Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Road test

It never ceases to amaze me just how unexpected a moment of grief can be.

After a few months of learning to drive, I passed my road test today. I was absolutely giddy. I was so proud of myself. And then as steadily as the giddiness wore off, it devolved into grief.

I suppose in my mind my father was already associated with learning to drive. Even from a very young age, when I was a passenger he would point out aspects of how the car works and rules of the road that would be important for me to know as a driver. I remember being very small and being amazed when he demonstrated that the wheel doesn't make the car move forward. I remember the massive blackout of 2003 when he taught me that an intersection with traffic lights that aren't working should be treated as a 4-way stop.

And I suppose in my mind I'd already associated my instructor with my grief. In the hours we logged in the car together, we had already had conversations about losses we've had and suicides we've experienced. With my study topic and his wife being a mental health counselor, we both had a lot to say about the importance and the role of mental health in society.

So I suppose the setup was already there.

But I never expected that on the day of my road test, his teenage daughter would tag along in the car. How sweet, I thought, that on a day she had off from school she wanted to spend with her father. How nice, I thought, to meet a family member of someone I had gotten to know over the course of our lessons. And then I passed my test, and he told me he was proud of me. I drove back home, and gave him a hug, and thanked him for his support in getting me to this point.

And then he drove off with his daughter and I went home alone with no father to tell about my accomplishment.

And it's not until you're alone that you actually realise that your heart wasn't warmed by watching a happy family interact. It wasn't cute to witness that father-daughter banter. It's not until you're alone that you realise that the quip he made about having no alcohol tolerance, and your response about your father being the same way, wasn't humorous small talk.

It was all an atmosphere of hurtful reminders to make you vividly aware that your own dad wasn't there to witness yet another important moment in your life.

...Damn it.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Another Feb 26

Happy Birthday, Daddy.

You were a good man. I wish you had had more people in your life to tell you that.

I'm off to an isolated cabin today without electricity or running water. Just a fire, some food cooked on a wood-burning stove, and books to read for the weekend. You would love it. I thought it would be a great way to spend our birthday.

I love you so much. I've been thinking about you a lot lately. I wish I had had more opportunities to learn from you. More and more as I age I look to your advice and wisdom about how to be a good person and what to take out of my life.

Don't be afraid of joining me at the cabin, Daddy. There will be a lot of quiet to fill. Maybe if I listen really carefully I will be able to hear your voice again.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

A Valentine's Elegy

Daddy, it's our month again.

My pillow was barren next to me on Valentine's morning. I miss the days when you would come into my room while I slept and place a poem on my pillow, so that from the moment I awoke I would feel loved. (The days when I felt safe and secure enough to sleep through the night, let alone through the sounds of someone entering my room, are long gone now.)

When I left my bed there was no stack of pancakes waiting for me in the kitchen, so that even if I had to go to school I could still start the day feeling pampered. (The days when I could even eat your pancakes, made with milk as they were, are long gone now.)

And the rose on the table waiting just for me - well, I suppose I can't comment on that this year. A friend brought a perfect, red rose just for me. (But, goddamn it, the days when I could get a rose on Valentine's and feel a loving warmth instead of the aching void you left behind are long gone now.)

Would you ever have imagined that your successes as a father would have someday caused me only hurt? A friend, when I relayed these Valentine's traditions to her, commented that I at least have these memories to keep me warm. There's no warmth in them, Daddy. Only an aching. Only a longing. You showed me what it was to feel loved and then you took away everyone who loved me.

Daddy, do you want the truth?

The days when I felt worthy of anyone's love are long gone now.