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.