My dad died in October of 2003. At the time it was the worst possible thing that could have ever happened to me. And then my mother died and, well, that kind of trumped it. Not because I loved my dad less than mum or anything, but merely because when dad died, mum was there to help me through it. And she was amazing. Losing the second parent? Well you’re on your own, pretty much. Of course I have my family – husband, kids, and my friends who are all awesome – but still, there’s something pretty lonely about being completely without parents, being a kind of orphan at 43.
I’ve spent the last year thinking a lot about my mother, of course. I oscillate between sadness – dealing with my grief and loss, and anger and bitterness – why the fuck is she gone while loads of douchenozzles continue to walk this earth? I’ve noticed lately though, that I spend less time in the depths of despair and more time in the remembering of the good times (which is what people tell you when someone close to you dies, and trust me, that is not the thing to say right away when the grief is so new and so raw because being told to “remember the good times” is not what you want to be doing at that point, ok? Because you have just stopped looking forward to the future with that person, and looking back? Does not help. At least not then.)
But I have been looking back, now, a year and a bit later, and it does help. And what I’ve also found lately is that I am conjuring way more memories of my dad than I have in a long time. Over the past few weeks, The Genealogist and I have laughed ourselves silly at more than a few memories of my dad – his expressions, the funny mannerisms he had, and so many other things. And it has taken me by surprise, because the past year has really only been about my mother. “Wish nana was here to see this” or “Mum would have loved this” or, the always popular “Can you imagine what she’d have said about this?”
I think what’s happening is that the memories of my parents are starting to blend. It’s getting to be far enough out that thinking about something my mum did or said doesn’t cause me to immediately choke up or dissolve into tears. I can laugh about her crazy stunts again, and enjoy the memories. They don’t cause nearly the pain they once did. And I recognize this because I’ve been through it before.
In a way, it really hurts. Because even though you don’t believe it when it first happens, there does come a day when she isn’t the first thing you think of in the morning and the last thought you have before bed. You do catch yourself part way through the day and think “this is the first time I’ve thought of you today, mum” and the hurting part is because you know that enough time has passed to allow this. In some ways the all-consuming grief is a comfort, a realization that a part of you is gone, but the grief lets you hold on to that part a little longer. When you are no longer consumed by it, and you realize that you are no longer consumed by it… well, it’s like you almost grieve for the loss of grief. I’m sure that make no sense, but that is the best way I can explain it.
So this weekend, in honour of it being Father’s Day and in honour of the blending of memories of my parents (I like to think of it as kind of a shiraz-cabernet blend – they would both totally appreciate that reference, I’m sure) I will be raising (or two) a glass of said blend and toasting the combined memories of my two missing, but always present, parents. And, in honour of it being Father’s Day weekend, I would also like to share with you some of the things my dad schooled me in over the years. Some are practical, some are not. But they were all part of my edumacation growing up with the best dad ever.
1. Always hit ’em where they ain’t (this works well in baseball, but is also good advice for loads of other life situations, really)
2. You can enjoy a cold beer even in places where alcohol is supposedly not permitted, provided you have a deep cooler and opaque plastic beer cups. (this can seriously save your life at daycare picnics)
3. Babies are probably the greatest invention in the history of the world. Seriously. “You gotta have babies!” (note: this was not ever directed at me specifically, it was just a general “you”, basically meaning “there should be more babies in the world so that I can cuddle them”)
4. No one is too young for ice cream. (this includes babies)
5. Steak sauce is an abomination and will not be permitted on steak. Barbecue sauce is ok on ribs, but only after I jazz it up because that bottled stuff is crap. (the man was serious about meat)
6. Got a cold sore? Dab on some aftershave (Aqua Velva works best)
7. Once it’s made, spaghetti sauce needs to boogie on the stove, medium heat, for about an hour (who wouldn’t love a spaghetti sauce that knows how to boogie?)
8. If it ain’t on PBS, TVO, or the sports network it probably ain’t worth watching (this is surprisingly true)
9. Listen to baseball on the radio, don’t watch it on TV (I still prefer it to this day)
10. It doesn’t matter if you can’t carry a tune, as long as you know all the words (and he knew all the words)
11. Happiness is putting on your joggers and having a little stretch out after a nice dinner (“a little stretch out” may or may not have been code for a 3 hour nap)
12. Reading hardcover books in bed is not a good idea – when you fall asleep, those suckers can break your nose (really)
13. Stick to beer or wine. That high-octane stuff can really do a number on you (ain’t that the truth)
14. Surround yourself with people you love, minimize contact with people you don’t, spoil your grandchildren to the best of your ability and when your cheeks hurt from laughing, it’s been a good day. A nice steak and a bottle of wine can round that out nicely.
Happy Father’s Day to all you dads, and a special shout-out to The Genealogist whose sage fatherly advice will also one day be written up in a similar list, cos he’s just that awesome. And funny. But mostly awesome.