It was 2012 and my father lay dying. By the time I got home he was dead. My eldest son almost made it to the hospital in time. He called me as soon as he got there.
I broke the news to my other two sons and we cried. I have to admit I was slightly bemused by my tears. I never felt the same attachment to my parents which other friends of mine seemed to feel to theirs. We were never a close family from an emotional point of view. My mother was the affectionate one and far more likely than my father to dish out random hugs and kisses. My father tolerated affection under duress.
As I write this post I am trying to remember any time my father, of his own volition, gave me a hug or put his arm around my shoulders. I cannot. After I moved interstate, whenever I visited I would greet him with a hug and kiss and he would momentarily pat my back before retreating into his own space. Even my mother’s arms could not encircle him for more than a few seconds before he gently pushed her away, stating “OK, now that’s enough!”
So, why my tears?
Years ago, but well after the birth of my eldest son, it dawned on me I was becoming more and more emotional. I could cry at anything. From watching tragedy unfold on the news at night, to the sight of a mother playing with her children in the park, the tears would rise up and, despite my best efforts, they soon trickled alongside my nose. It was embarrassing. I did however, discover the same thing happened to all of my friends who were also mothers. We surmised pregnancy had somehow changed our emotional make up, leaving us soggy with tears at the most ridiculous moments. I found pregnancy, or perhaps motherhood, also tends to leave one with strange reactions to everyday things, like gagging while brushing your teeth, or opening your mouth while watching someone feed their toddler. And, at fifty-five, I still find myself rocking back and forth if I stand in one place long enough.
Which explains the bulk of my tears. But some were for you Dad. Despite your faults and your constant lectures, at times you were there for me. Those are the times I like to remember. Before I became a teenager you would occasionally take me out to dinner or a movie. And later, in my teens, there were a few times we lingered at the kitchen table chatting about random topics while Mom washed the dishes. I cannot recall what we talked about, although I know once or twice I probed you for details of your childhood, but I do remember communicating instead of arguing, for a change.
There is no longer an opportunity to communicate with you Dad, or even to argue. Despite often hearing your words in my head; not in the “hearing voices” way, more in knowing exactly what you would say in any given situation; you are no longer there to say them. There are no more possibilities to build a new relationship with you, or even repair the old one. No more chances to say “I’m sorry” or “I love you”.
And that is why I cry.