Life changes with parents gone; Dad’s mothering changes everything

Life changes with parents gone; Dad's mothering changes everything
This marks the first year that I've been without both my mom and dad on both Mother's Day and Father's Day.

When these holidays roll around, try as you may to keep your game face, after parents are gone, life changes, you change.

On May 13 – Mother's Day, all day long, I went around with a knot in my throat, homesick for my dad.

Struggling with this onset of grief, I felt like I was trespassing on this Mother's Day.

Until Mom was gone, Dad was mostly absent. A workaholic by nature, he spent a majority of his waking hours at work.

Even long past his retirement, he started a whole new career, working nearly 40 hours a week. When he wasn't working, he was running errands. When he was home, he created busy work. When he finally sat still, he nodded off. See what I mean?

Naturally, this left the day-to-day doting, worrying, brooding, chatting, and all-around keeping tabs on the kids to Mom. Mom filled Dad's shoes.

After Mom died in 2005, Dad stepped up. At first, his efforts were awkward and mechanical. But he ended up doing a pretty good job of it.

There are six of us kids living in six states from Minnesota to California. He stayed in touch by calling each of us to see how we were doing. He even remembered birthdays, which we thought impossible.

But he proved us wrong by taking on another one of Mom's roles. Every birthday, he called each of us. "Today's Mary-Ann's birthday," came Mom's reminder from Dad. "Remember to call her and wish her a happy birthday."

For my two birthdays without Mom, Dad dialed my number and sang to me: "Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday, dear Paula, Happy birthday to you."

Singing on the phone was not Mom's thing. Too self-conscious, to say the very least. But not Dad. On my birthday last November and the one before, he belted it out over the phone. "Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday, dear Paula, Happy birthday to you."

I really missed my dad on Mother's Day this year. I'm dreading Father's Day.

A resident of Southeast South Dakota for more than 30 years, Paula Damon is a popular columnist, keynote speaker, and freelance writer. Her column writing has won first-place national and state awards in The Federation of Press Women competitions. For more information, e-mail

� 2007 Paula Damon

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