Happy Birthday, Dearest One

I came from a dysfunctional family. Never in my whole life did I see my parents hold hands or hug each other. Never in my whole life did I feel an atmosphere of love between them. If there’s any word that described my father and my mother’s relationship, it’s animosity.

My father’s long-standing contempt for my mother evaded my full understanding. But then, he’s a complicated man. If he had only chosen to reverse things, my mother would have welcomed the change. For sure. And we wouldn’t have been all so broken.

Our family became divided. My sister and my brother secretly allied themselves with our mother. Since I had adored my father from the start, my devotion could only belong to him. I also grew up in the undercurrent of favoritism in our house. My father gave my sister, the eldest, total authority over me and my younger brother — which at her young age at the time she misused. My father was old school who wouldn’t accept any form of defiance or reasoning justifying sibling squabbles. He insisted that the underlings always bow to the elder ones–unconditionally. Having my own mind engendered me to break that dictum and I was, as a consequence, dealt with harshly. A practice that went beyond my discernment throughout my young and adult life. The most sensible explanation I could draw from it: My sister was just fortunate to have it all.

And so resentments toward each other took shape and dragged on for years and years. So did my feelings of isolation and lack of self-esteem. In spite of my deep love for my father, I ended up with laid-out reasons for keeping my distance, especially in later years. I thought: Well, I was never his favorite. The best I could ever get was become third best to him, maybe second — on a rare lucky day. It’s always been my sister and, subsequently, his favorite granddaughter. Oh wow, I guess no one can expect anything from me now.

I was bitter.

And so foolish.

In his 80s, the drinking started. My father got himself a tiny glass he would ask to be filled with some alcohol — which he would gulp down every five minutes. I asked him to stop. My brother and sister told me to let our father have it his way in his remaining years. There was more to it than that, I realized. My father who had been so mighty and disciplined all his life had totally given up.

Thus began the most crushing period of my existence. To escape from reality, I began clinging to anything or anyone who could temporarily pull me away from my pain. For unexplainable reasons, I also lost interest in developing or preserving meaningful friendships, or in relying on people around me. Work and more work occupied me; so did malling, recreation, and later, hanging around in my newfound Eden – where it’s easy to forget one’s actual realm – the blogworld.

I guess I wanted to be happy, too, even for a few brief spells. My circumstances kept lingering on my mind; it was just too heartbreaking to lend them anything more than my physical presence.  Yet in the face of losing a dearest one, nobody and nothing could prepare you to what lies ahead.

***

The evening of December 31, 2012, my mother called to persuade me to spend New Year’s Eve at her house. I declined. I chose to spend my most favorite moment of the year with my father. For the last time.

The midnight of December 31 2012, my father was taking his very last breaths — and I didn’t even know. I was already in the hospital, with my son, but at the time was watching the dazzling fireworks through the many windows along the corridors of the ICUs.

5:30 a.m: I was outside his room on a bench, trying to get a little sleep, when the nurse alarmingly informed me my father had just stopped breathing. No, No, No…

I went totally beside myself.

Walking home that morning after his remains were taken away, everything inside of me seemed to be slipping into another state. I couldn’t tell what or where; it was indescribable. There was this hollowness, numbness… and a sense of being more than half dead inside. The feeling stayed with me for a long while. I went about my daily business in mechanical mode. I still do, most of the time.

Whatever. It doesn’t matter much anymore.

***

January 1 has always been my most favorite time of the year. Watching the spectacular fireworks in the sky on New Year’s Eve is a personal tradition I’ve cherished since childhood. The question that has stayed with me: Why did my father have to go at that time of the year?

January 1, 2014 was the first anniversary of his death. I sat on the grass, at midday, where my father had been buried. He had chosen this beautiful memorial park for his final resting place. I sat all afternoon and stayed until the sun set. Until dim shadows completely expanded across the heavens. I still couldn’t bring myself to leave.

Suddenly, a display of fireworks, coming from some places inside the park, began lighting up the sky. Colors danced and exploded, presenting quite an awesome sight. It didn’t occur to me park visitors celebrate in such manner on the first night of New Year. Perhaps father chose to die on that special day, so it wouldn’t be so sad a day for me spending time with him at his gravesite.

The pyrotechnics ceased an hour later; I stood up and started my way home. It was already 8:30 p.m…. I thought, “This will be an annual observance from now on–for the rest of my life.”

Because the only person who has ever loved me is now six feet under the ground.

***

Perhaps his heart had my sister consistently occupying the prime spot — prior to the falling out that put a serious dent between them. In the last periods of his life, my father did let me know his appreciation for the little things I had done for him. He told me I was his best child. And in his last months, he even told me I was the one he loved the most.

In the throes of my father’s death, he and I found each other once more.

My sister and I had a talk earlier this year. I expressed my wish that when I die, part of my ashes — some part will be given to my son to be scattered at any sea of his choice — will be buried right beside where my father lays peacefully. I want to be with him in the end. It gives me a certain peace that, somehow, my father and I will be together again.

***

Happy Birthday, dearest one. I love you so much. 

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