Sunday, January 16, 2005

Two Tear Story

Have you ever heard the sound of your heart breaking? It rings so loud in your ears that you lose all ability to pick up any of the pieces. You try and grab onto any thread of self control but you can’t stop the tears that keep falling off your face, or the shaking in your body, and you silently pray for the strength in your legs to keep you standing. As I watched my father’s plane take off I shook my arm violently for I knew it would be the last real vision he’d see of me for a while. And then he was gone, the plane was gone and he was in it. I felt a pair of arms surround me. My uncle who’d patiently witnessed my torture as the plane slowly positioned onto the runway and then eventually taken off, had no words of comfort for me. He was already used to the painful goodbyes and knew that words were futile. Yes I knew that the moment of goodbye had to come but that knowledge did nothing to prepare me. And so I held onto my uncle and cried bitterly all the tears I knew I’d cry and let go of all the pain I’d known all along I’d feel.

Looking back at the month that dad spent with me, the memories seem so surreal. Like somehow I’d dreamt it all. But then I walk back into my house and it feels huge, cold and empty. The empty whiskey glass breaks down all the self control I’d built up. The ashtray was still lying on top of the table and the fish paste that my aunt had given him had been forgotten in the fridge. And when all you’re left with are your bittersweet memories, you sit on the kitchen floor and cry. Cry for the void that you’re feeling, the time that was and the way things could’ve been. Nothing in the world can make you feel better and you pray that you hit rock bottom soon so that you begin to stand up again.

I couldn’t sleep the night before dad arrived. I kept wondering what I should say, how I should say it and what he would think. He had no idea that he would be seeing me before arriving in Funchal. This year’s Christmas party in Lisbon represented more than an awesome party, it represented an opportunity to board the same plane as my dad to Funchal. With some help from some friends and the airline’s cooperation, I made sure that we sat next to each other on the plane and my only debate was whether I surprise him in the waiting room or in the plane. My palms were sweaty and I felt nervous as I looked for him in the waiting room… and then I saw him. My body froze, I couldn’t move, all I could do was watch him as he was about to walk past me. He looked at me once and then as if recognizing my face he looked a second time. Putting my arms around my dad was like coming home! I cried without shame, I couldn’t care what people around me thought, At that moment, life couldn’t be more perfect.

My living room is a torture chamber. The computer, the TV, the wall unit… all of it has my dad’s expert hand in it. Only Dad and I know how the cupboard was assembled; which pieces were put together first and which screwdriver was used. The computer accuses of me of not exploring all the amazing new things Dad installed and the DVD player reminds me of family nights. On regular nights when family wasn’t taking us out, we all went into the kitchen for dinner. First Dad would pour himself a glass of whiskey. He likes his whiskey filled up with ice and cold soda water, he’d pour me a glass of the milky liqueur he’d taught me how to make and we’d discuss cooking methods while making dinner. My little brother would set the table and after dinner I’d do the dishes while dad helped clean the table and little brother would make up the mattress in the living room. Each night one of us picked a new movie that dad had brought on DVD and we’d all snuggle up and watch together. This was of course when we weren’t tickling each other, telling jokes or teasing little bruv. I don’t remember us doing these kinds of things in South Africa; it was like we were given a second chance to be a real family.

It wasn’t like I wasn’t preparing for the inevitable, I promised myself and my best friend that I’d do my best not to get too attached. So on the last couple of days when the people around me began saying goodbye; I still managed to keep myself in check. I didn’t winch, or show any indication of the sadness in my heart. Not one tear dropped until that night we went to get Água Ardente (cane spirits) in Porto da Cruz. After a bit of conversation my dad and the man selling the potent poison discovered that they knew each other many years ago with common friends in Porto Santo. One glass followed another as conversation of the old times kept feeding the increasing interest. After a couple of hours, I myself was a bit annoyed as I saw my dad for second time in my life tipsy. The first time not worth mentioning, wasn’t nearly as memorable as the second. The salesman, trying to explain to me why their meeting held so much emotion evaluated me by my age saying “You probably have no idea of the hard work and suffering our generation went through…” Listening without objection I was surprised when my father interrupted him saying: “Oh no! Don’t be fooled, not this girl… this girl knows exactly how many stones it takes to build a house. I couldn’t ask for a more intelligent, hardworking and independent daughter.” And then he said the words I’d so desperately wanted to hear from him since he’d arrived: “I couldn’t be more proud of her”. That’s when I couldn’t stop a tear from falling.

You begin work and after a couple of days, you numb yourself into routine. You try and convince yourself that you’re just a little burnt out and that eventually things will go back to normal. Cleaning the house from top to bottom, you tell yourself that life goes on and you even manage a smile again… until you discover Dad’s shirt in the laundry and once again you cry yourself to sleep.

Someone once told me that love and hurt go hand in hand. So the more you feel of the one, the more of the other you really feel.
I could never regret the time I spend with my father, no matter how painful and wretched it leaves me. Being daddy’s little girl, I’ll never know a day where I’ll stop needing him no matter how independent I am or how more independent I’ll become. I can survive in the world by myself even though I always look to him for words of advice. I know this, not because of the TV, computer or cupboards he gave me but because of the toolbox he gave me for Christmas. Dad made sure I have every tool I need to survive out in real life.
It is the distance that makes life hard; it causes you to cry two bittersweet tears: the blissfulness at “hello” and the despair at “Goodbye”.

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