Baba was a nebulous character in my life. After he left, right before my fourth birthday his constant presence remained a ghost, not quite reliable but consistently inconsistent. That is why, I never thought I would react the way I did after he passed away. It was just a phone call for me, nothing dramatic. It was just a phone call for me, nothing dramatic. He would be buried in America where he lived. Missing in death, just as he was in life.
Baba was never an easy man to love. From my early childhood memories, I remember him beating my mother in drunken rages when I repeatedly had to save her from his hands. He was a completely different person when he was drunk and when he was sober. Like Jekyll and Hyde. I remember him being very sweet and silly, and doing things to try and make me laugh. As a child, I had a very serious demeanour, and so he would point his tongue at the policemen or dunk my ice cream into glasses of water. Even then I was subconsciously angry at him, making him work harder for my laughter and admonishing him for his behaviour. I would worry that he drank so much, as we discovered discarded bottles of Black Label in the car. One time, after coming home from school, I found him passed out in his room with the door locked. He did not come out for hours afterwards and in my three year old panic, I actually thought he died in a drunken stupor.
Then he left, and aside from birthdays he never called much. (But he did call me every birthday). He constantly made promises he could not keep, went back on his word, and disappointed me time and time again. He could always feel my rage against him, I was never willing to listen to his side – what he was going through. I was just angry at him for leaving. I felt a gaping hole inside because my father, one of the people who are supposed to love you the most in the world, had abandoned me. For my mother, I remained as a reminder of the man who abused her and she took out her anger on me. She would often compare me to him and how much I looked like him when I was angry. His photographs were cut and thrown out, his name reduced to mere initials. So I hated myself for being half him and I tried to deny his existence by even cutting his name out from mine.
I was thinking after his death that I could probably count on one hand the number of times I saw him after he left for America. It was five times. I never quite had the chance to grieve him back then though, even though he was technically gone a long time ago. Yet, the feeling of his death brought about a visceral feeling of sadness and regret that there would never be a resolution of our problems. Grief is not a tangible thing. It comes in waves like a heavy feeling in your heart, as though it is full of rocks.
And with an absent parent, it is all the more confusing because you feel as though you do not deserve to grieve. And others treat you the same. I have not had the outpouring of love I would have had if he were present in my life. Most people have assumed I must not be going through much as he was never around anyway. Even though I constantly found myself in spontaneous tears after his death, I felt the need to hide them around everyone else.
You could have basically called me the poster child for “daddy issues” in my younger days. All the rage and anger from my childhood turned into addiction and abusive relationships in my adulthood. It was then around the beginning of my spiritual journey, in the year 2013 that I decided I had to try and heal my relationship with my father. This “healing” though had to come at the price of me accepting that my father was the way he was. He was never going to be reliable but that he loved me. I would always be left wanting, given excuses to and simply disappointed any time I put any kind of expectation on him.
As we re-cultivated our relationship, he would often talk to me about his troubles. The problem with Baba was that he was a weak man, and people took advantage of his simple nature and gullibility. On the other hand though, he also never took any kind of responsibility and blamed everyone else for his troubles.
Now that he is gone, I really wish he had done better for himself and for me. He has profoundly affected my relationships with not just all men, but all humans. The reason I am scared to open up and be vulnerable is a result of my relationship with him. But at the same time, going through this pain from a young age has also made me able to empathise with others and understand what they are going through, sometimes to my own detriment. As Baba and I reconnected, I found that we shared many similar and unconventional beliefs. He was a rebel, he loved music and he believed in the best in people – these were some of the good things he passed on to me.
I have had some people tell me that all I can do now is forgive him and remember only his good memories. But that would be a disservice to me. I deserved better from him. And it is okay for me to acknowledge that as I grieve for him. I read his daughter’s (from his second marriage) post about him on Facebook the other day and she wrote about how he looked after her as a baby, put her to bed every night and read her books to sleep. Today, I mourn the father I never got. Our relationship may have been an illusion, but the love was real. Rest in peace, Baba. May we find some answers as we meet again in the next life.