Today makes it 20 years since my biological dad passed. In a world where everybody wants to tell you how to do everything, – how to parent your kids, how to love, how to be a friend, how to process pain – this is one pain I’ve never really known how to process.
My earliest memory is set a few years after my dad had passed. I’m sitting at my mum’s feet in our pink-plastered living room, getting my hair braided. It’s a hairstyle we called “Scissors”. I don’t have a single memory of him.
How do you mourn the loss of someone you don’t remember? How do you hold on to memories you never made? How do you miss something you don’t recollect having? How do you come to terms with a void you never knew existed?
The first time I listened to Simi’s Charlie, I cried. It’s not the first song about the loss of a parent I’ve heard. But it’s one of the few songs that don’t talk about all the memories we made, all the time that we shared, or any of those things. It’s just me. Reflecting on what obtains right now and what could have been.
At the beginning of my childhood, I didn’t think anything was out of the ordinary. Everything felt normal to me. I like to think my mum did a good job of sheltering us. Until one day, it stopped feeling normal. I didn’t understand why everyone in my class agreed when my teacher said a nuclear family consists of a mother, father and their children. Was my family a nuclear family?
Even though I went back home and got the answers I wanted, the reality didn’t dawn on me until high school. Nine-year-old me in boarding school. Almost everyday, someone had a story to share involving their dad. I didn’t hate that they shared their stories. I loved their stories. I just hated that I didn’t have any stories to share. That’s when it became real to me.
I hear he was a really gentle person. I hear he wasn’t confrontational. I hear he was kind. And that he ate only fish because of his all-too-frequent visits to the dentist. In many ways, I’m not like you dad. I’m razz. I’m talkative. And I doubt anybody will describe me as gentle. But there are some things we share – my empathy, the frequent visits to the dentists, how much I hate confrontation.
I like to think I would have been close to him. If I had gotten a chance to know him, that is. I like to think he would have been a good dad. Fun, supportive, and respectful of my dreams. I like to think we would have had a deep connection…like the stuff of movies.
Sometimes, I wonder how my sisters took his passing. They were young too, but they remember. I wonder how it felt to hear that dad was never coming back. I can’t imagine what that does to a child. But sometimes, I secretly wish I remember. That I had something to hold on to. A relic. A piece. A memory of him. Just one.
When I find myself missing him, wishing he were around, I ask myself questions that I think people would ask me if I ever said it out loud. What do you miss about him? You didn’t even know him. What do you remember? Why are you crying?
Sometimes, the questions make logical sense. Sometimes they don’t. But I’ve stopped asking myself these questions. I’ve come to accept that my grief does not have to make sense to anyone but me. I don’t have to remember him to feel his loss. I don’t need a reason or an excuse to feel the way I feel. I’m allowed to cry. I’m allowed to bawl even. I’m allowed to be heartbroken. Most of all, I’m allowed to mourn the opportunity I was robbed of – a lifetime of getting to know him.
Like in the song Charlie, I would say: I wish I could see your face one more day. But if wishes were horses, beggars would ride. So instead I’ll go with:
Cheers to the future way you no see
I want to make you proud
I hope you’re in heaven smiling down
Say hello to the angels now.
I’m still your angel now
I’m still your angel, dad. Keep Resting Ademola Aiyepola. Till we meet to never part again.