Compared to some people I know, I wasn't especially close to my dad - he wasn't the kind of man for whom close relationships came easily. He was a quiet man in his private life, yet much more gregarious in his public roles. As a child I knew that he loved me without him ever saying the words to me (he never did), and as I grew older I was able to easily make the correct assumption that his love never wavered for any of his children, grandchildren or great grandchildren. He was a shy, quiet, loving man. I didn't need him to be any different.
Reflecting upon his life and my relationship with him has taught me something about life, memories and legacies.
The biggest lesson that I have learned, and one which has spurred me to embrace my dream of creative writing, has been that being a private person (which I instinctively am) limits how much I can leave behind when my own personal clock reaches midnight. As a result, I've enthusiastically entered into a new hobby of writing down my thoughts and perspectives upon the world, both to have as a record of my inner self for the future, but also in the hope that some of my family will be able to read my work and understand me a little bit better. I'd prefer that they enjoyed what I write, but it isn't necessary - my goal is to allow them some insight into my character; an insight that I simply cannot ever have about my own father. It also means that they can make up their own minds about me based not only on how I behave while alive, but also upon whatever works I leave behind.
Because I didn't receive such a gift from him, I will always wonder who my dad was and how his life journey shaped the man he became before dementia took away his personality and his dignity. Despite asking him to write down a short life history some years ago, I only know a few things about him. The account he provided was vague, missed out huge important parts of his life that I knew lurked in the shadows, and was, I'm sad to say, very disappointing. Now he has died, most memories of him go unsaid within the family, as if they are somehow unspoken and understood, if not universally shared recollections. Unfortunately, my elder siblings' memories of him ( I am the youngest and therefore knew him for the shortest time) are rarely, if ever, shared, and unrelated disagreements between some of us have now caused a schism which I expect may never be healed. It's unlikely that my knowledge of him will grow appreciably, and that, I believe, is a cause for great sadness. I feel less strongly but similarly about my grandparents, none of whom I knew, and about whom almost nothing (in terms of a lifetime of memories) has ever been shared. Their time on earth is already almost entirely forgotten - there's something about that which just doesn't sit right with me.
I think it's partly my duty, therefore, to put something down on record about myself, and some creative things which are OF myself. One day soon I'll begin backing up all the blog posts I write (here and elsewhere), and there are, of course, my books - mostly still works in progress. I want to leave something behind that my children and their children can know for sure about me - most of all I want them to always know how much I loved them, not only by what I did with them, but also how I mention it in writing - I like the permanence of that kind of evidence. It's the legacy that i would like to remain after me. I don't expect to ever be famous (or rich), and I don't have a hankering to have my name well-known, but I would prefer it if my family - my descendants - can know a little more about me than most.
Writing can be difficult - I so often wish that it was very much easier than it sometimes can be - but ultimately for me it is a labour of love; a gift to my future family which I very much hope is appreciated - or at least enjoyed. Just like me, my dad wasn't perfect, but I hope that as I am learning from him even to this day, something of who I am today may be useful, entertaining or even inspirational for those who follow me and carry just a few of my genes.