Someone asked me recently if what I write in this blog is true. Of course it is. I will share a tale with you which you can choose to disbelieve if you like. But I assure you, it is true.
My mother and father separated when I was four years old. I took the loss of my father badly. I missed having a father very much. I remember when he came back to visit our house with a new wife and a small boy wrapped in a white sheet, my half-brother. I felt abandoned.
When I met my step-father for the first time, he was not yet my step-father. He was my neighbor. I told him that I used to have a father, but he went away, and I did not have one anymore. Imagine a five year old boy saying that to a grown man. He remembered it. Later he and my mother got together. I remember the day my mother telling me I could call the man who had become my step-father "Dad". I remember him hugging me for the first time, when we were alone one evening. I felt safe.
I don't remember much from my youth, but I remember these things, for they were of seminal importance to me.
My step-father died of lung cancer in 1996. I was living in Manila at the time. He called me on the telephone on the day he died. I did not know he was going to die that day. I asked him if he was going to enjoy the cricket season that was coming up. He said, with a particular tone of voice, "no I don't think so." Later that day he coughed and coughed, coughing up blood and parts of his lungs into a bucket. He turned a different color and drowned in his blood as my step-sister held him. I attended his funeral in Upper Hutt, New Zealand. When I came back to Manila a week after he died, I went back to my internship on a Monday and there was a letter from him. He had sent it the day he died.
I was at work in 1998, still in Manila, when my mother called on the telephone to tell me some bad news. There was that tone of voice again. I thought immediately "my grandmother has died", but my mother had called to tell me my biological father had been hit by a train and killed instantly. Here is the the part that cannot be true, but is. I had written him an e-mail shortly before my mother had called, but I had not sent it. It was to be my first communication with him in a year or so. I even signed off with "Love" which was not something I did with him in those days. By the time my mother called me, he would have been dead for quite some hours, as the police had a difficult time locating his wife so they could notify her of the tragedy.
My biological father and I were not close. He rarely communicated with my brother and I when we were small boys, and as we got older things did not really improve much.
What I have to say next has no scientific basis that I am aware of. But I will say it anyway. Imagine if I had sent the e-mail to my biological father the day before he died, and he had read it. That would have been nice. But did we deserve that? Maybe it was our own stupid fault for not keeping in contact with one another. Instead, for some reason I had a strong urge to write it after he had been killed, even though I had no way of knowing he had died. Maybe he communicated with me after his death. Maybe in writing the e-mail that was never sent, he somehow read it. Who knows.
One thing is certain: for me the deaths of my two fathers were entirely different in character, but they tell a story that is fair and just. With my step-father our communication on the day of his death reflected our life together, and with my biological father it reflected the life we did not have together.