I had dinner with my Dad recently. He didn’t sit at the same table as my husband and I. He sat by himself at the little table near the door.
His eyes sparkled as he ate. He was kind to the wait staff. I watched him keenly.
When he ate, he reminded me of myself. He chewed deliberately, you could tell he was thinking of the flavours, savouring every bite. In between bites, he’d sit back in his chair and watch the fellow diners. I could tell he was looking at the other people in the restaurant and making up stories about them, just like I do. He’d rub his nose with the side of his hand, just like me. And then he’d stop to look out into the darkness. Lost in his thoughts. I do that too. And when the waitress made a joke, he laughed, just like me.
I wondered what brought him to the restaurant? I wondered why he dined alone? Did he come here for work? Was he meant to be meeting someone? Was he happy? He looked happy. He looked content in his own company, like me. A man not afraid to be in his own space.
I did not ask him to dine with us, because although I’d convinced myself at that moment he was my dad, I knew he was not.
I don’t know my father. I will never know who he is.
But it doesn’t stop me searching for him in other ways. I see “him” at the weirdest times. I watch “him” and imagine his backstory. There’s always a moment in my imaginings that he looks up and smiles. There’s always a moment he comes over to me and tells me he’s been searching for me and he’s so happy to have finally found me. We hug and I feel his breathe on my neck. I smell him. I see his features up close; the wrinkles on his forehead, the stubble on his cheeks. Pieces of a puzzle finally fit together. He always tells me he is proud of me and loves me. I take those moments of pure joy and then lock them away in my heart.
I lock them away with the other times that I see my “sisters” and “brothers”. I see them too, people who look like me. People with features that I can not immediately place with my gorgeous Mum. People I imagine could be related to me. I experience these moments at the most unlikely times – buying a drink from a bar, at the supermarket, drinking a coffee at the markets, on the tram. The shape of someone’s nose, their side profile, the way they speak – all things which alert me to their likeness to me. Do we share the same father? It’s possible, but I’ll never know. Family walking all around me, who I’ll never meet.
It’s for this reason I can not watch tv shows when families are reunited, as that will never be my reality. I’d rather quietly imagine my own “reunions”. It works best for me that way. They make me happy. I am happy.
I had dinner with my Dad the other night.
Do you make up stories in your head too?