It goes without saying that I miss my dad. Especially on his ‘anniversary’. It’s been 17 years to the day, today; four years ago it switched so that now I’ve been without him longer than I had him. It’s a strange feeling, year on year, knowing that ratio is only going to get bigger, that each year adds to the list of things I do that he won’t be a part of. Last year I got married. This year I moved to California. He would have loved to see both, I think.
I remember him once telling me about his own father, who also died tragically young long before I was born. I asked what he was like. He told me “He would have loved you.” Now, I will have to say that to my future children, as I’ve said it to my husband who never had the pleasure of meeting the man. I wonder what I would say about him, start to pick through memories to see if they are real, did it happen or did I imagine it happening? Some memories are stronger than others – the more you revisit them, the brighter they become – but there are so many things I don’t remember clearly now, things I’ve fudged in the remembering, changed the colour of t-shirts and paraphrased the words, and things I’ve forgotten completely. I put him in where he probably wasn’t, take him out where he definitely was.
Even though it’s been 17 years (my God, how has it been 17 years?) I don’t feel like I’m clinging to a ghost. He’s every bit as much a part of who I am today as he ever was, not a day goes by that he doesn’t cross my mind – sometimes I’ll be reminded of him by something, sometimes I’ll ask his opinion, wonder what he’d make of what I’m doing or thinking. For so many things, I find myself checking the date to see if he would have known about it, and wondering what he’d make of things like iPads. I still dream about him. He’s in his jumper that might actually be pink, but is really red, usually, and most often he’s driving me somewhere. And I still say ‘my parents’ when I mean ‘my mum’.
Not long ago, my mum came to visit us in San Francisco. We went into Wine Country for her birthday and she casually mentioned, as we roamed the vineyard, how dad had spent time grape picking for a winery. It was a fact I’d never heard before. I wondered what other little nuggets of information about this man there were that I’d probably never know – it’s hard enough getting to know people when they’re right in front of you. Then I wondered who drank the wine he picked the grapes for. Was it cheap plonk for the supermarket, or is there a bottle of it sitting in someone’s cellar right now, waiting for the perfect moment?
There are so many things about my dad that I’ll probably never know, just like there are so many things about me that he’ll never be a part of. I like to think that we’d both be proud of each other.
Recently, I found something I’d written a long time ago and thought it was time to share it, because it sums up how I feel a lot of the time.
Sometimes I feel like he’s slipping away
And I can’t remember the details
Of his face,
The sound of his voice.
So I concentrate
On his eyes behind those glasses
How it felt to hold his hand in the street,
Snuggle behind him on the sofa,
Take aeroplane rides on his feet.
And my chest hurts and I can’t breathe,
But I don’t care
Because I love him.