“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”
– Thornton Wilder
It is early evening on a weekday in the suburbs of Colombo. My Dad and I are sitting in the garden together. The stars and the fireflies keep us company. Over in the distance, we can hear our neighbours… the sounds of suburbia settling down for the evening.
We sit there in the darkness, just the two of us. My Mum is busy cooking our dinner. Dad sits there puffing on his cigarettes while I chatter away. I talk to him about all the wonderful things that are on my eleven-year-old mind, like computers, UFOs, distant galaxies and alien life.
He doesn’t say much. That’s his way. He is a man of few words. But I know that he is listening. I also know that he is interested in what I have to say. And I am in no doubt that he likes having my company.
I can’t remember having many people who were willing to listen to me talk about these things–not even my schoolmates or best friends. Yet Dad listens. And I jabber on, making the most of my captive audience.
Some weeks later, I receive a pair of high-powered binoculars. Dad has borrowed them for me. I am over the moon! I rush off to ogle said moon and the greater Cosmos through high-powered lenses. Thank you, Dad! Yes, I’ll be careful, I promise!
Some months later, it is nearly Christmas. I have been begging my parents for a computer. I asked, never really thinking I’d get one. I know those things cost a lot. But I persist. I can’t help myself. My mind was possessed by all things computer-related and I simply had to have one! And so, I bug my poor Dad every evening, mostly because he sits and he listens. Then, one day, Dad comes home from work with what appears to be a box containing a real home-computer under his arm. I am ecstatic! Later that evening, I very solemnly inform my amused parents that I am the happiest boy in the world–and I meant it!
That little machine shipped with just 1KB of memory. But it changed me forever. Thanks to it, I learned how to write programs in BASIC. I came to revel in my newfound ability to make the computer create weird sounds and pictures and more. That machine fuelled my obsession with computers. It also nurtured my love for learning and for experimenting; things that I seem to have reconnected with more recently. These things have breathed new life into me.
Thank you, Dad, for the gifts that you gave me then and now. I know that I wasn’t always able to appreciate you back then. But I remember how that didn’t really matter to you. You just kept on loving and giving–until your last day. I see all of that now very clearly.
I’m sorry that we drifted apart over the years. I know that it was my fault. But I know that you don’t hold any of that against me.
I feel so damned lucky and proud to have had you as my father. And I have so many things to thank you for. But right now, I just want to thank you for being around and for listening. For really listening. You never said much, but what you did always showed me that you were listening and that you cared. It matters a lot to me now: now that I can understand and value these things.
I feel you around me Dad and I know that you will be there to greet me when I cross over to the other side. But right now, I have a big job to do and that is to be at least half the father that you were. Yes, Dad, I married the love of my life and together, we have a little Angel and a cosy home. But you know all this!
Right now, I am so busy Dad… counting the treasures of my heart and making more of the same.
And it’s all thanks to you! You gave me so many moments to treasure and you showed me how to create my own.
I’m forever grateful.