There were only three lines written in the e-mail from one of my best friends. ?Call Lina. Her father had a heart attack. He is in the hospital.? I was stunned. I have been away from home doing electives outside of Toronto. My usual every other day phone calls to my friends have been drastically reduced. I, no longer, am the first one to know what is happening in their lives. News always comes roundabout to me. And this sudden news came as a big shock. I think her father is younger than my own father. He is certainly physically fitter and more active.
The last time I remember talking to Lina was nearly 4 weeks ago, when our group had gotten together for dinner and bowling. Since it was the last time, any of us were going to see each other for a significant period of time, we had decided to stay at a local coffee shop for chitchat. We stayed late into the night laughing away, having a good time, until Lina?s cell phone rang. It was her father on the other end, demanding that she come home. We had lost track of time, and had spent 3 hours in the coffee shop. It was nearly 1:30 AM. The phone call was tense between the two. At one point, she left our table to continue the talk outside. When she did come back, she apologized to us all, and said she had to leave. One of my friends tried to convince her to stay for a few minutes longer, saying that she could deal with her father later. But she replied that her father wanted her home immediately and she did not want to upset him further. She quickly grabbed her jacket and headed out. After she left, the five of us discussed what happened.
We all had been friends for the longest time now, long enough to know and interact with each other?s families. Lina?s father was as ?old school? as you can get. He was highly controlling of his daughter?s personal and professional life. She lived with her parents and everywhere she went her father wanted to know where she was going and what time she would be back. In university, she never came to any late night parties. She wasn?t allowed to go out at night. Only recently after she started working, where she needed to work late as part of her job as finance manager, she was allowed to stay out late at night. And she certainly would be one of those girls who would marry her parents (or rather her father?s choice) with no intervening romances with boys or anything like that because her family did not approve of such relationships. When I first met her, she was a lot more submissive than she is now. Over the past few years, there were some signs of conflict between Lina and her father. She was after all, almost 26 years of age and working in a highly responsible position. It would make sense that she should take some responsibility for her own life. As her friends, we all felt that should be the case and that night we had spent more time in the coffee shop being critical of our friend?s antagonistic and over protective father.
I had called her the next day, and both of us discussed last night?s events. She had gotten a mini-lecture when she came home that night about staying out late. ?He doesn?t let me care for myself. He takes everything on himself. He gets worried if I don?t come home after 6 PM. Is that supposed to be my life, straight from work to home?? she asked me over the phone, sounding more and more frustrated with her father and his rules. I listened and empathized with her over her relationship with her father. Her father obviously cared for her very much and was looking out for her best interests. There were times when theirs was the best of relationships. The only problem was that he would not allow her any independence to shape her life. I guess he would always worry that she would make a wrong decision and ruin her life. I had told her to talk to him and smooth things out. Talk to him about her hopes and aspirations. She said that she would try but she was not hopeful. She was finding it difficult to understand him and his line of thinking. And that was my last ever conversation with her till I got this e-mail.
I called her up. She sounded like she had been crying. She told me that her father was in critical care. The doctors did not give a good prognosis. ?He is dying,? she told me softly. I didn?t know what to say. Is there anything someone can even say to minimize the loss of losing a parent you love?
There was an uncomfortable silence between the two of us. And then she spoke again.
?After that incident in the coffee shop, I never spoke with him. You remember how we said I should talk with him about being less controlling. I would just eat breakfast and get out of the house. Then come from work and watch TV or putter around the garden. I was still mad at him after that night at the coffee shop. But what is the point now of it all. Nobody is ever going to care when I come home late at night anymore. What am I going to do if he dies? He has always been there for me, even when I did not want him to be, even when I got angry with him for being there. He would always still be there,? she said crying. All I could do was helplessly listen at the other end, offering my platitudes of comfort.
We all take fathers for granted sometimes, not appreciating their love that manifests differently in different situations. Sometimes it?s over-protective, sometimes it?s controlling, and sometimes it?s simply annoying. But other times it?s a hug, or an encouragement or an advice. Lina had difficult times with her father. Sure life was tough with him sometimes but life without him is even tougher. Without a doubt, if it were not for his genuine care and concern for her well being, she would not be where she is, at this point in her life.
This Father?s day is going to be particularly hard for her. She feels he might not be there for her anymore. But I think he will always be there for her. Forever. In this life and beyond. Because that?s the kind of man he is. He was always protecting her and he wouldn?t ever quit, even now. That?s a father?s love.
I don?t think he ever told her he loved her but I once read a father?s sentiments towards their children captured well in a wonderful poem that you will find below.
A Father?s Love: Author Unknown
Fathers seldom say “I love you”
Though the feeling’s always there,
But somehow those three little words
Are the hardest ones to share.
And fathers say “I love you”
In ways that words can’t match –
With tender bedtime stories –
Or a friendly game of catch!
You can see the words “I love you”
In a father’s boyish eyes
When he runs home, all excited,
With a poorly wrapped surprise.
A father says “I love you”
With his strong helping hands –
With a smile when you’re in trouble
With the way he understands.
He speaks his love unselfishly
By giving all he can
To make some secret dream come true,
Or follow through a plan.
A father’s seldom-spoken love
Sounds clearly through the years –
Sometimes in peals of laughter,
Sometimes through happy tears.
Perhaps they have to speak their love
In a fashion all their own.
Because the love that fathers feel
Is too big for words alone.
Father’s Day is a time for letting dads know how much we care for them. A day to make an extra special effort to show them we love and acknowledge their efforts. Whether they are with us or not, a message straight from our heart always reaches their ears. Let?s make sure they hear our message.
Author: Tanya Pinto- Canada