This weekend was my Dad’s 60th birthday. W and I joined the family in a weekend away to celebrate.
My Dad is one of the reasons I really want to have a child. He is why I am the person I am today. Obviously my Mom and my step parents also helped mould me but my dad is so special. To have a relationship like that with a parent makes me yearn for the same kind of relationship with a child of my own.
Dad has lived a very exciting life doing everything from working on the docks to land surveying in Swaziland to being a motivational speaker and life coach. He has changed many people’s lives mostly through his wisdom and his quirky ‘left field’ approach to problem solving. Although he was absent having separated and then divorced from my mom when I was 6, as a father he was sensitive, loving and terribly exciting . He was always surprising us: once pitching up at my school play in Std 6 having driven 1500km across the country, carrying a single red rose. Later on, in my party years, he gate crashed a night on the town and beat all my friends at pool.
In 2003 I was living in Taiwan and after a big night of partying I came home to find a message saying that my Dad had had a major stroke (at age 52). A few days later I flew back to SA and walked into a hospital ward to find my father lying small and scared on a hospital bed. His paralysis was temporary although his feeling on the left side of his body was gone. But what had been stripped from him was his speech, ironically his greatest asset. He has expressive aphasia which means when he tries to form words mumbo jumbo comes out.
It’s selfish of me to talk about how this changed my life because obviously my father’s life changed tragically. But as a daughter it was so hard to let go. To accept that he wouldn’t give a speech at my wedding like he did at my 21st. That I couldn’t cry on his shoulder and get the perspective I needed when I went through a tough time.
After two further strokes both again stripping him of more of his communication,dignity and independence his spirit still remains. Yes, I have lost a large part of my dad as a parent, but have been blessed to have him in my life these past 8 years.
One of the reasons why my Dad and I have such a special bond is that he says that I changed him. At my 21st birthday he opened his speech by saying “SJ is not my child”. Hushed silence banged on my ear drums while I prayed this wasn’t some horrible airing of family dirty laundry. Then he said “I am hers”. He went on to explain how being a young, dope smoking hippy and finding out that his girlfriend was pregnant gave him the fright big enough to send him running for the hills. But once I was born he was a changed man. He always marveled at my every development growing up and my achievements were his biggest kick.
I sometimes wonder whether I will make a good parent or not. I suppose people would be horrified that I am not sure after all the pain and agony of the TTC journey. I am bossy, and over opinionated with a short fuse. But is it so wrong to want back what I lost with my Dad? It will never replace him but I know that having a child will change and improve me as a person more than anything else.
Happy 60th birthday, Pappie. I love you so much.