By Philomène Luyindula Lasoen
It was a long time before we saw each other again. I used to travel to my mom in Congo when taking a holiday. I wrote short notes to my mom and always worried that I didn’t know how to show her love. She is far more complex than my dad and I have always liked things simple and direct, dependable, and predictable. I thought that these 4 words described my relationship with my dad well. In the past fifteen years or so I have learnt that they apply more to the one I have with my mother.
I have gone through phases when I could not say a thing to my dad. I usually indicated when this was the case with a message like this: I can’t talk but I love you. I will let you know when I can speak to you.
Long facsimile letters eventually turned into emails and short SMS with the assurance of my love but with boundaries to protect my sometimes very fragile state of mind.
I wish that in the last year of my dad’s life, I wrote him long letters again. Or that maybe I drew something for him. I wish I knew if he felt my love in spite of my long silences.
And all the time I communicated with him the least, I inked more words, typed characters aplenty, doodled in the margins of books holding some of my poems. I befriended writing for the sake of writing – the compulsion – the thing that feeds my soul. I refer to writing as my true language. And I think that writing has very often been the connector, the path through which I can reach others. It has also been the wall behind which I can hide because saying ‘I love you’ helps me bargain for time; once the message is sent, I can hold myself for a little while longer. And I suppose I did that then… I do it now.
I am jealous of people who are braver than me with their actual voice. I envy those who manage to share the painful things, the criticism, the sorrow, and the requests. Yes, let’s not forget the requests as these help make love specific, it turns love into something that can be given and received by each person in her way. I know this, I have learned it, trained in it but the courage it calls for is not yet in me.
So, I am the writer of long and short words, stories, letters, … I am a person who started by loving my dad first, more than anyone else and I hope that he knew that on the day he died.
May you find ways to write love to the people you hold dear. And may your words be met with a response that fits your needs. May all the things that your heart yearns for find an echo with people, with nature, with beauty.
PS: Today is my father’s birthday. I had an Irish coffee in memory of him. I took a picture of the drink for the family. And for myself, I spent time recalling my childhood joy at being in his presence.