My dad will be coming over in a few hours, and when he does I’ll give him a hug and then each of my kids will follow suit to hug their Nana. If we get a chance to talk in the few minutes we’ll have before I leave to teach my writing class, it will be ‘instructions’ about the kids’ meal or what needs to happen for bedtime. Then I’ll be off, and when I get back my dad will likely have to jump in the car and make his 40 minute trek back home.
When we get together socially, it’s always a family gathering. Conversations take place in groups, and there’s a lot of focus on the kids.
And that’s how it is.
But it wasn’t always like that.
My dad was my very first best friend. Before I had my journal, before I met anybody else in the world with whom I would share the big and small things of my life, there was my dad. We were a carefree duo, the two of us, always finding time for a long conversation. Our shared interests gave us things to mull over. But then I grew up, life got ‘busier’, I got married, I became a mom, and we lost my mom after years of illness during which time there wasn’t the state of exhale that’s required for talking about abstract things.
When my mom died, we were flung into a new galaxy without gravity. She was the centre that anchored us, kept our feet on the ground, and when she was gone we each had our own grief to contend with in the ways we knew how. As more babies arrived and other major life changes happened, the duo we used to be seemed to be still sitting at a table in a long-ago kitchen surrounded by yellow walls and the sound of traffic from the open window above the sink.
As we both get older, I worry that those conversations with my dad may be just a thing of the past, unlikely to resurface, never to become a habit again. I think, how did we go from discussing world politics and social change at length to snippets about the kids and a few lines about work? When something great happens to me in my writing life, my dad is one of the first people I want to tell. But my work is more than just ‘this was just published’ or ‘I was recognized for this poem’…my work is a movement, and the roots of that movement lie in those conversations we had when I was a child, a teenager. And I want to tell him all of it. Why I write, what motivates me, why I entered that poem, why I chose the images I did. And I know there is more he would tell me, too.
I need more alone time with my dad.
So when I was invited to the local launch of the Harris 120 tea by Pink Chai Media and was told I could bring someone, I knew who I wanted to invite. Not only would my dad appreciate the food and the sitar/tabla concert, it would also be a chance to sit down with him over a cup of tea and chat.
During the evening, we got to try the goodies from the chai bar, including the tea of honour Harris 120, and were treated to live sitar and tabla music. And over a delicious, spicy meal we were able to take some time to talk. I got to tell him about why I write memoir, and a passion project I am working on. He shared some things that helped me understand a little more of our history in Africa.
It was a brief moment in time during which I was able to be ‘just me’ and he was able to be ‘just him’ and I do hope it’s followed up soon with another conversation over tea.
There is still so much to say.
It’s cliche and you’ve probably already heard it at least once this week, but life is short. Quiet the unnecessary noise, say ‘no’ to what doesn’t really matter, and make use of your precious time with the ones you truly want to be with.
I’m so grateful to my friends at Pink Chai Media for the invitation to try out the tea and bring a very special date. And thank you, Aziz Dhamani Photography, for the lovely photo of my dad and me that I could share here.