Damianista’s note: While every post I write carries a piece of me in it, this is the most personal post I have ever shared and probably will ever share on this blog. I just had to get this out of my chest. Thank you, Damian, for the inspiration.
My dad gave me the love for football. And, guess what, I've been an LFC fan since I was 7. Too bad I'll be teaching during the game. GO, REDMEN! #YNWA
— Fan Fun Damian Lewis (@FanFunDamian) April 24, 2018
Father’s Day is just a day away… a day that I have not been able to celebrate for a long time… 38 years to be precise.
Damian once said:
“My mother’s death is the single most important thing that’s happened to me in my life.”
I cannot agree with him more. My father’s death is probably the single most important thing that’s happened to me in my life: A death that occurred under the most unexpected circumstances, on a family vacation.
My dad’s death is something I have not talked about with almost anyone. I do not think even my husband, who is probably the only person I have shared most of the story with, knows as much detail as I am about to tell here. I have not talked much about it to my mom, either; because even today, 38 years after he died, she still cannot talk about dad without tears in her eyes.
So, it’s hard… But I am ready to get this continuing grief out of my chest and fully come to terms with the most terrible day of my life.
I was eight years old. We were on a family vacation in a resort town, Kusadasi, with my dad’s best friend and his family. I was so psyched that summer about the fact that I had just started swimming without the swim wings and did not want to leave the water for a second… The water was not very calm that afternoon, quite a few waves, but still compared to the ocean, it was really nothing, and besides the water was shallow enough that parents, including mine, let their kids play in the water on their own.
So, I was playing in the water with the daughter of my dad’s best friend, five years my senior. We were swimming very close to the beach and suddenly a wave came upon us, and she held my hand, but the wave was a little bit too strong for me that made me let go her hand, and I tried to keep myself on the water, but then I swallowed some water and panicked… But in a few seconds, somebody held me… and carried me to the beach.
When we arrived on the beach, there was some chaos going on. I ran towards the crowd that made a circle looking at something. As I got closer, I saw my dad lying on the beach… Unconscious… Some people were around him, trying to do some sort of first aid, I guess… Then I saw my mom… sitting on the beach… Crying… She hugged me and then left me with the family friends and went to the hospital. I remember spending the rest of the day in the hotel room crying…
Apparently, when he saw me panicking in the water, my dad, who was sunbathing on the beach, stood up to run into water and save me, but suddenly he had a massive heart attack on the beach… By the end of the day, he was dead.
I didn’t go to the funeral. My mom probably didn’t think of it as a place for kids. I stayed with close family friends for some time — I really don’t remember how long — as my mom and the family had to deal with condolence visits.
When you lose a parent at such a young age, you sort of mature overnight. And, you sort of have to… You are still a kid, of course, but you at least try your best to think and act like an adult. I, for one, avoided from asking my mom about my dad and anything about his death, because I knew she would get upset. Years later, my mom told me that the only thing I asked was: “Where will we live now?” And when she assured me that we would go on living as before, in our own apartment, I was relieved. Because, at the time, my widowed aunt lived with my grandparents, and I probably thought maybe we had to do the same and I obviously didn’t want to leave our apartment. It is fascinating what goes on in an 8 year old’s mind.
Even though I did not talk about it, for years and years, I believed I was responsible for my dad’s death and for ruining my mom’s life. It kept me haunting for years… If only… If only I had not gone into the water that afternoon… If only… If only… and maybe my dad would still have been with us today.
My parents had a happy marriage. They called each other with loving nicknames, they traveled and had fun together, and had a huge circle of friends with big dinner parties, entertaining and dancing… And, all was gone for my mom overnight. She now had to stand up and survive as a “widow” (a word my mom hates for all the right reasons!) in a country like Turkey — where everyone in your neighborhood feels prying into whatever you do when you don’t have a husband — and not just that but she also had to raise a daughter in that society on her own. Thank God, my mom had a job so she had her economic independence, and she told me at some point much later that the job kept her busy and helped her cope with my dad’s death.
And life went on… I grew up, I was so busy with my friends and my classes (one thing I did my best to excel at in order to make my mom happy and I did!) in my teenage years that I did not think much about my dad… And, maybe I just suppressed my longing for him because I was not able to deal with the heavy feelings I had about the whole thing… Still, my dad had a strong presence in my life in an amazing way. My mom—when she hesitated to let me do something that I really wanted to do as a teenager, say going to a concert with friends in the evening — said “if your dad had been around, he would have told me to let you be” and she did let me be my own person. So, even though dad was not physically there, he was always there FOR ME. And a professional has recently told me my still on-going crazy love for football is nothing but my own way to keep a connection to my football crazy dad.
I got to think more and more about him as I got older. I got to think about the man that I never really got to know. I knew him as a doting father that I adored — the man that constantly spoiled me, that taught me how to play chess and gave me the love for soccer, I just knew the man who told me he would give a good beating to all those creatures in my nightmares if they visited me ever again… But I never got to know the man that family and friends always talked about — the intellectual, the political activist, the jazz lover, the great dancer… I would have loved to talk to him about politics, about books, about my favorite jazz band, about life, about anything… I would have loved to talk to him just to hear his voice. You know what the hardest part is? I don’t remember his voice.
Damian, in his emotional Golden Globe acceptance speech back in 2013, told the audience:
“I want to dedicate this to my mum, who is up there somewhere, looking down and bursting with pride.”
You know what, I sometimes think about my dad, too, genuinely hoping that he is up there somewhere, looking down and bursting with pride that his daughter is healthy and happy and… that she is still glued to the TV when the World Cup is on. Vamos, Argentina!
Dad, I MISS you every day.
Hope most of you still have your dads with you, around you, or just a phone call away from you. Happy Father’s Day to all dads, including our favorite guy. We will have a proper celebration tomorrow 🙂