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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day Mom!

I bought my first Father's Day Card when I was 32-years-old.  It was my son's first Father's Day.

Up until then I didn't know the exact date for it. All I remember about Father's Day is it was that dreaded week in June when the fatherless kids were told to colour and keep quiet while the other kids spent what seemed like hours making Father's Day cards from construction paper.
My father left when I was five. That story would take more than an article, it would need a whole book. Let's just say, that was the nicest thing he ever did for me. My Mother became both parents, raising ten kids on her own and running a boarding house on top of it. She cooked three hot meals for over twenty people every day, starched sheets and could plaster and paint like a professional.  She was the first to prove that women really could have it all, Children and a career!

I grew up in a politically incorrect world. Back then school books described the perfect, happy family as a mother, father and kids. If your family didn't reflect that, you felt like the poor cousin at the table.  Every permission slip came home with a note to be signed by your father or mother, not your guardian.
I went to an all female, Roman Catholic school taught by Nuns or women who should have been Nuns. I remember one class project, we had to draw a picture of our wedding day and how the church played a part (I was in grade two). Each girl drew a picture of herself in a big fluffy white wedding gown. Some were standing at the altar, some were walking down the aisle, some drew their family standing with the priest after the ceremony. I drew me (wearing my fluffy wedding  dress) and my mother, hugging each other with big smiles on our faces. Each of us took turns standing in front of our grade two classmates explaining our future self-portraits and the teacher asked each girl questions about who was in the picture and what was happening.

 Me, being painfully shy at that age, quickly ran up front and said, "This is me and my Mom on my wedding day" then ran back to by desk. The teacher called me back and asked "Who else will be at your wedding?" I thought and said, "I don't know." She asked, "What about your father? He'll be giving you a way." "I don't have a father,"  a laughter broke out in the class. "Everyone has a father. Your father gives you away at your wedding" she informs me at eight years old. "My mother will give me away" I told her. "Mother's don't give you away. It has to be your father." I sat back in my desk thinking I would never get married at eight-years-old because I didn't have a father. I never forgot her voice.
Truth was, very few kids I knew had both parents. I can only think of two families on my block that did.  The picture of the shiny, happy family on the cover of our Roman Catholic catechism didn't exist on my block.  I would imagine it didn't exist on a lot of blocks.

These politically incorrect times were awkward at times. Our school held an annual father-daughter banquet. I went one year with my mother. I think she was the only mother who attended. The  other women  were serving cold plates.  I remember sitting at the long table filled with fathers and daughters thinking that I wished we weren't there. Looking back on it now, I wonder was it her way of sending me a message that I was just as good as everyone else and a small protest on her part to send a message to teachers that times have changed.
Nowadays single-parent families are the norm. Teachers are very careful when they discuss what a family is. It's no longer just mother and father and kids. Sometimes it's just a mother, sometimes just a father, sometimes two mothers, and sometimes two fathers. The definition of family has changed... for the better.

The only thing that's important is a loving environment for kids. Everything else is secondary.
After my first child was born and I realized that being a mother is a damn hard job, I started giving my mother a Father's Day card. My thought being, that if she was both mother and father to me then she deserves to celebrate both days.

This past week I was at Lawton's Drug Store looking for a Father's Day cards. Just below "Happy Father's Day to My Brother" and just above "Happy Father's Day to Grand-Pa" was a new insert I have never seen before, "Happy Father's Day to My Mother." The slot was empty.
I assume I am not the only one had both parents rolled in to one.