I would’ve never connected with my father before he passed if I didn’t know how to forgive.
The first whisper came to me when I was at work, sitting behind my desk. It came as a flutter. An unsettled feeling. Like an ice shower freezing my nerves. Life hit a pause. It was time to listen. But what was the message exactly?
That very morning on my way to work, driving down a busy California freeway, I’d spoken with my mom over the phone. She and my father lived in Poland. They had been divorced but continued to cohabitate in the same house, though on separate floors with separate entrances, living separate lives.
Mom had told me that dad had recently met someone. As a result, he was taking a much better care of himself, such as exercise and go on long walks.
Why then when thinking of my father did I feel afraid of losing him? It made no sense.
But my anxiety persisted and eventually pointed me towards another place that needed attention. Bu then I’ve lived abroad for fourteen years. My trips to my home country were rare and short resulting in hardly any time spent with my father.
There was another reason for not cultivating a close relationship. It was due to resentment. I resented my father for not trying harder to connect with me. And for spending so much time out. And for starting arguments with my mom. The list went on and on.
The sad truth was that I barely knew my father. And he barely knew me. In retrospect, it may have been that the morning I got the first ‘ice bucket’ signal my subconscious mind was finally ready to look at these unsettling truths. Or perhaps it was something subtler. Either way, the reflecting continued and made me look at other things too.
Namely, that I was unhappy. I’ve spent majority of my time doing work I didn’t like and buying things I didn’t need. It was time to take a break from everything and gain a fresh perspective.
I booked a trip to Europe for two weeks. The first week I spent with my mom in Barcelona. She was mourning the death of her partner who had passed away from cancer three months earlier. Grief stricken, I became even more aware of life’s fragility.
The following week I flew to Santorini, Greece on my own. Free of distractions, I finally could think and listen to the quiet whisperings of my soul. It was there, standing on a cliff overlooking the Aegean Sea that I heard it speak to me again.
‘If you want to connect with your father you must hurry,’ it said.
‘Hurry? Why?’ I asked out loud.
But I didn’t hear any more. Only ghost silence and the breeze blowing through shrubs and wildflowers. The door had shut. But a seed had been planted.
It would take me another four years before I was able to leave California. It helped that I got laid off. So I canceled my lease, stored my stuff and flew to Poland, trading a Bay Area apartment for my tiny old room.
Our house had three levels. The bottom floor was mainly storage, the middle was where we grew up and where my mom now lived and the loft belonged to my father.
I felt weird waking up in the morning and hearing his footsteps above me. After finally making it home, I couldn’t make myself walk upstairs and pay him a longer visit. We’d mostly see each other in passing.
One day, mom left for a few days. He found me sitting on the couch with a computer on my lap.
‘I made spaghetti. Are you hungry?’ he asked.
I wasn’t but I said yes. It was the first time he had made food for me.
I shelved my project and went upstairs. The television was on. Dad told me about one of his favorite movies.
‘I think you’d like it,’ he added and put it on.
We sat in front of the TV, watching the movie and eating spaghetti. When it was over, he opened his laptop and showed me photos from his recent travels. Then came the black and white pictures.
We talked until well past midnight. And the next day I was back upstairs.
A couple of weeks later, my dad presented an idea to me—he could turn one of the storage rooms into a suite for me. I jumped on the idea. He had built our house and later expanded it by adding the loft. He was good at it and most importantly, he loved doing it.
Summer had morphed into fall. I decided to spend the winter in Thailand and return home in the spring to evaluate next steps, including my return to the States.
Three days before my departure I found my dad busy prepping the basement walls.
‘Will it be ready for when I come back?’ I asked.
He smiled and kept working.
The day of my flight dad drove me to the airport. The dawn was breaking when I pulled the heavy suitcase from the trunk. I didn’t expect him to step out of the car. He wasn’t known for saying goodbyes or showing affection. But this morning was different. He stepped out and hugged me awkwardly.
‘Thank you for being with us,’ he said. ‘I love you.’
His words were like magic. Something icy melted inside my heart and I felt free. That morning, waiting for my flight, I cried tears of joy and relief.
Three days later the news reached me of my father’s sudden passing. Engulfed by grief and sadness I cried more tears. But deep inside, I was also grateful for having listened to the faint whisperings of my soul and doing what I could to come home and connect our hearts. Now when I hear an internal whisper, I wonder if it’s him.