Every time around this year I remember my dad. He died 9 years ago. I watched him breathe his last over Skype, which feels ironic in these times. Still, I managed to fly backwards and forwards to London several times through the course of his decline, for which I am ever grateful.
I still miss my father. My mother, all the way in London herself, asked me the other day what I particularly miss about him. There are obvious things I tell her. I miss his gravelly voice. I miss the strength of his hugs. He was built like a bear, as solid as a mountain, at least physically. He could wrap his arm around you and make you feel safe like no other person I know.
I miss playing board games with my father, complete with his own special brand of rules designed to improve the game. Rules we all had to play by and that had to be explained to newcomers, invited as they so often were into our board game playing family gatherings. We still play Trivial Pursuit the Weedman Way. It’s better, I promise you. I suppose in a greater sense, I miss his quirks, at least some of them. It is our idiosyncrasies after all that make us the unique and interesting individuals we are.
My father wasn’t the easiest person to have in your life. He was cracked and scarred by his childhood, weighed down with a sense of inadequacy and a desperate fear of abandonment that I sometimes think I’ve inherited vicariously. It was a battle to find my own voice from within his overshadowing presence. A battle that required withdrawal at times, frustrated resignation at others. A battle that left both of us with sore hearts on occasion.
In truth it took my dad dying for me have space enough to breathe from beneath the weight of his expectations. It was, in all honesty, only in his absence that I was able to separate myself from his version of me and find my own reflection in the world.
I’ve grown up a lot over the past almost decade. I feel like a different person altogether compared to the one he knew. Someone who is more sure of herself. Less dependent on the opinions of others, especially his. Someone I wish he knew.
More importantly though, in seeking to grow, in deliberately working to deconstruct and examine the stories on which my mind had for so long rested, I have, finally, been able to see just how much my father loved me. Not as an extension of himself, or as condition burdened with the need to continually prove myself (which is what it used to feel like), but loved unconditionally just for being me.
And that is what I miss most of all, I suppose. To actually hear my dad when he told me he loved me (which he did often). Not the words, but the meaning. To hear the love and pride that was divorced from his own sense of inadequacy. And to be able to say back to him, just once, from a place of knowledge woven into the heart of me, I know you do Dad.