if only i’d known: fathers are not invincible
Father’s day, on par with my parents’ anniversary and my dad’s birthday, is a time of ambivalent emotion; time to be both thankful for the father I once had and to quietly miss him.
I also know I’m not the only one who wishes she had one more chance to gift her father another packet of Day of the Week socks. Since socks are useless now, I muse instead…
It’s been over eight years since we attended your funeral. Eight years is both long enough that I’m an entirely different person yet too brief for the sting of your loss to completely subside. In that time we’ve all grown up and gotten degrees we’re reluctant to use. We’ve found jobs we’ve loved and yet more that we’ve loathed. We’ve spent money faster than we’ve earned it. We’ve saved for big things, important things; OK we’ve only ever saved for travel but travelled we have. We’ve seen the parts of the world we always spoke of visiting and places whose existence was a prior mystery.
JK Rowling finished the Harry Potter series, Dumbledore dies and Snape was seriously misunderstood. I know right? What the? They finished making the Bourne series and Jason Bourne gets better with each movie. But you know that, you’ve read the books. We still have the books, but I’m not sure any of us will ever finish reading them. That shabby copy of Pride and Prejudice has been read close to 25 times and every time Lizzy confesses to Darcy her feelings are ‘quite the opposite’ of what they were last April, I am positively giddy with delight. They’ve since made a movie with Keira Knightly, you know the girl from Bend it Like Beckham? No not Jesminder, the blonde one. You’d be appalled.
We’ve never bothered to fix the taps in the ensuite. The water temperature still adjusts itself 37 times during each shower, somewhere in the range of freezing cold and boiling hot.
We’ve never painted the ceiling in the kitchen. The big splodge of grey putty reminds us of the time your leg dangled through the roof and I think as strange as it is we take comfort in such obvious imperfection. As time rapidly passes, it’s a static reminder of the fact that you once were. Not that we need one. Every breath we take is a testament to your very existence, but sometimes it’s nice to have something real, something we can measure, something tangible that tells us for sure you were not a figment of our imagination.
We remember your thirst for knowledge and recognise it in ourselves. We recall your temperament and see it in each other. We’ve learned to find a new kind of normal, to live with a void we sometimes, just for a moment, forget exists. We’ve learned the value of each other and we’ve found energy where we thought there was none.
We all still (mostly silently) yearn for what once was because the brain has a way of photoshopping memories; it makes the bad better and the good perfect.
When I think of you, I remember the aroma of brewing coffee and melted butter fused with the sweetness of your aftershave. I think of newspapers and old books, and cold chocolate spiders. I’m taken back to a time of my youth where I trusted in certainty.
Sometimes I wish we could still argue irrationally about things that we both know don’t matter. Even without you, I give myself the fatherly advice I imagine you would give me and then I wonder if I’m right. I wonder if the way I remember you is truly the way you were and then I know it doesn’t matter.
I can never fully appreciate the important moments in life, the milestones, and the successes. At these times maybe I’m more aware than usual of the void that exists, or a heart eternally scarred. I appreciate the very fine line between joy and sorrow and I wonder if it hinders my ability to love selflessly. I’m reminded of how temporary all relationships are, how we only ever have right now. I remember a pain unlike anything I’ve ever felt and am content with the tradeoff of distance for a life of minimal hurt.
I still talk to you, maybe more than I should. I still cry as if it happened yesterday and in the same breath I know myself to be a result of my experiences and even if given the chance, I would change nothing.
I often envision a realm beyond here, where we’d meet and I wonder if you’d recognise me. I consider whether the woman I am today is so different to the girl you left, innocence intact and thriving ambition.
I ask myself if existence is just a cycle of pain remembered and life lived and I resign to the fact that it probably is. But I continue because what choice do I have but to be content in the knowledge that you would want more for me, for all of us?
I love you Dad and I’ll remember you, long after the world has forgotten.