A year ago today my father past away. We had an unconventional relationship, bordering on non-existent up until a year before his death. The whys and wherefores behind the 18-year gap between conversations weren't especially complex - simply human beings being human beings. I had my reasons, which when placed under the brightest of spotlights can be properly seen as excuses. Apportioning blame is always easy. Taking responsibility, less so. The breakdown in communication wasn't the fault of either of us in particular but, in reality, we were both at fault.
Reinitiating contact with him after all those years at the time didn't seem like a courageous act or a sudden awakening. It had been stirring for a little while but just found the trigger one day. It was like that scene out of 'Forrest Gump' where Forrest has been running across the United States, seemingly forever and for no particular reason. Along his journey hundreds of individuals join him, seeking guidance and inspiration from him. One day, Forrest suddenly stops running and says it's over. No reason, no warning, just that it was time to go home. Okay, this analogy is hardly 'The Illiad' but it works for me. One day, I just thought, "it's time".
So over the next year or so we spoke. We were separated by a generation, continents and very different views on the world but we were two grown-up men talking about grown-up stuff. I struggled to use the word "dad" and he struggled to avoid taking on the role of all-knowing father. But it worked for us. In his last few weeks, when it was still unclear as to how ill he was, we managed to make our peace. A lot of it was unspoken but the fact that our skating-round-the-edges conversations were happening at all was a major breakthrough.
A year ago I didn't entirely know how I was supposed to grieve. None of my siblings did either, as we all had varying degrees of detachment from him. Still, I didn't have a Mike and The Mechanics "Living Years" moment of not getting a chance to clear the air at all. It may not have been a perfect relationship but at least now, a year on, I'm not writing a angry piece (whether towards him or towards myself) and can wonder what might have been with a positive slant.