Families are inextricably entwined, tied together to each other over generations. At times, these bonds are strong and unbreakable and can withstand the most tumultuous of tempests. Often, however, families become fractured and the wounds that are inflicted by others can never be healed.
I tried to love and connect with him, to be the good son. He was a stern man who found it difficult to express any meaningful emotions. A product of his time, his idea of parenthood was to use fear to intimidate and control his family. I was different to him, in every way possible. Sensitive and kind, I was everything he was not. Ever since I was a young boy, all I ever wanted was for him to turn around and say that he was proud of me. But all he ever saw was my eldest brother, who in his eyes, could do no wrong. Not the slightest sign of affection would ever come my way, not even the slightest positive acknowledgement. It was as if my siblings and I were invisible, and to him, we were.
My mother nurtured and cared for me. A kind and gentle soul, she loved all of us in equal measure. A small and unassuming woman, her heart was full of love and her smile would radiate across a room. Her and I were kindred spirits, always making time for me and understanding that I was different to my other siblings. A tender touch, a warm embrace and a word of encouragement would always come my way. We always knew we were loved.
I grew up, started working and had my own family, but I constantly lived in the shadows of my eldest brother in my father’s eyes. I loved my children with all that I am and I did everything I ever could to show it. They brought me joy, and I felt privileged to have them. I never stopped trying to please him, but I needed to get on and live my life.
My father too was ageing, the sands of time passed quickly and a life of excess was finally catching up with him. He was a shadow of the man I used to know, the once strong and powerful presence now a gaunt and frail old man who gasped for every breath and his once towering frame stooped over. As he aged, he became more reflective, but some things never change.
My daughters were the apples of my eye and I adored them, but it was the arrival of my newborn son that brought tears to his eyes as he held him in his now frail arms. By this time, my father was not long for the world, illness wracking his body. He gazed longingly into the newborn’s eyes and clutched him tightly.
“Look at my grandson.” he called to those around him, all the while transfixed by the tiny baby in his arms.
“Isn’t he handsome. My grandson!” He said proudly, his voice quivering and acutely aware that he would not live to see this boy grow up.
I waited to hear those words that I was longing for, that he was proud of me. Even now as death loomed and holding my son in his arms, he could not.
As a father, I vowed not repeat his mistakes.
© T. Zerafa 2023
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