Father’s Day can be bittersweet for people like me, who aren’t able to see their fathers today. Because they died, aren’t speaking, or they live very far apart.
Father’s Day was always going to be rough for me, because it marks the anniversary, 10 years ago, of the last time I talked to my own Daddy, Edward “Butch” Streeter, hours before he went unresponsive, and one week before he died of an evil cancer I still can’t talk about. It’s also a reminder that my son will never get to spend another Father’s Day with his own dad, my late husband Scott, who died seven years ago when Brooks was not quite two. It remains shockingly unfair that he’ll never know the two most important men in my life.
But time, and love, and the life that comes after loss can alter, at least a little, the most terrible of reminders. So even with all that sadness, from now on this season is also going to mark a different kind of anniversary — that of my mom’s wedding to her college sweetheart. I KNOW! Second chances and all, you guys! It’s like a Hallmark movie!
Yes, fetch the finest confetti and sparkling beverages in the land: A decade after losing my Daddy, and seven years after moving into her newly widowed daughter’s Florida home to help co-parent my toddler, my mother, Tina, is moving out to get married. She’s balancing out the sweetness quotient of this bittersweet holiday with a jolt of wedding cake frosting.
My Mommy, as I call her, has been through it. And she’s earned an ending happier than any we’ve seen in the aforementioned cheesy Hallmark movies we make fun of together on the couch. So I’ve spent the last several weeks helping plan bridal teas, touring potential wedding sites and, most dreamily, accompanying her to various shops to find a wedding dress. There’s something about seeing one’s mother, happy and beautiful, standing in a full-length mirror in cascading, flowing white, that I’ll never get over. I don’t have the words, and I am never out of words.
I have no qualms about the marriage part — my dad has been gone for a decade; she and her beau love each other and he’s not a replacement, but a new life. But I’d be lying if I didn’t confess to a pang of sadness under all that joy, because, as ‘90s musical philosophers Semisonic sang in “Closing Time,” every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. It is, indeed, time to close this nearly decade-long chapter that started when my son was in day care and ends as he finishes second grade. In between the pages of that chapter are lots of tears, even more laughter, three moves, several sets of matching Christmas pajamas and too many episodes of “Murder, She Wrote” screaming “Jessica, he’s gonna kill you!”
All good things must end. And this has been a really, really good thing.
I’ve been a single mother, for IRS-related purposes, since 2015, but I’ve never had to parent completely alone. For the first part of my son’s life, I had Scott and then, almost immediately, my mom. She had planned to move to South Florida to live out her hot, older lady widowhood and somehow got roped into diapers, daycare drop-off and conjuring last-minute costumes for preschool events we just found out about ten minutes earlier.
But her sobbing adult child, who’d been widowed for about four hours, weepily begged her to move in and co-parent, and my mom, a social worker, psych nurse, teacher, children’s author and expert potato salad chef, did so without hesitation. It wasn’t always easy. We were both grieving, and now suddenly navigating life with someone whose roles in the other’s lives had changed overnight. Sometimes we overstepped. Sometimes boundaries were crossed. But we talked it over. We cried. We laughed. We ate some potato salad and watched “Murder, She Wrote.” And it was fine.
I know without a doubt that my son is better off for having lived with his grandmother for as long as he can remember, in a true multigenerational household, and I know he’ll never regret having spent this special time with her.
But as much as her moving in with us was about co-parenting, the thing I’ll miss the most is what my mom has become to me, which is my best friend. I don’t mean that in the “I’m not one of your little friends” sense, because no matter how old I get, she will always be my mother, and I am not her equal.
But for the last seven years, I’ve had the privilege of getting to know her in a way I never imagined. We were always real with each other, but it’s hard to hide behind ceremony or politeness when the AC isn’t working at 5 a.m., you’re out of almond milk or just don’t feel like talking. It’s raw.
For seven years, my mother has been the first person I’ve said hello to every morning and who I’ve checked with to see if I needed to add anything to the grocery list (it’s always toilet paper). She’s the one who ate late-night popcorn with me so nobody felt guilty about it. It was like a team sport!
And as a mom, I know that I will miss splitting the bedtimes and the laundry, but also having another adult to talk to in the house. My son is a sparkling conversationalist for an 8-year-old, but he doesn’t yet get a Motown lyric reference. He doesn’t know who Billy Dee Williams is, nor can he rhapsodize about how dashing he looked in “Lady Sings The Blues.” He doesn’t get why “Walker, Texas Ranger” is hilarious. I can’t talk to him about dating, or weight, or my very real fears for this world we love that doesn’t seem to love us back.
That’s adult stuff. It’s been me-and-my-mom stuff. And I can still call her to chat, but not too early, because there’s now going to be someone else I might be waking up — the person she’s now sharing her life with.
I need a moment.
The most important thing I will take away from this summer, besides the aforementioned wedding cake, is that I lucked out not only in the Daddy department — man, do I miss him — but especially with my mom. There is very little I would change, from the moment the moving trucks descended on my home in Lake Worth, Florida, to the moment I am packing my mom up to start her married life. I have become a better mother, a better daughter and a better person.
And that’s something I’m always going to celebrate. So congratulations, Mommy. I wish you nothing but joy. And know that I’ll always keep some popcorn ready for you.