Father’s Day is a special day for many who are honouring their dads and the father figures in their lives. It can also be a day of complicated feelings and grief.
Today’s guest post is written by my cousin, Danisha Bhaloo, whose father passed away 20 years ago. My mom’s younger brother was funny and generous, and loved to tease his nieces. He also loved his daughters immensely; in fact, the majority of my memories of him include watching him interact with his girls. In one, we are at the wave pool in Calgary and he’s holding onto his oldest who is thrilled to be in her daddy’s arms. In another, he’s watching me rock his younger daughter, a newborn, to sleep, making sure I was holding her right. “Don’t fall asleep in there. She’s supposed to sleep – you stay awake!” It’s heartbreaking that our memories of him are so few.
Danisha’s post will touch you as a parent and a child. It will make you reach for the camera – and for those moments – more often. It will make you think of your loved ones who have passed and search for their faces, their voices, their quirky habits. It will give you an idea of how important time with those we care about truly is.
20 years ago, my dad passed away. My fear every single day is that the few memories I have of him will fade away as time goes on. Before 1997, there weren’t any smartphones that could capture memories of my childhood. I don’t have many hard copy pictures to hold on to of my dad and me. The one thing that has kept his memory alive for me is linked to…wait for it….the Backstreet Boys. Yes, the 90s boy band that reunited over and over throughout the years and are now celebrating their 24th year together.
I know, I know. This probably sounds irrational at first glance. Let me explain. 20 years ago, on April 1, 1997, my dad took me to my first Backstreet Boys concert….actually, my first concert ever. There are no pictures of this night. But there are the sounds, the music, and the lyrics that evoke that memory every time I attend their concert. And since that time, I’ve attended 5 of their concerts…some might argue, to recapture those memories.
A few days ago, on June 15th, 2017, I flew from Edmonton to Las Vegas to see the Backstreet Boys…for the fifth time (just to be clear, I didn’t fly around the world to see them every single time. I’m not crazy.) Being a 30 something female, I’m sure you can imagine the pure authentic joy it is to see your favorite teenage boy band perform live. But for me, attending their concerts means so much more than that. The concert I attended just a few days ago brought up those important memories of my time with my dad. And so it seems fitting, that on Father’s Day and the 20th anniversary of my dad’s passing, I share those memories.
At the age of 8 years old, I was OBSESSED when the Backstreet Boys released their first song. I became one of the millions of girls around the world to fall in love with them. I bought their posters to put on my bedroom wall, their videos presenting the making of each music video (which I faithfully watched every single day for almost a year), and I joined their official fan club.
By the time I was 12 years old, their second album “Backstreet’s Back” hit stores. I begged and pleaded with my mom to let me buy the album. She refused, probably rightly so as she saw my growing obsession with boys. And so I did what any tween girl would do: I kicked and screamed and locked myself in my room in tears.
But I came up with a plan. A very elaborate plan to get my hands on their album, in a way that my mom couldn’t refuse. I went to my dad. I asked him to buy the cassette tape and mail it to me, under the guise of the BSB fan club (which, as mentioned above, I was a member of). It took some convincing, but he eventually agreed. And the morning of my 12th birthday, on March 16th, 1997, I opened the mailbox to find a large envelope from the ‘BSB fan club’ with a copy of their new album to commemorate my birthday. I kept this secret, between my dad and me, for almost 10 years before finally confessing to my mom the truth.
On April 1, 1997, my dad stood in line for HOURS with my cousin and me to go see the Backstreet Boys perform live at what was the Edmonton Convention Centre (now the Shaw Conference Centre). Still 12 years old, I wasn’t allowed to go by myself, and so he offered to take us. It was my very first concert. I will never forget holding my dad’s hand as he bought me my very first BSB T-shirt and carrying me on his shoulders so that I could see past the crowd of much taller screaming girls.
6 months and 6 days after that concert, my dad unexpectedly passed away from a heart attack.
3 days ago, I attended the Backstreet Boys concert in Las Vegas. During that whole 2 hour show, all I could think about was the memories of my very first concert with my dad and that cassette tape that he secretly bought me, which I still have today.
It seemed fitting to spend the 20th anniversary of his death attending the concert again, evoking those memories, and sharing them to commemorate my time with my dad.
Happy Father’s Day, dad.
You can meet and tweet Danisha @danishabhaloo – she’s one of the most inspirational women I know!