So, today is Father’s Day in New Zealand. It’s also the first Father’s Day that my Daddy is a Grandpa. It’s been a really special day for him. He (and my mother) have waited a long time to become grandparents. They’re truly wonderful grandparents. They’re overjoyed by the arrival of my beautiful baby nephew. I love my beautiful baby nephew too. OK, I’m completely besotted with him. I’ve just spent the afternoon staring down at him in wonder at his utter loveliness as he slept peacefully on my chest, his little arms spread across me as if to hold me in a baby-embrace. If this is what it’s like to be an aunty, I cannot conceive what it would be like to love as a mother loves. But I digress – hapless aunty cluckiness can be a post for another time.
Because today, being Father’s Day, I want to honour my father. I’ve only just recently, in the last year in fact, learned to really appreciate what God meant when He said that we are to honour our mother and father. I learned it means that no matter what has been said or done, rightly or wrongly, real or imagined – God has called me to honour my father. And more than anything, I want to do what God wants me to do. Why? Because He knows it’s ultimately for my own good. And when I honour my father and mother, God gives me a promise – that things may go well with me and that I may enjoy long life on the earth. Well I’ve made it to 41 so, so far, so good 🙂
I know that for some, Father’s Day is not an easy day. I know of people who have lost their fathers, who never knew their fathers, who were abused by their fathers, who were abandoned by their fathers, or worse. Or maybe Father’s Day isn’t easy for some men who want to be fathers, but for whatever reason, they are not right now. And this post is not intended to take away from the pain that this day represents for some. I have no easy answers or trite platitudes to offer, because I know that they won’t suffice. I don’t know why some people have wonderful earthly fathers and others don’t.
My father, like any other earthly father, is human. And in his humanity, like all the rest of us, he has his strengths and his weaknesses. But I choose not to dwell on his weaknesses, because they are far outweighed by his strength, character, integrity and love for me. For as long as I can remember, he’s been the most affectionate, loving, supportive father. I remember times when I’d come home late from work when I’d first started working, completely exhausted, and he would be waiting at the front door for me. He would wrap his arms around me and give me a big hug, and all the tension of the day would melt away. And he would whisper “welcome home sweetheart”.
Welcome home sweetheart. Words I will always associate with my father.
And as I grew older, and as the world I worked in and the circles I moved in and the life I lived became further and further removed from the world my father knew, he didn’t change. He wasn’t intimidated. He still loved me. He still loves me. He still saw me. The real me. Where the world saw a focused no-nonsense Type A career girl, my father saw his beloved daughter. Where the world saw an immaculately turned-out woman groomed to within an inch of her life at all times, my father saw his beloved daughter. Where the world saw a distant ice queen hiding behind her Prada shades, toting her Miu Miu handbag and striding confidently in her killer heels out of the Singapore airport lounge to catch yet another flight to Shanghai, my father saw his beloved, precious, daughter.
He saw, and he knew his daughter. In spite of all appearance to the contrary, here was a girl with a sensitivity and a depth to her that the world could never begin to appreciate or understand. Which is why she kept it so carefully hidden. He understood. And he loved his girl all the more for it.
So, there’s a story behind this short story below. It’s actually the first thing I wrote after a 30 year hiatus. I wrote it in February 2011, when I came back to NZ for a 2-week much-needed holiday. We went on a family holiday in Tairua, and stayed in a house that had a beautiful view of the ocean. One day, I sat down at my laptop with the ocean view in front of me, and for the first time in 30 years, I wrote something other than a business document or email. I wrote about coming home to my father.
So, unlike most of what I’ve written since, this story is a pretty accurate representation of my life and circumstances at the time. My life now of course is very different – a lot has happened in the 20 or so months since I wrote this.
Anyway – here it is. What it was like to come home to my father. I know I don’t say it much and I’m not always the most expressive, but Daddy, I know that you know that in the deepest part of my quiet girlish daughter heart, I love you very very very much. And I honour you. And I am so grateful to be William’s girl.
The woman stood wearily at the baggage carousel. After the 10-hour flight across 5 time zones, she was barely awake and wasn’t even sure her bags had made it with her to Auckland.
Back in Singapore she had rushed through check-in 30 minutes before departure after nightmare traffic to the airport, and was told not to expect her bags at the other end. Her whole week had been like that. Crazy. Intense. Fun. Awful. High. Low. Unpredictable. Too much. She felt her life was moving so fast she could barely keep up with it.
She saw the familiar pink and green ribbons tied to her suitcases, moving towards her. She breathed a sigh of relief. Well at least her bags were here. She really didn’t need delayed baggage to top off her week of 20-hour work-days and 2 hours sleep each night. She was grateful for small mercies in the simple things, like the sight of her suitcases on a baggage carousel. Mercy drops, she called them.
And then she remembered, she was supposed to be on holiday now. But is anyone ever really on holiday these days, she wondered. People take leave, sure, but mostly they just have their mobile phones with them and expect to take work calls anyway. Life had just gotten way too complicated, she thought.
She hoped that two whole weeks back home catching up with family and old friends would be just the break needed from the whirlwind of a life that awaited her back in Asia. She understood how people might look at her life with a mixture of admiration and envy, as she was often told. But she wondered if she was living life, or if life was living her. She wondered, tentatively, if she was burnt out. For sure she was completely exhausted.
She longed for simplicity.
Simplicity. It meant different things to different people. To her it meant a cup of tea on the back patio with her father. Strolling arm-in-arm with her mother while being given a tour of the vegetable garden and being treated to sweet, home-grown cherry tomatoes. Lying in bed in the mornings and listening to the laughter and conversation of her parents at the other end of the house…her father playing the guitar, singing old hymns with his beloved wife in 2-part harmony. Chilling out in a café with her brother and sisters. Laughing out loud with her lifelong galpals from high school. Watching a vibrant sunset, reflected in stunning pink hues onto the ocean below. Seeing a night sky full of stars, and feeling the same wonder she felt as a child. Lying awake at night, staring at the ceiling, talking with God and feeling Him close. All the things that don’t require her to be attractive, thin, smart, engaging, intelligent, educated, witty, or so-called successful. Simplicity.
As she passed through customs, she was struck by how friendly the staff were. They asked her how her day was going and welcomed her home. She was charmed by the familiar sound of their New Zealand accents. It was a comforting change to be surrounded by men who were taller than her, and by women who were bigger than her. No longer was she oversized. She was mildly culture-shocked. But in a good way.
She walked out to the arrival area and felt immediately exposed, and insecure. After years of business travel and hundreds of airport arrival halls behind her, she knew she should be used to it by now. But her introverted nature instinctively recoiled at the sight of crowds standing behind barriers, scrutinizing each traveler arriving. As always, she didn’t let her discomfort show and breezed easily past the masses.
She’d made a career out of displaying confidence when she felt none. She’d built a reputation as someone who had it together, was independent, strong, reliable, could get the job done, who approached people and situations with just the right balance of objectivity and compassion, and who could remain groomed to within an inch of her life at all times. She understood the importance of presentation. That reputation had served her well in her career.
There was a flipside of course. She rarely let people in. Very few people really knew her. Who she was, what her dreams were, what her weaknesses and fears were, or how very much she just wanted to be loved simply for who she was and not for her accomplishments, her wardrobe, her charm or her dress size.
And then she saw him. Here was the one man in the world who knew her. Really knew her. Warts and all. And yet he loved her completely. Her face lit up at the sight of him. She abandoned her bags and ran into his open arms. His embrace enveloped her and instantly melted all the tension and stress of her life away. She held onto him tightly and smiled blissfully. “Welcome home sweetheart” he whispered.
Onlookers smiled warmly at the rare display of genuine affection between a father and his grown daughter. The complicated career woman had transformed into a carefree girl before their eyes, safe and secure in the arms of her beloved Daddy.
The girl sighed contentedly. At last. Simplicity.
© Gloria Emmalene 2011