So many years have passed since I have done this. I do not remember the last time I wrote to you, and it has not been for lack of need, or wanting to do so. I need to be honest: at some point, I just gave up on you. There did not seem to be any way inside you anymore, not through your ears or your heart. You closed yourself one day at a time and while that was happening, I was growing up, a latent teenager. Today I know there is a word for that: opsimath. It means people who are late learners. People like me, who well past their thirties still make the mistakes others make in their twenties.
Digression. I am writing this letter to you because I love you, and while that may seem simple enough to say, it comes with so much attached that it necessitates this letter. Because I need to tell you that I love you despite the poor father you have been to us; despite your drinking, your violent rages, your abuse, your belittling, your drug problem and now, your illness. The question is not why I love you. It is how and what. This is it, Baba.
I love your sacred moments of tenderness. The way your voice cracks with feeling when you struggle to express weakness. I love your long breathy silences where you stare at the floor, a broken, hopeless man without a clue as to why or how deeply he is loved. I love your trembling hands in mine, so frail yet fighting to show you’re my father and can still look after me. You can’t. But you do. I am moved to a point heartbreaking pity when you put on two pairs of trousers to conceal how thin you’ve become. So we won’t worry.
I love your unexpected generosity.
“Let me buy you a cat.”
“Do you like fish? I’ll go get some for you.”
“I didn’t eat the lamb chops. I kept them for you.”
“Here. Take this. Keep it.”
It could have been your heart. I am sure sometimes it was.
Baba, I spent most of my life being afraid of you. As a child I was awestruck by your commanding presence. Your beautiful gait. Your handsome face. Your salt and pepper curls that drove women crazy. Your dapper sense of style that turned every head. The click of your immaculate shoes; the trail of Vetiver you left in your wake. You spoke softly and with such dignity, it made our knees knock. You were God to us, Baba. I think we worshiped you so much that God chose to destroy you. I know that’s not true. You chose to destroy you. But all gods are their own ruin.
Today I am not afraid of you. I am afraid for you. You’re a reckless man. A reckless, sick man. You need help and won’t hear of it. You need love but spit on it. You need us, but you drive us away. We love you anyway. And I, the most difficult of all your family, love you perhaps most of all. I do not have long with you, I know. And I do not want to spend it being angry even though you make my blood run to my head with fury. I want to be there when you go. I want to love you uninterruptedly when you pass from life into a gentler place. But now, while you still live, Baba, perhaps these words will bring you some peace. Perhaps they will let you breathe without assistance for a few moments. Or maybe they will enrage you so much, you will curse me and disown me. Again. It won’t change anything. I love you. I love you. My terrible father, my beautiful man, I love you.