This is an exercise on sincerity and I may be oversharing some personal experiences. But it is what it is, given it’s on my own blog. It is about death, so if you don’t want to be reading about death, just close this window.
It’s been three years since my dad passed away. I remember that day so well.
It started with a 9am meeting discussing a project I worked on at the time. It continued with online meetings with different students, some for a seminar, some for practice. I remember my brother texted me in the afternoon, during a meeting, that things are not good and we talked, but it took me a few hours to process what it means and that I should actually get home. Unfortunately to me, it didn’t cross my mind to leave a bit early, to just go see dad.
I ended up taking a 8 pm train to my home town and my brother waited for me at the train station to tell the story again. We went to talk to mom and I don’t know if I said it out loud or not, but I remember asking rhetorically “what would we do?!”. I decided to sleep next door and my brother got me there at about 1am. When he walked home, he got the call from the hospital.
He texted me at 00:35 that dad died. We don’t text much so I still have that message. I remember how I just crumbled.
Dad was so important to me. In the few months after his passing, I stayed at home and walked around the city so much trying to adjust to the new life. There were a few turning points: curving a pumpkin with my mom on Halloween in 2020 just because I wanted to create something and feel less sadness, writing a chapter on social media and social work feeling grateful for having people in my life pushing me to work, painting a silly cup of coffee and a candle because dad liked painting, and reading I book about mourning I got from one of my best friends understanding I will need more time to heal. With time, I felt less sad and more grateful.
I was grateful for so many things, but one of them was that dad never left. Even when he fought with mom, he always stayed. He did that even though he actually had a place where to go. With time, understanding how difficult it is to have a relationship and children, I appreciated this so much. We were a handful and life was not easy.
I was grateful for our relationship when I was growing up: not only he put dial-up internet when I cried because my best friend moved to the USA on my 13th birthday in 2002, took me to Baile Felix for swimming in September after I broke my leg in 2001, but he spent so many evenings watching cartoons instead of the news or football, just so me and my brother could watch whatever we wanted.
He pushed me to do sports ever since I was 7 and completely untalented [we had running jokes about this topic], he prepared dinner and talked philosophy, politics and history with me even when I was too little to understand, he insisted I make my own decisions even when he disagreed with them [from studies to boyfriends], and cooked scrambled eggs over French fries in the morning just because I liked it. He gave me money for all sort of things I wanted to do and cooked pancakes, creme brulee and marshmallows, and plum dumplings too many times to count.
And I still remember our two last conversations, the last one in person and the last one on the phone.
There will forever be things I regret not saying or not asking, but all in all, I always felt I had a supportive father. I had such a hard time after his death accepting that I was wrong in our relationship so many times, from saying stupid things or for not caring about Math or Physics when he talked about them. But it all got a little bit more easy when I realised that I can actually make sure I put in practice the things he taught me, like ‘thinking with my mind’ or having paintings because a house without any is not a home.
I lost my interest in writing twice in my life and those were directly connected to deaths. It is true that time makes things easier, although I am considering it’s not time that changes things, but experiences that do that. I actually don’t want time to erase my memories, like the sound of my dad’s voice or how he sat on his chair, but contrary to it, I hope that I will start being less consumed by the present tasks and more connected to my memories and how things happened. Oh, the stories we write and re-write. And this is when I am disappointed in me for not keeping a more detailed journal or for not taking more pictures or for not paying more attention. But I learned that I need to live with it and enjoy what I have, when I have it.
It is not all a lesson, that’s for sure. Some things are just happening and that’s it. Sure we can find lessons in them if we really want to, but it’s a story we tell. As well as find the culprit or have an opinion on it, if it’s good or if it’s bad. We, as a society, are at times divided by it – it’s all in the beholder’s eye, isn’t it?
I may be unfair to my mother with this post, because she is great too, but fortunately for me, this is a story that is still unfolding. I do think that families are all about dynamic and we all play a part in it. But this time it’s just about dad and me because this is the story I want to tell.
Make today count.