My father is a man of many talents. He was a mechanical engineer and moved to various countries within Europe in his early 20s. I was always amazed by his ability to speak multiple languages and his once masculine figure only acted reinforce my perceptions that he was, at least in my youth, a powerhouse of energy and strength.
It has almost been 8 years since I last lived in a house with him and now the warmth that I once felt for him has diminished and we have become nothing but estranged to each other. I know my father through the stories told by my mother, or, through fragments of memories which creep back into the forefront of my mind in a rather unpredictable manner. Sometimes I might be drinking a cup of tea and reading a book and I’ll remember the time when he taught me how to ride a bicycle. I remember very vividly asking him to not let go of the bicycle. I assumed that he was running behind me the entire time, but by the time I got to the end of the driveway I realised he was gone. His absence in my life is all pervasive.
For so long he has been absent. From graduating high school to getting admission into a University. To travelling around Europe solo or getting a boyfriend. All the significant moments I’ve had in my very short life, he has been absent. The coldness left behind is a great contrast to the picture I put in this post. There is no warmth. The lack of his presence, however, does leave room for my imagination to work its magic. I can conjure him up to be anything in my head. It is only in my imagination that I feel close to him. It is only in my fragmented memories where I feel I have someone to call “dad”.
After his stroke in late 2017, and seeing him in early 2018, did my perception of him change drastically. The once strong man which I had seen as a child, then changed into someone who was grey-haired, wrinkled and disheveled. His fragility was astonishing and seeing him that way made me feel as if all the air in my body had left. The amount of care and compassion I feel for this old man is also inherently intwined with feelings of resentment and frustration. These mixed emotions aside, I know I cannot reject this part of myself. I am apart of him, and he is in me. I am stubborn like he is, maybe I even love studying as much as he did. By all the books in the family home, I assume so.
The is an ambiguous figure. As my mind tries to decipher what all these fragmented memories mean I also attempt to learn to accept that this relationship cannot be remedied. Like glass, our relationship was already precarious and fragile. Now broken, the pieces are scattered everywhere and some cannot be found. However, he lives in my memories from my childhood. When I am transported back into them, he is the vibrant man I once called dad.