Saturday, April 28, 2012

Emo stuff

Okay -- beware, friends. I usually talk a complete mountain of irreverent bullshit on this blog, but there's a bit of a tone swap in this post. I'm afraid you'll have to get your herpderp fix somewhere else if you decide to carry on. There's not enough derp to herp around right now -- what follows is a 9.3 on the self-indulgence scale, so you have been warned.

Two years ago yesterday, my father passed away. It was a sudden, merciful and non-violent death, which is probably better than can be said for many people.

My relationship with him was heavily strained and arguably quite bitter. He'd said and done a lot of stuff that I'd considered wholly unforgivable. By the time I was out of university and living my own life away from the family, it was my mission to never see the man again. I guess I got my wish.

I was thinking of waxing lyrical here about all the little switches that his death flipped in my head -- my seemingly permanent loss of core inspiration for game design, an overwhelming obsession with finding a partner to get close to, that still-lingering inability to get an unbroken night's sleep short of blackout drunkenness, the general change in my perception of existence and people and all that other stuff ... but I think what screws with me the most is the growing realisation that I'm very, very much like my dad, no matter how much I hated him at one point, and that often means far more to me than I'm comfortable with.

He wasn't the perfect human being, and he made a lot of mistakes which I hope to avoid emulating, but I feel a real stab whenever I sit down and let myself imagine how he must have dealt with life. He was a spot-on representation of my own character in countless ways -- the perks AND the flaws -- and if he didn't have a 30-year head start on me I may have realised that sooner.

He was confused and confident and insecure and weak and happy and sad in so many of the same ways I find myself to be. And I'm pretty sure that as much as he loved people, he found it monstrously difficult to relate to them as deeply as he wanted to. But there I was, genuinely one of the few human beings out there with the experience, personality and capacity to truly *get* him, and I'd deliberately isolated myself from him for a number of years.

It feels cliche, but there are so many things I want to say to him now. I want to tell him that I forgive him and understand him. I want to share bonding experiences with him that I didn't ever get to do before because I was just so damn angry and so damn stubborn and he was just so damn stupid. God. But most of all, I really just wish I'd been a better son towards the end.

After his death, I asked about his last year with my mom. He'd gotten better, she said. Set his life in order. He was happier. My mother and brother were getting close to him again. He'd cut out all the crap and finally returned to the self we'd all well and truly missed -- someone I hadn't known since childhood.

And in this emergence, he never stopped telling people how proud he was of me, of all the things that I was achieving out there (Desktop Dungeons had just taken off massively, too). He was sorry about his mistakes. He was sorry that I'd been chased off. He was sorry about everything. He wanted things to get better between us, he wanted to earn my trust back, have me open up to him again. He wanted us to get along and smile and relax and be happy together. But he didn't know how to make that happen, so he waited and hoped that I would forgive him one day, come back and let the wounds start healing.

In the end, none of that happened. When he died, I didn't even return in time for his cremation. I'd made no offer of reconciliation, relief or understanding -- that's just how things had ended between me and my father. It was the closing point of one of the most important relationships that will ever exist in my life, and there will never be a second take.

And, well, a part of me dies whenever I think about that. Sigh.

I miss you, dad. I miss your guitar, your music, your easygoing nature, your pride, your passion, your compassion, your patience, your little mannerisms (pretty much ALL of which I've found myself adopting, by the way) your strength, your vulnerability, your abnormality, your smoky study room, your awesome office chair, your equally awesome leather jacket, your weird obsession with collecting small change (again, guilty here too), your laugh, your sneeze, your road trips to Pretoria, your unparalleled pap 'n vleis recipe -- hell, I even miss the infuriating way you'd stare at me for half a minute before answering my questions because you knew just how to piss me off. There's a lot that I miss about you, and I only got around to thinking about most of it after your death. It all feels kinda weird now.

I love you, dad. And I wish I'd told you that in time. Rest in peace.