Song For My Father
26 June 2010
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Father’s Day — without my father.
As they would say in one of the countries in which I have lived, my father is “late”. I cannot think of a more apt description. It is as if I am still waiting for Arthur Leslie to arrive.
I think the metaphysical waiting (the psychic part within us which yearns in vain for that which it can never possess) must have commenced on the very first day I became consciously aware that my father was…. my father. This was the price I had to pay in order to experience the enjoyment of a relationship that, for a small child, is the essence of love. It is a wait that, no matter how short, feels like forever.
All of us have two parents. A mother and a father. Only two. This is whether you grow up with them, appreciate them, respect them or even know who they are. Human biology starts with this one simple fact – whether you are an orphan or a much loved child. The rest is left to personal circumstance.
My father’s family was not remarkable. They didn’t discover or invent anything. There are no buildings named for them. Even their final resting places are mostly unmarked. But, the marvel of it all for me is that they LIVED. In their ordinariness, they lived out the small dreams every one of us has and procreated a person like me who has been able to carve a space in a world much larger than they ever could have imagined.
It is through the death of the man who was my own unique and special father that I finally came to realize the special gift that he – and only he – gave me. And that is the gift of my life: The opportunity to be born so that I could live in this world and make my mark.
Now that my father truly is “late” – I realize very poignantly how Arthur Leslie was the only father I ever had or ever will have. I sometimes cry when I think of how little I thought about that when he was alive.
How I wish now that my father had shared more – or perhaps that I had listened more or asked more — so that I could be comforted by a more complete knowledge of his past and the world in which he lived. Armed with the personal tidbits he did give me, I have been inspired to a lifetime of genealogical research to fill in the blanks.
It is my expectation that my father is sitting up in heaven (or wherever it is we go when we are late), reunited with his grandparents, parents and brothers. In my mind’s eye, I see Arthur and his brothers, Frank and Bob, sitting around a kitchen table, laughing and joking. There is a highball glass of whiskey on the rocks at his elbow. All of them are laughing at all of us for crying over them.
There is an African proverb that says one is never dead as long a someone remembers your name. Well, I remember and, in so doing, I honour my father in the only way I know how.