Monday, 9 December 2013

For my Dad

Today would have been my Dad`s birthday. He died when I was fourteen, which is a long time ago now. The problem with losing a parent when you are still young is having to deal not just with the loss itself, which is bad enough, impossible actually, but with the accumulative effects of the loss on the rest of your life. It`s not just that he`s not there for your birthday. It`s that he`s not there for every birthday after that, ever after, or for every Christmas after that, or for your graduation, or for your wedding, or for the birth of your children, his grandchildren. Loss is not just a one off agony – it`s an exponential chasm that grows ever wider. When one of your parents dies you fall off a cliff into your own mortality, and it`s a fall that never seems to end. And yet sometimes, somehow, that fall becomes like one of those dreams where one second you are falling, and the next you are flying.

It all really hinges on one thing. As parents we agonize about whether we have done things right or wrong. We regret our mistakes, our failings, our inadequacies. But our children do not see us like that at all. Children are incredibly tolerant of quirks and traits. They see us mainly as either loving or not loving. Loving parents expect a great of themselves and very little of their children.

When I was twelve years old, my Dad, who was already dying, turned to me one day and said, out of the blue: "Never worry what other people think about you, because they are always wrong." It may have been the best piece of advice anyone ever gave me. At the time I didn`t have a clue what he was talking about, but I certainly do now. It isn`t the loss alone that is so hard to bear: it`s the contradiction between the chasm and what we fill it with.