Growing around grief

Last Sunday was Father’s Day… how I miss my father. 24 years gone this coming August.

It was a scorcher in Barcelona that summer. I was pregnant and happily waiting for my father to come for a visit in the next week. My sister called as I sat down for a late lunch and told me the news. It didn’t really compute. In the days that followed, I went through the motions of getting a flight sorted and joined my family in Germany for the funeral. I didn’t cry; haven’t ever really cried about it that I remember. Think I was in shock. Even now, I still half expect the phone to ring and hear his cheerful voice or open the mail box and find a postcard. I miss him always. A little weight, ache in my heart.

We were comrades, allies, friends… equals even. Feel blessed to have had him as a father. The respect he gave me as a unique individual was a profound gift. He was generous with his knowledge, never imposing or prescriptive; just encouraging and supportive.

Sure there were times when he was utterly irresponsible and impulsive and didn’t anticipate the impact his actions would have on me… Like the time I travelled alone to Venezuela with him and he ran across 4 lanes of busy traffic and waved smiling and joking for me to run to him on the other side. I was 7 and just flat out refused till he came back, picked me up and carried me over laughing. When I think back on little challenges like these, I’m grateful. Some I accepted and some I rejected. There was no judgement. They helped me to grow and develop confidence and trust in myself.

He was also the kind of father who would just quietly show up to make sure I was ok. Once as a teen, I was at a ‘party’ at our country club (sorry, bit of grand name for what it was but…). I was walking around the boardwalk with a friend who’d had too much to drink, looked up the hill and saw him jump behind a tree. Funny really and I wasn’t annoyed; just comforting to know he was looking out for me. Sweet. A few weeks after arriving in Kiev when I was almost 30, he ‘popped’ over for a visit and again a few years later in Tunis – the last time I saw him before he passed. Still feel the last hug before he got into the cab to go to the airport.

I’m sad most of all that he didn’t get to meet his granddaughter and see her grow. They would have been great friends. He did see her in my first sonograph pics and joked that she had his nose. He would have been a fun grandad. The kind that played hide and seek with all the neighbourhood kids at sunset and dress up in the garden… and made fairy houses in the roots of forest trees.

I tell her stories of ‘Chuckles’, as I called him – joking on his name Charles. Tell her about his complicated childhood, his complex character, his crazy antics and wild adventures, his love of gardening, hammocks and hats, and his old ’62 Mercedes ‘The Duchess’… his irritation with people who carve holes in the butter… his sweetness.

My father was an artist and encouraged me a lot when I was young. Always patient. One Easter, when I was under 9 or 10, I woke up to find little pink and yellow rabbit prints leading from my bedroom to the living room where there was a little basket of sweets, a pink bauble necklace and a large book on the Impressionists. A treasure which has moved around the world with me. My mother thinks he’d be delighted that I’ve started painting and the thought makes my heart sing.

I miss him. Miss our little chats. When we lived in the same place, he’d pop round frequently for a quick coffee. Never overstayed. Never imposed. Light and easy. Totally relaxed. Good, heart warming memories. It’s not easy losing people you love, especially a parent. Grief is not something that ever ends or goes away. It’s something you live with always. As someone once said, you grow around it.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend ahead full of memorable moments!

F ox

When I first met my husband back in the early 90s, he’d recently lost his father. There’s a picture in my studio from around that time. Summer in Italy, in the garden of our little country cottage, a beautiful young man with sad eyes. I did a little series inspired by the photo, ‘Blue boy’. The featured image here is one of the series. You can see them all here on @F_ox on Instagram. A few are also available for sale as prints on my saatchi art space.

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