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Be kind, my tyrant heart: a year since I lost my father

Be kind, my tyrant heart: a year since I lost my father

My father died on this day last year. Of Lymphoma.

It’s something I totally haven’t dealt with yet. A work in progress might be the politically correct term. I read something recently that said you haven’t healed till you can tell the story without crying. Let’s just say I’m pretty far from that point!

Before he died, for the last week-ish, he was home. We decided to bring him home once he was declared terminally ill because if the hospital couldn’t treat him, we saw no need for him to stay there.

Our whole little family was there, we got some professional nursing help and away we went on one of the most grueling and emotionally draining journeys of our lives.

In the earlier part of that week, Dad would have flashes of coherent consciousness. Sometimes for several minutes at a time. And usually in the mornings. At that time of day, we were possibly at our best too. We’d have got some rest if not a lot. Morning light would bring with it hope that relaxed our strained smiles a little.

One of those mornings, my sister was cleaning him while I held him upright, mom fed him, and my husband raced to change the bed linen. It was a coordinated, tense and urgent exercise typically, but that day with dad saying a few sentences, we were all smiling through our chores.

I can’t remember how we got to it, but we started talking about my sister and the things she was good at. Dad said she was an excellent driver. She really is, I can testify to that. Dad was a tyrant teacher. He never wanted us to become the kind of drivers that people swear at and say, ‘that must be a woman.’

While she would be considered a good driver anywhere in the world, to my mind she gets 600 gazillion extra points for being able to navigate Indian traffic with skill, speed, and absolutely no fear.

So when he said that, I agreed wholeheartedly. Then he said, “She’s better than me,” thumping his chest in delight. A proud gleam in his eye.

“Aha,” I said, “that’s high praise. What about me? Am I any good?”

“You’re excellent too,” he said.

“Who’s better?” I asked wickedly.

He laughed, holding on to his diplomacy, literally on his deathbed, and said, “You’re both equal.”

Then he thought for a bit, knowing we both knew that no one believed that for a second in this context, and said, “You, though… You can do anything you set your mind to. Anything!”

“You can do anything you set your mind to,” is the last coherent thing my dad said to me.

How giddying-ly amazing.

Why then have I had such a hard time believing it?

Maybe it’s the way we were brought up.

We had amazing, amazing parents. They never let us want for a single thing despite the fact that I know, in retrospect, that they were far from financially stable. They fiercely protected us from anyone who dared insinuate that we were anything but perfect. They were strict but not stifling.

If there was one negative, it was that they didn’t compliment easily. Their mission was to hone us into the finest versions of ourselves that they could. And in that mission they showed no mercy. We were regularly chastised for shortcomings, and we had the gaps in our knowledge bridged before being sent on our way.

I can speak for my sister a little and myself a lot when I say for a very, very large part of life we thought we were pretty unremarkable specimens of the human race. I might’ve even have been in university when I discovered that I was quite smart.

Maybe as a result I’m always really hard on myself. I’m pretty tyrannical too. I’m rarely happy with the outcome of anything I’ve done. It could have been a little bit better; faster; cheaper. And I feel guilty.

Guilt is something I’ve honed to a fine art.

I need to stop.

So lately, I’m working very hard to remind myself…

‘You can do anything you set your mind to.’

… when I’m tired after the fiftieth toy pick of the day and YELL at my four-year-old even though I’ve promised myself that I would try not to be unreasonable. Then spend the rest of the evening feeling like a complete failure. A bad, bad mom.

I can be better than this, can’t I?

‘You can do anything you set your mind to.’

… when the enormity of the move we’ve made hits me. And I start to drown in the fact that by moving halfway around the world in our 30s, with child, means we have to slide down half the hill and climb back up. When so often the top looks invisible.”

I can make a vision reality, can’t I?

“You can do anything you set your mind to.”

… when I fat shame myself, having days when I won’t even bother to try and look nice because my wistful longing for my old self is too powerful to overcome. When I swear to myself that I will get thin in 6 months or die trying, just so I can feel less ashamed.

I can keep sight of the fact that weight loss if I want it on the cards, needs to be about health, not image, can’t I?

“You can do anything you set your mind to.”

… when I have hard months, where hours and hours of effort translate into far less money than I can even comprehend. When the temptation to go out there and get a job, rather than keep at this independent gig, is strong.

I can keep sight of how far I’ve come and make that seamless life I want so much happen, can’t I?

“You can do anything you set your mind to.”

Now all I have to do is keep working on truly believing that.

Carrots and Peace
  • Carrots and Peace | 11:11 – what love means to me 2 years after loss
    Posted at 09:48h, 04 November Reply

    […] A year ago, I wrote this other piece in his honour, in which I said my commitment was to be kinder t… To see myself through my father’s eyes. I have to say I’ve done OK. I’ve resisted the urge to go straight to the negative many, many times. I’ve taken leaps of faith. I’ve put myself out there. I’ve gone up to strangers and told them why they should hire me for a project… […]

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