My dad died when I was in my twenties. He died quite suddenly. Not that it would have made a difference if it wasn’t sudden. I wasn’t a Dylan Thomas imploring him to not go gentle into the good night. I wasn’t going to tell him to rage, rage against the dying of the light. You see, I wasn’t really talking much to him those days.
Dad and I weren’t fighting, but we weren’t pally either. He’d call me often, trying to talk. He’d try to strike up conversations on topics that he thought I’d be interested in. But somehow, it didn’t quite feel natural or as much fun talking to him as it did talking to others with whom I could connect more — other twenty-somethings mainly. Sometimes, I’d even annoy him on purpose or have closure-less arguments so that he’d scale back on his attempts to get closer to me. But he’d try and break through each time to put me in positions where I’d have to talk. And then I’d inevitably mumble short and quick responses, monosyllabic if I could make them.
And then in my late thirties when I was trying to relate to my own son, suddenly, I started to miss Dad dearly. Regret is the most pernicious pathogen that could infect your mind.
I thought of Dad often, and agonised about all those moments when he had tried to reach out to me and I’d shut him out. I swore that I’d never let that happen to my son. I understand that 20 is not the best age to hang out with your parents, but I should let my son know that I understand that. And that I don’t begrudge him for it. And most of all, that he has nothing to regret for shutting me out of his life every now and then for I know that he loves me even though he doesn’t say it.
I must have gone to sleep thinking about this. Dad appeared in my dream holding a photo. I remember that photo. It was me at 5 months old. He was holding me up against the blue sky and smiling at me. Somehow that 2D photo seemed to spring to life in his hands. It was like I could reach into it and look young Dad in the eye. I was, for an instant, the little me in the photo. And then at that moment Dad spoke to my 5 month old self.
“You see”, he said “I love you very much. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that I love you at this moment or that moment. I love you wholesomely. Timelessly.
And that means I loved you yesterday, I love you today and I’ll love you tomorrow. Since my love for you is timeless, so is yours for me. It doesn’t matter if you’re too young to love me now as I do you. It doesn’t matter if for some years, many years, you hate me with a passion. I know that your love for me is abiding and that you will feel it one day. Whether I’m around to receive it personally or not is irrelevant.
Since I love you wholesomely, and since my love is timeless, I don’t need you to love me back this instant or that instant. You have your whole life to love me. One moment of your love for me any time at all would obliterate all your anger towards me like a supernova that outshines an entire galaxy during its brief life.
So you see, you have already paid me back for my love for you. Anything more I get is a bonus. By your very existence you have loved me back as much as I have you.
Rest easy, my dear.”
I love you, Dad. And you were right.
I have always loved you.