‘I’m so proud of you.’
Five words I barely hear these days.
Five words that would have killed the need to prove myself.
Five words to assure that it didn’t matter what I did, I was special. But I can’t remember when you last said them to me.
Today, I said those words to the little girl. She was performing her first song in front of thousands and I knew she was nervous. My heart nearly burst with pride when I saw her smile under the glare of the spotlights. That was my girl. She didn’t sing perfectly, neither did she remember every little thing she was taught or had been practising but it didn’t matter. She enjoyed herself today and to me, that was the most important thing I wanted her to walk away with.
What did you want me to walk away from life’s experiences with, dear Daddy? I don’t think you ever told me.
But I can tell you how your very person has been inked indelibly into my daily choices.
I remember you lifting me up into the air when I was a toddler, suspending me in that place of slight fear before letting go, and catching me just before I hit the ground. I loved that adrenaline rush as a child, and have since been searching for that same feeling in everything I do.
I remember falling down and scraping my knee. You never ran to pick me up. Instead, you stood a distance away and looked at me, willing me to get up on my own. Sometimes it hurt but you waited, and watched. ‘Life is cruel,’ you once said, ‘And we need to learn to stand on our own.’
I remember you going out for your early evening run, taking me along with you. The first few times around the park, you left me behind while you did your rounds but I told myself, one day, I’d catch up with you. And I finally did, didn’t I? Except… it didn’t feel as great as I had anticipated because you weren’t interested in running anymore. You said your body was old and falling apart.
I remember going to McDonald’s with you, sharing a single pack of fries and eating it with garlic chilli. I still eat my fries that way. Nothing has changed. Same chilli, same fries.
I remember how you took the time to explain the mechanics of electronic equipment with me. I repaired my first video player before I was ten, followed by a cassette player… but these things are rarely used these days. Still, whenever I see an antique piece of equipment, I am mesmerized by the wires, bolts and beauty of engineering, even if I don’t always understand how it works.
I remember how you holed yourself up when you grew emotionally distraught, once sleeping in your car for several days. You turned to your nightcaps and called brandy your only friend. I tried to get you to stop drinking by writing you letters, making you posters, giving you medical research to read… but you didn’t hear me. It didn’t matter that your daughter needed you then. You couldn’t see past your disappointments in life to the love that surrounded you. You began an affair and rarely stayed home. You withdrew deeper into yourself and then…
I don’t remember you anymore.
But I found myself becoming what I had seen.
And I didn’t like it at all.
I left home and when I started my own family, I invited you to visit. The first day I saw you with my little girl… I began remembering, except… this time, I didn’t feel the hurt.
I saw a man who handled his grandchild with tenderness. I saw a father who nurtured in his children a deep hunger for learning and new experiences. I saw you as a person – one with emotional needs, riddled with faults, strong in his character, made wiser with experience. I had finally stopped expecting you to father me and in that moment, I began to understand your journey…
And everything that happened in the past didn’t matter anymore.
So what if you weren’t the perfect father? So what if you were human? You are mine and I’m happy to be your daughter.
I’m so proud of you.