From time to time I get emails from readers that are looking for a little insight on a personal issue. Most of the time I try to respond directly, but occasionally I get a question that deserves a bit of public attention.
Q. Five years ago my dad passed away. Every day he is still on my mind. I can hear a song that reminds me of him and my eyes will still well up with tears. Everyone tells me it will take time but I still miss him more than I can express. I graduate next year and he won’t be there to see it.
I guess my mom didn't feel the same way. A year after my dad died she started dating and met a man. Now they are talking about getting married. I am so angry at her. It seems like she doesn't remember how wonderful her marriage was. This guy is nowhere near the man my dad was. How can she forget so easily? How did your kids feel when you started dating?
A. First and foremost, I am so sorry for your loss. I cannot imagine the pain you must feeling. Just like a physical wound, everyone heals emotionally at a different rate. Your friends are right, it just takes time.
Let’s get to the heart of the question. Your mom is dating someone who will never be your dad. He’s never going to be able to measure up to your standards because you’re measuring him against someone who, at least in your mind, has achieved sainthood. That's what happens when people die. Is this guy abusive? If so, you might have a leg to stand on. If he makes her smile and treats her right then you should be happy for her. To do otherwise is selfish. She deserves better.
My kids were not very excited about me dating in the beginning However, their father and I divorced. He didn't die. We chose not to be together. The fact that we weren't trying harder to work things out probably stung. Your parents aren't separated because one or both of them got tired of trying. This wasn't a choice either of them made. He died. She was left alone.
I know you’re probably thinking what a lot of young adults your age might think, “She’s got me. She’s not alone!” It’s time you knew the truth. It’s not the same. It’s never going to be the same. The love we feel for our children is not the same as the love we feel for a partner. You will probably never love anyone the same way that you love your parents. Does this mean you should never have a loving relationship with another person? Would it be fair for your mom to tell you that you can’t ever get married because you have her?
Not everyone is meant to be alone. From the sounds of things your mom is not even close to nursing home age. Heck, even people in nursing homes get remarried. They have needs, both physical and emotional ones. For you to wish her to remain alone isn't fair.
A friend of mine lost her father when she was in her twenties. Her mother lived the life you’re wishing your mom would. They encouraged her to date and find someone to share her life with. She said, "I have all I need with you kids." It sounds lovely, but what do you plan to do with your mom when she has nothing to do and no one to spend time with except you? It might not seem like it now, but I am willing to bet there will come a time when you’ll be thankful she found someone to keep her company. You wouldn't much like having her along on your honeymoon one day, would you?
No one is ever going to take your dad’s place in your heart or hers. Fortunately, our hearts have a lot of room in them. If they didn't you’d be out in the cold because if we could only love one person you came a little late to the game.
As a mom I can tell you this much, my kids are my kids forever, but they will grow up and get lives of their own. They will leave, so will you. Be supportive. If momma ain’t happy ain’t nobody happy.
Take a deep breath and put on a smile. Get to know the guy. Chances are he's just as unsure about you as you are about him. He knows he will never be your dad, but you might be missing out on a great friend if you don't open your heart a little. It sounds like he is planning to stick around. If he's been in the picture this long and you're still feeling this conflicted, he probably hasn't had a warm welcome from you. The fact that he's still there says a lot for the man he is.
If you can't bring yourself to like him, I strongly encourage you to be cordial to him for your mother's sake. Making her choose between spending time with someone who will soon only be around part time and someone who is offering 'til death do us part' is pretty cruel.