The ones left behind

Last Sunday was my father’s birthday. It is all pretty surreal and still shocking – he passed away in December, buried in January and now February rolls in and it’s his birthday.

We tried not to make too sad an occasion but that of course was impossible. We went back to the cemetery. We laid flowers. We said prayers. We said happy birthday. We hoped he was opening his presents, wherever he was in the world. We hoped and prayed that he was watching over us, guiding and protecting us. We cried.

I am not sure what the rules are for all of this. All I know is that I wish he was here with us. I miss him.

Its still all a huge shock. Even though we were all there when he passed away, we saw him in the Chapel of Rest, we where at the funeral – it is still all incomprehensible. I still cannot believe it. It feels like he has just gone away for a few weeks and will be back again. However standing at the graveside it became painfully clear that that was not true. Daddy as we knew him is gone and is not coming back. It is a painful thought.

Last Friday I was listening to King Sunny Ade CD – Seven Degrees North on my way to work. Traffic being what is on the North Circular I had listened to pretty much all of album by the time I rolled into the hospital car park. However I felt really low. Why? The music is cheerful and uplifting. However the tunes took me back to car journey’s past. Squashed in the back with my siblings, Mummy and Daddy at the front laughing, smiling and joking, on the way to a family event. We grumbled about it at the time but I guess we did not know how lucky we were. My father loved Sunny Ade he always said that when any of his daughters got married he would call Sunny Ade to come and play. It makes me sad and tearful to think that he will not be here to dance at the wedding coming later this year. It made me sad and tearful that I would not see his smiling face again and when he was happy he truly had a lovely smile.

So we made our way to a local Greek restaurant to share a birthday meal in his honour. We toasted his name and looked forward to the future. We managed to crack a joke or two about each other’s eccentricities and foibles. As ever I managed to annoy my family with my camera “put it away! You are embarrassing us!” But me being me could not help but snap a picture or two of the food on my plate and the lake outside the restaurant. However the important memories of this day are stored in my heart and my head.

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the view
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olives, feta cheese and jalopenos
warm fresh bread
warm fresh bread

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dolmades
dolmades
lamb kebab
lamb kebab

Massive psychological readjustment.

For this whole week I have felt completely sad and low. I think standing at the graveside again shook me to the core and took me back to square one. The partial healing undone, the plaster ripped off. Coming back to my parents house later that evening and realising that Daddy is not going to be walking though the front door, not going to be sitting on his sofa, not going to be sitting at the dining table, is just too much. The house can be full of people but simultaneously empty at the same time. In the past month my mother has managed to complete much of the renovation work that my father had started but was too ill to complete. It is a bittersweet thing. He is not here to enjoy it.

There are little consolations in it all. I was telling a friend who kindly called me midweek, to check how I was getting, that at least we had time with him. At least we had a good childhood and adulthood with him. At least he instilled in us values of the importance of family and work and striving for better. Yes we have been robbed of another 30 years of his love, presence and wisdom but he lives on in us in different ways.

I am hoping these days will get easier to cope with. On Monday morning, I was so sad that I could not get up. I cried quietly in my pillow and allowed myself to be consumed by the sadness and the grief. But then real life – the other real life beckons and I dragged myself out of bed and off to work. I am not sure that work is the distraction that everybody says it should be but work means that I have to put my sane and rational head on and focus on the task at hand. Works means that I have to present a smiling and cheerful face to world, even though I am a million miles from that place. I am learning to except that there will be good days and bad days and I will have to roll with the punches.

Onwards. Upwards. Forwards.

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