Today marks one year since my Father passed away.
One year since I last saw him.
It’s been one year since I last heard his voice.
A year since I last patted his head; last brushed his cheek and last felt the warmth fade slowly from his hand.
I still can’t quite believe he is gone.
We used to joke that he would be around forever to torment us with his endless chatter. That even if he fell ill and was bedridden; even if he couldn’t walk or went blind; that he would still be talking endlessly, and that would be our punishment for all the times we were unkind to him or spoke badly about him. We used to laugh about it and say he would outlive us all, just to spite us.
I wish it was true.
One year on, and I can’t count how many times I’ve wished to seek his counsel.
We clashed and disagreed all the time, but no one’s advice was more important to me than my Father’s.
All his words of wisdom have seen fruition. Especially his advice on love – “No one will love you until you learn to love yourself”.
Also, “Renate, find yourself a palagi to marry. You will have an easier life because Samoan men will only cause problems and bring pain. Faakoa e iloa lae fai le koalua i le aso a le lua faaipoipoga a e alu aku le solo a le fafige ma le fagau.” (“You will only know about his wife when she shows up on your wedding day with his children in tow”). How right he was.
Someone said to me that I have to remember all the good and forget the bad.
I have considered this at length and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s an impossible ask.
Perhaps with the passage of time, a dulling of senses will render all my memories rosy. But for now, all reflections of my Father are definitely not rosy. I still hold his memory up to the light and inspect the many flaws and broken pieces.
I cannot sanctify him, even in death. That is not who he was, and it is not who he will be when I tell my children and my grandchildren of their Papa.
I will speak truly of the good, the bad, the ugly and the love. This honesty is his greatest gift to me and one I hold on to the tightest as I make my way through this life.
It’s the little things that catch me offguard.
The sound of his truck pulling in to the driveway. I still expect to see him getting out of the driver’s side and walk in to the house with his plastic bags of goodies, complaining about his workers or rejoicing at a good deal he got for his vegetable haul.
I still complain in to thin air when I find a dirty dish on the counter and for a split-second I convince myself he left it there.
I still expect to see him sitting at our round dinner table, looking outside or off in to space – deep in thought.
I have been counting down to this day for months. It has become a life beacon, of sorts.
For some time now, I have convinced myself that I just need to get to the one year mark and beyond that, I would be okay.
So here I sit, on the beach at Tafatafa (one of Dad’s favourite places) and I am thinking about the future.
Will I be okay? Will my Mother be okay? My brothers? My sister? I think of my nephews who loved their Papa so much, and I am sad that he won’t see them go off in to the world – to conquer and follow their dreams.
The truth is we haven’t been the same since he left.
I have not been the same.
Every feeling is more acute. Every experience is felt for what it is. Every person is held accountable.
I also see my Mother with different eyes – the eyes of someone who has accepted that one day it will be her turn, and then mine.
Perhaps it’s a morbid way to live, but it helps.
So what of the future?
Can I build on the legacy he has left behind in all of us?
Can I make him proud? Can I take care of my Mother in his absence?
I don’t know for sure. But I take all the lessons – good and bad – with me. I hold them close and use them on my journey.
I’m grateful for the years I had with my Father, and I’m grateful for having the opportunity to learn from such an interesting, brilliant, infuriating, insightful person.
I hope to make him proud in the years ahead, and despite my disillusions and wavering belief system – I hope to see him again one day.
I miss you, Dad.