Being a single dad, when it comes to Mother’s Day I have a different perspective. Although it’s probably not all that much different from those of other single dads. Mother’s Day in our house pretty much just comes and goes. One less holiday to worry that you might forget to get the card or buy the flowers.
I don’t recall my son ever asking why he didn’t have a mother or “Where’s my mommy, Daddy?” My son lost his mother when he was very young, and for most of his 30 years we have scouted the world alone. Like two puppies trotting through the fields of life, ears a-floppin’ and tails a-waggin’, oblivious to much of the world around us, enjoying each new butterfly and new wonder in its turn.
Once or twice in his childhood the thought actually occurred to me to ask my son if he ever missed his mother. I don’t remember what he said. So I guess there was nothing of any memorable consequence in his answer. Perhaps he never really felt a great loss. Everything we had together evidently fit whatever he thought we needed.
There are only two occurrences that I can remember when Jonathan became intimately aware of his missing mother, at least those that I noticed. One, surprisingly, was when he was grown and in medical school. As a medical student he had various and sundry out-of-the-way places about campus where he would go to study when he needed to be quiet and alone to focus and concentrate. He would find cubbyholes, quiet unused rooms, a particular set of study carrels, and other remote and little-trafficked destinations. Each “hideout” would be selected on any particular day based on either his mood at the time or the particular subject matter to be studied.
In one of those miraculous moments I heard myself say nonchalantly, “I’m kind of like both a mommy and a daddy.”
Once, while studying in one of these small rooms, someone appeared and began stacking boxes from a nearby room that was being prepared for repainting. Idly inquiring as to what was in the boxes, my son was informed that they were the university autopsy reports. Somewhere, from an instant and deep and foggy mental recess, he remembered hearing that his mother had died there, so he asked, “How far back do they go?”
“It’s all of them,” was the reply.
After being told, “Sure, it’s OK if you look through them,” it took him but a moment’s time and he was holding his mother’s autopsy report in his hands. He came home that night and shared with me his feelings. He said he had to take a walk afterward. Feeling “dazed” is the wrong word. “Pensive” is probably better. It was all there. Her height, her weight, the color of her hair and eyes. When he came to the part that said “lactating female,” he said he thought, Hey! That’s me!
The other time I think he became aware that he didn’t have a mother was when he was much younger. He was about 5 years old, and it was Mother’s Day in the Vallejo Drive Seventh-day Adventist Church in Glendale, California. Children were invited to come to the front of the church to receive flowers to take back to their mother. For the first time ever I think Jonathan was a little confused as to what to do when all the other children started out of their seats and headed toward the front of the church. As the other children flowed toward the flowers, my son put down his sewing card,* stirred from his seat, hesitated, and with a slightly puzzled look on his face, glanced around at the other children and families as if he had just discovered something he’d never noticed before.
In one of those miraculous moments when Dad is surprised that he actually happens to say the right thing at the right time, I heard myself say nonchalantly, “I’m kind of like both a mommy and a daddy, so you could probably go and get me a flower too if you want.” So he did. He went up front with all the other kids, got the flower, came back, handed it to me, hopped onto my lap, got busy with his sewing card—and church and life went on.
I’m sure I was the only daddy who got a flower in church on that Mother’s Day.
The memory of a flower-holding dad with a little 5-year-old boy sitting peacefully on his daddy’s lap threading a sewing card makes that Sabbath of long ago a dad’s most memorable Mother’s Day.
So happy Mother’s Day to all you mommies—and some of you daddies too.
*A 6” x 8” cardlike religious artwork containing a picture of a biblical character or scene. Small holes, through which a large colored shoestring device can be threaded by the child, outline the picture.
Jay Linthicum, a retired teacher from Loma Linda Academy in California, lives in northern Idaho.