I remember the day my mother called and said, “your father died.” I was 25. The whole world grinded to a halt. A sense of calm and gratitude washed over me, it was finally over, he didn’t have to suffer anymore. Cancer had eaten away at him for so many years and no matter what I did, I could never help.
Even as a small child I wanted to protect him, not because he needed me to, but because in my mind he was so terribly old, older than my friends’ parents, older than anyone. He was 47.
I started lining up my teddy bears and toy animals in bed every night. It had to be done in a particular order, “This guy goes over here to the left, then bear, then lion, then you and you”. To me they weren’t teddy bears or toy lions at all, they were real, they were there to guard the world. And him. If I did everything right, they would make sure my father wouldn’t die.
When the toys came to life, we had long conversations about strategy, I told them I needed them to protect him, to keep him alive.
I now know it didn’t work.
Today it’s been many years since he passed, I’ve grown up to be somewhat of a man myself. I think back on that child and the measures he took to make sure his father would be safe. How much he wanted that.
Because mostly I think I needed him
to protect me.
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