It was just a little past 8 in the morning. I wasn't, at the time, accustomed to rising that "early" from bed, but I heard sounds, voices, and for reasons unknown, I got up, sat at the top of the stairs, safely out of sight, and observed. There were two men at the door, talking to my mother. A part of me knew something very serious, very wrong had happened, even before my frantic sister dashed up to inform me.
The two men were police officers. There'd been a fatal accident. Fatal. Phone calls were made, and soon, a family friend came and we were on our way to the hospital. The hospital morgue. Throughout the journey, the gravity of the situation didn't sink into me. A myriad of thoughts flew through my mind, tumbling about, crashing into each other, racing to convince, to calm, to comfort. This must be a mistake, I kept telling myself. Perhaps someone robbed him, took his wallet and his car. Perhaps he loaned his car to someone and left his wallet behind by mistake. Perhaps. Perhaps. We were at the morgue. We were brought to the drawers where the bodies were kept. The staff was about to pull one open when the family friend stopped him, and made him double-check the label. He did, and then he did.
The instant I gazed upon the familiar, well-loved faced, eyes closed as if in deep sleep, it was as if a blast composed of everything horrible hit me in the face. My entire world as I knew it collapsed. I remember shrieking, losing control, and hurling myself forward. I remember being held back, being dragged out. I remember, in that brief moment, amidst the anguish and confusion, I registered the blood stains, the deep gash on his chin, the open fracture on his arm, and I remember how pain and agony shot through every part of me and tore my very sanity to shreds. Those were all I could recall clearly. Everything else was hazy and inconsequential. The purchasing of a coffin and a final resting place, the funeral, the miscellaneous arrangements - all of which I had to personally do or oversee, were a mess of vague scenes my memory refused.
And now, ten years have passed. Has it been that long? Really? I do not feel I have progressed much in coming to terms with his being gone, nor have I "gotten over" it, if one can indeed get over such things. I feel as if the pain is permanently wrought in me, and the void in my life will always be.
In the early, very difficult days, I could not so much as think of him without breaking down, or stare at photos of him without tearing up, or speak of him without sobbing. I could not sing Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again without getting choked up mid-song. Solitary moments were spent mourning to my heart's content, and nights were spent dreaming about him in my sleep. The dreams – how they haunted and tormented me – my wildly undisciplined subconscious mind conjured a crazy variety of manners in which he came back, or existed in a different dimension I could visit, or never left in the first place. It was pain renewed every morning, waking up and realising it was only a dream, and he, still gone.
I was a Papa's girl in every sense. I wanted both to be the daughter he'd be proud of, and the son he never had. I wanted so much to please him, and to be like him. I listened to the music he loved and I learned to sing all the songs he did. I watched as he made, improvised, and fixed things around the house, and I learned to do the same (to the best of my ability, which is still, nowhere near his). I demanded stories from him and never got tired of the same ones repeated again and again. I tagged along on fishing trips and felt slighted when once, while I was in university, he went out to sea and didn't take me. When he called to brag about his catches, I grumbled about being left out. Papa laughed at me, saying it was an all-men excursion, and he couldn't have taken me along even if he wanted to.
He spoiled me - I know he did. As a little girl I might not have known it as a fact, but I'd always known that if I did something bad (which was quite often), it was much safer to tell Papa than it was to let Mummy find out first. As I got older, I realised while he always laughed at me for, say, not being able to do any sports (anything that involved running, or balls), or not being able to play decently his favourite tune on the piano, or not being able to paint a horse that remotely resembles a horse on the lantern he handmade for me, he was actually extremely proud of the things I could do. For instance, I published my first story for children when I was 14. It was in the Sunday paper and he read it over and over. He analysed the piece, part by part, and explained to the family why it was such an awesome piece. I myself didn't think it was really as great as he made it seem. I've never had anyone paid as much attention to anything I'd ever written, as Papa did my silly fairytale that morning.
Perhaps it is simply natural for one to idolise one's father. Papa was the cleverest, the strongest, the funniest, the everything-positive-est man I know. He never fell ill, he never came across a problem he couldn't solve or work around, and he never lost a night's sleep over troubles or worries. He was so immortal in my naive eyes I could not imagine him otherwise. I remember, once, when I was still very young, I watched my aunt trim my grandfather's toenails. I remember thinking that when I'm all grown up, I will sit by my would-be-elderly Papa and talk to him, listen to him reminiscing, while I trim his nails. And I remember I felt a pang of panic and sadness at the thought of the day he would be old and frail. I guess I should derive some comfort in that it is something I needn't face now.
I think of him often. In fact, I think of him, in one way or another, directly or indirectly, almost every single day. Would he be proud of me, the person that I am today, despite that I am neither very successful nor happy in life? Would he still frown upon my tendency to be so much less social than he thought practical? Would he laugh at (but is secretly proud of) my newfound passion in climbing, the way he did at my obsession with martial arts?
Time is supposed to heal. For me, however, time has only numbed my senses and dulled my mental faculties such that I can no longer tell if it is that sorrow follows me, or that I obstinately choose to embrace it.