By Annette Gonzalez —

I am an adult orphan. I’m not anyone’s child anymore. Both my parents have died. There is no smooth transition from being a child in the family to becoming an orphan. One day you have parents and the next day you don’t. It’s quite a revelation to know that there is no one to approve or disapprove of your actions anymore. You are it!

It is also hard to face that I now represent the older generation. I was the oldest child and the oldest grandchild in my family. I am now the oldest adult. It is my duty to carry on my family’s values, traditions and cultural roots. It is an awesome responsibility to make certain that the inter-generational links, from my great-grandparents to my children and their children, are not severed.

For those of you whose parents are older or in ill health, here are some suggestions from an adult orphan:

* Treasure your parents. Make the time to spend it with them. Listen to their concerns. Value what they have to tell you.

* Provide them with special things that they need: books, phone calls, visits.?Have no regrets.

* Encourage an inter-generational link. Ensure that your children and grandchildren have opportunities to spend time with your parents. After your parents have died, tell younger generations stories about your parents and grandparents. Prepare food that the older generations ate.

* Record an oral history of your family members and provide it to your children and grandchildren.

* Every day, take time to think about a wise saying or direction your parents once gave you that made a difference in your life.

* Carry a memento of your parent(s) to keep them close to your heart.

It is important for us to do the best we can while our parents are still alive and to honor them after their passing. I may feel like an orphan now, but no one can take my memories away. I choose to write about my memories in order to help others through the pain of losing their parents and as a result, it will ease my pain.

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Annette Gonzalez

Annette Gonzalez is a lifelong Floridian and was raised in West Tampa, a Latin neighborhood. As a child, she was nurtured in this cultural environment and it influenced her desire to be a writer, speaker, and storyteller. She graduated from the University of South Florida in 1970 with a B.A. degree in sociology. She married Terry DeLisle and they have two sons, Jared and Jacques. In February 2006, when Annette struggled with coping with the loss of her mother, she began documenting her feelings. Five months later, her father passed away. This is when she began to write and speak publicly about her parents’ deaths. Annette believes that we need to treasure our parents while they are alive and honor them when they have passed.

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