First Father’s Day without a Father

My father died last month.
He was 94 and lived a long life doing what he knew he was called to do in the world.

This is the first time in my 65 years that on this day there is no one living to honour, no one alive to celebrate. I do hold his memory, imperfections and all, in a sacred place today. But also the other man who was a father figure for me, who died a decade ago.

I admit to ambivalent feelings about my male parent. He was excessively devoted to his male god and this god’s son. I am not devoted at all to either any longer. He admitted that his love for his deity overrode any love for any human person. A twisted theology – ‘I love God so I can’t love anyone else.’

It is a challenge to understand the place where one should put such complex memories and convoluted understandings where the human and the divine tangle and knot in the mind and had tied up the soul for far too many years.

I freed myself from all of that tangle several decades ago. It made it possible to see my father as a fallible human, a talented artist and an inadequate parent. But that was my life, my history, the reality that shaped me. I am who I am for having grown up in his studio. What I learned there had the most profound impact upon me, matched only by what I discovered about myself and the world when I attended university as an adult.

My mother died 26 years ago, do now my brother and I are adult orphans. We make our ways in the world shaped by our parents’ actions and by our reactions to them as we moved into the world on our own, and we continue to do so.

This is the first Father’s Day I have not had a father alive. For the rest of my life, this will be the case.

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Reunion

Near enough to twenty years
since last we saw the other,
first sighted in the shadow
of old Salisbury Cathedral’s
twisted spire with a chill breeze
yanking the flowers
from a short row of horse chestnuts,
extinguishing their candles
under a grey clouded sky,
arms flung out as suitcase dropped
a long-holding hug and whispered tears
melting away time
retracting distance
renewing connection.

Sitting in the cloister
introductions made between
her and my new partner,
three cups of different teas,
mint, hibiscus, camomile,
and then he excused himself
leaving us to reminisce,
indulging in nostalgia
washing between us like tides,
revealing in our sharing
the good days and the dark times
we have each lived
in places far from where we met.

Time stood still,
distance evaporated
stories merged
interests twined,
whilst we sat together,
speaking punctuated
by shared tears and laughter,
hands reaching out to comfort
and affirm deep connections
yet exist between us,
stronger today than we had before.

Alas, our brief time together
came to a close marked by
the striking of the Cathedral’s bells,
and walking to the place of our parting,
we both knew that what we had
will remain and what we have now
will continue to grow
as yet more years tumble behind us,
for our reunion revealed
a deep abiding friendship,
neither of us will leave behind.