It’s seven years today since my dad died. On the seventh anniversary of my mother’s death, Dad rang me – he rang me on each one of her anniversaries and her birthdays. I remember saying, on her seventh anniversary, ‘It feels different this year.’ ‘Yes,’ he said. And it does feel different, because it is. The loss is deep instead of raw. Life has gone on. At seven years, it’s a new stage of things.

I’ve been tossing up whether or not to write about Dad today. I sometimes feel that I talk about my parents and their deaths too much. I worry that people think that I let those events define me. That people (that you) are thinking, Can’t you move on already? Goodness me, we get it.

Clare Bowditch sings it perfectly in The Thing About Grief, “It gets kind of boring for the people who don’t yet know.”

It’s true that when I talk about my parents I am talking about dead people. But I don’t talk about them because they’re dead. I talk about them because they are my parents and because they are a part of my life.

Part of my relationship with my dad is that I miss him.

Sometimes I miss him with a pang. Like when the Floppy Adolescent glides through the loungeroom on his skateboard balancing a cat on his shoulder and I think of my dad walking around our house with our stumpy-tailed cat on his shoulder. Or when Cricket Boy comes loudly to the defence of test cricket, ‘But it’s so exciting! The game can change with any ball!’

Sometimes I miss his steady hand. Like last year when we had An Incident with the Floppy Adolescent and the mister and I walked around the compound talking it through. ‘I wish we could talk to my dad,’ I said. ‘He would tell us it’s all okay. He would say, “You’re on the right track, you’ll see it through.”‘

Sometimes I miss him because what are we without the people who know us best? There is no one else who can say, ‘Bloody hell, you sound so much like Vivienne,’ with such meaning.

And sometimes I simply miss sitting at the table with him, the newspapers spread around, wine half-drunk, coffee gone cold, food, always more food and the conversation going in endless circles.

I miss his energy and I miss his love.

But there’s much more to our relationship than a simple wish that he were here. I don’t know exactly how to explain those things. There’s a lot of the same things that there would be if he were alive. Some months ago, I came far too close to making a spectacularly, enormously awful decision. But I knew I wouldn’t do it because I would have to answer Dad. He doesn’t let me get away with being dishonest to myself. I send him emails and texts in my mind, the details of my days that I would have shared. I look at his photograph and I tell him bits and pieces. But there’s more to it than that. Something deeper. He’s just here, living with me. Every single day. That’s the best explanation I can give.

Lucky us, we had a good and a solid and a straightforward relationship so there wasn’t much in the way of deathbed revelations, but there were two things he talked about that stay with me.

Don’t be angry. Don’t be angry with people who love you and don’t be angry with yourself. Forgive people if they hurt you and forgive yourself. I have managed to let go of most of my anger and my life is better for it. I still do an excellent line in churn and guilt, self-recrimination and flagellation though. I don’t think Dad would be surprised by that.

The other thing he said: Keep writing.

Do you know the stupidest I’ve ever done and no, I will never forgive myself for it? Not showing Dad the draft of my first novel before it was published. How dumb was that? I don’t even know why I didn’t let him read it. Scared I guess. By the time I had the courage Dad didn’t have the concentration. Really dumb.

But I almost did an even dumber thing. I almost stopped writing altogether. I have no idea of why it took me so much effort to write a second manuscript. I love writing. I feel good about myself when I’m writing and rubbish when I’m not. Whatever the reason it was really freaking hard getting it to the place that it’s in now. But I did it. I got it written. Even if it never gets published, even if you never read it, I wrote it and I feel good about that. I hadn’t realised until I started writing again how unbalanced my relationship with Dad had become. It wasn’t quite that I was letting him down but there’s definitely a sense now that I can look him in the eye again.

I don’t know where I’m going with this really. I don’t have some stunning insight to share or a life-changing observation.

I think I just wanted to talk about my dad.

Thank you for listening.

This is Denis with the Floppy Adolescent a few weeks before the Floppy Adolescent had his surgery.

This is Denis with Cricket Boy at the Adelaide Oval. Cricket Boy’s first test match.

27 thoughts on “Anniversary”

  1. Tracy, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I miss Denis and Viv, anniversaries bring back memories. It’s lovely to see the photos and know that Denis had spent time with the boys. So glad you do keep writing and remember to share it with your nearest and dearest or specials. Love the connection with you through Facebook through your writing. Love Chris hug.

  2. A post which resonates.
    My relationship with my father was difficult. Sometimes very difficult. He was a German Jew and most of his family disappeared in the war. He made an oyster look garrulous.
    He has been gone for over twenty years now, and I still yearn to tell him things, ask him things, show him things. Despite knowing that if he were alive we would often be at war…
    He is part of me. As yours is of you.

    1. I can’t have any idea, but I feel like it would be really hard to have anything but difficult relationships if you’ve survived that.

  3. Thank you for sharing Tracy. I lost my dad last November, and the feeling of loss is still raw. I think of him every day, and still can’t believe he isn’t here to share his words of wisdom over a glass of wine or driving around the farm. There are days when the loss really hits you, and there are days when you have a laugh and think ‘Dad would have liked that.’ Keep listening to your Dad – it is reassuring to know that our dads still have our backs!
    PS good luck with your manuscript – hope to see you in print one day!

      1. Yes – family/home times are precious.
        Have just got the library to order your book – looking forward to reading it!

  4. Oooh, lovely post. I understand that thing about just wanting to talk about them because they are a part of you, though all of my parents are still alive. I have a difficult friend whose mum died about 10 years ago, and his dad is on the way out. I suspect he doesn’t talk about them enough.

  5. It is posts like this that remind me to appreciate the stage we are at now. Dad is vague, a shadow of his former self, but still here, cognitively. Not too many years hence, I will be remembering this period with – what emotion? I can’t quite imagine.

  6. I don’t think you go on about it too much. I’ve always found your perspective on it very profound and comforting. And I love that you’re still holding your Dad so close in your heart.

  7. Hi Tracy, this is such a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing it. I recently posted a little something about missing my dad. He died 10 and a half years ago so I am used to being without him but the intensity of missing him can still bowl me over.

  8. Thanks Tracy. Sooner or later we all become People Who Know … I look forward to reading (and writing) every anniversary S xx

  9. Your writing is beautiful and insightful. I still have both of my parents but my father is not well and the multiple illnesses he is struggling with have already greatly changed him physically and mentally. The way you talk about still having your dad in your life is an excellent and comforting example of how to face the inevitable. Thank you and listen to you dad when he says “don’t stop writing”

  10. i love this post. Beautiful insight to your wonderful relationship with your Dad. I hardly knew mine, so I loved reading this.

  11. Yes blogging is great (to respond to your FB comment). A relief to read this when so much of the media these days is shallow and/or sensationalist.

  12. I miss my Mum and Gerard everyday and sometimes it is more sharp and hurtful than others but mostly I talk to them about this and that. I think you are right about “the people who don’t know yet”. I used to be one of them.

    It is good to see you blogging again. It feels like a bigger but more intimate space. I’m going to try and have a go too.

  13. Wow, thanks–great post. And thanks for not being scared to emphasise the significance of grief and loss.

  14. You had wonderful, lovely parents Tracy and I think of all the happy, funny memories I have of them and you xoxo

  15. Your words hit the nail on the head. I miss my Dad so much in ways I can’t describe. He’s been gone a year this month. My brother and I, with Mum, nursed him as he died, so there was nothing left unsaid that needed to have been said. I’m grateful for that. But I miss him at weird moments. Miss his voice (though I still have a phone voicemail he left for me that I listen to, not often, but I do, and I have one of his shirts in my wardrobe — is that weird?) It’s still raw. X

  16. Thank you lovely, gorgeous friends for visiting my blog and for saying such supportive things and for sharing your stories with me. tc xx

  17. I’m really surprised to learn that seven years have passed already. You definitely don’t talk about it too much.

    Having pretty rotten parents, I’m in awe of the relationship you had with yours. I very much aspire to have that same kind of closeness with my sprogs.

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