Facts can be unusual without offering insight. For instance, finding out a woman I’m with had been born with a tail, removed within hours of birth, might lead to conjecture about how things might have been different for her if she hadn’t had the surgery—imagine her gymnastic skill on the monkey bar, for instance, or the difficulty in finding below the waist wardrobe items—but not to a better understanding of who she is: a tail-less woman.
In a similar vein, my parents had both a Volkswagen Bug and a Peugeot before I turned five in late 1963. Neither of these vehicles had achieved popularity or cult status, at least outside of Bohemia—where Richard and Beverly Howard did not visit, much less live. When they adopted me in 1959, they were not Beats or Niks. They were just a young couple happy to have a healthy baby boy—without a tail. These facts are just information, offering the reader nothing to sketch conclusions from.
On the other hand, some oddities are instructive. For instance, finding out that a friend was an orphan might help explain insecurity and a sense of aloneness. Imagine how awful it is to have no mother and no father to help one navigate life. What could be sadder than a boy or girl with no one to turn to for a hand to hold or a story to tell? Terrible. On Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Christmas, Easter and birthdays, it must be painful to have no one to buy gifts for or receive them from. Life has a natural order—grandparent dies, parent dies, child lives—but even this order can have gaps too long and painful to be natural. No, being an orphan is tragic, and all orphans should be treated with respectful sorrow, perhaps being offered the largest piece of pie or the most comfortable chair.
Having established a preferential option for the orphaned, I’d now like to push for an increased preference for an even smaller group but one twice as afflicted: the double orphaned, those who have lost two sets of parents, not through carelessness but through death. These double orphaned have, consciously or unconsciously, suffered 200% more pain and suffering than a typical Dickensian child.
I know this horror, because I am a double orphan. Although I am only a child of 59, I have lived through the death of not one, but two mothers, not one but two fathers. My real mother died in 2001, and I miss her daily. I’m sure she’s looking down from heaven and wishing she’d raised me differently, and my biological mother died in 1965—although I didn’t find that out for another 45 years. Still, two mothers in the grave. My real father died eight years ago, and I suspect he shares my mother’s heavenly tsssskkk-ing, and my biological father died before I was born, or at least he was a ghost, since there’s no record of him. Two dead fathers. I am the man most to be pitied and most to be rewarded, a Double Orphan.
The next time you and I sit down for coffee and pie, please remember my loss, think of the preferential option owed me, and give me the goddamned bigger piece of pie. The universe thanks you.