at 13, i thought i knew everything.
at 13, i thought i could take on the world – and win.
at 13, i thought everything should evolve around me – including the sun.
at 13, i thought the world owed me a favour.
at 13, i thought i could have whatever i wanted – when i wanted.
at 13, i never thought about mortality.
at 13, my father died.
at 13, i truly knew how it felt to cry. to really cry.
at 13, i truly knew what injustice felt like – why my father?
at 13, i became angry and cynical.
at 15 i had to put up, shut up, wise up and grow up.
but i did it all wrong.
memories of my teenage years are broken.
i skipped school to dye my hair red.
i shaved my head.
i stole cigarettes from my mother, and porn from my brother.
i dyed my hair yellow
i partied with punks and dyed my hair black.
i sunbathed on railway tracks.
i devoured great literature and took too many pictures.
i sketched body parts, studied Italian and art.
i pierced my own nose and kept a diary of prose.
i took LSD and smoked skunk.
i braved electric fences to be with a wolf pack.
i bleached my hair.
i really didn’t care.
for too long, i didn’t care about anything or anyone. i was full of rage.
when my father died, he left my world starved of light.
i was scared.
i was scared to death of death – thoughts of my father’s corpse rotting in a hole in the ground.
i was scared to love.
i kept people at a distance for fear of losing them.
i feared emptiness.
as i grew up, i felt cheated; cheated out of how the father-child relationship changes, how it develops into a solid friendship. a close friendship.
my father never saw me grow up; he did not come to my 18th birthday party or drive me to the airport; he was never there to disapprove of my boyfriends or tease my girlfriends; he never saw me drive my own car or break bread in my first home; he never saw me perform.
when my father died, it was as though someone turned off the big light.
and i was afraid of the dark.
i miss my father. even now.
memories of that Sunday morning when my mother and brother came into my bedroom to tell me:
“Kathryn, darling… Daddy’s died”
memories of my own screams and wretching still haunt me. still as real as though it happened yesterday.
and i am still afraid. afraid of loss.
i fear that one day i will forget what he looked like.
people say i look like my father, but some days i feel i am drowning in my own blind panic as i try to envisage his face. or how he smelled. that fresh soap & water scent. but what soap did he use? i can’t remember.
‘oh Daddy why you?’
my father taught me many things; how to fly a kite, how to grow vegetables; how to knit and sew; how to skip and how to drive; how to shoot a gun and skin a rabbit; how to bath a dog and how to waltz.
he taught me how to have fun.
my father had infinite patience, something i haven’t inherited from his gene pool. i have precious little of that, but i am learning.
my father’s death taught me many, many things: about life, about love, about loyalty and the importance of family and friendship… but mostly he taught me about myself.
i am no longer afraid to tell people that i love them because life is too short not to.
my father was 52 when he died. i look at my mother and i feel for her. she lost her husband, her lover, the father of her children, her best friend and confidant, and a companion for her in the winter years of her life.
knowing love myself now, i can only imagine her pain and the loneliness of facing her own mortality – alone.
life is short.
we must live each day as if it were our last – and not waste a moment.
we must not take anything or anyone for granted – we can lose everything in a heartbeat, or heart attack as in my father’s case.
we must consider the little things… every detail… how they brush their hair from their forehead, their smile, their favourite shirt, their chosen soap.
and we must love. truly, madly, deeply.
and we must know no fear.
we must tell our family and friends that we love them. every day, in every way.
because at 13, you think you have year upon year of living and loving and laughter. but i know better…
don’t leave anything to chance.
don’t live with regret – or leave this world, full of woe and wretched of regrets of ‘if onlys’.
so say it now. it’s only 3 words. 3 small words.
but you know they mean everything. so say it now…
“i love you”
and i do: ‘i still love you, Daddy’
(c) Kat McDonald 2014