Your 100th birthday

My father in his 20s

I wish I could celebrate this day with you instead of mourning the decades since you left your life. We would raise a glass and remember the good times and shake our heads at the tough years we survived. You’d hardly recognise me as that rebellious daughter you left behind almost 50 years ago.

As you wished for me, I completed the university degree that was denied to you. The war had disrupted your youth and by the time it ended, further education was no longer an option. Instead, you became a master leatherworker, and your wages allowed your younger brother to receive the tuition to become a lecturer. In later years, this became a bone of contention between the two of you and it was easy for you to feel wronged. With the iron curtain between you, the relationship didn’t survive.

The war didn’t end in ’45 for you. Its effects lingered on. You married your sweetheart, yet a cruel fate awaited her. She had survived the bombs, but TB tore your son from her womb. Not long after, your beloved wife was also taken. Somehow you carried on. Much later you met my mother, a feisty woman with a hearty laugh, and you fell for her casual bravado which turned ugly once fuelled by alcohol.

The 1956 Hungarian Revolution changed your life. Many of your compatriots left the country to start anew. My mother wanted leave, so you followed. However, your heart stayed behind. No matter where you went, you could never find a place to call home; wanderlust was not part your makeup. But your new wife gave you something that would sustain you through dark times – a daughter. I became who you lived for.

After many attempts to leave her, you still followed my mother to ends of the earth. Happiness would elude you there too. So you continued to love me fiercely, unconditionally, and in the end destructively. When I was a teenager, your love engulfed my life until I felt it constrict my every movement. While I was the one who felt suffocated, in the end it was you who decided to stop breathing. Maybe you thought it was better that way, but I never did.

I have missed you all these years and still talk to you often. On your hundredth birthday, I wish I could tell you that things have turned out better than either of us could have imagined. And I wish I could tell you that it is worth believing in the good times come, even in our darkest hour.

10 thoughts on “Your 100th birthday”

  1. What a portrait of your father – huge memories here – wish he could have stayed to see your university life, & meet Peter and your gorgeous girl…

    Liked by 1 person

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