It’s almost Father’s Day. A funny day, where we’d have tempted you with soap on a rope, socks and silly mugs. The last Father’s Day-like moment I had with you was the day you met your first grandchild up close (she was born on Father’s Day that year), and I gave you beanies to keep your head warm. Your hair was thinning. No, let’s be honest. It was falling out. That big, tough bush of hair that I seem to have inherited was withering away a little as your sickness progressed, and you’d texted me to say your head was cold. I tried to fix it.
A few weeks later, I’d get those beanies back. I held them against my cheek and I could still smell your hair, even though I’d just walked into our house to be with mum, because you’d just left the planet. I stuffed them into my bag, and kept them. I didn’t wash them for a year. I’d just hold them every now and then.
But then Winter came around again and I looked at them. I realised, you’d want me to wear them. I think of you when I hear this song, and it rings in my head each time I put those beanies on. You wouldn’t want me to be cold, you’d want me to be warm, in Winter.
Which is why I’m not going to be without you today. I’m not going to feel your absence, but, rather, celebrate the idea that – somehow – you’re still here.
You used to say our genes are our legacy. That our DNA is what is our afterlife, and that the little pieces of you that live on beyond your body are what continues you. I agree with you on that front, for a lot of reasons.But, Dad, it’s not just that. It’s more. Sometimes, life brings you back to me and it’s not DNA.
Have I told you about the Shmoo? I have, I know, but I don’t think I’ve told you this part.
You see, the Shmoo and I have been together now for what seems like a lifetime and feels like just a day. He puts up with me, he takes care of me (most especially when I don’t want to be) and he listens when I gabble off twelve million ideas of how I’d like to save the world but will never actually fulfil. He is tolerant (an essential strength), patient, kind and supportive without question.
But, Dad, I gave him uphill when we first started taking an interest in each other. I was all walls, spikes and boundaries. I was needy and aloof all at the same time and I did a lot to deter him. He took the “deter” as just an abbreviation for “determination”.
Slowly, he worked away at my walls. He didn’t push them over and ignore them, he just sat on the other side of them and talked to me through a little hole he’d chipped away at for a while.
And then, well, you know how I went to Cape Town for a bit and he took me to dinner and seemed weird, and the next night he came over with cake and Post-It Note.
And that’s how he started loving me, and I, him.
One afternoon, while we were sitting on the steps of my house as your first grandchild pranced around the garden, looking for fairies and we were talking (we’re always talking. it’s like we have a continuing conversation that started on MSN messenger some near five years ago and hasn’t even quite got to the point of the debate yet. We’re still talking about the weather, if one were to compare our continuing conversation to the millions of conversations that start across the globe every day).
I can’t quite remember who mentioned fireflies. It could’ve been C, it could’ve been the Shmoo, it could have been me. But, just as it was mentioned, he instantly quipped:
I wish I was a glow worm, a glow worm’s never glum. ‘Cos how can you be grumpy, when the sun shines out your bum!
I remember looking at him, startled. Somewhere, I think, you looked at the scene and cackled. That was the rhyme you would send me when I had a bad day at work, or I needed a cheer up. Once, you printed it out for me and stuck it on my desk when I was studying at home and feeling bleak about some heartbreak. You’d email it to me when I was crabby, and when I just wanted to be left alone. Somewhere, in the swathes of papers I have kept from my life, is that printout.
There is no way on the planet he could’ve known that, and yes, perhaps it was some funny coincidence. Things like that just happen. But, Dadadad, that was the day I knew I could lean. So I leant. I’ve been leaning for a long time now.
As time went on, and the Shmoo became a more permanent, rather than transitory, fixture of our every day life, so C began to rely on him. He became the third parent and, in that first year, he really got put through his paces. As we started living life as a trio, so life changed. So life threw family emergencies, loss and tears at us. But we were strong. So strong, that we could combat so much more. C began to lean on him too.
We live in a little townhouse now, together. Each morning, I wake the two of them up with their respective tea and coffee, and start the day. They then zoot off to school and work, and, every day, as I wave them goodbye, I grin.
They are a little club, you see. Where boring old mom is responsible for providing the snacks but… “really, mom, go do something else, we’re fine”. They go on adventures together. They laugh and talk and are silly together.
As time’s moved on, I’m not the only one C confides in. She feels safe to be herself, express her emotions and communicate her ideas with him. When they are skylarking around the house, and I hear her squeak with giggles, I think of “sweetiessssss!” and laugh to myself. When it’s the end of the day and she snuggles her head into his shoulder and we talk about our days, I think of sitting next to you on the couch.
And there, Dadadadad, I find you in our days. I found you as I leant, as C leant, and as we built this life together. I find you in my every day, and not just my DNA.
Thank you, for teaching me that rhyme. For every time you sent it to me, and for every time you stuck it in front of my face. Thank you, Dadadad, for it’s that rhyme that led me home.
Happy Father’s Day. I hope there’s whiskey and very loud music. But, most of all, I hope you see the glow-worm.