regret. I tell myself that all my emotions are real because they speak the truth about my experiences, in the developing relationships I had with my parents. I share that I always will have my parents with me in spirit because parental bonds transcend planes and stand the test of time.
My poem states that I don’t blame my parents for the pain I’ve experienced in the past and that I don’t hold any negative experiences against them.
This poem is to share with parents and children that learning, growth and healing is a difficult journey. Relationships will be tested. The love will be tested. While at times they might seem severed, the bonds between a parent and child are eternal.
Rasharra Smith is a graduate student and writer at the University of Dubuque.