Thirteen years

It’s been almost thirteen years since you left us and many times I wish I could tell you about so many things that have happened, so many things that have changed. And then I think why not, maybe I can.

I want to tell you how empty it felt when you left, how I understood at forty  what it felt like to be an orphan. When I lost you I lost a father, but also my anchor, the only person who could help me if I needed – and even if I have always very independent it felt so good to know there was someone there for me, just in case…

I want to tell you how sad the boys were when we came home after saying our last goodbye to you, and when they saw us come in they just looked at us and immediately understood what had happened; while big brother Afonso tried to be strong – even if you could see his beautiful blues eyes filling with tears – little Pedro burst out crying for his Granddad with whom he loved to play.

I want to tell you how they helped me through my grief and how I have kept telling them so many things and stories about you during all these years – your years of boarding school, how you became a doctor, how you met and married Mom, the dashing BMWs you drove at high speed, how you loved to sit both of them on your lap and let them make believe you were a horse they were riding…

I don’t need to tell you, because I know you know, about that strange day a few months after you left us, when I had dropped Pedro at school and was walking towards my car. The light was green for me and as I was going to step out of the sidewalk to cross the street I heard a voice inside my head urging me “Look left, look left”. It all happened in a flicker of a second and as I looked left I abruptly stepped back as a bus in high speed passed only a few centimetres from my face. Had I not heard that voice – and I know it must have been you – I would have been killed there and then, but you took pity on me and my boys and warned me so that I might still have time to raise them and see them grow into manhood. I was in a shock but so grateful and so happy that for a moment I had felt you so near.

And so I have seen and helped them grow. If only you could see them, you’d be so proud of our boys! In Afonso’s eyes you’d see your own and I see you in Pedro’s demeanour many times. They now have outgrown their teens and I know I have raised – together with their father – two beautiful, strong, decent, balanced human beings. We all survived the ups and downs of the last years and today I see they are responsible, with high values…I only get mad at them for being so messy with their bedrooms!

You would have liked the fact that we moved house only a few months after losing you. You hated the old building we lived in, our second floor without lifts and the entrance that smelt of the dogs of our not very civilised neighbours. You would have liked our new apartment, in a new building full of sun and very near the rugby club where the boys play. You would also have liked to see me in my new job that I still told you about; sadly, by that time you were already too ill to take much notice.

I know you would have been happy to see that my friendship with your dear wife Ilda has kept itself intact and not even the discussion of your inheritance could drive us apart. She is still part of the family as far as the boys and I are concerned, and when I celebrated my 50th birthday she came to my party – and how we would have loved to have you there!

And so these thirteen years have passed. We had the terrible financial crisis – that for us began in 2011 – and it was a tough time for everyone. We all had to learn to live with less as the taxes became so violently high we lost a significant part of our income. Still, no complaints for us, we were lucky to keep our jobs and for that we have to be grateful. As we must also be for having been healthy during all these years, for that is the greatest wealth of all. As you know so well, having been a doctor and then unfortunately succumbing to the very illness you had so often seen attack others without mercy.

I could tell you so much more – it would never end. But wherever you are, I believe somehow you will know when I am thinking of you – and I do it so often – and that will keep us connected. I also believe you will know when I talk to the boys about you, and it’s inevitable – whenever I do, my eyes will be filled with tears because I miss you, I miss you so much, and yet you are so present in my life. And in theirs, because you are always in our hearts and in our memories, and we talk about you as if you were still with us and in a way you still are.

…..

Do you remember how I loved the Porto wine of your own special reserve? For years I hadn’t had any bottles but Ilda was kind enough to bring us a few. On special occasions as the boys’ birthdays I decided to open a bottle. Their friends were here, of course – they always come over for dinner and then they all go out – and I told everyone this was my father’s very special wine and we all drank to life and to the boys, wishing them all the happiness in the world.

As I held my glass and toasted with them, the deep burgundy colour of the wine in front of my eyes, I felt such peace in my heart that I knew for certain that wherever you might be, you were very near, and happy to see how things have turned out. I knew you were looking at your grandsons and seeing the future, as I do. And it was as if you were saying “my darlings, even if you cannot see me, if you haven’t seen me for 13 years, I have never really left you, I’m just in another dimension and I’m still taking care of you”. And I heard you, as I heard your warning voice on that already distant day when I know you saved my life. And I silently thanked you for that and for so many things you have done for me, for having been the Father you were.

Dear Dad, it’s been thirteen years since you left us but in the end I know I have not lost you. I cannot see you with my eyes but I can feel you with my heart. One day, when we get together again in the same dimension, I will run to your arms and look into your beautiful green eyes and tell you how much I love you, and then you will hold me and I know I will never feel like an orphan again.

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