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  • Writer's pictureMaia Dunkel

Oh Father, Where Art Thou?

Updated: Apr 18, 2019

Daddy/Daughter Dance

My daughter and I have something in common. We don’t have Fathers. WAIT. I am ashamed of myself for writing that. I had a Father for 45 plus years and he was awesome. He died on January 14 of this year in the Bronx in hospice from a short battle with lung cancer. He was 74. He was young…too young for him.

When I get really sad, which I do a lot, I think about how he is missing out on seeing his Granddaughter grow up. It’s only been five months but that is a long while in her short life of three and a half years. Today we went to the beach for her classmate’s fourth birthday party and Mila walked straight into Lake Michigan. Last summer when when my father was very ill, we went to Fire Island and Mila was scared of the water. Granted we were at the ocean and the waves were huge, but also, she was almost a year younger. Today, I so desperately wanted to call my Dad and tell him how Mila ran straight into the water.

When I need to cheer myself up, which is often, I remind myself I gave my Dad a grandchild. Being a Grandfather was something he wanted desperately, but I truly only learned that from a family friend at his funeral. It was nothing he bugged me about but when I was 40 and I told him I was pursuing having a baby on my own, he fully supported me. Now I know he was ear-to-ear smiling on the inside months leading up to my pregnancy.

Tomorrow is Father’s day and I will morn my Father on this first one without him. For the past three Father's days, all cards or gifts or FaceTime time would have gone to my Father and Mila’s Pop-Pop; he was not her father, but the closest to it. The question is, do I need a replacement? Maybe I should think about that more closely or...maybe not. Would I be just giving into Hallmark holidays and gender norms? I will ponder.

Recently I started thinking about the difference between “Mother” and “Father.” Aside from the physical aspects of giving birth and breast feeding (which many women can’t do anyway) what really is the difference between being a Mother or Father? Does it just come down to genitalia? Honestly, when you think about it, isn’t that really it? I mean, both a Father and a Mother are just people who have children together. The whole “women teach cooking and Dads teach mechanics” is a bit 1950s. Most everyone does everything now and if you fall into that 1950s framework, you are probably the exception and not the rule. It’s not bad, it’s just not the norm today.

The Marlo Thomas and Friends album “Free to Be… You and Me” said it best back in 1972, the year I was born: “Parents are people, parents are people, People with children, people with children.”

It is very simple. We are all people...people with children. People who love their children desperately and would take a bullet for them. It’s not about what sex we are. Who cares whether it’s two men or two women or one father or one mother or one trans or one whoever? We are just people giving pure, unconditional love.

So you may be wondering, what do we Solo Parents (women in my case) do on Father’s Day? Well, I can only speak for myself but I will be opening the Father’s Day present Mila made in school. Her teacher was very concerned on Friday and pulled me aside: “We made Father’s day presents today. Does Mila have anyone to give it to? Do you want to take it home or...or what should we do?” I thought for a minute and said, “Yes, she can give it to me!” We are going to a block party with a water slide and I am bringing our bouncy house for all the kids to enjoy.

I am so thankful to have my daughter and don’t dwell on the fact there is no Father figure. Why should I? If I were so worried about it, I probably would have gotten married to one of the nice men who offered in my twenties and thirties. Sure, Mila will ask about "him" in the future but I will cross that bridge when I come to it, just like all the other parents out there dealing with their own unique situations. Now that my Father is gone it will become a regular Sunday in June. We will enjoy the time together and I will give myself a mental pat on the back.

On all the other days, I put Mila’s new furniture together and I bake. I pay the mortgage and I take her to gymnastics. I cook dinner, show her how to peddle her bike and give her piggy back rides. I am her Mother and her Father. But I am not two people. Yes, another person who loves her like I do would be awesome. But she has me and I have to believe that is enough.

As for the Daddy/Daughter dances, I will be there. I love a good pas de deux.

My gift from Mila ;-)

Free to Be You and Me
Marlo Thomas and Friends

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