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 'gaslight-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.
But also… life and death come for us at different stages in our lives. Does that change how we deal with grieving about it?
It was bound to happen sometime, you remind yourself. She was old, objectively. Most people would be mighty impressed if they made it to 92 years old. There were no two ways about it, your grandma had a great life. It's not often that a person can say they've lived through a World War and the closest the world has come since to nuclear catastrophe. She has seen the rise and fall, and rise again of the Soviet Union.
The most I can say is that I've seen the rise, fall, and triumphant return of flared jeans and Taylor Swift. One of those is more culturally significant than the other; I'll let you work out which.
But the unfortunate next port of call I have to acknowledge is the use of past tense in that sentence. My grandma passed away last year, and it was a time of bewildering emotions and thinking that I was fine. Why is it that we always think we're the exception to Feeling Things and emotional reactions? We're not, we're all human, and we all grieve in different ways.
My father said that he had heard enough when the official people explained what happened
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 recognized that I needed to talk to someone, so I texted my friend from secondary school and sat on the 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 things happen. Life isn't something that only I am facing.
It is what it is
That doesn't mean I'm over it. These aren't hurdles. They're just emotions that I have to wear in like a pair of mountain boots.
Untangle and tie yourself together for a day.
One day at a time.