I didn’t have an old man until a few years ago. Some tender moments of wisdom shared with fleeting father figures; with taxi drivers, in hardware stores. Everyone else’s dad always laughing at my jokes. I looked for my dad for years; in hard work, and in shame and in seeking approval. He wasn’t in any of those places. He never showed up.
Fathers day’s a weird day when you don’t have one. When you have a mother who stood up and stood in. Who raised you completely and in spite of how hard it was for your heart to blossom in the long shadow of someones absence. I fell in love with what I didn’t have. Chased that, hard. Trying to cast sparks from stones I could get no blood from. Though every day she loved me. Loyally. And every birthday there was a party and presents and a cake that looked like a pony. And I was sneaking out before the sun, checking the mailbox in secret, in shame, for word from him. Something to say, I’m happy you’re alive. I acknowledge you. But nothing came. Though I checked every hour until bed. And every year until I was an adult. I don’t check anymore.
Yesterday, on Father’s Day, my Dad picks me up for dinner. We couldn’t look more different. His accent tells a story of how far he’s traveled to be with us; how important we must be for him to do that. And we get souvlakis though they’re not the same as when he was young, in Athens. And we talk about missing home even when you’re in it; all those places you can’t return to. The geography of disaster. The importance of garlic. And we’re laughing. When we get home, to the house he shares with my mother, everything he does for her is love, love, love. From where he parks the car, to how he holds her in conversation. Every day he loves her. Loyally. He’s always thinking of her. People don’t realise how special that is, to be in someone’s thoughts. You really feel it when you’re not.
I cut my finger last week, making the lunches. Trying, trying, trying to get everything done. And last night, at nearly 31, my Dad said ‘oh, darling!’ when I showed him. And got up from the dinner table to put a plaster on the cut. To address the wound. To show me he cares that I’m hurting. And I commit this all to memory, the best way I know how. I write it down. These love letters; to myself; to you.
I’m thinking of you.
A happy Father’s Day.