This Saturday will mark twenty years since my Dad’s death.
Perhaps this looming anniversary is, in part, the cause of my general cheesed off state and sense of discomfort during the last week or so. The glitch in my system. Perhaps, as I am soon to be a father myself, my subconscious is recalibrating. Wrestling hard to reframe its understanding of responsibility and its relationship with impermanence. Working overtime to draw new connecting lines from the museum to the moment.
Twenty years… I can scarcely believe that so much time has elapsed. Forty percent of my life thus far has been spent without my father around to be a part of it. One hundred percent of his since he died.
Losing someone you love seems, to me, to be a bit like a sudden physical wound which is eventually replaced by a sort of muted and distorted echo or a frosted window you can reach out to, stretch out for, but can never quite touch.
I can still remember the feeling I would get when my Dad answered the ‘phone or we ever took a rare chance to spend some time away from anybody else. I still remember the scent of his cigars. I still remember his voice. The pearls of wisdom he tried to set forth, as if I had a choice.
Memories of many things from the two decades since his death also flood in, and each of them seems distant and close too.
Scenes from a film.
People I’ve met. People I have loved. People I no longer know. Things I’ve done. Things I have not done. Places I’ve lived. Places I barely existed. Places I’ve left.
Je ne regrette rien! Je regrette tout!
I can smell the breeze coming off the river in the town in France I moved to and was unhappy in, for a year a decade ago. I can hear the deer running right alongside my car for an exhilarating few seconds on a deserted country road, thirteen years ago. I can see the joy on my Mum’s face when Peter Gabriel walked out onto the stage at a concert I took her to, six years ago. I can feel my cat’s head settling into my leg in comfort half an hour after bringing him home for the first time, eight years ago.
These four and a million more.
So much living has been done since that terrible early morning telephone call.
But what has happened to all of the moments of my Dad’s life? Where did they go when he died? I don’t know. I wish I knew more of them. But I know for sure what has happened to the moments of my Dad and I. They are safe and close. I wish I had known more of them.
In the intervening decades he has been described to me as “a lovely man” and “a decent sort of a shit-house”. It seems that there is, after all, a kind of sliding scale and he didn’t slip too far down it. An old colleague of his, and a friend of mine, once told me: “He hated drama. He would not tolerate fools lightly”.
Am I like him? Yes, in some lights I am.
Though there are one or two intolerables who would gladly break my spine or incinerate me (and have been generous enough to put on a noteworthy performance telling me so), I would hope that most people might feel at least the same about me as they did about my Dad, when I too have been and gone.
But who really knows?