Friday, 17 October 2014

Bereavement, Befuddlement and Bafflement

This is a pretty dark theme for an opening blog, but it is also something that I really need to get off my chest. I'm sure a million successful endeavours have started this way, and a billion more unsuccessful endeavours started with a rant and were left in the dust.

I had someone close to me pass away from suicide. Almost seven months ago, my father lost his struggle with depression.

This blog isn't an obituary or an apology for the things that should have been said. I might write one of those in the future. This is about something I didn't expect as a daughter dealing with the passing of her father.

First of all, not once in my father's time did I call him "My Father". I never respectfully asked "Please father, can you pass the salt?" and when I found his body I didn't cry out "oh Father why!" It was always Dad. The short, familiar title that fits equally well in a whine or a shout. Or more commonly "Hey Dad?" "Hay? That's what horses eat." Always with the Dad jokes.

My father and I were close. In the last couple of years we had grown past a Parental Guidance relationship and I can say we were genuinely friends. Friends where one person had all the authority, knowledge and skills. As far as I was concerned my father could fix anything, except broken hearts. Somehow we never became comfortable talking about my relationships. Probably because I know he considered every boy I'd ever brought home not to be good enough for me. The day he passed, I finally said aloud what I had admitted to myself a long time ago. The perfect relationship would be a mirror image of that I had with my father. One where we travelled together, sat in comfortable silence, shouted at TV and argued about politics.

Shortly after he passed away, I sat down at 5:30 pm with a cup of tea and a scotch finger biscuit to watch Millionaire Hot Seat. It was one of our habits every week night, unless the cricket was on. We had seen enough re-runs that we could remember who won each episode within the first couple of questions. Watching that episode I could hold both sides of that conversation and pretending for a short while that things hadn't changed.

But despite this closeness. Despite spending a minimum of three hours a night in each others company. Despite trusting him to always have the right answer, or be willing to help me find it. Despite being so comfortable that we could move around the kitchen both making breakfast without ever getting in the others way. Despite such closeness and harmony, since he passed I always think of him as "My Father".

It is not intentional distancing. I don't want to forget my father. But some undeniable survival instinct has kicked in, and I find myself struggling to remember my father's face, his voice, or his laugh. I can't remember the last words he said to me, but I can remember the tone. Despite the fear that I would never forget the slightest detail of the moment when I found his body, it's all a great blur (as the cliché goes).

I expect that one day when I can think the name "Dad" without the tears welling up, maybe I'll remember the rest as well. Maybe not. Perhaps it's better to say that I hope one day I will remember him clearly, without need photos to jog my memory. And I hope to remember him well.

This isn't the blog I intended to write. Finding myself unable to clearly recall my father isn't a hugely surprising part of bereavement. Once I started writing this is what came out though, and the topic I planned to cover deserves it's own entry.

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