Friday, November 02, 2007

Segue: O Father Where Art Thou?

I first had the thought to do this segue series as I was finishing the ‘Immobile’ post. During the writing of the last sentence I recalled a moment of the day I’d spent with Hannah at the Science Centre, movies and playground. As I was taking her shoes off before she went off to play, or perhaps putting them on after I’d dragged her from the water, I can’t remember, she asked me the most momentous question. It was such a big question I couldn’t deal with it easily in a few sentences at the end of that post, which I’d wanted to be light-hearted. It was a question that I didn’t know how to answer, such that when I attempted to evade doing so, Hannah repeated the question, demanding in a tone that brooked no argument:

‘What happened to your Daddy?!’

At the time, I was conscious of many things at once. The first was the presence of a woman, a stranger, sitting on the bench in the playground next to Hannah. The second was that it probably wasn’t an ideal time in Hannah’s young life to be telling her the details of what happened to my father and why she has never, and will never, meet him. I thought that I wouldn’t like her to draw any similarity between my absent father and her father, newly separated from her mother and, so, not living with her at the moment, or indeed perhaps anymore.

I asked her: ‘What has your Mummy told you about our Daddy?’

‘She said he died. She said when she was little her family didn’t know about Jesus—’.

Hannah may have said something else, I don’t know, but I stopped hearing as I withstood the shock of learning that my sister had told her daughter a blatant lie.

It took me several days to realise that F’s answer might have been as good as true, but initially I’d had to confer with my other sister and we’d agreed that we didn’t agree with lying to Hannah. ‘Ohhh’, V had said when I’d told her about mine and Hannah’s conversation. ‘Ohhh’.

I don’t know if my father is dead, but, yes, I suppose he might well be; he might as well be.

He left without saying goodbye about four years after my parents divorced. My sister V went to visit him at work and Mr Yin Foo, whose family we had shared many barbecues with, was presented with the task of telling her that my father had been fired. That weekend I waited in the car with my brother while my mother went and looked through the windows of my father’s house. She returned to report that it was empty.

It would be difficult to explain that to a five year old, I guess.


Ampersand Duck said...


What's that bit about not knowing Jesus all about? was it some part of explaining the death?

ThirdCat said...

Yeah. Wow.

Ariel said...

Oh, Kirsty. That's so sad. And a tough one, wow. I don't envy you or your sister the task of explaining that one. But you're right, lying is probably not the best move. Lucky you asked her what her mum had said before you attempted to answer.

Kirsty said...

Duck, the Jesus thing is that my sister became a Christian a few years after she left home, and she met her husband at Bible College. Hannah is being brought up in that Evangelical Christian tradition.

She's getting to an age now where she's aware that I'm not a Christian, so she'll say things to me like, 'Did you know that Jesus can talk to more than one person at a time?'; 'I'm telling you, because I don't think you know about Jesus'; 'It's good to tell people about Jesus'; and once, when I was obviously not appropriately responsive she said in frustration, 'I'm trying to tell you about Jesus!', to which I laughed and said, 'I know you are!'

That will be another difficult conversation.

Mark Lawrence said...

Yes, 'Oh'. And I thought explaining what death is to a four-year old was the hardest thing.