Father: A story about words and their meanings

Father was a word I didn’t have much use for as a child; except to explain my lack of one. I hated days in the schoolyard, trying to make new friends and the consequent difficulty of having to explain that there was no such presence as a father.

“But why?” They would ask, their little faces scrunching up in blankness and disbelief at the thought that anyone could not have a father, and the pity that came shortly after.

And if there wasn’t pity, there was something worse: scorn. There is nothing worse than the cruelty of schoolchildren.

It’s true what they say, about children being like sponges. I quickly learnt the term ‘broken home’ and realised that I was from one. I disliked the term, it implied that I was not whole.

Not to be whole means to be lacking, to be missing a piece.

Children are quick to learn the meanings of words, and use them. I knew then, that I was not whole, and therefore I then attempted to fill my lacks with others.

I spent my life letting myself be defined by men, first by the one that I didn’t have, and then the ones that I did. I knew I wasn’t whole, so I made clumsy attempts to find myself in the arms of other people. But I didn’t even know myself; how could they?

And then a day came, when I got a new message request, seemingly from a stranger on Facebook. The words ‘I am your father’ glared out at me from behind the screen.

Serendipity is known as a fortunate coincidence.

I met him in Chiba, a port side town bordering Tokyo. I saw him waiting outside the station gates for me, like I’d been waiting for him my whole life, and he had already become an old man. I wasn’t excited to see him, I felt nothing at all. As I walked into his arms, I was surprised by his stranger’s smell. It didn’t feel like I was meeting a stranger. We spent the day together, and walked around the country side, eating and talking about the past. Prior to our meeting, I had felt nothing, no excitement, no sadness, but there that day, sitting across from my father in a cafe, I felt glad. I felt glad because I finally knew how it felt to have something I had never had before.

Then, finally, the time in my life came when I was able to use the word ‘parents’. I liked it, it made me feel complete. It was then that I knew I had been looking for the wrong words to fill me all my life; ‘lover’, ‘father’ were useless terms in comparison.

Words shouldn’t have the power to do that. They shouldn’t have the power to make you feel whole, or empty. But they do.

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