Grieving the Loss of a Silent Parent
My dad died unexpectedly six years ago and my life was changed forever. But it wasn’t because we were close, our emotional connection was wanting. It has taken me a while to understand what I miss about him.
He emigrated from India in the late ’60s to get his master’s degree in engineering. My dad was always the smartest guy in his class, the quintessential nerdy social recluse.
He rarely said he loved me nor did he engage in many activities with my brother and me. When I looked for Father’s Day cards for him, I laughed at the golf and grilling references. The silly dad joke cards never seemed to fit…nor did the sappy ones. Hallmark didn’t cater to the nerdy and distant South Asian dad. When we were alone together, there wasn’t much conversation. He usually turned on AM radio to let the “Traffic and Weather Together on the 8's” fill the silence.
After he died, I was, of course, sad because he was my dad and now he was gone. The structure of our family was altered, my mom was alone, and now we had to pick up the pieces. But I wished I was sadder. I wished I missed him more. I wished he told us his hopes, dreams, and fears. I wished I knew what he thought about when he sat on the couch and twisted his mustache, staring into space. Now I never will.
I know he loved me. He showed me through his actions. He went to every parent-teacher conference, he fought for me to get into a super advanced math class, and he cried when he saw me the morning of my wedding day.
But most of the time, our relationship felt dull.
In elementary school, both my parents and brother had to leave the house before me, so I would be home alone for about 45 minutes before I walked to the bus stop. He called me every morning at 7:25 a.m. to make sure I was ready. We had the same conversation every day…
“Do you have your lunch?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I responded.
“Ready to leave?”
When I called home after I was older and out of the house, he answered the phone, asked how I was doing, and quickly handed it off to my mom.
He worked for the same company for over 30 years. When he came home from work, he always watched Nightly Business Report. Sunday nights were for 60 Minutes, Friday nights were for Wall Street Week.
My dad was a man of routine, always consistent.
As a child, I would scream so loudly when I had nightmares that he had to come to my room and calm me down. I quieted and he slept upright against my bed all night to keep me company. My mom told him to read me stories, but I’m glad he never did. I just wanted his quiet presence. Sometimes I had a mild nightmare and I was perfectly okay to fall back asleep on my own. But I still screamed just so he would come to my room and sit by me.
He never complained about it.
Now he is gone, and I finally see what I miss so much. I miss the person in my life that provided an unspoken presence. I miss the person who checked in on me, even though everything was just fine. I miss the safety of his silence. I never realized he was secretly a musician, orchestrating our rhythm through a hushed beat.
I still wonder what went on in his head while he twisted his mustache. But I have a feeling we were his hopes and dreams, so what else was there to talk about?