As Thanksgiving comes and goes, I’ve been reflecting on the things my dad would do to make sure everyone was connected. He would take the best part of a day out of his weekend to make sure he called everyone and kept people up on whatever news we had. He would send things across to us in facebook group chats. He was the one with the finger on the pulse; he knew what was happening and he was the person that kept us together.
Now he’s gone, communication is more sporadic, particularly between me and my brothers. The main issue for me isn’t to do with my dad not being there in that respect; I found myself with a lovely girlfriend and weekends became precious. The time difference makes weekends the time we can all connect, and now that I have a job that is busiest over the weekend it’s doubly difficult to keep in touch. My mum and I have had to work harder to stay in touch, but its’ been OK.
It’s a classic case of not noticing what people do until they don’t do it. There was a time when I didn’t worry if I hadn’t heard from everyone in a couple of weeks because I knew they were about and in touch with Dad. If I couldn’t reach them, I knew he would be able to fill me in. My dad was also the most constant presence for me in my isolation.
It was innocent, but my ex never quite let me have a private conversation with my family. It was one of the many innocent things she did that added up to my being controlled. She was always there and she would often pick up conversations after the phone went down – and, later, she would interject as I was speaking. It’s hard to talk about this kind of abuse when you know it wasn’t on purpose, but it happened.
I can’t help but wonder: what wasn’t said? Even if it felt normal, I was aware that someone was sat next to me or could hear what I said through a wall. And my family knew I wasn’t alone, exactly. They knew that half the time I had them on speaker just out of convenience – what did they not say? In the case of my dad, what will I never get to hear?
In this way, my ex robbed me of my dad’s last ten years or so. Things we never shared. Things he didn’t feel he could tell me. I’ll never know what I missed. I hope it wasn’t too much, but the sense of loss is immense. Just a long list of things I never knew I lost and will never fully measure.
I do treasure how my dad kept me in touch. How he would ring me every week or two without fail. How he’d stop through on his way to whatever conference and make sure he had a day in London to hang out with me – we did get to chat privately at those points. Most of my stories from that time include my dad. He helped me keep my world.
I never realised how hard he fought for me. I only see now how bad it was and how much he worked to keep my head above water. I hate that he never got to see me break free. So many things he never got to see that I hate. He never got to know his only daughter and he never got to see her grow and flourish. I never got to rediscover our relationship as I have with mum and my brothers. And I don’t know how to make meaning of that.
I suppose that’s the hard part when bad things happen: making meaning. I know it means something. I know it changed our relationship and I know that we missed out, but I also know we gained from the struggle somehow. It’s hard to know how, but nothing is absolute – he fought for me. He spent time keeping me connected. I was ignorant of it at the time but that gift helped me grow despite my terrible circumstances. I just need to figure out how; to find the moments where I was able to see the outside.
On Thanksgiving, my dad would always ring me as he was sitting down with his guests (family or otherwise), set the tablet on speaker and place it on the table so I could join in the conversation. The holiday itself is a thing I am only vaguely conscious of – I’d forget it completely if I didn’t have birthdays to think about around then. But I’d get the usual reminders a day or two ahead, and there would be the customary call.
It was a small thing but I miss it. It kept me connected to him; the rhythm of his life. It let me have a presence in a place I’ve largely let go of. A heritage I only occasionally remember. Odd to think that Americans have their own heritage as they spend all their time honouring whatever ancestry they have from elsewhere, but they do. I do.
I wish I had taken the time to tell him how much I depended on him, but I didn’t know until he was gone. I hope he can see that I am finally free. I hope he didn’t miss out on telling me as much as I fear. I hope I was able to tell him enough for him to know how much I appreciated him. I don’t think I did, but I hope he knew anyway.