"Optus: Your credit will expire on 01/11/2012. Recharge by this date to [...]"
It's always the little things, isn't it?
Those banal things that pepper our quotidian routine, things that have nothing to do with anything -- until they kind of do, stupidly enough. A regular text message from my phone provider reminding me to recharge my phone by a date that is so entrenched within my personal lexicon that it's grown unrippable roots to other things. Other things = anything that mentions that date.
On this day 19 years ago, my father died (civilian casualty in the war) and we were beyond devastated and shattered.
It's not because he was mine, but MY GOD was he a spectacular man...! In some ways he was almost too good to be true. Dad was loving, compassionate, ridiculously smart and well-read (but humble to a fault), funny, very handsome, loyal, witty, respectful, hopelessly charismatic, a pacifist, fiercely proud of his Serbian ethnicity (as am I) but not a chauvinist who chest-thumped about it (and he never tried or wanted to be anything else but a Serb, never tried to hide it or lie about his roots, especially not when the world had their absurdly xenophobic, twisted notions of what a Serb was), a justice-seeker, a hard worker, beautifully honest, unpretentious, glorious.
And I can't help myself on a day like today -- I can't help but add more words to the hundreds of thousands I've written over the past nineteen years. It's like I'm reaching out towards him with my words, trying to track him down in the ether and lasso him back down to me from whatever celestial frontier he's occupying. In one way. In another, writing is and always has been a form of therapy for me; getting things out on paper makes those things tangible and dealable (even though they've kind of been dealt with a while ago).
I have this preternatural need to rhapsodise about dad to "the world", a world that has been sapped of him for almost two decades. I feel like I have to compensate for his absence by describing at length everything he was, lest those in the world who were blessed to know him fail to recall just how magnificent a man he was. (Those who didn't know him get an opportunity to meet him through me, I figure.) And so I appear again and again with the proverbial neon sign, bearing the gift (and curse) of memories and boasting about his character ad nauseam. I'm his proudest and loudest advocate, forever and ever, amen.
It's a compulsion.
As a kid, sometimes I would catch him staring off into the distance and it was the most heartachingly beautiful gaze; intense and profound and filled with thoughts I couldn't possibly hope to comprehend, and maybe never would. There was so much to learn about life from just that one gaze of his; so much to learn from him in the simplest of situations. I strive to emulate my father and his integrity, to learn and learn about life and this crazy world of ours like he did, and one day maybe I'll KNOW and I'll get there, but somehow it feels like the "there" is elusive, and that no matter how hard I try I'll fail to attain the apparent wisdom that awaits at the horizon, tapping its foot impatiently with arms across its chest, all "Will you just GET HERE already, ugh! How long does it take?!" The horizon distances itself further away as you move towards it, how could one possibly hope to reach it? Hell, maybe we're never meant to and maybe we never really do. (Ooh, deep. ::eyeroll::)
My dad, though, had wisdom in spades, even in his early 20s. He was so attuned to all those little nuances that make life both beautiful and shitty. And, as is so often the case with extremely humble people like my dad, he didn't think he was wise in the least, and thought he would never have it figured out even when he actually had most things figured out all along. He had it figured out when, for instance, he was happy to throw away what would have been a successful career as an attorney when he decided he'd much rather keep his job at the railway station and get to spend more time with his kids, not caring if down the road he'd meet people (read: ignoramuses) who would dismiss him as "just a railway station technician", even though he was ten times the intellectual most intellectuals were (although, naturally, he didn't consider himself an intellectual, and didn't believe in patting himself on the back or giving himself classifications); he knew who he was and was confident in his knowledge (even as he considered that knowledge limited which: soooo NOT), and he had no complexes that someone might think he wasn't intelligent or worthy because he worked at a railway station. Those people weren't worth his time, anyway.
While he was alive, I would scramble atop him lying on the couch, arms and legs akimbo, and I'd nestle into the nook under his chin and neck, or nuzzle his shoulder. I found comfort in those cuddles even when I was perfectly content and there was nothing to be comforted about. I like to think now that I was trying to get as many such moments as I could so they would last me a lifetime. Nineteen years later, I still miss him desperately, irrevocably. Nineteen years later, a part of me is still the (just-about-to-turn-)nine year old daddy's princess; it's like I'm permanently stuck at that age in reference to dad. Nineteen years later, something inside me still breaks when I see a father and daughter playing or cuddling or laughing, when a father is carrying his daughter on his shoulders, because I remember what it felt like to smugly observe the world from dad's shoulders. Nineteen years later, I miss the long conversations we should have had and the fights we would have slammed doors over and the advice he would have imparted at specific junctures of my life. I miss these things like a phantom limb that was never there.
Nineteen years later, though, I know that that's okay; that that's life in all its messy glory and that, even when it feels like a part of you might be sentenced to an existence peppered with "what ifs" and "how nice it would bes" and "if only he were around to see this", life is still deliciously awesome.