Kids, in the winter of 2016, your Great-Grandfather was dying of diabetes.
Watching him battle this silent and dangerous disease, the way it ravished his body at a rapid pace was almost too much to bear. Seeing the once powerful man he’d been reduced to a withering, childlike figure in constant pain broke my heart.
Emotions, as you can guess, were running rampant within the family, further annihilating existing estrangements and making things even more difficult so I was determined to remain strong, the voice of reason and not verbalize my own reactions.
But I did need to express my feelings so here are three things I wish I could have said to Pa on Father’s Day 2016:
- You were more than my granddad… you were my Dad:
My father was murdered exactly a week after my eleventh birthday and for most of my life, I carried that sorrow as a HUGE chip on my shoulder.
I hid behind my identity as a fatherless child and used it as the excuse for all of the s*** I got up to in my tween years but it wasn’t true… I wasn’t fatherless.
My dad’s Dad stepped up and did all of the fatherly duties a second time around – he was the one who picked me up from school and my first internship; searched for me when I ran away once (long story); helped me move out of the parental home TWICE; taught me to be responsible for my actions; grounded me a lot; helped to pay for my tertiary education; collected me from the airport after my international trips; disapproved of the bad boys I seemed to love; helped to nurse me through various illnesses and helped me navigate the tricky parts of adulthood.
Anyone can be a father but it takes a man to be a dad and granddad!
- You were imperfectly human and my superhero:
Pa wasn’t perfect – far from it. My childhood Sundays always ended with him being a drunken, crying mess because he’d helped himself to one too many drinks from his business.
He always seemed to say the wrong things at the wrong times and seemingly favoured my siblings over me. Most of my teens and early adulthood were spent crying over insensitive things he’d said about me, my life plans etc.
As I entered my 30s, I realised that actually, Pa was my superhero role model for adulthood. If he was doing the best he could and winging the rest of it well into his 70s, I wasn’t doing too badly either.
- Thank you for loving me:
Pa had been raising kids for nigh on 30 something years by the time I came along and he thought he knew how to do it well … but then there was me.
I was a sensitive, strong-willed, prone to emotional outbursts creative who refused to conform to any of the customs set by the culture, religion and class my family adhered to.
For years I rebelled against these constraints and vocally so. It led to endless fights, countless time-outs and dramatic stand-offs because I felt that no one, least of all my grandfather, understood me.
It wasn’t until my mid to late twenties, when I learnt to accept myself as the emotional, weird writer and unconventional woman I was, that Pa let go of the apron strings too and our relationship improved dramatically.
We could joke about my drunken debauchery in the US and his fumbling courtship of your Great-Grandma; talk about work (even if he still didn’t know exactly what PR was); debate religious convictions (he was the only one in my entire family who accepted my deflection from the Islamic faith without having a nervous breakdown or keep pushing me to choose another religion) and be honest about our feelings ( my proudest moment was when he said I love you to me without me having to say it first).
When I finally learnt to love myself, I discovered that Pa had loved me as I was all along.
The thing that frightened me the most about Pa dying was being truly fatherless for the rest of my life – of not having someone who fiercely loved me, worried about me and looked out for me being there when I needed him the most …
He’d raised me to be a formidable, independent woman who could and would be the pillar of strength he and our family needed during a difficult time. I hope I’ve made him proud.
Happy Father’s Day, Pa! I love you xxx