So earlier today I received word that my father's former headmaster passed away. Some would probably wonder why that would be a thing, but in my family it is. This late headmaster was like a father to my father. We (the kids) were familiar with him because he liked to be at the school even after retiring. He'd come around the house and chat it up with my father every so often and my father would always welcome him. We were too young to pay any attention because we had playing on our minds at all times.
But as I grew older, I understood that this man meant a lot to my father. My father would tell us that when we were smaller, the man would watch over us and make sure that nothing bad happened to us. He took care of my brother and me when we got circumcised. He even drove us to and from the clinic. He took good care of the rugby team, and would even go to the extent of staying with an injured player at the hospital overnight.
My father had more experiences with him, of course, because he knew the headmaster since he was a teenager. Now that my father has four sons, two of which are full-time working adults, the headmaster has passed away. I can only imagine the memories that my father must be going through in his own mind. The headmaster was family to us, to my father in particular.
It's tough negotiating these feelings. I'm sure my father feels deeply saddened by his loss. And as a person who loves my father very much, I am saddened by the fact that my father is sad. But my father is my father and he doesn't cry in front of us (or at least he tries not to). My father tries his best to be as composed as he can appear in front of us. He is the source of wisdom for us. He has to be. It's his self-assigned duty. And even though a loss this bad would leave him devastated and confused, it clashes with the image of "knowing and composed father" that he's spent years in developing for himself.
So even though I want to be there for him, I feel like it's not my position to be the shoulder that he cries on. My mother's there to fill that role, and I'm glad that she is.
After typing this, I realise that I don't have to keep to these pre-assigned roles that have been established. If I reach out out of love, I don't think it would be denied. But I don't know. I don't know what to do, how to navigate these feelings and these sorts of situations. All I can do is write them down so that I can try to figure it out for myself and cry lots and lots while writing.
And at this point I realise that all of these reactions that I'm saying my father has are assumptions on my behalf. I'm assuming what my father would feel based on how I would probably react if the same would happen to me. I don't actually know how he's reacted to the news, because I haven't asked. I am too afraid to, I suppose. I guess I have projected my own emotions unto my father and that's unfair of me to do. I apologise.
Here's to shoulders to cry on.