Back to Kabul

In three days from now, we’ll all get on a plane to head back to Afghanistan and our lives in Kabul.

I think it will be good to establish some routine again. Trying to grieve my father, be a decent dad to my own kids, love my wife, support my mother, be a friend to my sisters, meet with lawyers, go through Dad’s stuff, organise things for Mum, move between five different houses in the last four weeks has been tiring. It would be hard enough to mourn Dad if we lived here, in our own home. Try doing all that with a toddler, two displaced kids, in other people’s houses.

Rachel, predictably, after having just started sleeping through the night, is back to waking every three or so hours. Our older kids are unsettled, alternately bored, wired, exhausted and energised. There is no pattern in what we are doing; it is all driven by the urgent, and enervated by sorrow.

But as I said, it will be good to get home to Kabul, and back in a routine. Though leaving now, especially now, is a wrench. Together with Mum, we just spent a week down south in Margaret River, at Mum and Dad’s place in the bush. It was lovely and it was sad. Beautiful weather and a beautiful place, auspiced by an unwelcome event.

Slowly and steadily, over the days, I went through Dad’s papers and through his tools, through the sheds and through his study. I sorted his clothes, his shoes, his memorabilia, his axes, his drills, his chisels, his papers, his research, his notebooks. Dad was not, despite his many qualities, a tidy man, and in his latter years, he seemed to think the solution lay in buying new toolboxes and files, which he then half-filled, before buying another. I found a dozen tool boxes, holding assortments: a chisel, a screwdriver, old screws, nails, tape, glue and broken reticulation pipe. Files with duplicate papers, covered with post-stick notes.

I learned some things I never knew about my father. He scored second highest in the state on his tertiary entrance exams. He was an awarded marksman. He had a photographic memory. He authored over 80 papers, 10 chapters of different books. He wrote a diary for every year – just jottings, but in 1995, I found notes he made when he and I travelled up to the Kimberley together, when I maybe saved his life by rigging up a breathing apparatus for him, one night. In the back of that diary, a note, ‘Sayings of PJS’, and underneath, something I must have said, ‘Politeness is the death of truth.’

Dad was so present in Margaret River – it is a where he and I have spent so many hours and days, working on tasks, doing stuff together. I missed him intensely, painfully. It is hard to really understand that he is gone from this life – despite seeing him die, despite burying him. Strange, the strength of the emotional bond. It derogates what we rationally know.

Oh Dad.


10 thoughts on “Back to Kabul

  1. dear phil, sorry to hear the pain is still so raw…but thanks for sharing your thoughts and your writing. i hope the routine of kabul is just that and not too many dramas over the coming days and weeks. love to you all.

    • Thanks Khristo.
      Just caught up on what you are doing too – be careful there mate – some of the IDF are prone to shooting peace activists…

  2. Oh Phil

    Your reflection is beautiful, poignant, hauntingly sad, deeply evocative, intensely personal and inspirational. I can’t help but think “How will I react to/handle/respond to and remember my own father when the day comes for me?” How I wish I was there and could just hang out with you for a while.
    Sorry to hear that the kids have been so unsettled and “difficult”:
    as you say, so much displacement amidst so much emotion and grief. Ironic to think that Kabul might provide some routine and stability and help them regain their emotional equilibrium.

    Phil, I don’t know when or how but I want to renew my promise. “I will come and visit you in Afghanistan”.

    God be with you

    Love M

    • Thanks mate. We’ll look forward to welcoming you. You are, it should be said, now officially known as Marcus 09 in our family.

  3. Oh Phil, such a wonderful tribute to your Dad, all those little quirks – he was a ‘ real’ shed man! So much of your Dad in you my friend. Safe journey back to your other home.

  4. Impossible to be as eloquent as your posting. Just wanted to say you are close to your hearts and in our prayers especially at the moment. Can’t begin to imagine the pain of losing a parent… hope to God I am spared this for some time to come. Really hope Kabul does quickly bring some routine and stability to your days – especially for the kids and for full nights of sleep.

    • Thanks Eliza and Josh. We are now back in Kabul; it is really good to be home. It has been a hard month, but not too hard.

  5. I buried my grandfather (more like a father) in October. He was also a shed man, and an untidy one at that! I remember walking into his shed a few days after the funeral and just taking it all in. I used to be there with him when I was a boy. It still smelled the same…like sawed and ground metal. I missed him…I miss him.

    I don’t mean to take away your thoughts. I just wanted to let you know you’re not alone.

    • Hi Dan. Thanks for your solidarity. I was young when my grandparents died, but my son’s reaction to my fathers death was very strong. Elijah really loved his poppy, and knew he was loved by him. Elijah and I made a cross for Dad’s grave, which was a good thing to do; and better because it was in his shed, with his tools.

  6. Our love, prayers and condolences on the death of your dear wonderful Dad Phil.
    I’m sorry we’ve come late to the news.

    Thank you for keeping going with the blog.
    I find it to be richly authentic, thought provoking and frequently inspirational.

    We will continue holding all the Sparrows and Afghanistan in our prayers.

    Ian & Marg

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