My dad died three years ago. He and my mom had been together for 53 years—since they were teenagers. She is without her best friend and life partner, and it sucks. She is also really amazing and started painting and going to meditation class and therapy and she has really bloomed despite her pain.
She went from her parents’ home to building a home with my dad when she was only 18. He taught her to drive, and they learned how to balance a checkbook together. She cooked and cleaned, and when her car needed gas, he took it to fill it up.
Now that he is gone, there are many things she is doing for the first time on her own. I help her when I can, but she is really impressing me—and herself!—in her ability to do new things. She registered for college classes; she got her parking pass and goes to campus several times a week. She goes to the gym. She recently bought a new car for the first time in her life without him. It’s a lot.
For her artistic career, she wanted business cards. She came over the other day so excited to show them off to me. She had made them herself. She made many choices I would not have made with these cards: I didn’t like the image she chose. I didn’t like the font. I didn’t like the size of the font. Or the color of the font. She put her Instagram handle, but she didn’t put an Instagram icon or anything, so it was just a random set of words on the card.
I have been in enough therapy to know it’s her life. It’s her choice. But I gave her the option of having me help her create new ones.
“But I already bought these.”
“I know, Ma.”
“But they’re fine.”
“I’ll pay, Ma.”
And so she let me help her.
Truth be told, I had no idea how to make business cards online. I acted like I did because that’s what my dad would have done. He would have expressed disapproval or dislike for something with no knowledge of how to fix it. But he would have fixed it. So I fixed it. I went online and figured it out. I never let on that I had no idea what I was doing. I just followed the steps and found patience I would never have had for my own business cards. I was so patient. I think I was protecting her. I wanted her to feel I knew what I was doing. Like my dad used to.
In the end, she enjoyed the process. She liked choosing fonts herself as opposed to the ones the guy at the store she had gone originally had chosen for her. And the cards came out perfectly. She loves them.
They are lovely. And I keep trying to figure out where I fit. Do I let her make her own mistakes? Do I do things for her that I want her to do for herself? Why is this so hard for me?
I think it’s because I miss my dad. I never thought of this aspect of losing him: that it’s her and me. And she still needs a lot of help. And I do, too.
But mostly, I wish he was here. But if he was, she wouldn’t need his help with business cards. Because she wouldn’t have taken up painting probably. Who knows.
I am going to keep on trying to figure out what to help her with and what to help myself with. And I will be the one who knows when she doesn’t. And I will be the daughter of my father. And I will figure it out as she figures it out.
But mostly, I wish we didn’t have to.