Kimberly Johnson, Class of 2022

Building Blocks

by Tara Civitillo, Class of 2003

Other than between the ages of 12 and 19 (thank you, teen rebellion and angst), my relationship with my mother was great. When I became an adult, we talked daily, multiple times most days, and even hung out. This was both a wonderful experience and a detriment. We became friends and confidants. However, that same relationship also became a crutch for my social anxiety as she continued the mothering role well into my adulthood so I didn’t have to make phone calls to companies, set up appointments, or hash out contract details. She was also my realtor, so she held my hand through major adulting activities like buying and selling my first and second homes, negotiating the purchase of my car, and even helping me through most of the first year of my daughter’s life. She also acted as a go-between for me and my father. My father is a retired police officer who worked overtime every week, meaning rushed dinners when he could stop home, and rare appearances at soccer games and such. He and I built a relationship on home improvement projects as I was more adept than my two brothers at not setting him on fire in the process. As I aged, my mother was my pal and my father was the one who answered the phone with a grunt and handed it to her for our next conversation. My father and I never talked about anything but building decks and what size drill bit we would need. When my mother died in 2018, my father and I found we had much more to talk about.

My mother had also done all of the contracts, bill paying, and appointment making for my father, leaving him after almost 50 years of marriage without any idea of how to log into the bank’s website or where the checkbook even was. Our relationship took on a new facet as my father and I worked together at these new-to-us adulting activities. He proudly called me after setting up autopay on his own, when he finally figured out the password to the Comcast account, and later when he (with some scanning and faxing help) refinanced his mortgage. ​Every phone call to me after his accomplishments was a victory in independence for him. For us, it was a building block in our strengthening relationship. ​Now, he brings over dinner as he is learning to cook and needs feedback on his newest attempts. He stops by every few days to hang out on my couch and watch ​Blacklist,​ he sends me comics and news articles every day, he comes over to “steal” my dog for the night, and he calls just to check in. Although we continue to connect through our DIY projects and are working on the plans to craft a playhouse in the backyard for my daughter, the loss of my mother created an opportunity for us to build ​on not only our own independence but also our father-daughter bond.