A LETTER TO SOMEONE WHO HAS PASSED AWAY
By Lorraine Cobcroft
My aunt made a remark at your funeral. She didn’t mean to be insensitive. How could she ever hope to understand? She said it was good that you died while I was still too young to know you. You can’t miss someone you never knew. But I’ll miss you, dad. Oh how I will miss you!
I’ll miss the joy of welcoming a daddy home at the end of the day – the hugs and kisses, the ‘how’s my little girl?’ and ‘what did you do today?’ I’ll miss curling up on your lap when I’m sleepy and riding on your back or in your arms when we are out and my legs tire. I’ll miss the little treats fathers bring home for their daughters, and the gifts that only fathers understand little girls treasure; your proud smiles and praise when I excel , your encouragement when I struggle; and your soft reassurances when I fail.
I’ll miss your admiration of my beauty the first time my hair is cut or I paint my face or dress for my first ball. I’ll miss dancing with you on my debut night and walking up the aisle on your arm when I marry. Who will give me away? Who will dance the ‘father/daughter’ waltz with me? Who will my children call ‘grandpa’? It may be twenty years or more from now, but they will surely miss you too.
In the schoolyard and in groups, I’ll be the odd one out – the daughter of a poor widow. Kids can be cruel with their torment of anyone who differs.
And then there’s the practical issues. Oh, sure, there was an insurance payout, and Mum will get a pension, I guess. But she will struggle financially, and she’ll carry the entire tiring load of running a household. I guess my uncles will help out at times, but they can’t be there every evening to chop the wood and help with the dishes, or to give me my bath or read me a story while she cooks dinner or cleans the kitchen. Who will keep her company when she’s lonely after I have gone to sleep? Who will she turn to for the warmth of a lover? If your absence makes her bitter and resentful, will I lose her love as well, or will she smother and suppress me in her search for comfort?
I’ll miss that ‘good cop, bad cop’ balance that two parents achieve when a child needs both discipline and understanding, and I’ll miss your comfort and reassurance when exhaustion , stress, or inexperience make Mum sharp or unfair.
I’ll miss the knowledge of my history and heritage. How will I answer my doctor’s concerned “Any family history of…?” I’ll never know.
I’ll look at your photographs and I guess I’ll see resemblances. I’ll know that my clear milky skin came from my English father, because our Sicilian neighbour will comment often. I’ll know that my singing talent was inherited from you, because everyone knows Mum can’t hold a note. Gran will tell me you had the softest speaking voice, but when you sang in that magnificent tenor tone, you lifted the roof off and brought the entire neighbourhood flocking to listen. If I find myself being pedantic about neatness, I guess I’ll wonder was that a trait passed on through genes, because Gran will tell me you ironed your pyjama bottoms with creases that would cut cold butter. But sadly, Daddy, that’s all I’ll know of you. Just those two things Gran will tell me, and what I see in photographs.
I’m only six weeks old, and I have no hope of remembering what you looked like, how your voice sounded, or how it felt when you held me in your arms. I can never hope to know how your face dimpled or how your eyes lit when you smiled, or how your face hardened when you were angry or disapproving. I don’t what foods you most liked to eat, what books you liked to read, what kind of music you liked to hum or dance to, how you preferred to spend your leisure time.
“You never knew him,” my aunt will say when I am older. “How then can you claim to miss him?”
I’ll miss having a dad in my life. But most of all, I’ll miss knowing half of me, and how that part of me came to be.