A Daughter’s Memories
While I was growing up, my parents lived apart from each other. But they weren’t separated or divorced. My dad’s a lawyer and he had a case that lasted 10 years. It was based out of Chicago. So my mom raised my two brothers and me in Los Angeles, pretty much as a single parent.
I call my dad by his first name, Kevin. I don’t exactly remember when I started doing that. I just remember how excited I was when I got to see him. From my room, I could hear his car pull into the driveway on the weekends. And he’d start whistling as he approached the house and as soon as the door would open, he would yell “Lo lo, Sena, Stuey, Robbie!” And we’d drop everything and run to him. When my mom came home, it was “School’s fine. Mom, I can’t talk. I have homework.”
My mom is a total badass. She moved out of her house when she was 13, and put herself through medical school. And now, she delivers hundreds of babies every year. But back then, she was the mom whose beeper went off during a piano recital.
When I was growing up, I only had eyes for Kevin. I have this photo of us from my childhood. It’s still taped to my bedroom wall back home. In it, I’m in the driver’s seat of one of those Little Tike plastic cars. Its roof is bright yellow, and the body of the car bright red. My brother’s laying on top of it, holding on for dear life. And Kevin’s pushing us. He’s wearing green pants that are too big for him, and a similarly colored shirt tucked in. His hair is parted perfectly down the middle, and his round-framed glasses sit squarely on his nose. This is my proof that Kevin was really there.
When I was in elementary school, I considered my birthday to be a national holiday. I still kinda do, to be honest. But Kevin’s missed most of them. One year, he came home from a business trip in New York and he said he had a birthday gift for me. I was so excited. Had he brought home a piece of the statue of liberty? Or an artifact from the 9/11 museum? But when I opened the box, it was a bright pink sweatshirt with neon splatter paint across the front, and big black, block letters that said: “I <3 NY.” I tried to act happy. But I went to my room and cried. I was a tomboy, and I hated pink. How did Kevin not know that?
Then, in 7th grade, Kevin and I were in a McDonalds. As I got an M and M McFlurry, he stepped outside for a call. He walked back in about 10 minutes later and he had this look on his face. A huge smile and the wrinkles around his eyes were lit up with joy. He ordered a second M and M McFlurry. And he handed it to me. I was shocked.
That was the day Kevin closed his 10-year asbestos case. He moved home. I thought life was going to change – we’d start vacationing more or would drive me to my volleyball tournaments. But none of that happened. He kept missing games and cut vacations short to go back to work.
Looking back, I wouldn’t change anything about my relationship with Kevin. It remains pretty perfect in my memories. But I wish I had spent more time with my mom, rather than slamming my bedroom door and messaging my friends on A.I.M. I wish I would have snuggled with her on the couch as she read, I wish I would have answered her all those times she asked me how my day was.
Now that I’m the one living thousands of miles away from home and working 7 days a week, it’s my mom I call when I’m walking home.