I don’t think I have ever been fully conscious of it, in the many ways that we conveniently remake our thoughts and rewire time in our minds. In the same way I’m sure of the precise sense of deja vu that descended only once after you have crossed the threshold to behold you have thought this most likely every year. Like re-tracking an old trade route on blistered sand that has already blown over to cover the years of voyage. You feel the imprints underneath it. Today is my father’s 8th year death anniversary and along two string of conscience I thought it: it hasn’t been long enough to be far enough, but also that it has been 8 years already. I was just a little girl.
What I meant by that is probable to any other rudimentary reaction to death from a living being, to stay away from it. But because we are mammals, and civilized for the most part, we feel remorse and grief. When I watched my mother dabble at his grave stone with a single tissue paper, I knew that was the petting hand of a woman in grief. In love.
She was patting him in the hospital too back then, and she had caressed him in his wooden cradle before all the world went to hell in a big ball of fire for him. Now he’s just in a jar.
The quick, feathering motions of her dappling were completely benign of course, not against the aged dark green slab of stone with his name etched in gold. There was no dust or nothing. It was probably just primping out of anxiety but it nevertheless made me feel oddly intrusive standing aside with my arms crossed. While she mourned through chit chat; chatting with the man inside the stone as if he were still there, she appeared an amateur lieutenant. A sort of novel juvenile approach in the way she extended her neck and cocked her head forward to tell him a summary of her life. Hon, I’m going to have to get surgery for my teeth again… thank you for working so hard and leaving your savings to me…Cynthia says she’s a lot like me now, can’t help but shop…but Sarah…she’s like you..I live in a condo now….they’re both good girls. They’re grown up now. I got new furniture. My gums really hurt. I love you the most.
It really confounded me when she said that, because on the same doubling parallel, I felt the lack of space that had been put in between this ..thing, this time period, to be put behind us, or at least remote from us. I instantly thought about the month after the funeral while we were sitting in Tim Hortons when I found out my father had been a cheater.
Oh, but you forgive. We all forgive.
Does he then? Or maybe he would be bemused at this; the fact that I still cannot bring myself to speak to his grave the way my mother does. Not even in the tentative way my sister does. I almost find the actualization of it, at least to be done in person would be completely ridiculous. There really never has been any words I have wanted to say when I visit the grave site. I hadn’t felt much today either.Rather the image of a shock of birds, back lit by a 7 am morning sun from early in the day, swooshing somewhere above my head out of reach from the sounds of my plugged earphones caught me as something beautiful. Momentarily ethereal. Mostly because it was partially blinding. Senses heightened. I even took notice of the old couple at the station; the man in a courteous, charming and silly cowboy hat of sorts, pecking his wife on the cheek. It was 7:28 am and I thought of my mom. The wife walking the other way had short brown hair, striped with gold. Not sun bleached but the product of human intervention. And my poor mother, that she will never have the same kind of partner as that.
What would I want for her otherwise?
Before I’ve realized, it’s 6:30 pm at the grave site, the gilded glance of cooling sunlight from the afternoon heat still permeated the air. The thinner branches and small miscellaneous bushes just underneath leaned cohesively against the wind. I watched from the car, feeling hot and heavy, my cheeks most likely flushed, I hadn’t wanted to get out to present myself to my dad. I wanted to sleep. As if the girl I saw in the rough skytrain panel glass did not exist. Not the way I would sometimes glance up in a sort of defiance. Chin uplifted so; would he have been proud of me?
Is that what I really want? For him to be proud of me? No…it’s more than that, in the same way it is about something just as vaguely little but pronounced as a brave comment can be from a proud parent.
Mom, in the beginning, in the first and second years, did we visit Dad on his death anniversary like we do now?
Yes, of course. We did it every year since the beginning.
Oh, I guess I just don’t remember.
I remember. I went every year for his birthday, father’s day and his anniversary date. You were there too. Maybe you were just young…
Maybe I am just too young, whereas next year these very same doubtful thoughts will chance to rebound again on the rough plains of my mind. As if not enough time, not 9 years when it hits the mark. Not 10 years even, despite it’s rounding sound. It has to be further, standing more remote than this. Probably for the rest of my life I will feel this way. Feel that betrayal in my thoughts, that he would probably not survive in this time – the age of cellphones designed as mini laptops – that he had lived well in his time. Yet I am sure he would still somehow have managed today should he have made it because my thoughts would need him to do so. If I am so much like him, mum, what should I do?
The sun slanted further down the slope of the hill creating the effect of winking lights dancing among the tree leaves. Beautiful but I felt no blessing from something unearthly. I thought of it when the flaming orange sun beckoned from every reflective window on our drive back. A beacon calling home.
I uttered my first words today, with enough prompting, and just when my mother walked out of ear shot : goodbye daddy.