How my dad helped me grow into myself after my mother passed away
If you were to ask me who I text and call the most, I’d have to say my dad.
I was six years old when my mom passed away, and my dad rose to the occasion as best as he could.
It was just the two of us for a while, but he took on a lot of motherly duties in his very own “Rick” way. Though cooking wasn’t necessarily his forte, he got really good at making frozen Eggo waffles and scrambled eggs. I had the same food nearly every day, but sometimes we would mix it up and get Mexican takeout. It didn’t seem weird to eat the same food all the time — I never ate frozen waffles when my mom was around, so this was a fun treat. (But, I must admit, after 365 days of Eggos, I started to wonder what other breakfast food options were out there.)
Every morning before school, my dad helped me do my hair — with his own artistic vision. To an outsider, braiding hair is such a mystery, but he truly succeeded with minimal pony tails and the classic half up, half down. It was difficult during the initial days and months after my mom’s passing, but we figured it out, one day at a time.
He’d never been a single parent before, and I’d never had just my dad around.
We spent a lot of those years listening to The Beatles on repeat. Weekends often consisted of us driving around the neighborhood, singing along to “I Am The Walrus” while I banged a pair of drumsticks against the dashboard. Those are some of my favorite memories with my dad.
In those years following my mother’s passing, he let me be the kid that I wanted to be — and that was the best part.
He let me pick out the clothes I wanted to wear (from overalls and high tops to Alex Mack-style beanies).
For an entire year after my mom passed away, I spoke with a British accent. Maybe I was inspired by my love of The Beatles, but I think it was actually one of my ways of coping with the trauma I hadn’t yet started to process.
My dad never made me feel that my newfound accent was strange. He just went along with it, and that made all the difference. I never felt uncomfortable in the world for being weird or different — instead, I embraced my quirks.
Even when I was growing up, I was amazed that he could possess so much wisdom yet have such an effortless cool about him, all at the same time. Like, if I asked my dad a question about something I hadn’t learned in history class, I’d get an hour-long explanation at the dinner table, with his historical breakdowns usually starting the same way: “So the deal is…” Sometimes, these lectures would end with me crying from exhaustion, but I learned so much from him — our own family history, how to navigate bureaucracy, the ins and outs of Bay Area life in the 1970s.
When I went off to college, he offered me lots of interesting advice, urging me not to do psychedelics in the infamous People’s Park near campus.
He told me to always carry cash, to be aware of my surroundings, and to act like I owned the place, no matter what situation I found myself in. These kernels of wisdom seemed silly then — but they’ve been incredibly helpful as the years go by. (When navigation apps don’t work, I’ll hear his voice in my head: “Just follow the double yellow lines and you’ll hit a major road.” And he’s always right.)
He’s kind, loving, funny, smart, and so optimistic. In recent years, the world has felt totally overwhelming with each day stranger than the next.
My dad reminds me that the world has always been crazy.
So it’s up to us to do our best and remember to laugh.