things to tell your father on his birthday- or any day

I remember when I first saw the hairs on your arm turning white; the sudden shocking awareness of your mortality registering for the first time.

I remember a younger you on a rampage, I forget now the reason why. But raging beast you were- shouting and raining blows. Mommy shrieking and trying to deflect your hands from our children bodies.

I remember the water barrel trestle collapsing just after I’d seen you standing underneath filling up the buckets. Daddy! Daddy! The possibility of you hurt more than I could bear. Such relief when I saw that you were safe.

I remember you driving us to school every day, back when the road only had a few cars, and always picking up people along the way. You were working for Burnham then- an Indian man in the public service, recipient of a government scholarship to study overseas. I still don’t know exactly what compromises you might have had to make.. I ask but you don’t answer.

Later, in a colder place, you walked miles in the snowy night to your security guard work, after a full day shift at the bakery- the only jobs you could find, MBA from the white man university nonwithstanding. I never heard you complain about the change in your status, though I can’t imagine it not having an impact. But provide for your family you did. Even now- you try to give me money every time I visit and I have to holler at you and hide it back before I leave.

A mentally disturbed and absent mother resulted in you not speaking until you were four, and even now, you remain a man of few words. But you can say I love you now; mom no longer has to be in the background prompting you. I finally have understanding of things, you said wistfully to me last year. Wistful because your most faithful listeners now are the four legged grands I left behind for you to mind; they remain close and attentive while the humans squabble and wander away. I love and forgive you, dad. Thank you for everything. I’m here anytime you want to talk; there’s so much more to say. I hope we get many more years.



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