A quick PSA to those of you out there suffering awkwardly through Fathers' day with the conspicuous absence of … well, a father.
I won't go into the gory details of why your father might not be with you on this special day. Maybe it's something short-term. Maybe long-term. It's possibly even a permanent reality, and I won't bother to go into the nuances of grief straight away. Just ease into the article, and maybe sit with some friends. You will probably find that you have things to discuss.
Everyone thinks that their Dad is a hero
Everyone is correct. But when I say it, I also happen to be factually accurate. (I'll get less smug in a sentence or two, don't worry)
My childhood may have been one that other people think was sad, fraught, or surrounded by tragedy, but it wasn't. It was a childhood that was very aware of just precisely how lucky I was to be surrounded by warmth.
These experiences have taught me various lessons. Some handed to me on a plate, some that I had to experience for myself.
Sometimes what you think is the light at the end of the tunnel is actually fire, and the building's falling down. Make sure you take stock of what's around you and check that the gleam in your boyfriend's eye is charming rather than 'gas-light-y'.
Green doesn't always mean go
Your father taught you to know when it is and isn't worth running into a burning building - emotionally and physically. It's incredibly hard sometimes, and sometimes there are things that you lose in that decision. But first and foremost, no matter what your intention or occupation, you must always value your life for yourself. The world needs heroes, it doesn't need people that don't have an appreciation for their own happiness.
Sometimes life is sad and people aren't actually a match (unfortunate pun) for the natural elements. Having a father in such proximity to death and danger on a daily basis is not something that was felt lightly, nor something that one ever gets used to. It ensured that I had a healthy respect for my life and an appreciation of how valuable it can be to protect the lives of other people. Saving lives is no small feat, and it's not always enough, and you just have to accept that. My father bore a burden that I really can't comprehend, so I won't bother trying to put into any more words than I already have used.
It's one of those things that you experience; you don't try to understand
It's important to always find the light in the dark - while light in the dark to my father always meant a fire or glowing embers, he always retained that it was a good thing. Not a good thing in the fire existing, but in the beauty of something burning hot and bright and energetic against what can otherwise be a dark and claustrophobic experience. As such, we must always find the light. It doesn't necessarily always guide us in the right direction, or even keep us safe. But we need the warmth to keep up going through the night. Fire isn't home for anyone, but it can represent a beacon, a ray of hope, or a warning. We would do well to heed them.
It's like losing a limb, losing a family member
I remember how bewildering it was when I lost my grandma.
My father said that he had heard enough when all the official-looking people came by to explain what happened to us. I understood what he meant, but I wonder that he didn't partially say that as a way of avoiding the emotional catharsis that he knew would come at some point. It's valid to not subject yourself to the immediate life-reckoning recognition of how your mother died. Maybe it would have been masochistic to seek it out, but that said, I still personally needed a little more information. The only problem here was that I wanted to respect his wishes, but I was also up at university while all my relatives gathered together the weekend it happened.
Yes, that was … a weekend
I gave myself permission to just sit on the floor in my dressing gown and cry in my room. I cried directionlessly and without really wrapping my brain around the fact that a death had occurred. It was really that I felt something shift in my gut. Or maybe I thought I should have felt that, but didn't really know what I was feeling. In the back of my head, I recognised that I needed to talk to someone, so I texted my friend from secondary school and sat in bed and cried a little more.
Then I went over to my best friend's flat in my pjs to hate-watch Riverdale. I walked in the door and it was warm and comfortable and there was pity in her eyes but also care. I half smiled and walked in and sat in a pile of blankets and let her talk at me for a few hours. She was reticent to let me go but I needed my own bed and she trusted me. We talked it through when I felt like it, and I let her distract me when I needed it.
But it is what it is
And here we are, on this most wholesome yet contentious of days.
To those of you out there feeling the absence of your father figure on this day.
I hear you, I see you – you are not alone.
Grieve that they aren't with you. Be thankful for who is sitting alongside you.