My Dad, Pt.1

The funniest memory I have of my dad is from when I was about 13 years old. My sister and I were in our bedroom, our conversation had been interrupted by the gradually escalating aggressive tone in my dad’s voice who kept repeating his surname over and over again…


30 seconds pause



My sister was the braver of us and she went into the living room to see what was happening.

It turned out that he was trying to set up his voicemail (this was back in 2003 when a businessman absolutely needed to have a set up voice mail)…

He was annoyed because the lady on the phone kept asking him to insert his password and then press #. My dad, being who he was, skipped forward a few years and he expected that his password would be voice recognized and saved that way.

“Who the hell does she think she is, telling me whether my password is correct or not? How would she know anyway?! ”

We all laughed a while when we eventually managed to explain to him how voice-mail set-up works.

The decision to start writing this series of blogs is because as a flawed human, I’m bound to forget some things, and I really do not want to. We’ve moved around so much and lost so many things in the process that I really have no way of remembering him apart from the photos I have.

He had the most infectious laughter, and just like me he went into hysteria if he laughed long enough… to the point where you can’t figure out whether that’s laughter or tears or pain or death. And like me he was imperfect. He had a short temper and he was a little too sensitive sometimes, he cried during most movies and always reminded me that real men cry sometimes whenever he’d realize I was watching him. In a nutshell, he was the biggest softy I had ever met… but also the toughest softy I’d ever met.

My dad didn’t believe in toughening me up physically or emotionally, but rather – mentally.

I had a friend named Iva back in the day… our friendship was special because we had so many things in common. We shared the same name, we were born in the same month 1 year apart, both Bulgarian, both with parents who had the same age gap… our dads had military background and we lived in the same block of flats. We were on the 3rd floor, they were on the 4th. So naturally, we were inseparable. My grown ups did not appreciate this friendship, I was very innocent and naive, easily swayed and influenced… so it was no surprise when shortly after that I started going out to clubs and smoking, drinking and skipping school. My dad never said anything about it, but at the end of that school year when I was supposed to have the most fun with my friend, I was taken away to Rietspruit which is somewhere in Mpumalanga. My dad was in charge of a  farming and self-sustainability community project over there. For 4 weeks my day started at 04:30 am, we would have breakfast then head over to the fields. I would plant potatoes and work the land, water the land, tie up the tomato stems to supporting rods and sometimes when I’d tie something too tight, my dad would cut off all the strings I had tied and I’d have to start all over again. This was possibly the toughest he’s ever been. We wouldn’t speak. Not at the field and not at home. When I wasn’t at the field, I was making food, washing, cleaning or reading. So by 8pm every evening I’d be out.

I was supposed to work with him for 6 weeks, he gave me 2 weeks off because he was proud of me for not complaining or throwing tantrums or crying. What he didn’t realize is that Iva had nothing to do with my bad choices, they were mine and I was willing to take responsibility for them. That month for me was a lesson in consequence and owning up to my mistakes. I didn’t see it as punishment and I knew that in the end I’d come out stronger, wiser and with a little farming knowledge (just in case I ever need it).

Sometimes when realizing I’ve messed up and begin to panic about the consequences, I imagine being back there with the tomato plans. The pain in my back, my calves, my arms, my neck, my thighs and I remember wanting to break down and freak out… but with every tied string, I stepped past the frantic tantrums of knowing you can’t undo what’s already been done.

So I breathe, furrow my brow a little and hope that the universe would cut me some slack if I work hard enough at owning up to my mistakes.

One of which is… not recording memories with him while I still had the chance.