“Sometimes I think my papa is an accordion. When he looks at me and smiles and breathes, I hear the notes.” – Markus Zusak, The Book Thief.
He used to throw the ball to me at just the right height and pace so I thought I was a superstar when I caught it high above my head. And the way he’d continue to challenge me, believing I could do it, made me feel ten feet tall. Back then I probably would have thought he was pushing me too hard.
He used to poke fun at me whenever I did something clumsy or said something stupid, which was more often than I’d care to think, knowing exactly which buttons to gently push in order to get a reaction. It felt like no one knew me be tter than him, which was probably always the case. Back then I’d whinge and tell him to stop picking on me.
He used to know every single person in Perth, or so it seemed, so wherever I went, whoever I went with, I’d no doubt be stopped and asked about him. I never thought I could feel so proud about being known by someone else, rather than myself. As a bratty teenager, I thought I was better than to be thought of simply as Peter Day’s daughter.
He used to be really loud. Singing the wrong words to songs, talking to someone standing right next to him, whistling at us to come in from the park at the end of a day, using the (very redundant) microphone at the football to usher people through his gate (and to tell the odd joke to a very large audience!). Everything he did was loud and I loved the fact he was so boisterous, and that everyone thought he was hilarious. There was a time when I thought he was just plain annoying when he did stuff like that.
He used to be really scary. Till I realised it was all a pretense and that he was the softest, kindest person I’d know. And that I wasn’t the only person who thought that. As I kid I would call him the meanest dad ever for not letting me have my way.
He ALWAYS listened to music. The Beatles, CCR, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Doobie Brothers, Stevie Wonder, The Eagles. And he’d make us listen to it, too, any chance he could get. I used to laugh at him as he would turn it up and belt it out. Back when I was still taking road trips with my Dad, I thought this music was shitty – now I make Kalee listen to bands like these and smile when she asks me to dance with her in our kitchen.
It’s funny how perspectives can change when all you have left are your memories.
He used to put his arm around me, always at the right time, in the right moment. Sometimes it would be a text message full of spelling errors because his fat fingers couldn’t manipulate the keys properly. Sometimes it was in a perfectly timed joke. At other times, it was literally his arm across my shoulders, telling me it would be OK. And I would always, without a doubt, believe him.
But it isn’t OK. It’s far from it. He’s gone and Dads aren’t supposed to go like that. They are supposed to give you one last time to tell them you love them. They’re supposed to tell you one last time that you’ll be OK. They’re supposed to show you one last time that you have made them proud. They are supposed to give you one last chance to get their advice, their opinion, their ideas on how to do things better. They are not supposed to just leave with so much left to do and so much left unsaid.
I guess I’ll always have my memories – but sometimes that just serves to break my heart that little bit more.