To My Father On His Birthday
My dearest Achan,
Eighteen years have passed and more, since Death took you by the hand and led you away. That moment of realisation that you had departed is still so clear, so breath-stealing these many years on. And yet. And yet I can no longer remember the exact quality of your voice, the timbre of your laugh. Memories of you are slideshows, short films that play in my imagination; you are animated, vividly coloured, laughing and larger than life.
If I allow my thoughts to go to that point in time, I feel the breath constrict in my lungs. But I rarely allow my thoughts to stray that way. Instead, I stoically wear the cloak of emotion, feel its weight hunching my shoulders. I choke down the lump in my throat, I induce a numbness, or as near as I can manage.
Each year, on the days leading up to the day of your death, and your birthday, I fall into a funk. A deep moroseness overcomes me. Some years, I’m busy with life and children and a hundred other distractions, I fail to notice the date clicking inexorably closer to another milestone. The feelings flood over me, but I don’t stop to acknowledge why. I pick and worry at the trailing threads of lethargy, wondering at its cause, not making the connection.
Some years, it’s not till late in the day that it occurs to me why I’ve been so out of sorts, so burdened.
Some years, my days are quiet, I’m self aware, I can feel the creep of time, the waves of sadness washing over me. This year, is one of those years. For days now, I’ve felt a dread chill moving toward me. The memories of all the births and birthdays missed, the parties you would have revelled in, weigh on my shoulders. I don’t sleep much as my mind turns and sorts the grains of wishes and thoughts, looking for the how-it-could-have-beens that are never to be.
I see you in my children, you know. A look, a walk, a mannerism of speech, a sense of humour, a quick wittedness. It’s fleeting, a mere glimpse of you, but it’s there.
I look for you in me. That turn of phrase, was it yours? The anxiety over deadlines and timelines, did you pass that on to me? The rigid sense of justice must surely be from you.
In a million million ways I try to hold on to you. I write of you, I write your adventures into the characters of my fiction. I talk about you, the particular ways in which I knew you, to the children, to anyone who’ll listen really.
I know this restlessness, this ennui will pass. I know life will return to its usual patterns and predictable events. But for today, I’ll remember the sweet, funny moments, the sad, vulnerable moments, and I’ll celebrate.