Dearest Daddy aka The Old Black Man
You have been dead for 6 months now. And whenever I think of you my heart blooms and I choke up a bit, but not because I am sad. I sat with a friend a few weeks ago and she said, ‘Can you imagine who we would have been if our parents taught us to believe in ourselves? Man, we could take on the damn world…’
I thought about that this morning as I sat on the grass and looked at the home you and Mummy built together, brick by brick. You prepared me for this world Old Man, but only by dying. It was as though you kept the best for last. When I was small you taught me a lesson you were forced to learn as a young black man living in apartheid South Africa. You have to depend on yourself. And you did a damn good job, educating yourself the way you did, learning everything there was to learn hands on. And so I grew up thinking the same. That I was in this thing called life. Alone.
I carried that aloneness with me throughout most of my life. Seeking solace in book, music or men. And then I came home and saw your decline, day by day for almost 4 years. I saw my strong father losing his legs, the might of his hands but never quickness of his mind. I heard your voice become thinner and saw your eyes forever searching the sky for answers, when you could no longer command your body.
In those last years every wrong and hurtful word and thing you ever did was not only forgotten but forgiven. Thrown into the bright light of the sun, old man.
And so I learnt the lesson, the gift forced on you. You needed our help and we needed yours. We needed you. Your love, you simply being there.
You prepared me to face the best parts of my life, that which is here-now, by dying Old Man. I know what the warmth of family, of Love itself means and how it heals. And I know how to give love and never be afraid of it running out. You’ll be glad to know I am gentler with my own daughter also. All I do is listen and try to hold space. That’s another thing I know you got in your last year alive. You held space just by showing up and making snarky comments or telling a dirty joke!
They say that women gravitate to men who embody the qualities of their Father, for better or worse. I know this one true thing only now Daddy. The next man I love comes with characteristics you have, as a minimum requirement. A brilliant mind, a love for learning, nature, adventure, bravery…and an open heart unafraid to show they were wrong. Mummy loves the letters you wrote to her, as do I. You were a romantic until the end.
Thank you for being my Father. For walking beside me. Still. Always. See you on the other side Old Man.