Hardly ‘morning pages’ as it’s late afternoon, but half term has turned out to be a busy time with play dates and sleepovers, and it’s only now that I’m allowing myself a moment of me-time. It’s a rainy autumn afternoon, so I think candle light is in order. There. Much better.
Have gone around the place like a frantic cleaning tornado – floors are still to be done, but I need a little break from the manic scrubbing and wiping. My dad and my youngest brother arrive tomorrow, so our little blended family unit of three are preparing ourselves for having the hurricane that is my father around for a long weekend. There isn’t another person as intense as he is. One volume setting: LOUD. One speed: FULL THROTTLE. One emotion: JOY. One substance to his heart: GOLD.
My whole life, my dad’s been my hero, the one person I look up to more than anyone else. Perhaps that’s why I have this deeply rooted need to win his approval. It was only today, this afternoon, that I realised that there’s no point trying to win it – I already have it. Did all along. This is the thing. With the people you love, you have to accept that they might not always show their love for you in exactly the way that you crave it.
For example, Monkey’s never been a particularly affectionate kid. He’s just not the type of child who’s ever snuggled up loads or needed physical affection in that way. Sure, he’ll come up and hug me (sometimes I even get a kiss on the cheek), but mostly that’s just not his way. But I’m still his number one and I know he loves me just as much as I love him and I therefore can’t gauge it by the number of hugs. Just like my father will never EVER understand why I quit a well paid job to pursue something as flimsy as writing a book – it’s not that he doesn’t believe in me, it’s just something he cannot relate to. He’s a bank director at heart (retired early a few years ago, but old habits die hard) and so he measures up debit and credit and is ruled by sense and sensibility.
Telling my father that, oh sure, I’m messing up my CV irreversibly by taking this leap but it will pay off, holds no water. He doesn’t place bets, he takes no chances. Could I afford the bills on my own if B were to drop dead tomorrow? Where’s my safety net? It doesn’t matter that I can assure him ‘yes’ on both scores, because what he sees is something he can’t reconcile. The balance sheet in his eyes makes no sense.
Last time we were in Sweden I was bursting to tell him about the book I’m writing, I was dying to tell him all about Alice and how his precious Falla comes into it too. He just didn’t get it. I started by telling him that I’ve incorporated the place that means more to him than anything else. He asked how I’m bringing in money, then announced he had to get going. At first I felt frustration, felt annoyed that he just didn’t hear me out and a little sad that this story I’m so passionate about was something that triggered no interest whatsoever in my father – the one person I want to impress the most.
It was only today, this afternoon, weeks later, when we were on the phone to sign off the arrangements for tomorrow and pick-up at Heathrow, that it all finally sunk in and I – at the age of 38 – discovered that just because my father doesn’t do a song and a dance each time I fart, he is truly my biggest fan and has all the faith in me that I never quite realised he did.
“Can’t wait to see you,” I told him, towards the end of the conversation.
“Likewise,” he boomed, his wide grin audible through his voice, “tell B to have the whiskey at the ready.”
Well. He doesn’t call B by his name anymore. He calls him “puss och kram” – Swedish for ‘kiss and hug’, which is one of the phrases B knows and says any time he’s on the phone to him. It’s their naff little in-joke.
“Sure will. And I can’t wait to tell you about my book,” I told him and then held my breath without even realising that I had, perhaps the pessimist in me expecting him to dismiss me.
And then my wonderful father blew me away.
“I probably won’t get it,” he said, matter-of-factly and my heart sank as it always does when I feel he isn’t taking me seriously, “but I know you, and I know that when you set your heart on something, you pull it off.”
The world just went completely still as I took in the significance of his words. I couldn’t get a word out. The utter joy that exploded in my chest at that moment brought tears to my eyes.
“Just be Anna,” he went on, “and as long as you’re Anna, you can wander through the world with your head held high.”
So, the moral of the story is this: accept love for what it is, and recognise and treasure it, even if it doesn’t always manifest in the exact way you thought you needed it to. Just because it took a different form doesn’t mean it’s any less sincere or real.