To my father, before I forget

DECEMBER 12 — My father is ill. He pretends he really isn’t, but those are the words of a father telling his daughter nothing is wrong.

Which as any child can tell you, is a sign something is definitely wrong.

I am sure it annoys him more than anything to feel physically weak; this is after all a man who gave his secretary a long lecture on the dangers of sugar and diabetes when she got him a hot drink, unbidden.

My father is just human, and no human likes being reminded of that thing we call mortality.

I hope, at least, my father does not think his children think less of him or feel anything like pity. He is, and always will be, our Pa. Stoic, sharp of mind and wit, a veritable polyglot who teaches himself languages for fun, and has more willpower and backbone than some men I’ve met combined.

He is, and always will be, the best man I know. 

I have seen my friends deal with losing their closest family, so with each birthday I knew that would be my reality soon enough.

When I lost my grandmother, I mourned for a week. As I would tell people, my grandmother could not be more or less proud of me — for just having being born. Her love was strong, and it was enduring, much as she was.

The best and worst bits of me are mostly my father’s. He taught me to love the written word and had me read Russian literature when most children were still on fairytales. The bad bit is, of all his seven children, I was the one who inherited his temper.

I still re-read Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita which my father made me read as a child though it went entirely over my head at the time. Little me mostly liked the talking cat and hoped Pontius Pilate could be with his friend again. 

Yet that book has in many ways defined the path I took in life. The Master was an important book — its quote “Manuscripts don’t burn” proved to be a rallying cry for other Russian artists and writers during a time when they faced constant government purview and persecution.

A review of The Master (from long defunct zine Spinach7 Digital) summarises the best thing about it: “Great literature endures political repression; writers have a responsibility to push on through censorship. Bulgakov was supposed to write a novel that idealised Lenin — instead he coughed up an apocryphal satire featuring a talking cat.”

Someday I hope to learn enough to read it in its original language, a Russian copy of it already on my shelf. 

In this day, though, I write columns or tell stories about shiny gizmos — which my father also loves. I would be a different person, perhaps, if I had a different upbringing or different parents. But I like who I am just fine.

I just hope my father understands that I love him the way my grandmother, his mother, loved me — for just existing. That there is nothing he could do or say to make me love him any less or any more, really, because I already love him more than I can possibly articulate.

In the meantime, I will just enjoy still being able to send him WhatsApp messages and seeing the double ticks that confirm they were received. 

As far as my inner child is concerned, he will live forever right where he should — my heart and memories.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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