I expected it to feel different; more dismal, like a grey rain cloud over my head, a heavy dread in my stomach; an impending sense that nothing would ever feel the same again. That was my understanding of grief, how everyone told me it would feel. But that wasn’t what I felt at all, the reality was a far more distant, coldness in my limbs and a stifling concern in my veins that I should be feeling something worse. But I felt nothing.
Yet with reluctance I searched through his workshop for anything worth keeping. Every remnant of his existence was now stuffed into cardboard boxes collecting dust or left on shelves to rot away with the afternoon waves. As the odour of the coastal breeze reached over the cliffs I noticed that everything in here had a connection to his kites. I navigated my way through their skeletons laid bare across the workshop floor. My Father’s infatuation with everything flying related had manifested itself into hours locked away each day building kites. I felt somewhat neglected growing up, it often seemed to my childish eyes that my father loved his kites more than he loved me.
I think he longed more than anything to take off as they did, to let it all go and let the wind carry him away from it all, but the weight of responsibility of being a Father tied him stiffly to the ground. He tried his best to give me everything I could want. I learnt quickly that he could afford to buy me almost anything a boy my age could ask for. My requests were scarce, material possessions weren’t what I desired because all I really wanted was his pride, his admiration; I wanted nothing more than for him to tell me he was impressed by something I did. His praise often came in the form of fleeting and unconvincing pats on the back. I grew up desperately trying to provoke the words I wanted to hear, but he was a man of few utterances and he seemed to exhaust all of his admiration on these damned kites. I pondered on these thoughts as I traced my fingers along the spine of each one I came across. I stopped at his old workbench, the place he invested most of his energy. A thick layer of sawdust still covered the surface. As I blew away the shavings I remembered the first time I built my own kite and how my father made sure it would be the last.
I was 13 years old and my father had gone away for the weekend. He planned on getting back home early Sunday morning. I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to finally do something that would impress him. And what would amaze him more than a kite built by his own son? Under the unobservant watch of the nanny I managed to break into the workshop and use the bench and all my father’s tools to craft the most magnificent kite he had ever seen. Over the years I had soaked up hours’ worth of knowledge from watching my father work and I was fairly confident I knew what I was doing. I worked tirelessly all night, convinced that my hard work would pay off. Finally dawn began to string through the workshop windows and I was happy with what I had achieved.
I waited on the beach all morning till I saw his car pull up into the driveway overlooking the sea. He spotted me down below and stood watching sternly with one hand fixed on his warm flask and the other rigid in his jacket pocket. Elated that my moment had finally arrived I stood up and threw the kite in the air, loosening the reel, letting it extend to its full capacity. The air was cold on my cheeks but fresh scented and promising. The kite was truly magnificent, made from silver fabric that shimmered brilliantly in the morning light. I beamed with joy at my creation, watching it dip and rise and steady to a gentle mid-air rest. From the perspective up on the cliff it must have appeared to be floating on the very water itself. The air was kind to me and I had never felt more accomplished in my life. I couldn’t be happier with my little silver kite.
Just then I felt the breeze change slightly but I was confident my kite would hold its position. I was naïve; all of a sudden the string tightened and my kite was thrown upwards towards the sky, my efforts to hold on were futile as the wind warped the silver around its fingers and sucked it up towards the mouth of the clouds. I lost my footing but kept my grip on the kite. With my head in the sand I felt the string loosen and watched my kite faint towards the Earth plunging into the edge of the sea. I rushed over to the water, only to find my creation with its spine snapped in two, paralysed and gurgling in the taunting pressing of the shore. I felt defeated, my heart sinking to bury itself in the wet sand. Just then, when I thought my heart couldn’t sink any lower, I looked up to the top of the cliff and watched my disappointed father walk away, one hand still around his flask, and the other still stuck in his jacket pocket.
To this day I hate flying.
I never had the chance to tell him how he made me feel and now I never would. I decided it best for me to leave the workshop and as I was just about to leave I noticed out the corner of my eye something covered with an old dusty olive-green cloth, residing in the shadows in the corner of the workshop. The evening dusk filtered through the window and cast a single strand of light onto the cloth, pointing it out to me. I removed the green cloak and stood there for a few moments, completely breathless. And then before I had time to think my eyes burst and I cried and cried until the sunlight retreated from the workshop, climbed down the cliff face, back across the water, and left me in the darkness with my little silver kite.
By Sean Martin