It has been nearly seven years since my father passed away.
I miss him. At times there are questions I have that I would like to ask him, because I know he will know the answer. Like, how long did we live in Tunisia. (I know I had my eighth birthday there, but what month did we arrive, and when did we leave?) And, what do you think Hillman meant with … … ? And, why did we … … ?
But I can’t, now, not any longer.
I never asked him enough questions when he was still living.
My father loved to talk. With me, his youngest child, as he did with all of his children. He usually wanted to talk about subjects he had given a lot of thought to, but were new to me, or the discussion was based on books he had read, and I had not. It was only after he had passed away that I began to read books by James Hillman, and I now understand what my father wanted to talk about.
To his great annoyance and chagrin I often used to sit in silence. I had tried to respond to the things he brought up, but the things I said were often met with shouts of exasperation that I did not understand what he had meant and that I was wrong. It didn’t matter that I thought I was paraphrasing, and trying to understand in my own way. So, silence seemed a better option. I didn’t want the aggravation of trying to have a discussion that seemed to cause more angst than I, for one, wanted in my life.
He was not long past his 90th birthday when he had his first stroke. Thankfully he lived only about three months after this.
On his last full weekend on this earth all of his children, and some of his grandchildren, came together, to be with him, and share our last times with him.
After the weekend, and everyone had gone home, at about 10.30 in the morning, I went and sat with him. The doctor had said he could have a whisky any time he wanted, so we shared a glass or two or three of a rather nice Islay whisky. Never mind that the sun was not over the yard-arm yet.
And we talked. We talked as we never had before. We talked about death. We talked about Buddhism. We talked more about death, and what there might be afterwards. We talked about Jungian psychology, one of his favourite subjects, and mine. We talked even more about death. And even more about what Jung may have thought of death.
For the first time in my life I was able to talk with my father in a way I had always wanted.
Suddenly he said to me, “how do you know all this? Where did you learn all of this?”
I said to him, “From you. I learned it from you. I may never have said all that much, but I listened.”
I could see the pride in his face. Finally he knew that our one-sided “discussions” had not been in vain, I had not just been contrary, or stupid, or surly, or whatever he’d thought I was. I had listened, and I learned. Finally he knew that everything he said had not fallen on deaf ears, and his knowledge had been passed on, and had been taken in. His knowledge would live on.
The day after this it was time for me to head back home and to my work and I said goodbye to him for the last time.
He passed away a few days later.
We had talked at cross-purposes for most of our lives, but for me, at least, it was all put right in the two and a half hours we talked, over a few glasses of whisky. It felt to me that for the first time in my life he had been the father I always wanted him to be, and that I was the daughter he had always wanted me to be.
I am so grateful for that time we had together. It made his passing easier for me. I hope it was the same for him.