Life is full of puzzles and mysteries. Some of the most difficult ones are relationships and understanding them – because often you do not understand your own emotions correctly let alone that of someone else’s.
This post is about my dad.
Now I loved my dad, and from him I got some great traits which I cherish, but we were never ‘best friends’ or confidant. We were, I think, a pretty typical father/son in that although he was always the rules enforcer as a child, he was often also the most playful and easy going and whilst alive (yes, alas, he passed away many years ago) and I probably bonded more with him that I did with my mum. I got on better with and talked more to my mum, but I had more in common with Dad. That obviously changed after his passing, and I now have a closer and better relationship with my mum than I ever did with dad, however back then I simply shared more traits with dad and we had more things in common which we could talk about and enjoy together. Dad was a big Trekkie (he loved to watch Trek – nothing more) and we could bond over both Trek and most other sci-fi. We did both Trek and Babylon 5 marathons back in the day which I will always cherish. I remember one year I surprised him and took him to Leicester Square in London to see the opening night of one the new Trek Movies (TNG First Contact) and it was awesome, both the movie and to see the smile on his face – that night will live forever for me.
What I realise more now is that I didn’t really know my dad – he never really shared his inner thoughts with us, and I was too young back then to ask (context; I was thirty when he died, he was sixty, I was still pissing my life away in London not really achieving anything and didn’t care). Don’t get me wrong, along the way he gave some great advice which maybe I’ll talk about some other time, but other than being my dad and shaping my life with opinions about wrong and right and setting an example of what decent behaviour is and guiding me to do that – we never had long talks about life, love, and the universe and as always, I didn’t realise until it was too late.
Anyhow, recently I discovered a piece of the puzzle that helped me understand him a little better and in the moment of realisation I can’t explain what it meant to me. I discovered it by going through the same thing, so you could say by accident, but I discovered it through living it, which made it more of a special moment.
My dad loved the sea. He loved taking us to the beach when we were kids and playing in the waves. We had bodyboards and he could and would spend ages catching the waves to shore from the shallows. But the thing he liked to do most at the beach was sleep. I used to think he loved just listening to the waves and pretending he was in a different time, sharing seabound adventures on tall ships doing daring things (he loved to read and sailing and tall ships high battles were a keen favourite). I remember speaking at his funeral and giving my version of a eulogy which was mostly me babbling on before breaking down in tears and I read a poem he wrote about the beach – one day I may post it hear – and I remember saying afterwards something along the lines of;
“he was a simple man, who enjoyed the simple things in life.
He loved the beach and spending time listening to the waves and falling asleep there
I never understood as a child how he could enjoy so much, doing so little ,
but as I have grown older I really do understand now”
And at the time, I was speaking from the heart and I really did. I had grown to also love spending time listening to the waves, and letting my mind wander, and I still do. However, my recent discovery was this, and it is not really hard to understand;
Dad loved to sleep at the beach because he was tired. He used to work so hard to keep us fed, clothed, and housed. He worked really long hours, in a physical job, and simply loved to just sleep and rest. He would be exhausted, and the simple act of sleeping somewhere that he loved, it was a the kind of contented sleep that replenishes the soul.
I had been working pretty long hours for a long time, we finally got away to Devon to stay at a friends for a week. It was of course, during the ‘heatwave’ and the weather was perfect for a bit of beach life (it was actually relatively cool in Devon when compared to the rest of the country – only hitting the low 30’s) and I was simply shattered though I didn’t really realise just how much. I fell asleep at the beach and slept so soundly, so deeply, that when I awoke it took a while to come around and realise where I was and when I realised, it was glorious.
And now I understand dad a little more. Though he never showed it, or that I ever noticed, his work really took its toll on him. Though this might seem an obvious thing that you would notice, my younger self simply didn’t, and even after he was retired early through conditions brought on by his rigorous manual labour, even then I didn’t look back and truly understand just how tired he always was.
Only through going through it myself did I gain that understanding. Only by going through it myself did i realise what he did for us everyday. Only now can I appreciate him all the more that, and love him all the more for that new shared connection.
It makes me wonder just what other things I am blind to because I simply do not have the experience to truly understand. I live in a first world culture, in a relatively safe and a very comfortable life, just how can you truly understand what horrors other people may have been, or are going through, and on a more personal and immediate note, how many friends have I misunderstood or not given the right support and encouragement too simply because I couldn’t recognise or understand what they were going through.
Food for thought.
For now though, it enough to be making small steps in the right direction.
#lifelessons #love #understanding #father #dad