One man’s yearning for his father, from across the world
This is an open letter that I wrote to my father, in 1997, when I had been overseas for three years. It was a time when I was doing a lot of soul searching and personal growth. My relationship with my father had always been a bit confusing, but on the night I wrote this letter I was able to access a gratitude and a perspective that was (and is) raw and real.
I know your hands. I know the shape of your fingers and your fingernails. I know how I feel when you open your face and laugh. I know the way you raise your right eyebrow and talk from the side of your face when you are joking.
How you hold your glasses when you laugh so much that you wipe your tears on the back of your hand. Your mischievous guilt when you let off a smelly windy one.
How you used to hold my hand in yours and make me feel proud, safe and loved.
How I missed you when you weren’t around, how I was scared that you would leave us and not love me.
How I trust and respect and love and like you.
How you forgive and accept me. How you reach out and catch me so I don’t hurt myself when I fall. How you make it OK.
How I am scared not to have you around when you die. How I know you will always love me and look after me. How I am loved and how you have taught me how.
How I want to be like you, but like me too. How I trust you. How you are wise and handsome. How you have got it right. How you have taught me.
How I wish you were here with me now. How I miss you. How we fight and you still love me. How you have looked after us all.
How much I want to be with you. How I am growing into a man and we have changed. How I want to spend more time with you and am scared we will be apart. How I feel guilty because I am so far from you. How I want to know you more.
How I took it for granted when we were together and how I’ve missed out. How much more I want to know about you. How I want to know you.
How much I want to help you heal your pains.
How I don’t want you to be angry with me. How much I don’t want us to be upset with each other. How I want us to laugh together.
How we can remember and understand our past together.
How I am not there for your birthday. How I can’t afford to surprise you.
How much more I understand you. How I respect you. How I honour you in the way I live my life. How I am ashamed of my failures.
How I feel safe when I think about you. How you love me. How I try to show you I love you. How I have not done it very well.
How I can act stupid and swear in front of you and we laugh. How I sulk and you still don’t hate me. How I can pick fights then argue my side and you tolerate me.
How much you have taught me. How you weren’t angry when I wet the bed. How I had sometimes been brutal. How you can still love me. How I love you.
How, when you picked me up from Jane Ferguson’s 18th birthday party, I was sick down the side of the car and it marked the paint work. How you taught me to respect people. How you guided me. How you taught me the best parts about myself. How you taught me and how to have fun.
How brilliantly you play the trumpet and harmonica and sing like Louis Armstrong. How everyone loves you.
How well you and Mummy dance. How you are cool. How I want to be like you.
How I have been a ‘weird’ individual and a difficult son to you. How you have coped. How you look after me. How I have taken it out on you. How you still love.
How I have cried while writing this. How I feel.
How you smell when you put too much aftershave lotion on. How you held things together when they fell apart.
How you are strong. How you have had it tough in your own life. How much you have achieved and how great you are. How I am proud of you.
How it will be your birthday soon. How I love your taste in music. How much you have been open. How you have taught me. How I love you.
How I have loved ‘spending time with you’ while I’ve been writing and feeling all of this.
How you have taught me to be honest. How you have taught me how to live in this world. How you accept me for who I am. How you watch and listen to me. How you learn and understand and how we are great.
How we play cards. How we used to play French cricket in the street with the neighbours. How I am proud of you. How people love you.
How beautiful you are when you cry. How close we really are. How I feel good with you. How I have learned to heal and learn to feel again.
How I am still learning. How you are still guiding me, without even knowing it.
How you taught me, in your own way, that God is looking after us. How you make people happy and love everyone. How much more I am becoming like you.
How I am sometimes scared. How we have laughed. How we were when ‘Mum’ died. How I was scared that you would leave us. How I have hurt you. How sorry I am.
How I can forgive you everything; even when you weren’t wrong I argued and hurt you.
How I want you to be proud of me. How I want you to be around all the time. How I don’t want you to die. How I am scared. How I want to be a child again for it to be alright. How much I love you right now.
How you are making it all OK just by being you. How lucky I am to have chosen you. How you are my friend. How I want us to live in the sun. How I want you to be peaceful and happy. How I want to heal your woes.
How much I have confused you. How I could be a little bugger. How you were always proud.
How good you are at maths. How I still want to be as tall as you. How much we are alike. How much I think about you. How my friends love you. How proud I am. How much you have grown since I have known you. How you are me and I am you.
How well I know you. How much more there is. How you have had me in stitches.
How thoughtful and generous you are. How you saved our lives. How you coped while I moped.
How you can fix things. How you just gave up, after years of smoking. How you made ends meet and can go on foreign holidays now. How you have made it. How I like to hug you when I meet you, but sometimes I am still shy.
How I was scared when you shouted at me. How you don’t shout anymore, but get hurt when I do. How I feel bad about it. How I have failed you. How proud you are. How I have been hurt by you. How I take responsibility.
How I understand, forgive and respect you.
How we are free.