Getting to know my Dad by Raewyn Abraham
Rae is an older woman who continues to learn about herself and others.
I met my Dad, the man, during a Gestalt counselling session three years after he had died. Deciding I needed help to work through some issues, what emerged was long-held anger towards my dad.
Ranting and raving I shouted at him – the empty chair – my outpouring focussed on his apparent indifference to my life, the remembered absences in my childhood when he was at work, golf, committee meetings, unavailable at times when I needed him most.
As the session came to a close, my emotion exhausted, I slumped in the chair opposite his empty one and heard a quiet “I’m so sorry”. Initially incredulous at this impossibility then weeping in a togetherness I cannot explain, I felt the man, the person, as bewildered as his daughter. A man of integrity, generosity and wisdom. A man with talents and vulnerabilities, who valued honesty, hard work and meticulous, careful use of resources. His life purpose to provide security for his wife and children and extend love to his families, community and our Mum.
In that Gestalt session I recognised my anger towards Dad was grief, grief for the lost years and the relationship with him that I had yearned for.
Now the relationship I have with my father is richer, more generous and appreciative of the man he was and tried to be and the Dad he was and is. When I contemplate my Dad the scenes that come to mind today involve, not feelings of loss, but comforting cellular aromas; holidaying in Rotorua, his cigarette smoke entwined with the sulphuric mist rising to meet the damp morning air and the fragrance of fresh yeast bread. The intermingling of Old Spice, cigarettes, Persil, wool and maybe whiskey with wood smoke from the open fireplace. The pungent aroma of paper, leather and ink in his dark and brown city office. And then the every day smells of toothpaste and shaving cream, weekend smells of garden sweat and beer and the safety and comfort that was there but seldom appreciated. Thank you Dad.
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