On The Subject of My Mother as My Father

Whenever my friend talks about how her dad is bossy and complains too much, I say, “Must be nice to argue with your dad.”

“Don’t do that!” she yells, because I made her sound like a jerk for complaining about her dad when I haven’t seen mine since I was thirteen.

I don’t miss him, but I do think about him. For at least a tiny portion of my life, I got to be a daddy’s girl. I remember him bouncing me on his knee and singing a song and at the end of that song I’d clap and yell, “Mambo!”

I remember one day my brother hurt my feelings and when my dad found me on the couch crying I said, “He’s ruining my life!” My dad went upstairs to have a few words with him and it was a long time before that little creep bothered me again.

My parents, back when I was just a glimmer in their eyes.

With my parents’ divorce, my mother’s role changed so drastically and at the time, we naturally had no clue that she was going to have to be our mom AND our dad all at once.

She became the sole provider and head of household. She had to discipline and nurture two kids who were entering the next awful stage  that comes after the Terrible Twos: Being lousy teens.

One Father’s Day, I sent my mom a floral arrangement thanking her for taking on the role of both parents. This year, I’m not doing it again. I had to take a long look at my mother and no longer have her play his part. I just want her to be my mom anymore.

I thought a lot about how I never had to deal with some of the stuff my friends had to, such as having to ask TWO parents for permission to go to the movies or the mall. I only ever had to ask my mom and I loved the efficiency of that system. Even now I still think about how she has done her best to provide for my brother in areas of life that remain completely foreign to us as the only two women in the house. Just as I struggle to understand the men around me, I assume my mom still can’t sort out what the heck is running through my brother’s brain.

Sometimes I see how some of my friends have parents who are still very much in love with each other. I very clearly remember an afternoon at a friend’s house and as her mother chopped some vegetables while at the kitchen counter, her dad walked up from behind, wrapped his arms around her and sang, “L.A. Womaaan.”

It’s not a total bummer to be without a dad, but it’s possible that life would have been much easier for us if my mom had someone she could count on. My mom always says that the best part of her being single is that she shares the TV remote with no one. I don’t disagree.

Though my father and I left off on really bad terms, I have learned to appreciate the roles of good fathers by seeing how much they impact the lives of their families. After a friend’s father passed away, his family continued to include his memory into every new event. His picture was carried down the aisle at a wedding and some of them even got a tattoo of a heart to symbolize the many years he struggled with a pacemaker. I felt so lucky to have met him because he was the kind of guy who could make criticizing his own children sound like comedy. They may not have appreciated the jokes, but I sure did, and he made me feel so welcomed in his home. It means the world to me when friends’ parents approve of having me around.

My dad once dedicated a song to me called “Mi Niña” in which the singer describes his daughter as a source of inspiration whose smile instills a sense of hope in his life, and how she will be there when he’s reached old age. It’s too bad, because I don’t even know if I’ll ever see my father again. I know that he is still alive, but he’s in another country now.

And now I’m going to sob for a while because I haven’t heard the song in years and it just always hits me hard. I hope that everyone reading this will have a special weekend, with your fathers and mothers, or any one amazing who has raised you and loved you.

Photos Courtesy of My Mom

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