For Father’s Day: Damianista’s Heavy Baggage…

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.

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.

source: Damianista
source: Damianista

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.

source: Damianista
source: Damianista

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 🙂

Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

12 thoughts on “For Father’s Day: Damianista’s Heavy Baggage…”

    1. Thank you so much for your note, Joanne. I know it was not my fault. I just had to get this out of my chest and Father’s Day seemed appropriate to do that. And I am genuine when I say Damian has inspired me to do it. So huge thanks go to him <3

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. Your Dad would be extremely proud of you! You are an amazing person, filled with love and joy and FUN. We never know why certain things happen to us in our journey through this life, but all we can do is try to be our best selves, and you my friend totally are!!

    1. Thank you for reading and for your friendship <3 Yes, I think dad would not complain about the way I turned out 😀

  2. Oh my goodness Damianista, Your post today is so real and heart wrenching. I knew you had lost your dad at a young age but wasn’t aware of the circumstances. It breaks my heart to think of you as a little girl bearing the burden of guilt for your dad’s death. I think of the smiling, energetic person that writes such delightful articles about so many subjects and I can only admire your outlook on life. An event like this could have left you angry and bitter but it seems you chose to rise above it. You are an inspiration!

    1. Thank you, Nancy, for your very kind words! Life works in very mysterious ways. Who knew Damian would inspire me to get this story out of my chest? But he did! And it feels good. Yeah I guess childhood traumas have a major role in shaping you as a person and I am very lucky in turning out the way I have because I more or less have a positive outlook on life. True, I carried that feeling of guilt inside me for a long long time but still never thought of myself as unlucky because of what happened when I was 8. I had a very loving family — mom plus, aunts and grandparents — that assured me everything would be alright in the end and, well, it did 🙂

  3. What a powerful and loving post. Your Dad is with you, guiding you, taking such pride in all of your achievements. I hope that writing this and sharing such deep feelings is cathartic. Take time alone, close your eyes, slow your breathing. Call up that little girl. See yourself hugging her. Reassure her. Tell her that what happened was NOT her fault. Tell her she will grow to have a rich, happy and productive life and that she will spread her smile through everything she will do. God bless.

    1. Thank you, Cyndy, for your kind words! It has been a challenge to carry that burden of guilt inside me for all those years but I have finally come to a point that I now know what happened that day was not that little girl’s fault and her father would never think of it as her fault, either. And spreading her smile through everything she does is certainly something she has taken after her dad.

      1. Thank you for trusting us with your story. A silly thing folks sharing thoughts and opinions on an actor and his work. Yet it is a point of connection in our busy lives; a place to express our laughter, thrills, annoyance, and sorrows. You make that possible. Dad made YOU possible. Love you D’sta,

        1. Thank you, NotLinda! I always think every post I make, as long as it is about Damian, carries a piece of me in it. And I cannot think of a better group of people to share my story with. It was a challenge to get it out of my chest but I feel so good I have been able to do that. And I feel so lucky for the beautiful friendships I have made through Damian and the blog. Thank you for the love. I am very grateful.

          My mom does not know about the blog. I don’t think she would understand. But I know my dad would. I think he is the one that transferred the FAN DNA to me 😀 😀 😀

  4. I feel the same way…my dad passed away recently…my mom is in a mental house and as only child I simply move forward to act rationally with paperwork and everything…today is the saddest day because a lot of people are celebrating dad and I am alone with a beer and watching netflix on my own in a semi empty already sold out house…burried with my memories…ohhh losing dad is a landmark in heart and life…suddenly one realises you are little ship on the ocean tide but hard enough to resist the storm…I am 37 years old so I can not beging to imagine the pain you have felt as a child…one more reason to admire you!!
    I love the shirt! As I said you made my day
    Take care 🙂

    1. I know losing a parent is hard at any age in different ways. I think it is a trauma when it happens when you are a child and has a major role in shaping you as an individual and leaves some marks that would probably never leave. That said, it may be even harder to lose a parent when you are 37 because you have accumulated so many memories… but then again it also gives you an opportunity to celebrate those memories and your dad’s life… So maybe you make a toast with that beer. To your dad. To his life. Love you, my friend <3 Time heals. Hope everything gets better soon.

      I love football. The first World Cup I followed closely as a child was Spain '82. I fell in love with Argentina (Maradona) and Italy (Rossi). And to this day I have been supporting them. Italy is not in the cup this year so I am all for Argentina! VAMOS! (ps. but it was a pain to see Messi missing a penalty against Iceland!!!!!)

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