He is rather good-looking. He isn't a tall man but I suppose I always thought of him as tall because he was taller than my mother, who was a small woman. Tiny. Petite. A gentle woman. I wonder what drew him to her. And, of course, he was always taller than me.
It's an old photograph that belongs to another but a copy was made for me per my request. There is also one online, in a family geneaology website. And I seem to have a fascination with him as a young man in that particular photograph. It's a group photo, taken with other relatives and family members at a family celebration. Everyone is smiling, including him. And I wonder if it was before he knew my mother or had the both of them met by then.
He looks happy in that photograph. Outgoing, even. But I could be wrong. I used to think so but upon further reflection, he once said - when I was a teenager - that I was just like him, in that I was a very conservative person. I realised his job called for him to be outgoing and assertive, even entertaining clients. But that was a job; that wasn't who he was. That was who he had to be in order to get the job done. But, maybe, in time, he grew into that role? I wonder sometimes if that ever happens. Or if that was who he was all along.
He looks happy. He's smiling. He has a nice smile. And I wonder what sort of man he was, what experiences he had that helped to shape and mould him. I know that he fought in World War II, that he was also a prisoner of war. I wonder what those experiences must have been like, what he endured in order to survive. And how he was changed upon coming home. My mother told us that he had nightmares. Was it the war or something else?
He looks like a nice young man, attractive, kind, warm-hearted, someone a young woman would be proud to show off to her family. And my mother fell in love with him. And he with her. I wonder what sort of courtship it was, how he won her over.
I like that photograph. I like looking at him in that photograph, almost fascinated with the person that he was - although I never knew him - or what he seemed to convey through that photograph. I could be wrong, of course, all wrong. But maybe I'm not.
He seemed like a nice man because he was a nice man. And I don't know what made him do the things that he did, what he did to me.
He has a nice smile. I said that already, didn't I? But he does have a nice smile. He seems at ease, comfortable with the people around him. And I wonder if his smile is hiding anything, concealing some darkness within that no one else knows about. I can be so dramatic.
They say that I look like my father. And I always liked that. I actually always felt rather proud of that. It seemed important to me that I looked like him for, after all, I was my father's daughter. Even the bad experiences couldn't take that away from me.
Over the years, I've seen many photographs of him and I don't think the man ever took a bad photograph. The camera liked him, that was obvious. And people liked him. And I liked him too until his actions made me stay away. The strange thing was that I still liked him afterwards, just that I was afraid of him, a little leery. Love and hate seemed to go together for a long time after that. Whatever the emotions really were, those were the words I used to describe them.
In the mid nineteen eighties, I wrote, "There are still times when I wish my dad were here. I sometimes wonder what he was really like, what I missed out on during my teens when I was afraid to get too close to him. I asked my mum about him the other day and she told me that he said he didn't mind if I didn't marry because one couldn't really trust the men out there. When I heard that, I wondered if he was referring to himself as well."
I like looking at that man in the old photograph because, not only is he an attractive individual, someone you think that you would like, but he is also the man who became my father. And I wish I knew who he really was, what his thought process was, what his conversations were like with the people around him. I know a little bit. But they're not enough. And no matter how long I stare at the photograph, trying to figure him out, trying to find out where he fits in with those standing around him, I know those questions will never be answered.
But still the fascination never leaves me. It is as if I'm trying to piece together this intricate puzzle but some pieces are missing. They died with him and I can never get them back.
If he were alive, would it be different? But he isn't alive. He left too soon. I once wrote that his death released me, in a way, and I supposed that it did. But now it seems that I am held captive by something else. Or someone else. It is the memory of someone that I thought I knew but never really knew. Or wished I knew better. But how could I when his actions later created a great divide between us.
So I look at the photograph now and then. And I smile inside. There he is. That's my father. Before everything else happened.