So about 14 months ago my world exploded. And now that it is my second father’s day without a father, I am almost ready to put some words on this blog about this loss.
I have written about so much here. Old loves. Other bereavements. Happy things. Sad things. But never my dad, never this. My blog is 5 years old! It is my life scrapbook, and yet its missing something huge.
The loss of a parent becomes a dividing line in someone’s life. You realise there is a secret world out there, a club that you have become a member of without realising. Now in the world there are only those who ‘get it’ and those who don’t. The anguish I felt at my own ignorance for my friends who had also lost parents, how little real empathy I had had – I wanted to call them all and apologise. The fact is this: no one gets it until you lose one too.
And yet, ironically when you become a member of ‘the club’ you never would want such an apology. You’d never wish the pain on your worst enemy and you only want to hold the hand of one who was suffering. When all of it happened I spent a hellish 24 hours trying to figure out how to get a flight out of Addis Ababa to Canada to get to my family. My lovely and sweet driver whispered to me, as we waited for the Lufthansa office to open at 8am in those first hours: I lost both my parents. I grew up in an orphanage. I am sorry.
At the time I felt conflicted – he was extending sympathy, and yet I somehow felt spoiled at 29, having both parents and only threatened with losing one. How easy my life was. His sentiment, of course, was simple. No one should have to go through this, but I have been there too. And it was comfort.
Not everyone’s reactions have been that easy. An ex-friend, who at best I’d had a petty disagreement with de-friended me on facebook and refused our mutual friend’s urgings to simply contact me to acknowledge my loss. For months, many friends would cry immediately upon seeing me. I was so accustomed to my grief I rarely cried when it seemed the right time, but the sight of me was a trigger for many and their sadness bubbled to the surface.
I often looked in the mirror and wondered: can people see it? do I look different? Tears upon sight didn’t help to alleviate this worry. I took perverse pleasure in making lists in my head of people who were going through worse hells than mine. Madeline McCann’s family. Anyone whose relatives had been murdered.
And now I find myself an orphan to those societal benchmarks I never found a ‘big deal’ previously. I am a father’s day orphan and as the stores fill with merchandise and people share what they will do, I think of my father and my loss and I realise this was always happening for so many in the world and I never realised it.
But I am so happy to be the type of orphan I am. I had a wonderful father for 29 years. I was so loved and I never questioned it – I never had to. I feel such solidarity for my fellow orphans who don’t have these assurances. Those who never knew their fathers. Those fathers who failed them, betrayed them or ignored them. On Sunday I’ll be thinking of you.