This year has been a year of ups and downs, perhaps more than usual although 2000 was crazy year for me, as was 2007. I’m getting to the stage where I can look back and remember “good” years and “bad” ones. Although there are few years that are entirely good or bad. Some are marked by unhappy events. There are dates that are etched into my life as tragedies. December 17th and April 16th.
My daddy died 37 years ago this December 17th. I remember when I was pregnant with my daughter my mother hoped she would come early on that date. If not to erase the pain, at least give something happy to remember of that day.
As a parent I reflect back on that tragedy in a different way than I did as a child. My memories of that day are child-like, of course. I was shuffled to my auntie’s house where I was fed Cheerios, which I did not like. I was used to the sweetness of Fruit Loops and the toasty oat flavour of Cheerios was bitter on my tongue. I remember nothing else of that day. But I do remember, very clearly in the aftermath of the event, my beloved, strong mummy sitting on my granny’s sofa sobbing. And I remember thinking she looked like a teenager. Hazy child-thoughts.
As a parent now, myself, I see the tragedy in a completely different way. I am struck by the fact that my memories of my father are so few. Glimpses really. I must have known him. I spent so much time with him, his “little shadow” as Mummy used to say. But I really only have two vague memories.
One is of watching him shave. I am sitting on the floor in the hallway outside the bathroom, the carpet is rough against my bottom He is not talking to me, it is dark outside. I am watching his reflection in the mirror as he lathers up his face and then scrapes the creamy, frothy suds off his cheeks. It is quiet. We are alone in the universe. I am happy.
The second memory could be imagined. I often wonder if my memories of him are imagined. In this memory again it is night-time. I am alone in my bed. There is a wide swath of florescent light bathing a corner of my bed. I am aware that, although this appears to be moonlight, it is actually from the streetlight outside. And through this corner of light I see a tiny grey mouse race across my bed. It terrifies me and I begin screaming. Daddy comes. He can’t find the mouse but he bundles me up and carries me to bed with him and Mummy. I am warm and safe.
Later I remember the closet. Where his clothes were. And how empty it was when Mummy finally emptied it.
That is all.
Sometimes I wonder, not for wanting a different life but out of curiousity, what person I would be if he had lived. Growing up in tiny Westcoast logging towns only accessible by float plane would have been very different than growing up on ranch in the Shuswap.
My mum remarried within two years and the man she married is the only dad I’ve ever known. He has loved me as if I was his own child. I am very lucky. His love healed the hurt that the disappearance of Daddy left.
When I was about ten years old I began to have night terrors. I would race through the house, frantic. Sreaming “Daddydaddydaddydaddy …” My adopted dad could not comfort me. I was beyond his reach. After a few years the terrors stopped but my mum still talks of the horror of that time.
I’ve always had this vague feeling that those I love deeply won’t linger. Nothing lasts forever. One day we wake up and they are gone. We are alone again. Life is fleeting, we need to embrace it, enjoy it.