Last night I sat back to watch a film on Amazon Prime. I browsed my watchlist for options and came upon something that looked quite funny. It’s a little known British film called Adult Life Skills. It’s really rather brilliant, especially in terms of acting as you generally forget that you’re watching actors and feel that you’re looking onto people. Anyway, I was laughing my way through it and then the film began to ease in a more dramatic side. The central character, thirty year old Anna, is bereaved from her twin brother Billy. The film focuses a lot on his absence and how it affects her.
I’m used to sad films and generally take them in my stride as I sniffle out the odd tear. But, then came a line of dialogue from Anna which took the wind from my sails. Anna is approached by a guy who quite fancies her and he’s trying to get her to go home (she’d hiding in a wooded area) when she turns to him and says “Am I still a twin even though my twin is dead?”
This line produced instant tears on my part. A very similar question has dogged me for years… Am I still a dad to Amelia even though she died?
The natural reaction is to say yes. The guy in the film said no to Anna. He said no because she lost the other half to her pairing. If I were to ask anyone this question, they’d say “of course, you’re still her dad”. However, to me at least, the word ‘dad’ means something very different to ‘father’. To me, a dad is someone who is always there; someone who helps and protects you. I think in this way because I never had a dad, I had a father. A father being someone who supplies his sperm and little else.
So, using my own terminology I can’t still be her dad because she isn’t here for me to care for. Of course, this is all semantics, really, but it’s still a valid question and one that has sat with me for a very long time. I remember asking people in the first year after Amelia died and people saying yes was kneejerk and comforting. Over the years I’ve found myself still asking, though. After all, Amelia was my firstborn – all my first acts as a dad were with her and as she is no longer here does that mean I’m a dad in past tense only?
You can Google the question and nothing helpful will come up because it’s not a question one feels they’ll ever ask. But, I’ve met many bereaved parents who say the same thing, they wonder what their connection is after the child has passed on. I suppose it depends on how you view a possible afterlife. If your view is that the child is still looking down on you, then perhaps you’re less likely to question that bond as you believe that they’re still with you in some way.
I don’t believe in anything like that. I believe in memories and moments that are stored in my mind, so is this why I find it so hard to figure out my current relationship with my daughter? Or is it because I’m naturally pessimistic? This latter idea would hold weight as, being a pessimist, I question everything more than I would if I lived a more optimistic life. So, the question still stands; Am I still her dad?
I suppose, no matter how much I ask, I don’t really want an answer. Either outcome will only solidify my sadness further and it’s a question that can’t be objectively answered, because it comes down to the personal beliefs of the individual.