Dear dad

Dear dad,

It has been a while since we opened our hearts out to each other. To an outsider, we may be the perfect father-daughter duo. But that’s because that outsider only sees the smile feigned by our lips. If he looked deeper, he would see that the smile on our lips never reaches our eyes. While we still have dinner together every single day, exchanging stolen glances when we think the other is not looking, exchanging words beyond the polite courtesies has become a struggle. The television blaring in the background does little to reduce the awkwardness. Seventeen years together and we don’t have anything to say to each other. I can’t take it anymore. Every day I see my friends laughing and playing with their fathers and I try, I try hard, to jog my memory for the last time we did something like that together. It pains me deeply that I can’t remember.

I am in a bad place right now, dad. I need some time away from home where I can be myself. I’m tired of pretending to smile when I’m not happy. I’m tired of our polite exchanges which are mere formalities. I’m not even sure if this letter is going to come to you as a surprise. I don’t know if you are going to be relieved that you don’t have to pretend to care or smile. I don’t know what you want, dad. I don’t even know what I want. All I know is that I need to be by myself for a few days to figure things out. Please do not worry about me. I will be back home soon and we can go back to our ‘pretend perfect world’. I promise you I won’t make it any more awkward than it already is.

Love,

Abby

P S Happy Birthday, dad. I apologize for not giving you a fancy birthday present this time. However I’m opening my heart out a little bit, something we haven’t done in ages. I’m giving you honesty this time dad. I hope you accept it and forgive me.

***************************

The digital clock on her bedside table read 1:47 am when she finally finished writing. Abby read the letter two more times before folding it in half. As she ran her thumb and her index finger on the folded piece of paper in her hand, Abby looked out of her bedside window. The night sky was sprawled out above her in an endless fabric of black canvas sprayed with shining silver stars. It was the night of the New moon which meant the stars were shining with more intensity. The star studded sky looked like a flawless piece of art to Abby.

Abby knew she should have gone to sleep a long time ago, but sleep was the last thing on her mind. She had set an alarm on her phone for 5 am. Three hours from now. She looked down and realized she was still nervously running her fingers over the folded letter. She carefully placed the letter on the bedside table under her lamp and continued to gaze at the stars, waiting for the minutes to pass. The twinkling stars seemed to bring a weird sense of calm upon her.

Abby’s father was a man of habit. He would wake up every morning at 6 am and come down straight to the coffee pot.  With a mug of steaming hot coffee in hand, he would turn on the radio for the morning news and sit down at the table, sipping his black coffee. Abby’s plan was to leave the letter on the table before heading out with her bag pack and her phone.

The alarm went off at 5 am as set. Abby quickly turned it off. She did not want her father waking up before she left the house. She quietly got out of bed, washed her face and pulled on her jeans and a t-shirt. After counting the money in her wallet one last time, she zipped her bag shut. She had enough to be able to make it through the next 3-4 days. Hoisting the bag pack on her shoulders, she stuffed her phone and her earphones into the pocket of her jeans and took the letter from under the lamp. She was careful not to make any sound as she made her way down the stairs. After opening the letter and placing it on the table, she opened the fridge and gulped down some milk, picked the few remaining granola bars from the shelf and headed towards the door. She looked over her shoulder one last time and noticed that the time on the clock was 5:45 am before closing the door quietly and stepping out into the dawn.

****************************

The time now is 11:05. We have a little less than an hour before it’s time for me to say good night and good bye to all you lovely listeners out there. You’re listening to your favourite radio station, Radio Beats, with your favourite RJ, Amy. Dear listeners, it’s that time of the day when you keep your inhibitions aside and speak what’s in your mind. Is there something troubling you? Is there something you want to share? Pick up that phone and give me a call now.

Abby was lying on the bed of the small hotel room, listening to her favourite radio show on her favourite radio station. It had been two days since she had left home. The anger, hurt and resentment filled inside her were slowly melting away. Lying on bed, there was only one thought running through her head, that of her old man. What was he doing right now? Was he missing her? Had he seen the letter she had left for him? What was his reaction to it? Was it one of worry, anger, hurt or relief? Abby kicked her blanket and sat up on her bed by the window and looked outside, at the trees and the mountains glowing in the silvery light of the stars. She sat there taking in the ethereal beauty in front of her eyes, trying to replace the voices in her head with the sounds of the trickling brook, the howling wind and the screeching crickets.

Turning to nature had always been her fix to any problem. She believed that one could find answers to any given problem if one took the time out to stop and look around them. She learned to collaborate and work as a team from the bees and flowers. As the bees collected nectar from the flowers to make their honey, the flowers had their pollen being spread out by the bees.  She learned to adapt to different people, places and situations from the trees that adapted with ease to the changing seasons. They shed leaves in autumn and grew flowers in spring. She learned to be patient when nothing seemed to be going her way from the caterpillar which waited patiently in its cocoon before emerging into a beautiful butterfly. She learned that there is peace in chaos and she learned that life is without limits.

 

After leaving home, Abby had boarded a bus that had taken her up a small hill. From there, she had hitched a ride in a car with a kind family who offered to drop her to the hotel. The modestly built hotel was in the midst of lush green surrounding. After checking in at the hotel reception, Abby took the keys from the concierge and entered her room. As she opened the window in her room, she inhaled the earthy smell of wet soil, heard the distant sound of birds chirping and water trickling through a stream, saw rolling hills in the distance and moss growing on the trunks of tall green trees and felt the quietness and calmness that comes only with such intimacy with nature.

Abby spent majority of the next two days out in the open amongst the birds and bees, and flowers and trees. She bathed in the light of the sun and soaked in the cool breeze. She closed her eyes, spread her hands on both sides and let the sounds, smells and sensations sink in. She felt lighter and happier. She felt one with the birds and trees around her.

As she walked along the brook, dipping her toe in the water from time to time, she thought of the time when as a little girl, she had won the second prize in story writing. Feeling proud of herself, she had run home to her father to show the tiny cup that she had received. Sadly, the only reaction that she could get out of him was a grunt and a “Who won the first prize?” Disheartened by his response, Abby had never showed him the first prize she had won the following year.

As she lay on the sheet that she had spread on the green grass under the sun, she thought of the time when her father had lost his job and they had to sell the house. The fateful day when she had, with a heavy heart, helped him move out of the house. Once in the truck, her dad had turned to her and said, “Thank you for helping me. I don’t know what to tell you other than…well, things happen.” She had looked down at her phone and lost herself in the world of social media, lest she started shouting at him or worse, start crying. She would have been content if he had just shown some sort of emotion, shown that this was difficult for him too.

As she sat, leaning against the trunk of an old tree, breathing in the last of the long day, she thought about the time when she had told her dad that her date for the prom, Dave, was waiting for her at the school grounds. He had insisted on Dave showing up at their doorstep to pick her up. He had told her he wanted to meet ‘that boy’. “Trust me, a boy who would not take the trouble to pick you up on the first date won’t last long”, he had said, much to her anger. With tears in her eyes, she had banged the door on her way out. A few rocky weeks after the prom, Dave and Abby had broken up.

She saw the orange haze above the horizon light up the sky as if lit by fire. The sun, an orange fireball, was partially cloaked by the hanging clouds, which were blotches of random colorsof pink and red and blue and purple. She couldn’t believe two days had gone by since she had set foot in that magical place. Although she was happy that she had made the decision to get away from the busy world, even if it was only for two days, there was a small part of her that felt guilty about leaving without telling her dad and kept going back to him.As she ducked under the thick pine branches and walked down the grassy hill towards the hotel, a cool breeze blew, making her stop in the middle of the path. She let the wind tousle her hair. The wind had an almost human touch to it, reminding her of her father tousling her hair when she was a little girl. Her father loved doing that. He used to call her his ‘Little Rapunzil’. The sound of her father’s words echoed in her mind, jerking her out of her fleeting thoughts. By then, the sun had disappeared leaving the canopy of stars in the sea of dark, for it was their turn to shine.

 

As Abby sat on her bed by the window listening to RJ Amy give relationship advice to random strangers, she tried spotting the pretty red flowers she had seen through her window that morning. But all she could see was a dark shadow in the shape of a flower. The kaleidoscope of colors spread out in the morning had faded into shades of grey. And that’s when a thought occurred to her. The night deceived our eyes, made colors seem what they were not. The leaves that she saw now weren’t really grey, they just appeared grey in the dark. It was left to us to decide what was true and what was right. The darkness in her slowly settled and she began to see light. She realized that she only saw what she chose to see. Her father was not perfect, but nor was she. Instead of seeing him as protective, she had chosen to see him as uncaring. Instead of seeing him as strong, she had chosen to see him as emotionless. Instead of seeing the dreams and expectations in his eyes, she had chosen to see the disappointment. But now, instead of seeing all that he was not, she started to see everything that he was and everything that he had done for her. She felt a warm sensation on her right cheek and realized a silent tear had trickled down. She could hear RJ Amy in the background at the end of a song request.

I hope you guys enjoyed the song. Let’s move on to the next amazing caller on line. Hello, who do we have here?

“Umm..hello..”, came an unsure voice.

Abby could recognize that gruff, lifeless voice anywhere. It was her dad! But what was he doing on the show. She didn’t even know he listened to it.

“Hello, this is Bruce. Am I speaking to Amy?”

Well, hello Bruce. You got me. This is RJ Amy on your favourite radio station, Radio Beats. How are you today?

“Hi Amy. Not so good, I’m afraid. My only daughter left me two days back.”  He was struggling for words.

That’s terrible. What happened?

“I have not been a good father to her. That’s what happened. I tried. I know I did. But it was not enough. She deserved better.”

Awww..I’m sorry. Is there something you want us to tell her, or better yet, tell her yourself. May be she’s listening to you right now.

“To be honest, I don’t really listen to your show. But my daughter, Abby, she never misses your show. She tunes in every single night to listen to you. This is my best chance of reaching out to her. And that’s the reason I have called you.”

Go on then. Fire away. Tell Abby how much she means to you. And Abby, if you are listening to us right now, please come back. Your father misses you.

Abby sat frozen, clutching her fingers tightly, sure that this had to be a dream.

“Thank you Amy. Uhh..after trying the number for the radio station for two days, I finally get through. And I realize I don’t know what to say. I’m not a very expressive man, you know. My daughter would vouch for that.”

He gave a dry chuckle.

“My dear Abigail.” Her father had never called her by her full name. She had always been Abby to him.

“Did you know that the name, Abigail, had been picked out for you by me? I have never asked you if you actually like the name. Hmm..do you know what it means? It means ‘A father’s joy’. And you, dear Abby, have been just that. I remember the first time I held you in my arms, like it was yesterday. I had never seen anything as beautiful. It was in that moment that I made a promise to myself. I promised to protect you, no matter what. I kept up my word, mind you. I tried to protect you from failure. I tried to protect you from young boys. I tried to protect you from falling or even seeing me fall. And I failed. I failed to understand that, in doing so, I was not letting you experience life events for yourself. I was trying to hold you back from trying something you might fail at. All this, only because I couldn’t see you upset, Abby. When I look back at it now, I realize that it was not one of my better decisions. Your mother used to tell me I should, instead, have decided to love you unconditionally. But you know what, loving you was never a choice. The minute I saw you, I felt a huge wave of emotion inside me. I felt a sense of overpowering love. And I knew then, that I could never stop loving you.”

“Well, what I want to say is that I still love you as much as I did seventeen years back. I know I messed it up. But I want a fresh start. Please come back, Rapunzil. I promise we’ll start over and make up for all the lost time. Daddy loves you, Abby. And he misses you. Please come back.”

“Oh, and yes, I missed you on my birthday. But you made me think. And I decided to give you honesty in return for your honesty. I hope you see it and come back.”

By now, Abby had surpassed the sniffing stage and was sobbing uncontrollably. Her eyes were puffy and red and her face was stained with a seemingly endless flow of tears, when she heard Amy talk.

We know an honest message when we hear one. And Abby, your father 0really loves you. Mr Bruce, if your daughter heard what you just said, I’m sure she’ll be packing her bags to come home right now. You have to promise to call back once your daughter is home, though.

“Thank you Amy. I hope you are right.”

So which song can we play for you today? Is there a song you would like to dedicate to your daughter?

“Oh..a song. I didn’t know I got to pick the song. Well, could you play Paul Simon’s Father and daughter? That was our song when Abby was a little girl. I don’t know if she remembers it.”

Sure we can. Thank you for calling us. Our last caller for the day, dear listeners, Mr Bruce. Its almost midnight. Time for me to wish you good night. I’ll  be back again tomorrow on your favourite radio show. This is me, RJ Amy, wishing you all, good night. Coming right up, Paul Simons with father and daughter.

And the song started playing.

If you leap awake in the mirror of a bad dream

And for a fraction of a second you can’t remember where you are

Just open your window and follow your memory upstream

To the meadow in the mountain where we counted every falling star.

 

I believe a light that shines on you will shine on you forever

And though I can’t guarantee there’s nothing scary hiding under your bed

I’m gonna stand guard like a postcard of a Golden Retriever

And never leave till I leave you with a sweet dream in your head.

 

I’m gonna watch you shine

Gonna watch you grow

Gonna paint a sign

So you’ll always know

As long as one and one is two

There could never be a father

Who loved his daughter more than I love you.

 

Trust your intuition

It’s just like going fishing

You cast your line and hope you get a bite

But you don’t need to waste your time

Worrying about the market place

Try to help the human race

Struggling to survive its harshest night.

 

I’m gonna watch you shine

Gonna watch you grow

Gonna paint a sign

So you’ll always know

As long as one and one is two

There could never be a father

Who loved his daughter more than I love you.

 

With tears in her eyes, Abby picked up her phone and dialled her father’s number. “Daddy, this is Abby. I love you daddy. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I left you. I’m coming home to you tomorrow. I love you.”

“And daddy, happy birthday. We are going to make this our best ever year together. I promise.”

****************************

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2 thoughts on “Dear dad

  1. Sam: reading your “dear dad” touched me deeply. You have a way with your words. You express feelings and emotions beautifully and describe nature vividly. Please keep expressing yourself more and more and keep the juices flowing. Dad.

  2. I really enjoyed how you evoked various emotions as I read through the post. I did find that some parts dragged on a little bit, and could have used some editing. Another issue is that you have preferred “telling” the reader, rather than showing them through the actions of the characters. All in all, I enjoyed it. Cheers!

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