Journal Relationships

I’m an adult orphan

Written by Elle Patocka

I’m an adult orphan. Seriously, it’s a thing. The term isn’t normally used once an adult can support oneself. Frankly, I’ve supported myself most my life and I lost my father at 16 to suicide and my mother at 22 to stage IV breast cancer, by rules of definition I should not be placed within this category. But being the independent, free thinking, vulgar spewing, ‘stick it to the man’ woman I am (becoming) – I fully adhere to the term and I’m indeed an adult orphan.

I haven’t stood in line asking for ‘more’ food, I’m not a first lady, civil rights activist, jazz musician, (hoping) I’m not an international sex symbol, a homerun hitting baseball player, I’ve never been entrusted to protect a ‘ring’, or owned ruby red slippers and I don’t protect the citizens of Gotham. I’m simply a mid-20 something, Czech gal from South Omaha and I fit with the aforementioned people except I’m an adult ‘versioned’ orphan.

I’m an adult orphan

I was 16 years old without a father so I didn’t date; instead I stuck to homework, sports and theatre. I became our class speaker, all without a dad. I was turning 23 without a mother so I didn’t drink (much); instead I kept on with college, left a toxic ‘fiancé’ and learned to “survive” – all without a mom. I began to prove others and myself wrong by continuing to exist.


I’ve heard stories of when someone loses their parent(s) they fall apart, mostly because the force(s) that created them no longer exist. It has been a decade since losing my father and nearly four years for my mother. There’s days before sleep hits and I outwardly ask “did I even have a mom and dad?” It’s the oddest emotion that has ran through my being and I recall traditions, sayings and re-watch the one family video our parents made after Christmas in the early 90’s to disperse my thoughts. Does it make me a bad person for asking if they existed? Is this my attempt to grieve and ‘move on’? Why is it that after a death we’re told “things will get better you gotta keep moving on”? I am disgusted with that notion-mostly because I’ve heard it countless times. To this day, sometimes I don’t want to remember and I want to go bat sh*t crazy and we should be told that ‘that’ is OK too (adult orphans everywhere applaud raucously).  I know people mean well but sometimes saying nothing: helps.

I’m an adult orphan but that never made me less of a person nor stop believing that life has worth. I respect my family name. I’ve grown to continually love my tan skin and heightened speech rate from my father and crooked nose and dance moves from my mother. I’ve grown into the comfort of family and friends noticing particulars in my character that matched my folks. I use to think the biggest compliment I could be paid in life was about my looks, humor or accomplishments, but through the years hearing ‘that’s just like your dad/mom” has solidified the fact that ‘that’ is my biggest compliment.

I’m a well maintained member of society and test my luck with life-no parents to tell me ‘no’ right? I haven’t slowed down living since losing my folks mostly because I know how quick life can be over. I’ve grieved and continue to (expletive) “move on” at the pace I wish. I’m glad to not be alone in this adult orphaned world, even when I’m alone. It’s true, indeed, the sun will come up tomorrow and it continually has for me.

I’m an adult orphan

About the author

Elle Patocka

Elle Patocka is a Czech lady born and raised in South Omaha Nebraska. Her life has taken avenues unforeseen and some well planned in advance- and that has continued to make all the difference. She lives by the notion to be altruistic and live life because ‘’ you never know when your bus is coming.” Her view from home is seen from 5 feet 3 inches, mostly lying down in a hammock, browsing vinyl, skating, mosh-pitting and sweating with strangers at concerts.

Elle recently had two pieces of her writing selected to be published in her College magazine and website The Metropolitan- this has checked her bucket list off of becoming a published writer come true and she hopes to continue to write in any form possible.


  • Hi readers! I am happy to share this view of my life with ya’ll… if this piece moved/spoke to you or made ya think, or if you feel like this could impact someone in your life, please pass along. Thank you.

    • I lost my mom 26 years ago to pancreatic cancer. My dad 14 years ago to prostate cancer. My only brother 3 years ago to suicide by starvation. I miss them too much. I couldn’t have children and neither could my brother when he was married. I’m in this lost in space limbo of them being gone and there being no one after me. I’m turning 59 this year. Honestly I just want my mom and dad. I’m no longer their daughter or the little sister. I have friends who are my sisters and brothers. But I was born 20 years later than all my cousins on my dad’s side and I never got to grow up with them or my aunts and uncles (after my parents moved us from one coast to the other). Now all my aunts and uncles are gone, I just lost my last uncle, my dad’s last remaining brother, last Christmas. I’m lost beyond lost and I totally get how my uncle felt here in his 80s that he was the orphan of his family. He wanted to die to go be with my dad, their sister and their brothers, mom and dad. How do I live on? I’m tired of being the family survivor. I’m outliving them all. How do I let go of them so I can move on to make and find my own happiness? I loved them very much. Perfect they were not. None of us were. I have just a few cousins left with one I’m close to. But even he is much older than me. I don’t want to outlive him too. Life scares me right now. I just want to go home to NY forever.