I believe that everyone, in some way or another, has a second (or more) set of “parents”. This is a broad definition of parents I am using here – they may be people who cared for you when your biological parents were having problems, such as grandparents or aunts and uncles, or even godparents as is the custom in some places. They could be people who took you to the movies or to fancy restaurants if the money in your family was tight. They could be people close to you whom to others might seem commonplace but to you were heroes. They could be teachers, formally or not. The common characteristic among these people is that they were role models for you and had a big (positive) impact on your life in one or more ways.
I was lucky enough to have several such wonderful people in my life during childhood and adolescence, but one couple stands out.
I met them when I was 16 and started volunteering at a local environmentalist organization (i.e., 20 some years ago). I could write several posts on how they influenced my life. Tey were a huge influence on my development as an environmentalist, for example. From them I learned how to view environmentalist issues from a critical and ethical standpoint. I often consulted them when faced with difficult career decisions and they even helped with more minor things like offering advice on course projects in college. In the environmentalist organization I mentioned we worked on several projects together and for some ten years of my life we saw each other almost daily.
On a more personal note, they became great friends over the years. We often celebrated birthdays, Christmases and New Years’ together. When I first met them, they had a six year old daughter and a one-month old baby girl. I often spent time with the girls and took them places, like the movies. There is even a story about how the youngest girl thought I was her big sister from some previous relationship of her mother’s – in fact many people thought that was true because we looked alike. The funny part is that, in my last encounter with my “little sister” (who is now twenty), she told me how only very recently she realized I was not her real sister! Although I do admit I love them like sisters!
Four years ago the father died and left a big hole in my life, especially due to the fact that my own father died when I was 14. Shortly after I became pregnant of my youngest son – my most difficult pregnancy. It was a difficult time for me health wise and I never able to write about his death. Now, unfortunately, the mother has died and I am trying to process everything.
As I said, I could write and write about all of the great experiences we had together, but this is not what I wanted to do today. I am not that old, and they themselves died at a relatively young age (both were under 60), but it got me thinking about what to do when our greatest teachers and role models start dying.
For instance, instead of having that special person who has so much more experience that ourselves and whom we can call when we need expert personal or professional advice, we ourselves begin to serve as role models for the younger generation and there is so much responsibility in that! And it’s not that we have to be old to be a good example to others, but it’s just so comforting to have someone to guide us.
It also got me thinking about all of the projects we could have done together, things we started but never were able to continue, and how greater my responsibility is now to honor, in practice, their legacy.
And you… Who were the main role models in your life, other than your parents? What impact did they have in your life? Have you ever lost one of them? Please share your story below!
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Ecoziva in Brazil.
Photo credit to Martha Dear. This photo has a creative commons attribute license.