Ed Sheeran has a song out called “Visiting hours” where he wants to go and see his Mom in Heaven. I’ve had it on repeat all day as tears have flowed down my face. I never thought I’d be able to relate to losing a parent and yet here we are.
I close my eyes and I can hear your throaty voice. I can hear your laugh. I can feel my hand in your calloused one – safe because you held it just so.
So much has changed since you’ve been away.
For one, Jay is talking to me. It only took your DEATH for him to finally answer my texts and calls. That’s how stubborn he is. I wonder if that surprises you? I bet you’re not even angry about it, you probably admire “Jay’s fortitude”. For me, it breaks my heart. Even then, Jay doesn’t reach out, he just responds. It’s me doing 99% of the work…but you know what? I do it for you and Mom. I know you would be proud of me for texting and trying my best to look after my brother. I have done ever since the day you and Mom brought him home from hospital that fateful day. I rocked him to sleep, tickled his toes, sang to him, marvelled at how small he was, tried to carry him around when he was growing and I was not. I remember you laughing as I tried to carry Jay when he was 2 and I was 7 – it was like trying to carry someone almost my own height and weight. I still tried, though. I so wanted to hold him.
Ed Sheeran has another heartwrenching song called “Supermarket flowers” (playing right now as I write…and cry…blowing my nose every few sentences because this is so freaking painful to do) where I’m guessing his Mom recently died when he wrote it – because the words seem so raw, it’s like it only just happened. It’s like that for me, Dad. I feel every day as if I’m finding out for the first time that you’ve died. That same blow. That same hit by a huge freight train. BAM.
Over and over.
In the chorus, Ed sings “Hallelujah…you were an Angel in the shape of my Mom…” and I sing along (I can’t help it, even when I’m crying – I’m singing) but I’ve personalised the words and sing “Hallelujah, you were the sunshine in the shape of my Dad“. My voice breaks every time I say “my Dad” because that’s who you are and always will be.
You definitely weren’t an Angel though! Hahaha. You were cheeky, vibrant, filled with NOISE in everything you did. You were sarcastic. You had a quick wit and when you were drunk, you were surly and rude.
But most of all – you were sunshine to me, Dad. You brought so much joy to menial things. Even going to the grocery store with you was so much fun because you’d make silly comments about the people around us and make me laugh. You’re hilarious and my favourite person to go shopping with. You’d talk to everyone and hold up the queue at the checkout because when you asked the retail person serving us “How’s your day going?” you really wanted to know and you’d stay to listen and give your advice. I used to hate that but now it’s one of the things I miss most about you.
Mom has been really strong since you went away. You’d be proud but I think you’d also shake your head at some of the shenanigans Mom’s ‘secretly’ gotten up to – shaking Jay and I down for thousands of dollars and not telling us why. I suspect Mom’s back on drugs again…but we can only guess and do our best to make her happy, can’t we? Mom’s been able to get her new Aussie passport sorted. Finally. Alun and I paid THOUSANDS for flights, accommodation, food and taxis…Jay and Kate paid probably the same for the paperwork and processes. We are all out SO MUCH MONEY on something that really should have cost $600.00. But again, I can’t keep going back to that. I just…I just wanted you to know it’s not been easy without you. Mom is let loose on the world without your reason and wisdom and the difference without you is financially staggering.
In other news *DEEEEEEEP BREATHS* Mom is much closer to her family, speaks Filipino more fluently and is keeping her 15 relatives together, fed, housed, clothed and happy. She’s doing a great job. I hope to be able to focus on that and let the anger over finances dissipate.
Alun is a Senior Nurse now; and has worked his way up the ranks to be able to do “Triage” – it’s sort of like a promotion? He works so hard and loves so much. Alun has such a big heart. I really won the lotto when I got to marry him, he’s the best person I know. I know you know that. I think you and Mom loved Alun not long after getting to know him. It’s sort of impossible not to love him. Alun is so gentle, kind, sweet and funny. A lot like you, I guess.
(Is that weird?)
As for me, well…You’re watching me struggle from above, huh? You are watching me sweat and shiver, ache and cry from these God-awful withdrawals this week. They are so painful, Dad. I’m doing my best to stay hopeful but it’s so hard when I hurt so badly and for so long. Yesterday I got to sit outside and write a bit so I really liked that.
My Memoir is with Austin Macaulay Publishers in New York, Dad. NEW YORK!!! Can you even believe it??? I think you would just nod. I can hear you saying “That’s my girl!!!” and not being the least bit surprised that I’m a bonafide Author now. I love that. It gives me comfort. I’m working hard in a Telecommunications Centre which answers calls for ALL the Hospitals in the North of the city. There are so many of us in the call centre and every person answers about 1000 calls a day. I am still quite new having only done 3 weeks but even 400 calls a day has me in bed by 9pm at the latest. I think I’m definitely getting old, Dad. I’m not your little girl any more. Ha. I’m old and my knees make an awful creaking sound when I bend down to retrieve something. When I take the stairs now, I complain about them. I never thought I’d see the day!
I still can’t believe you’re gone, Dad. I still can’t accept it.
I have lost count of the times I lift my phone up to my face, ready to click on ‘Dad’ and tell you about something that made me laugh or made me think. I still speak about you in first person. I can’t bring myself to say “he used to” I still say “He did” “Dad loves that show” “that’s Dad’s favourite beer” “Dad thinks that’s awesome”. In my mind’s eye – you’re still alive. You’re just lost somewhere between here and the Philippines. You’re not letting it bother you (typical Dad), but you are asking every now and then “Err…have you seen my wife?” and raising your eyebrows the way you always did when you were genuinely curious.
Crying as I admit how much I miss you, Dad.
I miss your laugh, your noises – grumbles and chuckles – all of them.
I miss how you made the ordinary an adventure.
I don’t miss the fights, the accusations, the confusion, the silent treatment that sometimes lasted years…the power struggle, the love/hate relationship that ran through us like a constant, flowing stream…But I need to acknowledge them to remember you as a whole person – not as a perfect one.
You and I, Dad – we are fractured, fragmented, complicated people. I get my sarcasm, sneakiness (okay I suck at it), judgemental attititude, master manipulation tactics, surliness and most likely my depression from you (I honestly think it’s somehow catching in families, I really do)…but then again, I get the love of bookstores from you, too. I love Art because you do. Or did. (See? See how hard it is to talk about you as if you’re gone?) I make friends easily because I grew up seeing you do it faultlessly. I am popular because you are. Were. Fuck. I know how to handle myself in a crowded room and how to shine bright in hard times – because of you. I can hear you say “Never EVER give up, Chook” every time I’ve had a bad day at work. I read the letters you wrote me with tears blurring the pages when I miss you most. I love that I can run my fingertips over the bumps in the pages your hand writing made. Wasn’t it lucky we wrote to each other so often?
I am kind to others around me because you taught me that it was so important to be a friend and help a fellow person out as much as I could. I’m curious and I take chances because you told me that we only grow when we step out of our comfort zones. I’m a brilliant writer (just saying) because you encouraged it in me all my life. You taught me about books, nuances in sentences, poignancy in paragraphs. You gave me the classics like “Alice in Wonderland“, “The little Princess” and “The Secret Garden” in tiny hardback books that I read over and over again in wonder as I grew up. I still – to this day – lift old books to my face and breathe the pages in because I learnt that…from you.
So much has changed since you went away, Dad…but these things remain exactly the same:
I love you
I miss you
I look for you everywhere I go, hoping to see your goofy smile over the fence or around the corner. I peek into beer gardens on sunny days, really thinking I’ll see you there, lifting a pint and smiling across at a new friend you’ve made.
It was a gorgeous, bright sunny day today Dad and I both love and hate that. I love that maybe it was because God let you have a go of controlling today’s weather so you made the fluffiest clouds you could, turned the sky up to bright blue, set the sun on ‘happy beam’ – but not too bright – and made the temperature just right for sitting outside and enjoying a nice drink with.
I feel your presence in the air around me, Dad. Especially today.
It’s not any easier without you. I don’t miss you any less. I don’t hurt any less. I don’t grieve any less.
Maybe next year, Dad.
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