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Chanti Niven

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Member Since: Mar, 2003

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Finding my Father
By Chanti Niven
Saturday, June 26, 2004

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My search for my father and the meeting that would leave an indelible mark upon my life.

Whenever I have been asked if I believe in destiny, I tend to use this analogy: 

We are the captains of our own vessels and steer our own course in life.  We make our choices and our destiny is determined by what these choices are.  We do not, however, have any control over the sea (our situations) or the climate (environment).  To be a good captain, we learn to master our vessel in the worst of conditions.  We learn to face the storms and conquer them and then repair our vessels when we are in calmer waters.  Such is life.

My biological father was a brilliant man.  In his twenties he seemed to have the world at his feet.  He was tall and good-looking with a razor sharp mind and a deep resonant voice.  People were usually mesmerised by him and he used his charisma to good effect.  My mother was born to a wealthy and respected family in England and lived a life of luxury, finishing off her education at a Swiss finishing school.  She was, and still is, a beautiful woman.  This could have been the archetypical fairy story.  Boy meets girl, they fall in love and they live happily ever after.   It should have been this way but the reality was in stark contrast.  My mother fell pregnant with me out of wedlock.  Nowadays this is not a big deal, back then it was shameful and my horrified grandmother insisted on an abortion.  (She related this to me years later, not for one moment thinking that she was talking to the 'abortion')  My mother stubbornly insisted on having her baby and marrying my father.  I thank God for her obduracy.

My dad always had a drinking problem.  I think it started when he was in the navy.  He was not a rolling drunk and managed to hold down a career and convince others that he had it all together.  He embarked on a successful career in politics and was often to be heard on the radio espousing his political beliefs with a great deal of conviction.  He may have made a difference had his drinking not eventually caught up with him.  His drinking led to philandering, which in turn led to the break up of his marriage and ultimately the loss of his children.  In spite of his many flaws, my brother Rupert and I adored our father and when he disappeared out of our lives we were devastated.  My story begins when I was eighteen.  I had searched for him for a long time and finally found him.  

I replaced the receiver with shaking hands and tried to calm my erratically beating heart.  In a few hours I would see my father again after ten years of painful absence.  I closed my eyes briefly, took deep breaths and concentrated on the image I had of him.  The last time I had seen him, my brother Rupert and I had ridden with him in his sports car with the top down.  He had allowed us to stand up on the seat (which would have been forbidden by my very strict step father) and we screamed with excitement as he raced down the highway, laughing from the thrill of it.  I smiled as I remembered him lifting me out of the car and kissing my forehead,
"There you go kid.  How was that?" The other dark images kept rising up out of the sunshine that was that moment but I pushed them down.  He was my father and I loved him. 

I was unprepared for the moment of our meeting.  I remembered him as tall and handsome but somehow he seemed to have shrunk.  His broad shoulders were now bony and his face deeply lined.  His vivid blue eyes seemed to have faded and the dark hair had thinned and turned grey.  There was virtually no sign of the father I remembered and it was hard not to hide my shock.  He reached out to hold me and I hugged him but he was a stranger to me and I felt the sting of tears in my eyes.  After hugging me for a few minutes, he held me at arm's length and gazed at me with searching eyes,
 "Ah Chanti, you are a beauty like your mother.  Did you get anything from your Dad?"  I grinned then and responded cheekily, "Yes, a death wish!"  I was talking about his penchent for taking risks.  It was something that I seemed to have inherited because I was always up for an adventure and often faced mortal danger in its pursuit.  He laughed loudly and I remembered... that laugh.  This WAS my dad.

I stood at the side of the hospital bed and held his hand.  "Dad can you hear me?"  He squeezed my hand lightly and his eyelids fluttered. "Dad, please don't go?  I need you now. Please!"  I watched as a tear escaped from the corner of one eye and choked on my own tears.  I could not stay there in that hospital room and escaped to the corridor to cry with huge heaving sobs.  A doctor approached. 
"Are you family?" he asked. 
"Yes, I am his daughter." I answered vainly wiping tears from my face and trying to control my voice.  "Is he going to die?"  His hand rested gently on my arm,
"I am afraid so.  He doesn't have much more time.  Maybe it is time to say goodbye."  His eyes were sympathetic and his voice tender.  I nodded because I did not trust myself to say another word.

"Why did you go away Dad?" I asked shortly after our first meeting and long before that day in the hospital.  "Why did you leave Rupert and me?" 
"I know you will find this hard to believe Chanti but I had no choice sweetheart.  I had to leave you for your own good but I thought about you every day." he answered, his eyes pleading for understanding.  My relationship with my dad began the day of our meeting and continued for over a year before I found out that he had terminal cancer.  He had damaged his liver irreparably through drinking and doctors believed this is what had triggered the cancer.

His greatest desire was to be reconciled to my brother, his only son, but Rupert stubbornly refused to see him in spite of all my pleading.  He could not get over his own hurt at what he saw as his father's abandonment.  When I found out that our father was dying, I tried once more to convince him but he responded with, "I have no father.  In my mind he is already dead.  Good riddance!"  I could not believe his anger and felt it tangibly like a knife turning in my chest.   When my dad asked, I told him as gently as I possibly could that Rupert would not be coming to visit.  His face twisted in agony and I watched helplessly as his shoulders shook with mute sobs.

I was not with him the day he died.  The phone call came as a shock even although I had been expecting it.  The days after his death passed in a bit of a fog.  He had made certain requests about how he wanted to go.  His first request was that he be cremated and that there would be no memorial service.  He said to me during one of our last chats,
"For heaven's sake don't cry over me Chanti.  It's a happy moment and I don't want one of those memorial services.  Just have me cremated and sprinkle my ashes on the 18th hole of the Parkhurst golf club,"  and then he chuckled, "That hole was always the death of me." 

I nodded, smiling through tears. 

There were so many tears in those final days but there was also plenty of laughter.  Who would have thought we could laugh like that knowing that he would soon die?  We shared so much in that short time.  Serious moments, argumentative ones but mostly loving moments because we knew we had so little time left and oh how we laughed… and laughed. 
"Chanti, you are your father's daughter" he grinned at me after a particularly intense verbal duel, admiration shining in his eyes.  This was the greatest compliment he could have given me in my mind.

I wasn't going to let him go without a memorial service.  This was one time the stubborn mule  would not get his own way.  We arranged for a memorial service at the Doves and Wilmot funeral home. 

The place was filled with so many strangers but I felt completely alone in my grief.  I looked at the coffin covered with flowers and thought about his frame occupying that space.  My mind didn't want to accept that I would never see him again, never hear his voice and listen to his deep infectious laugh.  The organ music started up and I remember thinking that my Dad would have hated the somber tone of the ceremony.  Suddenly I had an  insane desire to giggle because it was at that point I got such a vivid mental image of his reaction to it all and thought about how he'd have come up with something to liven things up.  I struggled to restrain myself and put a hand over my mouth in an attempt to stifle my giggles when someone sat down next to me and reached out for my hand.  I looked up and into the eyes of my brother, Rupert.  His face so like my father's caused my heart to lurch but I smiled at him and mouthed a grateful thank you.  He nodded and turned to look rigidly ahead and I saw the unshed tears of a childhood filled with hurt gleam in his eyes.

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Reviewed by Petra Falk 4/8/2009
"You are your father's daughter" - Oh Chanti, that story really got to me. My own father was a brilliant man, and he left when my brother and I were very little. The truth be told my mother turfed him out because frankly he was not as good at being a husband as he was at being a dad.

I did briefly re-connect with him by letter, and he said those words to me "You are your father's daughter" and they made me proud. My mother said those words too. Many times. When she said them, however, they were not meant as a compliment.

My father died before I could see him again.

I read your article several times, it is beautifully written and I know your dad is proud of you.
Reviewed by Joey Lawsin 8/16/2008
If our father took good care of us when they were still alive, what more when they are now living to an immaterial world, where they come to be our angels to guide us eternally...AOUIE
Reviewed by Cryssa C 3/18/2008
Thank you for sharing such poignant memories of your father... the good, the bad... and for sharing your thoughts at his death. Even when loved ones die they are never really far away...
Reviewed by Debra Bateman 10/15/2007
Well done Chanti, our lives are touched for the good and bad because of choices and mistakes our parents and we too make.
This was deeply touching and brings back memories.
-Debra : )
Reviewed by Guy Hogan 1/17/2007
My father was a wife beater. I wanted to catch him in his sleep and kill him but instead dropped out of college and left home at the age of eighteen and joined the army and ended up in Vietnam. He's dead now. It was a true love/hate relationship between us. I miss him. He taught me a lot of true things about being a man. This story brought back mainly the good things.
Reviewed by Mario Chavez 11/5/2006
Who would know ~ Chanti is an angel in disguise. Who would know she would forgive and mend the hurt, remove the unhappy scar of abandonment from her father and instead help him find a happier journey into the unknown during the last days of his life.

I for one, read her story with tears on my eyes and felt the hurt in my heart. It is a lie to say grown man don't cry!

A very touching story....

Reviewed by Marilyn Seray 8/6/2006
A beautiful story so tenderly told. Chanti, I love your stories and I will get around to reading them all.
Reviewed by Rhonda Galizia 5/4/2006
When our time is confirmed - and condensed - everything is more intense.........and we can actually value the gift we've been given.
I lost my own [biological] father just two years ago, Chanti [lovely name, for a lovely girl]. I was 34 before he ever told me he loved me, but we shared a miracle, and The LORD provided us an additional 19 years! Letting go of old hurts and wrongs, is everything [I'm so happy for you - and Rupert!] You can't have a future......if you cling to the past. Be blessed, sweetie ~ you are a very gifted young woman. love& prayers, Rhonda
Reviewed by Mary Lynn Plaisance 7/14/2005
I was my father's eyes, even though he became blind when I was about eight. I don't know if I would have had your strength, to forgive so easily. I think I may have been a bit more like Rupert. I don't know, because I wasn't in the same vessel as you were, so I had different choices to make in my own life. I admire you! Thanks for sharing your story!
Reviewed by R. Steven Reynolds 2/15/2005
Thank you Miss Chanti, in your writing I see empathy and a deep understanding. You are obviously a strong lady within whom rests great pain, sorrow, happiness and love.

Reviewed by Regis Auffray 2/5/2005
This is a testimonial to the loving spirit that you are, Chanti. You always seem to leave me at a loss for words because I can find none that do justice to the way you leave me feeling after reading one of your creative expressions. Much love to you. Moi
Reviewed by Ron Henry 1/30/2005
You left me with a tear in my eye on this one. Funny thing about death (and the time leading up to it). It is then we remember what we all mean to each other. My father and I had not seen very much of each other for 30 years, but there was always a closeness aand familiarity, despite there being tension and nonacceptance of my life choices. The day he died I never felt closer to him. I felt he was with me in spirit and has stayed with me. It sounds to me, even though there was no conscious "working things out" between your brother and your father, that in reality much has been and will continue to be worked out between them

Thanks for sharing this moving and spendidly written piece.

Reviewed by Michelle Mills 10/27/2004
Chanti, I just lost my dear Uncle Gene after a long battle with emphysema and heart disease. He was not my biological uncle...married to my biological aunt. When they divorced, our family didn't see Uncle Gene anymore. That is until 6 years ago when something in me seized upon the idea of calling him. That opened up 6 wonderful years of visits, dialogue, emails etc. Memories that I wouldn't have traded for the world. My Aunt divorced him. I didn't. I'm so glad we were able to put our relationship back together to enjoy each other while we still had a chance. I know just how you felt about your dad and the precious time you spent together. Nothing is more important than forgiveness and finding peace with the ones you love. This touched me so deeply. Bless you for sharing such important stories with all of us. Hugs to you my friend...Michelle
Reviewed by Fletcher Bailey 8/23/2004
Chanti, I am pleased that you got to find your father...your story is very touching and yet very loving. My dad passed on more than 6 years ago...he died of the big C, he was riddled with the stuff. At the time I knew he was quite sick, but I also knew that I couldn't get leave from my job. The end result was that my father passed away before I could get back to say goodbye. I wish I could have said goodbye, but my boss in HK wouldn't allow me to leave so early. In a way I am still angry with him for not allowing me to go, and knowing what I know now, I should have just up and left. Your story, reminded me of that and the good memories I will always have of him. We didn't exactly get along, but we were father and son and were each as stubborn as the other...thank you for inspiring me with your fatherhood memories. If I hear from my dad I will ask him to look out for your dad in that great bowling green / golf course in the sky...your are a truly gifted writer...Fletcher B
Reviewed by Tami Ryan 7/11/2004
A tender, moving, and well written piece, Chanti.
Reviewed by Thomas Lanechanger 7/8/2004
Chanti, this is an exceptionally well penned out pouring compassionate write!!!… It’s wonderful that you were able to share those precious moments with your Father!!!… Thank you for sharing them, and your brother also is to be commended for coming to your grieving side when you really needed someone there!!!… May your Father rest in peace, and you and your brother find solace knowing you did what needed to be done for each other.
Reviewed by Anthony Hall 7/7/2004
Chanti, I could not help but experience the emotion of this story. I alo grew up without really knowing my father...why he left. Fortunately, I have been able to reconcile those feelings of abandonment and have made sure that my children know and feel my love. If you haven't already, you might enjoy reading "Father, I Write", a poem that I wrote which helped me understand my motivation for expressing myself in this manner.

may you have peace and love,
Reviewed by Anna Marie Fritz 7/5/2004
A most tenderly moving piece of writing, Chanti!
Reviewed by Tamara Dailey-Keur 6/29/2004
What a brilliant and beautiful write. You made me cry... I understand all too well how cancer can take loved ones away. I lost two family members to it last year. I laid with my grandfather as he headed toward heaven... The hardest thing I have ever had to do. Thank you for sharing this heart felt piece. God be with you and your family.
Reviewed by Dale Clark 6/27/2004
This is deeply moving Chanti, I really could
relate somehow you know and I hope that my
children and grandchildren will have more time
to spend with me. I'm left speechless a bit here.
I feel for you and thanks for sharing this.
Reviewed by Reginald Birch 6/26/2004
From the heart write Chanti, well done

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