An orphan is defined as a child permanently bereaved of or abandoned by his or her parents. In common usage, only a child who has lost both parents is called an orphan. When referring to animals, only the mother's condition is usually relevant. If she has gone, the offspring is an orphan, regardless of the father's condition.
I don’t know what it feels like to be an orphan. I had a mother and father. All my friends had a mother and father. Everyone lived the “Ozzie and Harriet” lifestyle.
In school, there were these kids that everyone scorned. These kids didn’t wear the same cloths as the rest of us. These kids didn’t attend the same churches or were not part of the same clubs as the rest of us. These kids just kept to themselves and after school they disappeared. Later I found out they were from the nearby orphanage.
I wondered how they lived without a father and a mother? I guess it mattered what age they were when they became an orphan and what knowledge they had of it.
Then I found a family with a father and mother but they were different from the ones I knew. This family actually did things together like camping and playing games and there was a real interaction between them. Some times it was laughter or screaming but it was a real connection that drew them together under one name. Watching them from afar I started to feel like an orphan.
By the time of high school, I started noticing differences in other families. There were some with just a mother raising the kids. Never a discussion of where the father was or what happened, the kids seemed as normal as anyone else. Some seemed to be closer with their brothers and sisters and some seemed to realize their economic restrictions but all in all we all got along together.
I met a girl who was an orphan. She was fairly young when she became an orphan but had some memory of an orphanage. She kept the dress she was adopted in. She rarely spoke of her adopted family and the few stories told were fairly dark. She hung tightly to any attention and even wanted to become another family while still faintly interested in finding the facts of why she was abandoned. She was given the freedom of changing her name and become her own person.
Yet an orphan becomes his or her “own person” early in life. Without a family to guide or rely on, a child has to grow up early. There are no excuses in decisions made or the consequences.
When you search your ancestry to trace your family path, imagine if there was none. You would be an orphan.