Pretend your parents are dead.
No, but seriously.
Or any loved one, really.
Pretend they are dead, but talk to them. Go through boxes and photos and journals with them. Ask your questions.
The last time I saw my mother was two years ago this week. I went to visit her in Indiana for a pre-Christmas celebration. We went to the symphony holiday show, something we had done most every year of my childhood. We bought the same cookies in the same lobby. A tradition that endured, and there is something poetic and almost foreseen about us going to the show together one last time, for her last Christmas. I know that I'll probably think about her death every July 1st for the rest of my life, but I wonder if every year I'll remember that it's been 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, 25 years, since I last saw my mother. What parts of grief endure?
Wanting to feel close to her this week, perhaps, I thought I would start going through some of the boxes P and I took from her house earlier this year. I didn't get very far, but I did find a journal she had written during the trip on which she met my father. I scanned it for mention of him specifically, but along the way found reference to friends that had been on the trip, a priest that had been along, cities where they had stopped. I had so many questions about who these people were, what she had thought of my dad the first time she saw him... and I won't get any answers. And I wished that I had stumbled upon this when my mom was alive. I wish we could have talked more about this trip. I wish I could ask her the names of people in photos found in the box.
But then, no matter how much of this I had been allowed, there would always be photos unaddressed, memories unresolved, and an argument to be made that I needed more time. So I am trying to be content with what I do have, knowing that I would have never hit a maximum fill line, requiring no more of her.
I could have asked her questions forever.