My Dead Father

I can sense you won’t be interested in reading about this. Your father is just an ordinary dad who will die when he gets old, but in the meantime he takes your son to kindergarten and your daughter to dance lessons? Or did he die a long time ago, and you’ve forgotten about him and his overgrown tomb? Or you do you not even dare to imagine that your father will die? When you need some money you call him up, even though he is eighty years old, with very little money, and you’re fifty and earning a lot?

Father? Fathers? Nobody talks about them. I have to tell you this. My father died.

When I was a child, I used to be scared to death of him, that grim miser who never wanted to buy me ice cream. He used to run up the wooden stairs – we used to live in a one-story house, to bang his blue-collar fists on the door of my little room. I would lean against the other side of the door, certain that my father would kill me. Why?

Because he somebody told him they saw me dancing at the terrace of hotel Jadran? He used to sleep with a gun under the pillow. He would wave it threateningly, then the neighbors would call the cops, then the cops would take the gun away… and then he yelled after them: “Hey! I have an axe too!”

I never found out why he wanted to thrash me and I spent my entire life trying to be a woman from my father’s dreams. I kept my boyfriends on a tight leash, I am self-sufficient since I was twelve, I’m the only one who never went on a school trip – even though I had enough money to pay it myself. Only whores go on school trips.

I studied and got a college degree, and he never knew. I stopped being afraid of him when I had my son. My father was crazy about him: he read him books, held him on his lap, bought him ice cream. My father, when he had my son, would laugh. I could see his teeth. They would be together from dawn until dusk, walking, fishing, stone skipping, and drinking – my father white wine, my son a drop of coffee with a lot of milk.

My son’s birth, however, didn’t quench my father’s desire to kill me. To punish him, I used to beat my son up while my father was watching just so that I can enjoy his look of a handcuffed killer.

To him, all women were whores.

While he was strong, he used to get in fights. When he got old, he would flick his forked tongue, knowing it’s not ok to hurt old people, no matter how malicious they are. After my mom ran away from him, he lived alone, full of trust to a man who robbed my father on his deathbed, and full of mistrust to people who treated him kindly. I wasn’t one of them.

He died a few days ago, at the age of eighty-six. You won’t believe me, I daydreamed of that day for decades. I planned to open a bottle of champagne. I planned to laugh, dance on the street, kiss the passersby, breathe deeply, sleep soundly… When I was young, I daydreamed… A tired midwife swapped me in the nursery, one day my true father would come and take my small hands in his warm palm, taking me away from a shack by the sea forever.

My father lies dead in his grave covered by beautiful wreaths. I picked the flowers. I am not opening a bottle of champagne, I’m not laughing. I am feeling uneasy, very uneasy, even though all the expenses I paid. I paid the bills as soon as I could; I feared my dad would rise from the grave if I paid late.

It is clear to me. He lies there, I don’t know where because I didn’t attend the service. I paid for obituaries, the most expensive kind so that he doesn’t think I was cheap. But I didn’t sign them.

He lies there and he will never, ever rise, but I can’t calm down. Why isn’t this the happiest moment of my life?! He will never again sit at a small round table in a local cafe, the old man whose hand I hold in a faded yellow photo. Why does another photo show me embracing him on a ship to Rab? When did it all go wrong?

If my father weren’t my father, if I were just a stranger sitting at a table next to him, listening to his stories the way strangers listen to one another, I would laugh along with his friends and his women.

He loved himself. He loved life, song, dance, company, fishing, cooking, flowers, animals, grandchildren. He never had a boss in his life. He worked as a gardener, taking care of parks in a fishing village by the sea. He knew latin names of all flowers.

Five or six years ago, my daughter wanted to spend a week of her summer holidays with him. My father, I won’t say my late father because I find it hard to believe, rejected her. He said it would distress him too much.

Yet again he astonished me. Could there be so much coldness in a human being? Does time heal wounds? Every wound he ever inflicted upon my soul is in full bloom. Shines. Glistens. Glows. I remember every hit, scream, glare, condescending smile, nasty remark. It is disgusting, horrifying, dreadful knowing that such a being made you. It’s not your fault, but you feel guilty. Could a father be so horrible if it’s not, even partly, the daughter’s fault?

And then I thought, “enough is enough”, and abjured the old man. We hadn’t seen each other, or talked to each other, for years. In the meantime I realized his morals can’t be trusted. Not all men are bastards and I have to weed out the rage and hatred from my heart so that my children could grow up without rage and hatred. With time, I stopped thinking of him, so his death caught me off guard.

I don’t feel the need to celebrate. I don’t feel drunk with happiness, I cried when there was nobody to see him. Was it over him? Over me? My recently deceased father is livelier than ever to me. That is so horrible! Do evil fathers ever die?

1 Comment

  1. sanja d. says:

    terrible translation!!!!!

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