Day 8, Reinvent the letter format
When I remember that you are gone, I am bathed in a deep sadness that overwhelms and consumes me. When I think of our brief time together, I feel immense gratitude to have known you as my father – yet utter despair that life’s brevity escaped me so suddenly and without warning. In my head, I replay the times I was a typical teenager – rushed, preoccupied by my own selfish adolescence, nonchalant, hot-tempered… I wish I could travel back in time, to tell you again and again how much I love you; how much you meant to me, how you were, and still are, the most incredible man I have ever known.
As a little girl, my fondest memories are of times spent with you. It was you who’d walk me around on your feet, you’d give me twizers and aeroplanes and lift me up by my ankles each time I squealed “Again! Again!” Nobody else would spend hours lining up my toy soldiers, only to knock them all down again with ping pong balls. (You imitated the best ‘man-wounded-and-falling-from-a great-height’ impression I’d ever heard!) Despite recovering from a stroke and living with epilepsy, you cared for your daughters dutifully whilst Mum was at work…
It’s hard to believe that beneath your smiles and laughter, you felt sorrow. The doctors diagnosed you with depression, but at the time, I was too young to notice. Upon reflection, it’s no wonder why you felt immense sadness given the hardships you faced as a young man; you lost both your parents; suffered a brain hemorrhage in your twenties; and lived your life with epilepsy. Yet, in spite of all of this, you showed nothing but love towards your family, in sickness and in health. Our favorite memory is of the times we’d air guitar in the living room using Mum’s badminton rackets. We’d danced our socks off to The Police, Prince and Led Zeppelin, you would shine the lamp at our feet and bathe us in a spot light – you even taught us how to head bang! I miss those days so much…
And then Mum met somebody new. One day you were there, and the next you were living in a one bedroom flat. My world became empty and bleak, I didn’t know why you had to leave, only that our family of four suddenly became a family of three. You visited twice a week, on Wednesdays and Saturdays, but the days in between felt like a life time of waiting. I’d wait at the gate, waiting to see your face as you’d begin your steady ascent up the hill, your pockets laden with chocolate raisins for Sarah and I, and a Walnut Whip for Mum. You’d also buy me a Matchbox car each week, which I treasured as much as I treasured our make believe drives along the open roads.
Living without you brought with it a heartbreak that my little heart wasn’t prepared for, and I longed for you to return to our house, safe under our roof. I hated the thought of you living all alone. I knew of your seizures, I’d witnessed them from an early age. The thought of you all alone made me anxious and worrisome throughout much of my childhood. I remember the days we’d collect you if it was raining heavy, the Rottweiler belonging to the tenant below would bark and snarl from behind the rickety gate. My heart would thump in my chest as we sat in the car, panicked that the ugly mutt would jump over the gate and eat you as you went by. Fears of losing you for good began to plague my sleep, I’d have nightmares that we’d become separated and I could never quite reach you; searching, always searching, until I’d wake with tears streaming down my cheeks.
Life continued much this way into my teens. Your weekly visits remained the highlight of my week. At night, we’d fall asleep listening to Coldplay, Bob Dylan and Maroon 5, you in the bottom bunk, and me in the top bunk, it was funny watching you cram your six foot two self into those tiny bunk beds. But you didn’t mind if it meant spending time with your family.
You never stopped caring for us. You nursed me when I was ill, you even carried me to bed when I drank so much Vodka with Louise that time – I was sick all over the bathroom! You hugged me when I cried, made me laugh when I was glum, and stuck up for me if anyone ever caused me upset. You brought us cups of teas and made the best (and most random) sandwich combinations ever. Your kind gestures, the way you loved us unconditionally, the way you still loved Mum and remained her faithful companion despite her decision to separate, all of those things are what made you so very special. When Lauren was born, as you held her in your arms you told her you’d love her as though she were your own, and you did until the day that you died.
When I lost you the second time, it felt as though someone had snatched my heart from inside my chest and replaced it with a heavy boulder. You were taken before I had the chance to say goodbye, before I could tell you how much I loved you, how much I appreciated you in my life. The thought of never seeing your face again, never feeling the warmth of your bear hugs, left me dazed and confused. Even now, ten years later, the thought of spending a lifetime without you leaves me feeling empty and numb. When I feel this way, I make a conscious effort to remember how you lived your life – smiling in the face of adversity.
And that is how I shall live mine. For every one thing that makes me feel sad, I will think of ten things that bring me joy. I will never forget the way you’d burst into fits of uncontrollable laughter, which spread like wildfire throughout our home. How can I? It happens to me at the most inappropriate of times, in a silent classroom, when I’m having my teeth polished at the dentist! Your infectious laughter is remembered by all of my friends who visited, and they talk of you with much fondness. You will always be remembered as our gentle giant. Your size thirteens were destined to leave lasting footprints in our hearts. And so, it is in your memory that I will continue to bathe the darkness with your love and light each day.
A medium once told me that you now reside in the highest of the spiritual planes. That the life lessons you faced on this earth, as well as your selfless nature, progressed you far into the high heavens. It is no wonder heaven claimed you early – to me, you were an earth angel; my very own angel Dad.
I feel blessed to have known you, to have shared my life with you, to have had you as my father. And however lonely it feels at times, I know that you will always be there for me, guiding me, surrounding me with your love.
I love you, Dad.
Loving you always, forgetting you never ❤