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Single dad – with two daughters – made it work

Bob Kimes gets Mother's Day and Father's Day cards from his children
by: Photo courtesy of Bob Kimes Sisters Laura Kimes, left, and Katie Kimes show their affection for their father, Bob, in this photo taken in 2009.

Finding humor when raising children is essential for survival. Especially when you're outnumbered.

'Two daughters and a female cat,' says Bob Kimes, laughing. 'I know more about a lot of feminine things than I ever thought I'd know.'

For 16 years, Kimes has been both father and mother to daughters Laura and Katie. It's been a journey through uncharted waters for the 58-year-old Corbett resident, but one that has yielded a close relationship with two young women he is lucky to call his own.

Kimes admits he was unprepared for the solo responsibility of two preschoolers when his marriage suddenly ended after seven years. He found himself facing the same worries and problems experienced by single moms, but armed with less knowledge in how to keep life balanced as a working dad.

'Daycare was a problem by the time Laura was in kindergarten,' Kimes says. 'We had just moved to Corbett because I wanted the girls to go to a smaller school, and I had nothing for daycare. The school secretary recommended a woman who lived across the street from the school, and it was great because Laura could just walk there. They were with Jeanette for five years, and she's still a big part of their lives.'

At first, Kimes says, he felt like an anomaly in a world largely dominated by single working mothers. What came as a surprise, however, was learning he was far from unique as a single dad. As training coordinator for the UA Local 290 Plumbers and Steamfitters Apprenticeship Training Program, Kimes worked daily with other men facing the same issues he had.

'I talked to a lot of young guys out there who were in the same boat as me,' he says. 'They would come to me and say, 'I've got two kids, and I don't know what to do.' It was good to know I wasn't alone, but there are more of us out there than most people know.'

Kimes was rarely without his daughters in tow. They were his perpetual dates at special events and work functions, capable of navigating in predominantly adult circles, and blossoming into poised, independent and self-confident young women.

'I took every opportunity to expose them to positive women role models,' he says. 'I wanted them to see what they could become. I took them places so they could see the world and know what's outside Corbett. And I wanted them to go away to college. That's how you learn to cope with life. But I think dads are better at letting go.'

Still, nothing can prepare any parent for the onset of adolescence. And when you're the only male in the house, it's sometimes difficult to understand the gamut of teenage emotions that can change by the moment.

'Sometimes, I'd have to take a walk or go away for a little while,' Kimes says. 'Then, things could fall back into perspective. I didn't do it often, but sometimes, it was the best thing to do.'

Laura, 20, an architecture student at the University of Oregon, admits it didn't take long for her to know how to push her dad's buttons.

'Oh the sex talk!' she says. 'Dad and I push each other into awkward situations, so I probably brought the subject up just to make him feel uncomfortable. Katie and I were tough on him sometimes, but I really can talk to him about anything.'

After being the center of the universe for their dad for so many years, it came as an unwelcome surprise to Laura and Katie when Kimes took up golf as a hobby after he retired in 2008. Suddenly, so many things dad did weren't getting done.

'We were used to him cooking lunch and dinner,' says Katie, 19, a chemistry and math student at California Polytechnic State University. 'We lived so close to the school that we'd come home for lunch. We were used to that and then - no dad!'

For his part, Kimes makes no excuses about taking up an activity that for the first time didn't include his daughters.

'I was older when I had kids,' he says. 'I'd done all my running around, skiing and stuff. So for a long time, I didn't mind lying around on the couch with these kids. But when I started golfing, I was really only gone three days a week. I do think they were probably ready to sue Gresham Golf Course for alienation of affection though.'

There will be no lack of affection this Father's Day, however, when Katie gets up early to make breakfast for her dad like she's always done. The cards Kimes receives will be added to the collection of Mother's Day cards his daughters have also given him over the year. But for Laura, acknowledging a dad who has played multiple roles well is more emotional.

'Dad's done such a good job with both of us,' she says. 'He's always made sure we had someone we could go to, but there's still a special bond between us. He's made it work.'