She saw how much interest her parents had in the mail. There was the occasional letter for her grandmother, but her mother received the most mail, from her friends in the northern town where she lived earlier and apparently had many friends. Her father received an occasional note from his brother in the army, but he seemed to prize it greatly. Then there were the bills, which sometimes caused an upset, especially if it was something her mother had bought or a utility bill that suggested to father that mother or grandmother had been using too much gas for their cooking.
So, one day, it felt like an adventure, when nobody was watching, for the little girl to quietly open the door, pick up the mail and place it on the center table in the living room. Nobody noticed the difference. She did it again the next day, and the day after. She always picked up the mail.
The girl had sensed earlier that her father was not a very popular person in the household. But now, given the way he had taken his leave, his name was poison. It was no longer kosher to mention him, ask about him or want to know about him. The accepted way was to pretend he did not exist. More, as if he had never existed.
She did not know what was wrong with him or what wrong he had done to her mother. She knew he was a handsome, loving man who loved her. When he held her in his firm hands, she knew he loved her more than all others. She knew for sure that she was precious and lovable in his eyes and he cherished her.
Twenty years had passed. She was now a young woman, beautiful and self-possessed. A young and talented man loved her and they were shortly going to marry and start a family. Everything looked perfect. Her mother, now a much older woman, had never had another close relationship, and depended solely on her for a close family tie.
In twenty years, her mother had never mentioned her father. She knew that nobody in the family had ever mentioned him again, if only to respect her mother’s wishes. But in her mind her father remained, a shadowy but vibrant presence, a handsome, age-defying face, strong and loving arms, the sound and feel of his repeated kisses on her childish cheek.
She wondered how she could find in the city – or, in any city of the world, for he may have moved – a man of whom she had no particulars save his name. The only person who might have any more details would be her mother. Would she share them? She took courage in her hands and decided to broach the subject with her mother. She asked, very quietly, one day if her mother had heard anything from her father in the two past decades? No, said her mother firmly, then added that, if he had written, she would have burned the letter unread. She still persisted and asked if any of his brothers or sisters ever connected with her. She said he did not many relations, and none in the country. She knew then it was a closed door. She would never see or hear or touch her father again.
And yet the missing father remains. At the very center of her being. He comes unbidden in her thoughts and occasionally in her dreams. He picks her up, raises her high, says how tall she has grown, then hugs and kisses her before he places her back on the floor. She has nobody she can tell about those recurrent, forbidden dreams.
That is why she chose me, almost a stranger, to talk about the man who once walked so majestically through her life.