Monday, September 11, 2006

My Dad’s Birthday: Imagined Conversations and Unfinished Business

Entry for 9 September 2006, started while listening on Radio Scotland to the Last Night of the Proms concert broadcast live from Glasgow Green (“ that their fathers loved”):

Today is my dad’s birthday. It is the first one since he died this past March. He would have been 79. He would have noted, with pride, that 79 is a prime number and I would have agreed with him that prime numbers have special significance. We would have talked for a while on the phone, not long probably, because he usually got restless if you talked to him on the phone for more than 10 minutes. I would have reported on my new life here in Scotland. I would have talked about how exciting the new possibilities are here, for me already overshadowing the many inconveniences and minor hardships. If I had thought of it, I might have told him about seeing the statue of William of Orange – one of his heroes -- this afternoon in the Cathedral Garden, where it was been moved to keep it from being abused by the Catholic population around the Glasgow Cross area. He would have been amused by this. We might have reminisced about our travels through Scotland together in 1985. Judging from my state of mind, this probably would have been one of those conversations where I did most of the talking, only afterwards realizing that I had forgotten to ask him much more than how he was doing and how he felt about being 79.

That is often how it went. It was always better to talk to him in face-to-face, and to hang out with him as he did things. But the phone calls were good anyway, if always a bit unsatisfying. I miss him, I miss his solidity, his humor, his politics, his dreams. I miss the sound of his voice, even his cough. I miss the way he collected things, especially music; the image of his working away at the many chores at Murray Creek; and the companionship he provided to my mother. Selfishly, I miss having a father. I find myself wishing I could talk to him in the way that my mom seems to be able to continue to do, but I don’t seem to have that gift, or something, so I just miss him.

If I were my therapist, I would ask me, what I do need from him, right now? It seems a silly question to ask a 56-year-old man, what he needs from his da’, but there you have it. I guess I’d have to say that I’d want him (you) to know that it’s going to work out OK for me here, in Scotland, in my new life, not to worry about me. I know you’ve been worried about me for the past 3 years, and that you’ve helped me by listening, by giving legal advice, by using your shamanic training to find me a power animal (an arctic wolf), and in general by believing in me when I was filled with doubts. Now I am starting over, and although you knew I had the job, you didn’t live long enough to see me safely out of harm’s way and into my new life. I do miss that and I’m really sorry you aren’t here to share the excitement. But what I really need is to tell you that you don’t have to worry about me anymore, that you don’t have to carry that wherever you are, because I’m going to be OK. In fact, I’m going to have the time of my life! So thanks for all you’ve done, and please continue to keep my mom company. And know that I love you.

And my therapist would say, OK, can you imagine a response from him? What would he say back to you? It’s clear to me that he would say that he knows that I am doing fine and what a great opportunity it is, that he wishes he could come visit us here. That he loves me, and, oh yes, he is happy to continue to keep company with my mom. Also that I don’t really need to grieve for him, because he is OK and he is with me always, in my mind, in my heart, and in my life here, in the land of our ancestors. So go in peace and remember him as I go about my life here, because I carry him in me, and all my ancestors.

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