I get it now dad. I get it.

11 Jun 2015

My dad's book collection consists almost entirely of all things wartime. Fiction, non-fiction, documentary-he devoured it all.

On the rare occasions my dad would find himself home alone for an evening, an Indian takeaway, a couple of beers and Schindler's List (the movie), accompanied by a few clean, cotton handkerchiefs, was not far from a perfectly spent night for him.

I never really understood. Why seek out such sad and tragic reading/viewing matter? Is life not stressful and sad enough without reading the diaries of someone who lived through a holocaust?

So, any fatherly invites to imbibe in a few beers and to join him in watching all the human despair and misery of say, The Killing Fields, was met with a gruff, "Huh, I don't think so dad!"

Almost 7 years on from his death, however, I think I understand now why he was drawn to all that suffering and sadness. He wasn't revelling in the melancholic. I see now that he found inspiration from the stories of those who had endured the unendurable; who had borne the unbearable, and yet survived to tell the tale with dignity and grace.

(I'd wager too that dad was drawn to humans who had suffered much because he knew that there was often an inner richness to souls touched by sadness.)

We can't pigeon-hole human distress or pain. Indeed, one of my (many) pet-peeves (and disbeliefs) surrounding depression or anxiety is that someone could actually say, 'There is always someone worse off.' Or, 'Look on the bright side!' when, in all likelihood, the depressed/anxious person would do (and probably has done) anything and everything in their power to just feel halfway normal. So yes, suffering is all relative, I know.

But working my way through (I have to pick my moments, mind) dad's collection of books on the World Wars, the Cambodian Holocaust and other dark times, I do begin to find the inspiration that my dad did. If people can survive such harrowing times then I can survive whatever life may throw at me - including the very real isolation and horror of depression and anxiety.

Maybe this is what he was trying to impress upon me.

I wish I could tell him. I wish I could say to him, "Ah, I get it now dad. I get it."


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