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  • “Shssh! 'Dummys' Meeting' begins at half past eight!” my father used to say to us, our faces set in a frozen still as he scrolled his nicotine-stained hands and face up and down, prompting us one by one to smile, then giggle and EXIT.
    He was my father and I loved him. I followed him everywhere, curling up like a faithful dog at his feet under the Credit Union counter, where he worked as a volunteer, or sitting in on his trigonometry class in the Technical College, awaiting break-time and the Wagon Wheel biscuit, teacher’s pet. My hand in his, he would always whistle his way home.
    But then I grew older. I came to hate him: I wanted more from our relationship. I longed for times past. I refused to call him Dad. I broke his heart.
    Then I learned that he was dying. He had already been ill for some weeks when my wife finally gave birth to our youngest daughter and, freed from my duty of care to my family, I rushed to his hospital bedside, newborn in tow.
    "I won't ever know this baby," he said, taking my daughter's hand in his. "I won't see her grow up, and she will never know me."
    My chest heaved and I finally let go of my resentment.
    "She will know you," I said. "So long as I am alive, she will know you because I have got so much of you inside. I have your extrovert side, your compassion for people in need, your reflective side, your fun side. I even love dancing like you."
    My mother looked across at me from the other side of the bed, askance, probably wondering why the sudden epiphany after all these years. "I don't know what I got from her," I said, joking. She managed a smirk.
    "You are a great son," my father said, "but we still have things to talk about."
    That, of course, was the last thing I wanted to hear. The past could look after itself, as far as I was concerned. The future was our problem – and we didn’t have much of that left.
    Three days later he died. We never had our chat, thankfully. Two hours before he passed away, I placed my baby's head against his and put her hand in his. "Can you smell her?" I said. His eyes were shut. He hadn't spoken for two days. "She is warm like you," I said. "Every nerve in her body is twitching all over like yours - her eyelids, her fingers, her feet, her mouth. We all go out the way we come in," I said.
    He didn't reply.
    "Rub my palm, if you can hear me," I pleaded.
    He thumbed my hand.
    My face lit up.
    "See the smile you bring to my face even now," I said. "I don't want to let you go!"
    I garlanded him with kisses, beginning with his cheek, going up over his forehead, and down along his other cheek. He must have felt that all his Christmases had come in one - either that or that he had died already.
    And what have I learned? A father's love forgives.
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