It is almost 25 years since my dad died. Late on a Sunday evening. Father’s Day weekend has never been the same since – not just for his absence but for the anniversary it tugs cruelly, commercially (all those cards), to the fore.
I was 19. He wasn’t even 50. Mum was 44.
The age I am now.
It’s true, despite my derision then – my disbelief – of what sounded like outlandish, platitudinous, insensitive cliché: Life really does go on. It goes on and it overtakes you. You don’t think it will at the time; at the time you think life is going to stop, stand still.
And it does. For a bit. Just for you, time is briefly arrested so that you don’t notice its passage as you scramble amongst the fallout garnering the pieces of your little world, blown to bits. For days or weeks or months the Earth rests unmoving on its axis. As if a child who’s been madly spinning the inflated globe in the corner of a classroom halts it with the tip of a finger, and dents Japan. Or Tuvalu. Or an African Outpost.
You cannot conceive of a future. Of tomorrow. You can’t even think about what to eat for lunch.
But it’s only your world that’s stopped spinning, everybody else’s is still busily rotating and evolving, and you can’t stay where you are forever. In limbo. Hobbled by the pain. Stop the World I want to Get Off. You can’t: you have to gather your wits, get some sleep, pick up the reins and get going again. Nobody’s going to wait for you.
Time waits for no man.
And it’s hard not to feel disloyal then: when you do begin to get on with the business of living: it’s hard not to feel as if you’re leaving the Dead behind.
Except that you aren’t.
Because you’re struck, twenty five years after the fact, that they’ve been gone for longer than you knew them and yet there’s still this hole. Closure is but a Band Aid; the sadness keeps bubbling over the top, it spills impolitely around the edges: anniversaries, photographs, the sound of a voice, the fleeting shadow of your dad’s smile across your son’s face. Father’s Day.
I posted a card to him in the days before he died. When I got home – after the news, after too many sleepless miles, half way around the world – when I got home, the first thing I did was rifle through the mail on his desk. Some was opened. Some wasn’t.
My card was.
My dad’s not here to send cards to anymore.
But my children’s dad is.
And that’s a good thing; that’s cause for celebration.
Because life goes on.