Our trip to Wales blew away the cobwebs, and then some.
I stood there one morning, watching my father plant a tree that was bought for me when I was born. The location he chose for it was the spot where he sits to have dinner on a warm evening to watch the sunset. I choked back the tears. I had no idea he still had the tree, certain it was long forgotten after my mother died. It’s moved house time and time again, and it’s made the final trip with him to Wales.
Standing there, watching my own children help him plant the Gingko Biloba, bought 30 years ago to celebrate my birth, it almost broke me.
Because that simple thing – it spoke volumes. It told me that, irrespective of how distant we’ve become over the years since my mum’s death, and through all the decisions we’ve made that upset the other – he still loves me. I’ve questioned so often whether or not I’m a disappointment to him, as a daughter. The fact he made space on the removals van, while having to leave numerous other things that had emotional attachment, told me that I’m not.
Knowing he will sit there, with his new wife, in a new home that no longer houses my childhood years or fading memories of my mother, he will think of me – I like that. I appreciate that.
And maybe now, the tree can thrive and flourish, finally settled for the first and last time. Which is exactly what I hope for my thirties – a new decade to grow and put down some strong roots.
He says to me, as we stand there in the morning sunshine, ‘maybe you’ll be standing here in 50 years time, looking at this tree towering over you.’ And I thought how nice that would be – until I realised that in 50 years I’ll be frail and old, and my father long gone.
Perhaps one day I will sit there, where he sits now, watching the sun go down over this tree, and I can say to myself how glad I am that I restored our relationship. This fragile relationship that’s barely managed to survive – a weak heartbeat, gently pulsing.
The time is now. I look at him, greyer than he ever was, with liver spots on hands I remember were once so strong. I see how he delights in his grandchildren. I see the hurt in his eyes as he asks how my sister has been since she cut him out of her life, for no other reason than she didn’t like the truth he was speaking. I see how quickly the time is passing and I remember how many things I wanted to say to my mother before she died, but never did.
This trip has been the longest time I’ve spent in his company since I lived at home with him. Before my mum died. Before children. Before he remarried. But I loved it. I needed it.
I need to stay connected. I need to spend time strengthening this fragile heartbeat that has become our relationship.
The tears flow, but they’re cathartic. I’m home, in my own space, and I miss him already.