Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dead-Dad Day: A parent misses being a child.

I know, I know it sounds horrible. But it is how I feel. I am good with words, eloquent even (when I am trying). That's the thing. I can't festoon this kind of honest loss with pretty adjectives or bone-chilling analogies. It's just...hard.

Loss has a manipulative way of creeping in and out. It swindles and sways its way through the days and years. I hear him in music, in movies. I laugh out loud or cry at things I wish he were here to see. It is selfish. The selfishness that every child deserves. The unconditional love and guidance of a parent. He provided both, and he provided well.

Born in Zanzibar, he had an affair with the sea. The oldest of 11 children, he was a leader. He lost his own mother at 16 years old in a tragic car accident (his first attempt at driving), so he was a survivor. Banished from his own home by his father in wake of their great loss, he was a fighter. He returned home months later to find his father had "left" so he learned quickly how to navigate the world of love,raising siblings, loss, protection and fear. I write this perhaps because I am proud, or moved, or just trying to remind myself of him; his story...beyond just being my dad.

Forgetting them hurts most. The guilt of not being able to pull his voice up in the audio archives of my mind, the way he said my name or his laugh. No one warned me of this, but it takes effort. It takes true effort to keep the memory of the lost alive.

It was hard to have my cousin walk me down the aisle instead of him. It was difficult to see fathers approaching hospital rooms at the Maternity ward to see their little girls. Those moments I prepared for. What I did not know would quietly steep in sadness, were the beautiful moments I am championing as a mother. The huge life-altering decisions that are made without even the slightest tap or nudge from a parent. He was my sounding board. We challenged each other. He hardened me up for the world and I came into my own in my twenties just in time to soften his perspective and mistrust.

The man was tough. He was self-made, and knew it. I look back and realize my mortgage payments are less than what he paid for a suit. This same man who was rigid about table manners and proper use of forks and minimal noise-making while chewing (no was ridiculous) was also a man that laughed hysterically at "Mr. Bean" and knee-slapped at fart jokes. He would be on the floor if he would have heard my 3-year old say to my sister; unprovoked: "I saw Luke's poop! It looked like a hot dog!" Those are the moments where laughter turns sad for a minute.

I remember how strange it must have been for him. A Saudi man to have two (gasp!) daughters. I recall when I played Ani Difranco to him in the car and he froze at her lyrics. I remember his request that I write a full (20-page) business proposal (when I was 19) to present why my moving to Sydney alone would be beneficial and cost-efficient to him. I remember countless days spent on the Arabian sea while he wind surfed and the smile on his face coming out the water. I remember reels and reels of beautiful soliloquies of father-daughter growing that seemed so ordinary at the time. So it goes.

There is a certain pride we seek from our parents, either outright or unspoken. I worked for it, I believe in the past, I lost it and earned it back. He was always telling me to write a book, or two. I laugh inside knowing he wouldn't be shocked by one thing I write. He might be the only man to ever walk this earth, that took my shock-value in absolute stride, I actually wonder if he didn't predict it. The way I can predict what my child is thinking before she thinks it.

My mini pity-party comes out today. The day where I am faced with knowing he cannot be that for me. I am faced with that half-hearted notion that he is "watching" or "witnessing" all of this. Sometimes it works, mostly it doesn't.

Instead, I send my love to him. I find peace in reckoning that HE was a child. That HE lost a mother and if anything makes sense in this twisted and beautiful journey of life; that he might be with her. Safe and loved. Free from preying family members, free from stress and burdens he didn't bring upon himself.

My daughter won't ever know him, and she will maybe recognize a handful of pictures of him. I won't ever get a glance from him that says: "Well done, honey." again. He cannot console or advise me on any major decisions in my life, and worst, I can't even thank him for all he did, gave up, and endured. I wasn't easy.

Most days I am truly blessed and grateful for all I have. Most days I challenge myself and the world around me to be better, to love hard, and give back. Today, I wish for those things, and I will be better tomorrow. But It is my "Dead-Dad day" and I will reflect to resolve just a little more this year.

I am so many things: A mother, a sister, a wife, a writer, a goof, a lover, a fighter....but today, I am a parent missing being his daughter; hoping that he is windsurfing somewhere, someplace full of love and freedom and the peace of a child....


sissy said...

well said lil sis. i miss him so much too!! but as another wise man recently told me...the silver lining to our loss is our friendship has grown so strong, and for that (among other things) he would be so proud!

lauren said...

wow. i feel as though we were just introduced and i know him through you. this is really beautiful.

Marcus said...

Very eloquently written. Without doubt, you have made him proud of the mother, sister, and friend you have become. I'm sure he knows of your admiration, and returns it to you every day.

dadshouse said...

That was touching. Thanks for sharing.