It is hard to face that I now represent the older generation. I am the oldest surviving child, the oldest surviving grandchild of my mother’s family. I hope with time I will gain strength, perspective and fortitude to carry on my family’s values, traditions and cultural roots.

What a responsibility it is to be the matriarch of the family! Matriarch—the term never crossed my mind until I became an orphan at 60, when both my parents died. It is an awesome responsibility for me to make certain that the generational link is never severed.

I’m not anyone’s child anymore. Who is going to take care of me? There is no smooth transition from being a child in the family to becoming an orphan. One day you have a parent and the next day you don’t. As a lifelong pleaser, it’s quite a revelation to know that there is no one to please or disappoint anymore-- only you. You are it!

I belong to the baby boomer generation, also known as the sandwich generation. We are sandwiched between the needs of our elderly parents and our children. Most of us cope with full time jobs, caring for our parent(s) and caring for our children. How do we set priorities and not jeopardize our commitment to family?
It is important to:
o Treasure your parents. Make the time to spend it with them. Listen to their concerns. Value what they have to tell you. Provide them with special things that they need-like reading them a book or newspaper.
o Have no regrets. If you have unresolved issues with your parent(s), resolve them.
o Maintain an generational link. Your children should hear stories about their grandparents and great-grandparents. They should experience the food of their ancestors. You should share pictures. You should discuss how their ancestors arrived in this country.
o Record an oral history of your family and provide it to your children.
o Think about a saying or direction your parents once gave you
o Carry a memento of your parent(s)
o Document the love for your parent(s)

I have chosen to help others through the pain of the loss of their parents by speaking and writing about feeling like an orphan at 60 and as a result I will work through my pain.

Author's Bio: 

Annette Gonzalez is a lifelong Floridian and was raised in West Tampa, a Latin neighborhood in Tampa. As a child, she was nurtured in this cultural environment and it influenced her desire to be a writer, speaker and storyteller.

Her closely knit Spanish family influenced her to attend a local college, The University of South Florida where she graduated in 1970 with a B.A. degree in sociology. Soon after graduation she married Terry DeLisle and they had two sons, Jared and Jacques.

Annette's professional background includes positions as a social worker, real estate salesperson, business owner, PBS education director, president of a chamber of commerce and director of business development at an educational association.

In February 2006, when Annette's struggled with coping with the loss of her mother, she needed to fill the emptiness in her heart and began documenting her feelings. Five months later, her father passed away. This is when she began to write and speak about her parents' deaths. What resulted was that Annette provided others who had lost their parents comfort and direction through her writing and speeches.

Annette believes that we need to treasure our parents while they are alive and honor them when they have passed.

Visit Annette's blog,
, in memory of her mother, Marina Gonzalez. She encourages those who have lost their mothers or whose mothers are in ill health to post comments.

Annette will be speaking at the "Time for Me Retreat" in March 2009. For more information visit,