When I wake up again, Ramona has gone to the gym and Mom is reading in the hospital armchair next to my head. The afternoon shift. A florist bouquet of gerber daisies has appeared on the bedside table.
“Hi, Mom,” I smile. “Thanks for the flowers.”
My mom’s face, which had softened at my wakening, freezes. Her lips form a disapproving thin line.
“They are from Martita,” she states, annoyed.
Martita is my Dad’s second post-separation girlfriend, the almost age appropriate one. The first post-separation girlfriend is younger than my brother and me, and has a daughter. I don’t know how my brother Bruce responded, but my fingers were dialing a therapist and I heard myself say, “My dad is involved with a woman younger than me and it’s freaking me out.”
Occasionally, I consider organizing a conference for adult daughters of divorcing parents. I’d offer a workshop on the “Do’s and Don’ts for Daughters of Dads on the Prowl.” Mainly, “Don’ts”.
- Don’t suggest or allow your Dad to move in with you when he has no place to go.
- Don’t stay up waiting for your Dad to return home, even if he is usually in bed by 8:00 p.m. and it is now 3:00 a.m. and he hasn’t called.
- Don’t encourage or allow your dad to talk about his date or how young she (or he) makes him feel.
- Don’t provide meals.
- Don’t ask, “Have you told Mom?”
- Don’t, under any circumstances, get in the middle (see 5.), no matter if you already are in the middle and it is excruciatingly uncomfortable to have information about your Dad that your Mom does not.
- Don’t tell your siblings anything about your Dad’s dates; they will tell your Mom. Count on it. (See 6.).
The conference would be held at a luxurious spa venue in Santa Fe or Palm Springs. Daughters would share stories while technicians minimized crows feet and emerging age spots. We’d return home feeling mildly righteous and rejuvenated.
The first girlfriend didn’t work out. Dad tells me that “she did the math” and realized he would get older and she would still be younger. Much younger.
In her fifties, Martita is pleasant and a Peruvian hottie. She has three sons, mostly in my age range. At the time of my surgery, I had met her twice. A thin claim to a relationship to warrant a florist bouquet, according to my mother.
Martita’s flowers, now my flowers, sit between us and we pretend they don’t.
© 2010 Cathy Kidman