My news means nothing to Dad and I’m at a loss without his excitement
As a young adult, every year brought something new for me to report to Dad. A new flatshare, new job, new foreign adventure booked. I was the bearer of news, my life unfurling – he the reassuring constant. At least that’s how it seemed at the time. Now I’m a parent myself, I know that your life doesn’t ever achieve stasis. It’s just convenient for your offspring to believe that.
Nonetheless, since he became ill, there’s been an odd reversal of roles. While my life has been as settled and grown up as it ever has, his has been in constant motion – just in the wrong direction.
But I have news: I’m pregnant with my second child. All being well, I’ll be a mother again in July, just around the time a royal baby makes an entrance. And for the first time, I won’t be able to tell him about my latest development.
I mean, I have told him about it, of course, but it meant nothing. Less than nothing. I could have yawned or commented on the weather and I would have got the same response. The words dissolved into thin air as he gazed, eyes blank, at my ear. The grainy ultrasound image was accidentally batted away. He simply hasn’t the faintest clue that he is going to be a grandfather again.
It wasn’t this way last time. When I found out I was expecting my daughter three years ago, he was well enough to comprehend it fully. He shed a tear, hugged me and beamed with excitement. He’d ask how the bump was getting on during phone conversations and was thrilled when she finally arrived.
Now there’s just a black hole where his response should be and it’s taking some adjusting to. It feels like the conundrum of whether a tree felled in a forest makes a sound if there’s no one there to hear it. Without my father to bear witness to this latest instalment in the soap opera of my life, is it really happening?
After all, aside from yourself, nobody will ever be as invested in your personal narrative as your parents. No, not even your closest friends or your one true love. That’s something else I’ve realised since becoming a parent. Your children are you, your hopes and fears made flesh. That’s why any smug pronouncements about the unselfishness of parental love now strike me as ridiculous. It’s the most selfish thing in the world, as you feel their triumphs and disappointments as keenly as your own.
So I’m a bit lost without my dad’s excitement. I can imagine his response as it might have been, but I’ll never witness it again. It makes me sad, but there’s something else too. Growing up, I never missed an opportunity to milk his pride in me. So I feel a bit cheated at losing out on this most recent chance to earn his admiration. Somewhere inside I’m still the brattish child shouting, “Look what I did, Dad!”
Of course, I’m lucky to still have my mum. She was delighted to hear that I’m expecting again and will be gratifyingly glued to the progress of the pregnancy. I’m not quite the tree falling soundless on its own just yet – I still have one parent to validate my experiences, to give me a gold star.
But it’s hard to escape the feeling that this is the first step in the rest of a life that will be unwitnessed by my father. No matter what I achieve – or fail to – from herein, he’ll never know about it.
A large part of me will still be doing it for him, though. Always.
• Follow Rebecca on Twitter @rebeccahelenley
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