Your mother gave you two names each, as if to expand you both so you will never feel alone, as if to add more of you to make up for the family you’ve been denied for 27 years. You know nothing about any of us, never even knew we existed. Now as I begin telling our family story, writing down the names of all those you will never know because they are no longer among us, along with those you have yet to meet, I feel like each of these people bring up a lifetime of feeling for me; feeling that you will never experience. We found each other too late.
This is not just a pity; it’s a tragedy, brought by sheer, wilful selfishness.
I am so angry on your behalf. Most of what I feel is for you. I am angry for the lies and the wanton waste and the imposed ignorance and the missed moments. All those moments. All we have are our photographs and our stories and our newly experienced pain. How can we turn this tragedy into love, family, acceptance? He wasn’t there for your firsts. He never watched you fall in love, get married, give birth. He never knew his grandchildren. He never watched you live.
He will never know what he has done.
I don’t resent you this mess. You are his legacy: two beautiful young women denied the father that every person deserves. There are so many questions. It feel like the growth of this family has only just begun.
Some of what I feel is for me too. I want to crawl back to that oblivion of childhood worship, when I believed that he was a superhuman, that he was a god, that everyone adored him. He was the substitute for a father who was never anything but a weak and angry man. He was my secret crush, my first hero. His photos are littered throughout my albums, because he is always that enigmatic figure; a person whose soul would never be touched by this superficial life. He was perfect.
Now I know that in death, he is as far away from any of us as he was in life; a knowing which all of us discovered too late. I have no truthful memories left.
All we have, at this moment in time, is tomorrow. But however many “tomorrows” we get, they will never be enough. At this time all I can do is wonder – wonder what it was like to never know your father, wonder how you felt hearing of his death, wonder if we can ever really explain him well enough for you to fall in love with his memory.
The truth is, in the end, my bitterness is also enmeshed in the lunacy, in the cliché of it all. I will have to open my mind as far as I can so that I can try to understand the decisions he made and try to reconcile my memories to the new knowledge. Maybe one day I can understand and forgive.
What saddens me the most is knowing that however wide I open these arms, however big our first smiles may be, I know that whoever is left in this family will never be a substitute for the father you never knew. We have to accept that the living will never be enough in the face of the death of one person.
Your father had two names too, a name name, and then an affectionate one: “Tizzy”. How can we explain how much he was adored and why we felt that way? How can I ever feel it again?