If I ask myself when could I be in my truest, most natural form; when could I be at my best yet know for sure that I could freely be at my worst without being judged. I would say and every daughter who has been at the receiving end of her father’s assured, unquestionable and undying love will agree with me, it’s the time when we are with our fathers. For me, it was when I was with You.
It’s been 17 years since you departed. As I think of it, I realize that soon enough, the time I will spend without in you in my life will outgrow the time I actually spent with you by my side.
The past 17 years have been a whole journey in itself. It has been an emotional odyssey of losing you, not allowing myself to believe and denying it till I could. Being mad about it, feeling sad and despondent till I finally settled that you were gone and there was nothing I could do to change it. For the longest time, whenever I thought of you, no matter how hard I tried to remember how well, bravely and graciously you lived, I could only think of how you died. It hurt and it hurt badly. But sometime, someday in those 17 years, I thought of you and smiled. I can now talk to people about you and narrate tiny snippets from your life, without breaking into tears. The pain of losing you has now become a part of me, like a scar from an old wound. It still hurts and itches every now and then. But it is also like a reminiscent, a reminder, of how grateful I am to have had you as my father even if it was for a slice of time that seems minuscule as compared to the rest of my enormous life.
It’s Fathers’ Day today and I think of the last 17 Fathers’ day and every single day that went by without you.
I miss you, I miss our conversations, I miss the warm hugs, the very rare arguments and cold wars and I miss making that twentieth cup of tea for you in a day.
You were a man of good taste. Every time I watch a nice movie, or read a good book or hear a new piece of news, I wonder what would you think of it. You loved reading books and magazines and everything you could find time to read. The newspaper was your friend and my greatest adversary because it owned your mornings. You might feel annoyed about it, but I still hate it. I don’t even buy a newspaper. I wonder what plans you had in mind for older years when you would get ample time for yourself. I ponder what you would think of the world and the ways in which it has grown and transformed in all these years.
I wish I could see you grow older. I might have teased you and called you an old man and you would probably return the favor by teasing me for my newly popping grey hair. That’s the kind of bond we had. You and me, and our very special bond. I remember telling you with supreme confidence that I am your favorite daughter. You would smirk at that and say, “Noooooo. I love three of you equally and you all are very special to me.” And the way you would smile because you knew that in my little head, I was your favorite daughter. And that was my most treasured, almost perfect idea of what I should be – ‘ My father’s favorite daughter’. That’s all, as simple as it can be.
You were always my guiding light. You would never tell me what exactly to do and what not. You just guided me. Like it was a game of figuring out life. You wouldn’t give me the answers but you would give all the necessary hints that I might need to figure it out on my own. Perhaps that’s why I am not good at taking commands or just following what others say. I take clues and twist them if that’s more suitable. Sometimes, it even backfires at me because, come on! I can’t even blindly follow a recipe at times.
Now that I am a mother myself, I wonder how you did it! Did you have a magic trick up your sleeve? Three of us, your three lucky daughters, are nothing like each other. We have hugely different ideas and temperaments yet you knew what each of us needed. Like a perfect gardener who has an absolute sense of the fact that each plant is different and needs to be tended differently to thrive. That every mighty sapling is a potential tree and it needs a different environment to transform into a splendid, indestructible tree, that can withstand any storm.
My biggest worry is whether I am the kind of tree you hoped for. I keep wondering If I grew up to your expectations even though you always said that we should never worry about the expectations you might have of us. You always wanted us to be our happiest, unapologetic self.
Nevertheless, the daughter, the individual in me yearns to listen to your idea of me. It needs your validation. It is always certain of your unconditional love but it needs to know if you are proud of me. And I often think to myself that I have a long way to go before I can allow myself to believe that.
For the last 17 years, I haven’t really talked much about you and how I feel about you with others. It has been a deeply personal space which only a closer few have shared. But today, somehow, it feels like the right time to let it out (as much of it as can be said in words).
Because nothing probably hurts like the words that could never be said. Between you and me, there is a lot that couldn’t be told, couldn’t be heard and couldn’t be seen. But maybe you are listening. May be these words will find their way to you if I put them out, somewhere in the universe. Honestly, I am not sure.
But this story, the story of a father and his daughter, might remind every daughter that her father is the biggest of all blessings she has. Hug him, love him and take care of him while you can. But above all, listen to his stories. The stories of how he lived, all of them.
Trust me on that if you can. When people are gone, we try to find them in old letters, family albums and pictures. We expect them to show up in our dreams, but that’s not how it works. The only way you will ever connect with them is when you internalize all they said and all they taught you. You meet them right inside your heart when you become the person they hoped you would. It might be a long process to reach there, but never stop trying and be your father’s favorite daughter.