I don’t remember meeting my Dad, you know. He came into my world when I was 3 years old. Suddenly in our tiny, dirty, shabby Filipino village was a tall white man with a twinkle in his eye and a friendly grin.
I don’t remember how we got to be Dad and Daughter…we just were…and we always have been.
I think when people die, they tend to be remembered with a rose-coloured tint. They get spoken of as if they were saints: “she had so many friends” “he was so caring” “she lit up a room” “He was someone you could always depend on”
The truth as I know it, is that my Dad was a high-functioning alcoholic with a lot of flaws. I don’t have a single memory of my Dad without a beer in his hand. Dad would drive me nuts, insisting I’d done something wrong when I KNEW I hadn’t. Dad would gaslight me and make me question my worth. He would get drunk and surly, slurring insults he would forget the next day but the shrapnel remained. It always did.
Dad was stubborn. He would dig his heels in and argue until the cows came home.
Dad knew me so he would push and push until I reached breaking point. At one time in my life, I threatened to kill myself. Every fibre of my being desperately wanted my Dad to be scared to lose me. He looked me straight in the eye, said “go on, then” and left the house, so I took an entire bottle of prescription pain meds and ended up in hospital.
The 2nd time it happened, Dad yelled at me “What do you think this would do to your brother?!? How f**king selfish of you”. His thoughts were on how JAY would suffer from MY death. That broke my heart. Dad didn’t care that I was dying, he was concerned with protecting my brother.
But then in other times, Dad’s swooped in to save me. He’s sent International transfers when I ran out of money in the UK several times (I suck at budgeting, especially while on holidays) and when I got committed to a Psych ward in Darwin, Dad flew me home express to Perth. No questions asked. Just there when I badly needed him.
I almost died from a terrible concussion when I was a little girl, but Dad kept me awake, kept me talking. He could have easily let me die…asked me less and less in that emergency helicopter that fateful night and allow me to slip away…but he (Mom tells me this, I can’t really remember) was terrified I’d fall asleep and never wake up so Dad prodded, poked, cajoled and asked what felt like endless questions until they could land at Hospital and get me seen to. Dad saved me that night.
No matter what was going on in my life though, I always sought my Dad’s opinion and approval. If Dad said something was great, I’d invest my time and money into it. I trust my Dad’s counsel (before he’s had too many beers) and would talk to him about things that were important to me.
I miss long, meandering conversations with Dad more than anything, you know.
If I caught Dad at the right time and in the right mood, he and I would talk for HOURS. I loved basking in the warm glow of having a good “yarn” (Dad’s word) with my old man. I love him so much and I miss our long talks. Dad would understand things noone else did – struggling with mental illness, weighing up friendships, picking study choices and pathways at school…and romantic relationships. If I dated a boy, I’d bring him home for Dad’s approval.
Dad generally likes EVERYONE, bless him…bit sometimes he would frown and talk to me about the boy I was seeing.
When I wanted to date Troy, for instance…Dad could tell straight away that Troy was showing early signs of schizophrenia. Troy was absolutely fine until we hit our early 20’s and then he went off the rails with conspiracy theories, “the Chinese Mafia” (?), the Government controlling him and he got obsessed with the Bible and all it’s olden day rules and laws.
Dad talked to me gently about Troy and warned me against him. “That boy is headed for a long and complicated journey, chook” I remember Dad telling me as if it was yesterday rather than 20 years ago “He will change so much that you won’t know who he is anymore. That illness will eat away at him and it will break your heart. Don’t get caught up with Troy, it will make you very unhappy”
So I heeded Dad’s advice, stopped dating Troy and 20 years later, Dad’s premonition is true. Troy isn’t the gentle, soft-spoken, thoughtful, funny, sweet guy I always knew him to be anymore. Now he’s violent, threatening and downright scary. I can’t talk to him any more. I can’t be around him. Troy has put 2 innocent Nurses into ICU by beating them almost to death for no reason. He’s now in a locked ward in Greylands. We aren’t friends anymore.
If only I had listened to my Dad’s warnings about Gavin, I would have saved myself 3 years of abuse and torture with that man. I am headstrong and when Dad warned me against Gavin, it just made me want to date him more. Hindsight is a bit of a bugger, isn’t it? We live and we learn. That “relationship” made me grateful for positive relationships and I learnt a lot about the darker side of coercive control so…it’s all a learning experience in the end I guess.
That’s something I wish I had done more when my Dad was alive…I wish I had listened more. I wish I had taken every single opportunity to spend time with Dad and tucked those memories away for times like now when I miss him so much it hurts.
My Dad was a drunk. He shouted. He got really angry about arbitrary things and he (as we ALL do) had a few negative character traits…
…but he was also loving and patient. Dad taught me to value friendships, to find humour in pretty much any situation, to be grateful, to be kind. Dad taught me to root for the underdog, to stand up for things I believe in and to find my voice and USE IT as much as possible.
Dad taught me music appreciation and to love Bob Dylan, the Beatles, the BeeGees, ABBA, Queen, The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Neil Diamond and in later years, Tracey Chapman. So much of my music tastes now are influenced by my Dad’s teaching.
Because of my Dad, I also love reading. I love the ART of REST. I love the sea. I love Libraries and Art Galleries. I take notice of beautiful surroundings – Dad taught me to do that. Dad also taught me how to “read a room” (ahahahaha “read the room, Blake!), how to be social, to have fun and how to be a good friend.
There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t feel an almost profound impact from the grief of losing my Dad. It hurts deep in the marrow of my bones. This grief is so painful.
I look like my Mom, but really, I’m my Dad’s legacy…and that’s something I’m very proud of.
I love you, Dad. So much.