It was a scanned photograph of a young, attractive couple. I liked it instantly. The man and woman were smiling and yet I could sense a wistfulness ... or something. It was an old photograph of my father and mother. And when I asked her about it, my mother said that the photograph was taken whilst they were both on a short holiday after the loss of their first child -- a daughter -- who died of jaundice at a mere six days old.
When I looked at the photograph again, I felt sad. And my heart went out to the couple. I smiled and yet, I wanted to cry at the same time. I never knew these people for how could I? I was only born years later when they themselves had matured a little bit more and grown a little older. I could not have known them then and part of me wished that I had. A silly thought, perhaps, but it came and went in a flash. And I actually felt proud -- yes, proud -- that these two individuals were my parents, even after knowing what I knew and what I experienced.
As a surprise, my mother mailed me a copy of my father's only letter to her. I had requested it some time ago, not knowing if she ever would. On my part, I was wanting something that was precious to her, wanting something that my father had written, wanting something that they shared together. I don't know why but it was important to me. A piece of family history, perhaps. Or a piece of my father's history for I knew that I still missed him.
It wasn't a long letter, merely detailing a bit of news whilst he was away from her. They were not married yet and it was obvious that she was someone very special to him. Towards the end of the letter, he wrote, " ... and till the 'Moon Turns Blue' I'll stop trying to make you happy." Ever since my mother related the story of that letter to me, I had always loved those words. I had no idea how original they were but I didn't care. They were words from my father to my mother, words that I believe he meant at the time he wrote them.
It is not that I am trying, nor wanting, to paint a rosy picture of my parents' relationship. Perhaps they were happiest together at the beginning: during the courtship and early days of their marriage. Life wasn't perfect, of course, for life never is. But they found each other and loved each other. And for that, I will always be eternally grateful.
At the end of the letter, my father signed off with, "Amen," followed by his name. It was unusual, my mother said, and I agreed. Whoever my father was, whoever he really was, I believe my mother had a glimpse of that man. And no matter what anyone says, not even those closest to me, if I still miss my father, well then, I still miss my father. It is not something that I dwell on day to day for that wouldn't be healthy. But I realise that I miss him most especially when life is hard or when I hear certain family stories or look through old photographs.
One needn't dwell on the past to miss a certain someone from one's past, surely. I don't make excuses for his past deeds. I don't make excuses for him at all.
My father is in my past. My father is dead. And life is unpredictable. Sometimes it catches you off guard at the most unexpected moments and you wonder how you can go on. But you can. And you do. I know that my mother did. And I can too.
And just because I want to be like my father -- for the child in me still relishes such moments -- I say "Amen" too. So be it.
Thank you, Dad.