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Mommy Dad: The truth about growing up with a single dad

By Kleona Amoyo Published May 05, 2021 2:21 pm

When my mother passed away, my dad stepped up to the role. Life was difficult, but he made it look so easy.

We lost my mother to cancer around 12 years ago. As her 11-year-old daughter, I felt like I was obligated to grieve. Pitiful eyes were constantly on me, and I felt like I needed to shed a tear or two. Truthfully, I don’t think I grasped the meaning and the effect of her death until years later.

I felt the gaping hole of her absence the most during puberty. It’s hard for a blossoming woman to grow up in a household with only her father and younger brother to accompany her through it. No one close guided me to explore skincare regimens or confide with fleeting high school crushes. These were all scenarios in my head on what we could’ve been up to if she was here.

I still grieve for her to this day.

To fill her role throughout the years, I had different female role models. I had all my titas and my friends, for which I am eternally grateful. However, I cherish the most, and who should win the award for “The Greatest Mother Proxy,” is my dad.

Fathers and daughters share a special bond. 

The relationship I had with my mother was close. I had the best childhood anyone can ask. However, I can’t even begin to imagine the grief my father went through. Losing the love of your life must’ve been hard. When you pair it with the reality that he suddenly was a single parent, I don’t know how he managed to stay sane.

I will never understand the hardships he went through to continuously provide food on the table, to get my brother and me through college, and to spoil us with occasional treats still.

I miss my mother, of course I do, but most days, my dad made us feel like we didn’t lack a parent. He took care of us and made us feel loved twice as much as he could give.

Being an adult opens your eyes to the reality of how hard it is to be one. Your parents become more human to you as you can relate more to them, and they open up more to you. They’re no longer the adults that had everything figured out because now you see that they’re just figuring out life along the way just like you.

My dad and I have become closer now since I started working. When I’m about to finish off with work during the early mornings, we spend time together and talk about anything and everything.

Most of the time, the topic is politics or some video he found on YouTube. It’s a time when I can get to know him a bit better through his stories. We can go from watching Kuya Kim’s videos to talking about our views on religion. We can watch some news about Israel, then talk about the time his sister got deported from Israel.

He’s not the only one opening up. I do it too. Recently, I broke down in front of him at 3 a.m. when work was getting too much, and I felt like my mental health was suffering. He listened, acknowledged my feelings, and gave me advice. It was everything I needed at that moment.

As much as I dream about an alternate reality where my mother never had cancer and we continued to be a picture-perfect family without tragedies, I would never trade my morning talks with my dad for anything. I don’t know what the other side holds, whether it’s better off that way or worse. However, I do know that there was no way we would have this connection right now if we didn’t go through what we went through all these years.

“The Greatest Mother Proxy  is my dad.”

Like most parents raising teens, I had times in which I was difficult to handle. There were times when we didn’t speak to each other for a month despite being in the same house. Sometimes, I would even talk back during arguments. However, through it all, when we’ve both calmed down, he would welcome me back with open arms (sometimes we would both cry).

I miss my mother, of course I do, but most days, my dad made us feel like we didn’t lack a parent. He took care of us and made us feel loved twice as much as he could give.

There’s nothing I could ask for in the parent department that my father hasn’t supplied me. He’s very supportive. He encouraged me to take the college course I wanted. He picks me up and drops me off places I need to go. He takes care of everything around the house. He has time for us to bond.

I don’t know what I would do without him, and I don’t even want to imagine. With the pandemic, life can get real, and anybody can be here one day and gone the next. I want to cherish every moment I have with my dad and make him feel appreciated as much as I can.

Recently, I broke down in front of him at 3 a.m. when work was getting too much, and I felt like my mental health was suffering. He listened, acknowledged my feelings, and gave me advice. It was everything I needed at that moment.

I never had the opportunity to brace myself during my mother’s death. Even though she had cancer, I was 11 and clueless about the gravity of her illness. Throughout that experience, I valued life more and the people around me.

There’s nothing I can give my dad that would equalize everything he’s done for me. How can a child express endless gratitude for a parent? I don’t think there’s one way.

Let us do our best to return the love they have given us. If that’s sitting down at the dining table at 5 a.m. listening to my dad talk about a new recipe he wants to try, I would watch that 20-minute video with him and give him the encouragement he needs the way he’s done with me all my life.