He used to be so different. I remember those days I would lie in bed, praying for my father to leave for work before it was time to get ready for school. I remember every tremble of my knees when he looked at me with anger in his eyes. Would it come to blows again? Nobody else cared because it was normal for parents to hit their kids in our culture. Not for me.
I remember those days when I couldn’t be in the same room as him unless there was someone else present. I hated the fact that the one man in my life who was supposed to make me feel safe made me feel terrified around him. To outsiders, he was the ‘cool dad’. He was funny and gave me freedom and I didn’t have to behave like a polite little doll around him. To me at home; not so much.
Oh don’t get me wrong he wasn’t some kind of monster. I know those exist too. He just had an inflated ego and a temper that he liked to direct at me when it flared. I’ll admit that I had an ego too. Thinking back, it was just dignity mixed with stubbornness. Perhaps a little bit of pride too. I’m not sure what I did to have it directed only at me but now, I’m glad I did. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone else in my family. It’s made me feel the need to shield them from any harm.
But when I look at him today, he’s different. Sometimes when he’s pushed too far I can see that flicker of anger again and it still terrifies me. It takes me back to those old days that look so dusty in my memory. But he’s calmer. Perhaps it’s age. Perhaps it’s maturity. Maybe someone finally threw it in his face and brought him down a few notches. I’m not sure. But I’m glad.
I can sit next to him, sleep in the same room as him, run errands with him and have silly talks and laugh with him. We sit and eat together. I tell him stories about my life and he tells me a few about his. We joke and laugh and share smiles. So often I see a kindness shimmering in his eyes. Sometimes when I’m sleeping he’ll run his hand over my hair. We’ll never be the kind of father and daughter who share all the details of their lives, express their love and hug. There’s some damage that you can never repair. He never did apologize and I know that he still believes he was right. Maybe he was. But I forgave him anyway. Because that’s what you do, isn’t it? That’s what family is. You change and you forgive.
Now he’s gone
Up until here was something I wrote such a long time back. I think he was actually still alive when I wrote that. But going forward is something I’m writing now, three years since I lost him.
Losing somebody you loved, and then feared and resented, and then slowly learned to love again, hits you hard, especially if you were still working on repairing your relationship. I always thought he never apologized. But I’m older now, I had to grow up overnight. My life turned upside down when he died. He did apologize, and I’m astound that I never noticed. Me, the one person who saw a reflection of him in the mirror. He apologized, in his own way. Those little presents, his warm hands caressing my head as I slept, they were all apologies. I just never saw them.
When somebody dies, people say you don’t recall the bad things about them. Why is that? I like to remember each person for who they were, the good and the bad. Dying doesn’t erase your life. It only leaves an echo that reverberates throughout the lives of the loved ones you left behind.
I love my father, I feel his loss every waking and sleeping moment of my life. I am who he made me, the good and the bad. Allowing yourself to remember the bad doesn’t negate the good, and neither does it diminish the love and pain you feel. I love him, and I always will.