Posted by: Admin | October 27, 2010

LETTER TO MY FATHER

Hi Dad, it’s me, Jo.

Hard to believe it’s been 15 years since I held your hand, 15 years since I kissed your familiar cheek. I wish you’d allowed us to talk about the fact that you were dying. We all had to say goodbye in so many coded, oblique ways in those short seven weeks of your illness. Do you remember? I said to you, I can’t imagine a world without you in it and that was the closest you allowed me to come to “I love you.”  The nearest you came to admitting you knew you wouldn’t be leaving the hospice was: do what needs to be done. You meant, don’t let me suffer and the wonderful staff there made sure that you didn’t.

It’s true that time is a great healer. After 15 years I don’t think about you every single day. There’s a dull ache in my heart instead of the take-your-breath-away pain of recent loss. The words I’m sorry no longer whisper endlessly inside my head. There’ll always be a you-shaped hole at the dinner table at Christmas and other big family events, but life has gone on, as it has to.

I wonder what you would have made of life in 2010? I remember you shouting into one of the first mobile phones at the checkout in Tesco’s and feeling absolutely mortified. Would you have embraced all the gadgets and technology we have now?

Mortification was a feeling you invoked in me on many an occasion through my teens. Such as when you wrestled me to the ground and tickled me ’til I cried in front of a new boyfriend. Or when you insisted on mixing up your words so that anaglypta wallpaper was always “eucalyptus” and the accelerator (gas) pedal in the car was the “exhilarator”. You always had a chip on your shoulder the size of the Oxford Dictionary about your lack of education, and yet you were one of the most intelligent people I have ever known.

When I was a child you were always so smart, so handsome. I can see you now, using a match to burn the shoe polish into the leather of your shoes, even polishing the strip of leather underneath between heel and sole. I always loved to see you in a suit and tie.

I remember your 50th birthday party, how happy you were, how bashful that so many had turned out to celebrate with you. For years after you died, I couldn’t remember all the happy things, I only remembered the last five years. After Mum left it was as if you gave up. You didn’t want to move on with your life and once all your energy had been spent in the fruitless campaign to win her back, you turned inward and, ultimately, neglected yourself to the point of expiry. There’s a saying in Native American culture that elderly people, when they know their time is near, “turn their face to the wall” and I honestly believe that’s what you did. Only you weren’t elderly, Dad, you were 58. Fifty eight. You never got the chance to be elderly. I was angry with you for a long time for that – for giving up at 53. For not feeling that your family was enough. You were the fulcrum of the wheel that was our family and, once you were gone, we all went spinning off in different directions, so there was even more than you to miss.

When my mother died you were only 24 years old – self-destruction wasn’t as easy then, though by all accounts, you had a good try. Meeting and marrying mum was your renewal, your second chance. You worked so hard for us, both of you did. Family was everything to you.

You were a cantankerous old bugger, of course. What I wouldn’t give to be able to argue with you again! We’d have fallen out over so many things and you’d have interfered with the way I raised my children, who loved you so much. Did you see how badly they were affected by losing you? For a long time, your grandchildren thought that the North Star was you, watching over them. You followed them wherever they went and the thought comforted them. One of them has a small star tattooed on her inner wrist for each person she has loved and lost. Yours is the largest, the dominant one. You’d hate the tattoo, but love the sentiment.

You never recognised how much you were loved, or how many friends you had. Why was that? A friend is only an enemy you don’t yet know, you’d tell me. Who let you down so badly that that thought was so ingrained? How could you not have known how well-loved you were? I turned around at one point at your funeral and was shocked to see how many men had packed into the crematorium and how much raw emotion trembled in the air between them.

For all your insecurities, you were one of life’s energisers. You were a giver, the life and soul, the patriarch. The love we all had and have for you is testament to the kind of man you were.

I would know this anniversary is approaching without recourse to a calendar because the air becomes clear and crisp and there’s the faint scent of bonfires in the breeze. That night, I left the hospice for the last time to a perfect, cloudless, navy blue sky and the scent of pine needles and bonfires. It was still and quiet, oddly so. I knew that nothing would ever be the same again, that this was the reality of a world without you in it. We would all have to get used to a new kind of normal.

Today your children will acknowledge you, each in our own way. For me, this year, I have written you a letter. I wrote it for you, but also for me and for anyone reading it who has lost a much-loved parent. It’s a pitiful letter in that I just can’t seem to get it right, to find the words to express what I want to say. Some things will always be locked in my heart. So I will just say this:

I love you. I miss you and I am so grateful to have had you in my life for the time that we had. I have always been so proud to be your daughter.

With love, always,

Jo

 

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Responses

  1. Read the blog, sorry couldn’t help it, I prepared myself beforehand but still felt the tears forming! It was beautiful, very accurate and moving.

    Like you Dad is never far from my thoughts, i see so many of my own little traits that came from him. We all saw him through different eyes and different experiences, some heartbreaking, some funny (like the time I took him to the races, and his sitting stick broke and he collasped on the floor in front of everyone – that was a good one!)
    I always remember him being so proud of all of us, and I am so grateful to have such a big family so that we have each other to share such memories together.

    Just before Dad died, his sister, Carol (who he rarely saw) sat on his bed tucking in to his dinner much to his embarrassment in front of the nurse. Dad was mortified! When she left, i had my final chance to say “Now you’ve had another chance to meet your sister and remind yourself of where you started out, doesn’t this reinforce how far you have come, how much of a success you really are and what you have done for us, please Dad do you see that?!” It was such a simple thing to trigger my statement and he smiled and said “Do you know what, I think I do, I really do see it”. I wasn’t knocking Carol, but wanted Dad to see just what a gift he was to all of us, he was such a proud, determined and stubborn man, and it was this attitude that enabled him to be a success and give us all a better start in life with positive values and outlooks as a result. I really do think he did see it in the end despite a number of years without confidence and belief. I saw a familiar glimmer in the eye of the man he was when he was at the top of his game, the man I looked up to when I worked with him, the man I debated with sometimes and the man I loved with all my heart, and always will.

    My heart literally broke in two when he left us, i couldn’t quite comprehend it and spent a lot of time running away from the feelings, it was just too hard. Sometimes if I allow myself to relive some of the not so happy memories, I feel overwhelmed with grief and sadness. i regret many things, i look back often and wonder if i could have made things better for him, made it right and ok again, but someone wise told me once that we all have choices and each of us is responsible for that choice whether we realise it or not! Dad chose to not get over it because he truly believed he couldn’t. Maybe he would have been ok, but then again who is to say his life would be better today if he had done.

    On the up side he will always remain in my heart and mind as youthful, with his own hair, teeth and as the man who gave the most reassuring, genuine and and warmest hugs ever. I’m so grateful he was in my life no matter how short that time was.

    Thanks sis, for sharing this today and also for making me feel its ok to share some thoughts about him too.

    Aren’t we all lucky to have had such a lovely dad

    Caz xxx

  2. That’s the most you’ve ever said about what happened, Caz. I’m glad you read the blog, and I’m glad you felt safe enough to comment. I love you, little sister. Take care now. X

  3. Wow guys, talk about a bucket of emotion. Ive finally stopped crying, but even now tears are running down my nose again! So many memories about our fantastic Dad, and so many regrets that he isnt still here.
    I wonder what he would have made of my marriage break up, Dad said marriage was for life. What would he have made of Mark, my partner now, who reminds me so much of Dad in so many ways, and our dear little daughter. I often see her playing in the garden and think how fantastic it would be for her to have met her ‘Poppa’. When she was small she used to talk about him all the time, and say that he would visit her in the night. Im not sure if thats imagination or truth but I hope that some how, some where he can see what we are all up to. On my bad days its the thought, that I believe I will see him again one day that keeps me going.
    When we’re struggling for money, I think about him and Mum, and how things must have been tough for them at times, but I never remember going without, we were always a happy family. The one thing I know Dad would have been thrilled by is how as a family we’ve stuck together and stayed in touch. I always found it so strange that he’s brothers and sisters all seemed to have drifted apart, and I recall Dad always making us ‘ Kiss and make up ‘ if I ever fell out with any one of my siblings. To him, his family was so important and I believe that we have all followed that mantra that he installed in us.
    Many of my memories are still too blurred, perhaps I just don’t want to bring them to the front of my mind because it is still to painful. I agree that on most days, time has helped heal that raw pain, but every now and then, a song, or a saying remind me of him so much, and the feeling of loss I feel is so strong it takes my breath away.
    Only this weekend I was cleaning Daisy’s boots and was using a match to burn the polish. ‘ Why are you doing that Mum ‘ she asked. Your poppa in the sky taught me I said, and I hope he was nodding with approval.
    Thank you Dad for all that you taught me, for all of the happiness and for the many memories and lessons that have made me the person I am today.
    I love you with all of my heart, from your middle daughter, SAM xxxxxxxxxxxxx

  4. Thanks, Sal. I don’t think anyone reading this post and it’s comments would realise that we don’t actually share these thoughts in “real” life. How strange that cyberspace has brought us together like this.

    I know that Dad would be delighted! I only wish I had access to his wise counsel on family matters still. Love to you, Sal (and for the record, he wouldn’t have blamed you for the marriage break up. And he’d love Mark.) xx

  5. A beautiful letter. ‘Days’ is a gorgeous song, it also brings back so many memories for me of my Mum. I also read your letter to your daughters which was lovely also, the amount of times my own Mum said something similar. Thanks for the reminders. A great blog. Take care.
    p.s looking forward to seeing our photos!

  6. […] am 50 years old and I still miss my dad. I wrote about him last October on the anniversary of his […]

  7. […] It reminds me that I was loved, on a day when my father was happy, when we became a family. I wrote about my dad on my project50 blog. He died too young, too sadly. I need photographs like this to remind me of happier […]

  8. […] It reminds me that I was loved, on a day when my father was happy, when we became a family. I wrote about my dad on my project50 blog. He died too young, too sadly. I need photographs like this to remind me of happier […]


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