When my mom told me she had started dating a roadie for a country western band, my very first gut reaction was sheer giddiness. It’s strange to think of your parent as “cute,” but her cadence and almost-girlish tone was so dead-on to my single friends’ that I couldn’t stop smiling. I was genuinely happy for her, and I was proud of myself for having such a mature response.
Then, I was coming home for Christmas and I had this vision of meeting my mom’s new boyfriend. My sisters would be there, we would go to dinner, I could be charming and ask lots of questions, feeling genuinely happy that my mother would now not be alone. I would be able to compartmentalize the fact that he was not my dad, and appreciate him a person. Then he would leave, and maybe I would see him, ohhhhh, once a month. It would be great.
Then, Christmas happened. He spent Christmas Eve with us. And Christmas Day. And the day after the day after Christmas. And a few hours before I boarded a bus home. He helped us decorate the tree, and glued together a broken ornament, and ate Christmas cookies and kissed my mom in front of me and she was super happy but somehow I was unable to see that as much anymore. He was watching Ice Road Truckers where we should have been watching Love Actually, and neither of my sisters came. I offered to go buy eggs on the one day a year where every single store is closed, and I drove to this park where my high school boyfriend and I sat and he gave me a mix CD and cried before I left for college. I sat in the car, stared at the river in front of me, and bitched out loud to my dad. I yelled into the cold air, complaining and whining to him. I cried. I imagined the puffs of condensation were him, telling me to get over myself in the nicest way possible.
My dad wasn’t there. He hasn’t been there for a while, thanks to his diagnosis of terminal cancer when I was 26. That moment, yelling like a crazy person into the Christmas air, was when the screaming, pouty little 10-year-old girl crawled her way out of my stomach and I have been struggling to get rid of her ever since.
It has been almost four years since we lost my dad, and the pain never goes away, but you do learn to live with it. At least I had – I don’t think the pain ever really muted for my mom. I could hear it on the phone – her frustration with having to plan coffee dates with friends instead of just having a body you like to sit on the couch with. The difficulties of owning a home and having to mow the lawn yourself, or pay someone to do it. Her not feeling like a priority to her own children, although she always has been. Filling time with charity work and volunteering and French classes and art classes and home improvement projects. For years. She deserves this. So much. It’s something I can’t help – that the presence of another man in the house I grew up in just makes me miss my dad again in a very fresh way.
As an adult, I’ve loved seeing my mom as a real person instead of my parent, and I feel like I am constantly learning new things about how delightful she is. Like what she’s like tipsy on Limoncello in a café on Capri, she hiccups. The fact that, when she lives alone, she literally has the same three meals every single day. Now, I can see that she shares a lot of the same dating habits as me, traits that are naturally ingrained in our very similar personalities. The way we both do this thing where we complain and make fun of the person we actually really like. The way we both need a lot of attention until we despise having it. Watching your mom giggle over texting someone for hours can be pretty endearing. Just seeing her laugh and smile and have someone tell her she’s pretty is worth it, so I keep trying to tell that 10-year-old brat to shut up.
Despite her shouting at me for years otherwise, I knew she would eventually start dating. She is adorable and funny and pretty sassy with a badass sense of style…I knew this would happen. I’ve learned that I am not quite as progressive as I thought, and have had to put up certain conversational boundaries.
I think what is comes down to is, new experiences in general make me miss my dad. Every new job opportunity, weird choice, family drama, song I hear, they are all things he won’t ever know about. Sometimes I even think that I’m glad he was able to meet my boyfriend before he got sick because, I don’t know if I could date someone my dad was never able to approve of.
This new dude my mom is seeing, or any one after, they just don’t really stand a chance with me. No one will be as cute as my dad. No one will have a better moustache or sneak me gum in church or excitedly drag me to art galleries like my dad. No one will make me special Thanksgiving stuffing like my dad, or pick me up from the bus station at 2 am like my dad.
I know I sound pouty, maybe a little immature. I guess what I am trying to do is be both the adult woman who is genuinely happy to see my mother creating a new, exciting version of her life, and the little girl in knee socks and pigtails who stomps her feet and screams “LALALALA” with her fingers in her ears. I think it’s okay to be both.
(Image via iStock)