This morning JD’s school had their annual Donuts with Dad party. My son has been attending this preschool for the past 3 years and this is his last year, as he’ll start Kindergarten in September. For the past two years Uncle “Cool” Brian or my dad attended this special event, since JD’s dad chooses not to participate in his son’s life (boo!). This is the first year where I was bothered by the party—not because my dad wasn’t willing or eager to go, but because JD is approaching 5 and he is aware his dad is not around. He sees his friends with their dads and my brothers and me with our amazing father. His little mind is curious. He asks random questions: “Can I call my dad? What is my dad’s name? Where is my dad?” Sometimes he says heartbreaking things like, “Oh right, I don’t have a dad”—and to the contrary gorgeous things like, “Mom, you’re my mommy and daddy! I AM his mommy and daddy, so this Sunday is as much about me as it is about my father and the next one. So, this morning I did something sneaky (go me!) …
After working 14-hours at the photo shoot yesterday (success btw!) I came home exhausted to find my father sitting on the couch. JD was sleeping. We chatted. I asked him to stay for another five minutes so I could wash Central Park and NYC off my sweaty body. He did. My father will do anything and everything for me. Before he left, he asked me what time he needed to be at the Donuts with Dad party. “It’s at 10 AM. I have work in the office so I’m bringing JD to school at like 7:15 AM.” He bought it.
I hugged him tight goodnight and locked the door. I lay in bed thinking about my son and my dad. I teared up. I was with my dad when Dr. Jatin Shah at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center told him he had Cancer. It was just my dad and me and the doctors. There was a picture of his jaw illuminated on an X-Ray board. My father was stoic and brave in a fancy suit. His face didn’t change when Dr. Shah told him his entire bottom jaw and teeth needed to be removed. That the surgery would take 14-hours. That his face would be reconstructed with titanium, wire and bone from his leg. I panicked. I sunk in a chair. A nurse brought me water. My father comforted me, despite the diagnosis was about him. This was undeniably the worst time of my life.
My father’s diagnosis came just months after my college boyfriend broke his neck. I was deep into his care-taking, a fresh out of college grad, yet my life was spiraling out of control. The men in my life were sick. The men in my life needed me. I would be there for them both—my father, foremost. I never felt bad for myself. I just panicked and wanted to fix everyone.
I gave my father inspirational cards leading up to his 14-hour operation. I attended pre-op appointments with him. I sat in the hospital waiting room with my entire family for 14-hours while world renowned doctors saved his life. (Cool fact: My father’s doctor also treated actor, Michael Douglas.) I walked up and down cold NYC avenues. It was winter, the sky threatened snow. My warm breath drifted from my mouth. I saw it, the little cloud and was certain I was alive because of that. Being in NYC was helpful. The energy was living and breathing and it helped me do the same on days when I wanted to cry and hide in bed. I slept on a hard couch the night my Dad came out of surgery. I immediately learned how to remove and clean his trach tube. I wasn’t squeamish at all (I dabbed the mucus away with a sterile cotton ball). I was doing unimaginable things already since I was my ex-boyfriend’s main caretaker. Nothing rattled me. I thought about going to nursing school, while my dream of becoming a writer faded more and more away as I cared for the men I loved.
My dad is in remission. He is well now. If you met him, you wouldn’t know he had surgery on his face and that is because Memorial Sloan-Kettering is the best Cancer hospital in the world. Dr. Shah, Dr. Cordeiro and Dr. Huryn are brilliant angel doctors. They saved the man that never, ever let me down.
This ordeal strengthened the bond I already had with my father. My father is an exception to fathers. My friend told me this, I’m not bragging. “You realize your dad did like everything for you, right? Your dad was always around. He drove us places, took us to concerts, cooked us giant meals.” She’s right. This truth makes my situation with JD’s father very, very hard. I do not come from a place of abandonment. The men in my life are not scared or weak. They do not run. They are problem solvers. These guys are active, loving men and they made me a great … dad, not just a mom. I sometimes feel sad JD is turning 5 yet has never played catch with his dad. They never shared a meal or played in a pool. But all of these things I think about and worry about are silly. I’ve done these things with JD. I take him to the old school barber, I got him fitted for his tiny tux when he was in my friend’s wedding, I was on the T-ball field every Saturday at 9 AM. I throw the football to him after dinner and tuck him in. I’m not a guy. I’m a magazine gal. I wear cute shoes. I write and paint. I’m very girly, but I’m rocking this dad gig and it’s because my dad showed me the way.
This all said, I sneakily infiltrated (hahah) Donuts with Dad this AM. JD and my Dad thought I was working, but I surprised them both and they both lit up—great feeling! I was the only mom in the classroom and it’s because I’m a mom and a dad. I deserved to be there. It was great fun!
Single moms, who went to your child’s father’s day party? Did you? Happy Father’s Day dads and solo single moms!! I love you, Daddy!! XO
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