It was a warm Saturday morning. My father and I sat on the stoep watching my cousin as he washed the car. As is customary on any car-wash day, the car doors were wide open, and the car radio was blasting loudly. My father sat reading the newspaper and lightly tapping his feet and bobbing his head to the sound of his classical collection of jazz and soul music. To eight-year-old me, his music would often get boring. He often tried to educate me on the complex harmonies and heavy rhythms, but to me, anything you could not dance to was not music. Unbeknownst to my father, I managed to slip away and get to the radio where I finally changed this music that had been taunting me for the last forty-five minutes. I was feeling accomplished as I walked out of the car having switched to my favourite song. My father got up. At first, I thought that I was in trouble, and he was making his way over to me to let me know, but I soon saw him move his body to the beat. For a moment I stood there surprised because my father was not much of a dancer. He was always a serious man, so to see him dancing was astonishing. He invited me to join him. It was exciting for the seven minutes that the song played, we brought out all sorts of moves. My father would pick me up and twirl me in the air, we would get down and I would get up, sometimes leaving him down on the ground because according to him, his bones were just not what they used to be. In that moment, I felt so alive. I felt as though I was the centre of universe and with every move, I felt my father’s love.
That is one of the fondest memories I have of my father. In that moment, I would have never guessed that less than six months later I would watch as they lowered my father’s casket into the ground. I could have never imagined that the body that once moved so rhythmically and with such diverse movements was now confined by a wooden box, forever.
It is now just a little over a decade later and I still struggle to accept that my father is now a distant memory that has aged and has been distorted by time. Considering how young I was, I am ashamed to admit that certain things about him I have forgotten. Many of my memories about him are borrowed. Hearing all the wonderful things that people have to say about him, I feel that I have missed out. I have tried to search deep within myself for anything that is my father, but in my search, I often encounter the reality that one day I went to sleep and woke up to the jarring reality of finding him missing from me.
My memory fails me, but even then, the blood that flows in my veins is evidence of his existence. The pictures I have kept are all an illustration of his story, and that day on the stoep, will forever be engraved in my heart. Oh, what I would give to dance with my father again.
This was one of the highly commended entries in the My Father essay writing competition. Click here to read other excellent essays from the competition.