My father died more than four years ago. I've written elsewhere about my experience of his death and my grief and it's safe to say that I've reached a point where the tears no longer rise. I miss him, of course - I wish that he was still around, but I've come to terms with the fact that he's gone for ever. These days I think about that less and less as time progresses, but as most people will agree, it's not possible to forget. Occasionally, I'm reminded of something about him, of him or connected to him. Today, it was a TV food program of all things.
Sri Lanka is a place that, I think, was forever a part of my dad. He served there in the Royal Navy in the 1950s and often mentioned it in later life. He never, oddly enough, mentioned that he was shipped home from that exotic location under intriguing circumstances (the only RN rating on a troop ship full of army personnel), but that only deepens the untold story of his life on that island. Despite his references to the time he spent there, I know precious little about the details - he so rarely told any stories (which I hope meant that they weren't considered fit for our consumption), but I do know that he always wished to return to a place where he made some close friends.
Indeed, one of the defining stories about my dad is the one I managed to drag out of him in which he helped support the family of a local alongside whom he found himself working each day. When he discovered that the man was doing the same work for a tiny fraction of the money that he was being paid, he began putting his hand in his own pocket in order to supplement this man's family income. This, despite the fact that his own wages were supporting a wife and child back in the UK, too. That gentle, unthinking generosity was at the heart of the man that I knew.
He loved Sri Lanka ('Ceylon' as he always preferred). I often wondered if something happened there which shaped him in ways which I have never understood. He often spoke of going back - and a TV program has reminded me of this today - but he never managed to fulfill that dream. I find it sad that he missed out on that adventure and whatever he felt - or perhaps knew - awaited him there. I suspect that he had secrets there, and I wish I knew what they were - in fact I'd settle for just knowing that he had such secrets, without knowing about them.
His unfulfilled wish makes me a little sad on his behalf - the thought that he longed to return and never could is a melancholy one. There's more to it than that, of course. It's a reminder to me that my dreams are for chasing, and that our time on this sweet earth is all too brief....maybe I need to visit 'Ceylon'....