Having made the decision to take the beans, today I started to feel excited rather than plain scared.
After weeks of stillness, nothingness, I have about 3 days before I leave and what feels like ten thousand things to get done: clothes to pick, bags to pack, visas, vaccines, forms galore and so on. I am trying for the dignity of a particularly poised headless chicken, but I seem to keep stumbling on stones.
These stones beneath my tender feet are the little stabs of pain I feel when I stumble across pieces of dad. It is strange that people say I have lost him because I seem to be finding him everywhere.
He is in my garage, pulling out my rucksack nervously the first time I went away alone. He’s in the endless little baggage locks, that always I lose the keys for, but he still bought more of ‘just in case’. He’s in my wardrobe, sensible as my walking shoes, but humouring me with girly dresses, spots and frills.
He’s in the shops with me, channelling his anxiety at another departure into choosing kit, as if the right jacket or torch might magically keep me safe. He’s stopping people in the street to tell them my news because he always likes to brag on my behalf.
He’s excited for me, but he’s trying not to let me see how sad he is I’ll be far away. He’s wishing I’d chosen another, gentler, life but is still kind of proud that I haven’t. He’s fussing and giving me more advice than I need, just because he loves me more than he can ever say.
He’s in my head when I’m worrying, telling me I am good enough and that I’ll do fine. His certainty is mine and when he says it will be okay, I believe it. He says I can always come home and he makes the word fathoms deep, full of safety, beauty and warmth.
It is hard to find memories everywhere, nestled in every corner, resting on every shelf. When I am trying to move fast it’s not easy to find myself barefoot on gravel, the endless tug of recollection catching my heart and sharp in my throat.
But what can I do? I could bury dad, pile other thoughts on top of him. Push him down deep under laundry and the to-do list and the mails I have to send – but I don’t want to lose him again. One funeral was more than enough.
So, when he walks into my thoughts or peeks out of my cupboard, I simply say “I miss you dad”. I speak my heart to the air and the emptiness.
I think it’s mostly said silently but, once in a while, I catch my voice giving fullness to the words and weighting their fall. I must look like one of those crazy people talking to myself…. but perhaps for me looking crazy is the price of staying sane!
Each time I let myself feel his presence and absence, acknowledge it and then move on past, the pain is less sharp, the stones a smoother to tread.
By letting myself talk to the air, perhaps I will be able to pack just a little bit of dad into my bags..