Eight years ago at Tamarika: My father sang to me.
It seems odd to me that every January 18th, I wake up with a sensation that something important is happening on this day. It always takes an hour or two, and then I remember that it was my father's birthday. It is one those subconscious things that happen, for usually I have not thought about him for a long time. Just suddenly and suprisingly his birthday comes out into my consciousness, and always is accompanied by a twinge of sadness and nostalgia.
My mother never actually asked me not to love him. Nor did she imply it. When I was a young child, I just assumed, that in order to please her, I had better not show that I loved or admired him. For, she made no attempt to hide her disdain for just about everything about him, including his Sephardic heritage. I took my love for him underground and buried it.
Until he died.
And even then, it was uncomfortable for me to admit it to myself. It would subsequently take years of therapy for me to allow myself to grieve my father's death, and understand the complexity of my relationship with him. Loving the forbidden, and keeping it hidden affected my confusion about loyalties. Not to mention complications about dealing with abhorring the part of me that came from him, which seemed to cause my mother so much pain.
[Visiting my father in Rhodesia when I was 26]
Nowadays, I find myself wistfully observing my friends and siblings as they care for their aging fathers, and hearing them share openly about complexities of their relationships, and grief that comes with this stage of their lives. I realize how alone I was with regards to my feelings about my father.
In a way I was a little like an only child - only, without the perks and benefits!
Early this morning, I rummaged through my old photographs trying to find a picture of my father holding me up proudly when I was an infant. It is the only photograph I have of me and him when I was a baby. The image seemed to be clearly waiting to greet me in my brain the moment I awoke. Almost in a panic, searching feverishly amongst my albums and photos, I suddenly stopped and wondered, "Why is it suddenly so urgent for me to find this picture?"
And then I remembered. Today is my father's birthday. He would have been 119.