What do you do when the parent you hardly knew suddenly dies?
My relationship with my father was fractious and tempestuous at times, but still it feels like part of me has disappeared into the ether; my connection to the human race unravelled ever so slightly. This is a ridiculous notion I know, but that’s just how I feel. Even given how I felt about him at times. I still feel the need to shout it to the world “Hey, stop what you’re doing. Listen up, my father is gone.” He was ill, this was day was coming, certainly sooner rather than later, however the suddenness made it a sucker punch to the gut. We had only just visited and seen him, sitting up in his hospital bed, albeit frail and small, weak from the battle. Hardly the man I remember from a recent visit, but we still had hope. There’s always hope.
I was separated from both of my parents for most of my life but my father was more the mystery. I grew up knowing my mother’s parents. My search for my father began out of curiosity. It was my him who lent the colour that tints my skin so nicely. It could hardly have come from my mother’s alabaster complexion. His contribution was the reason some black people called me zebra and some white people called me nigger. Finding him was deceptively simple though the only detail I had of him was where he might be living and his name, so I went to the library and looked for his name in that city’s local phonebook. There were two listings. I wrote both the numbers down and carried them around until I felt brave enough to call. He answered the very first call.
What I wanted I thought was easy enough for him to divulge. I wanted to know where the roots of my tree went, who my ancestors were, what I passed on to my son. Despite the efforts of myself and my brother, my father was unyielding and it became the story of our lives. The more intransigent my father seemed the more we dug in. When my brother was alive we presented a united front. Stubborn. Unrelenting. On and on we danced throughout the years. Problem is what we didn’t know for the longest time was my father never really knew most of what we wanted to know and he didn’t talk about himself much or at all, so we learned almost nothing of his life story. Now that it has come to and end all I know is snatches of this and snippets of that. Looking through the pictures I have it seems to me had we asked a different question it would have made for long interesting evenings, instead I am left with a niggling regret. Such is life.
After my younger brother died suddenly, my perspective changed. I let go and began to enjoy a different relationship with my Dad, and now he is also gone, just like that. I know this much. I am very much my father’s daughter and always will be and maybe that is enough. So RIP Dad, with love from your daughter.