It’s Satruday, May 12, 2012 as I write these words. Normally, when I sit down at the computer with the page titled ‘Add New Post’ open on my screen, I’m thinking about writing, or the business of writing, my experiences in writing, etc. Not today, though. Today I have something else on my mind.
We all have moments in time and events in our lives that stick with us. Some of them are good and we want to keep them close; some are bad and follow us like a hungry animal waiting to pounce; some just are. In any case, they are indelible happenings and experiences that, no matter how hard we try, don’t come off. Hopefully, the happy outweigh the others.
For me, there are so many snippets of conversations, small happenings and inblogpropriate intimate moments from the early days of my relationship with my wife. The day we got married; the time we sat in the hot tub of our first house looking up at the starry sky above our tree. I can relive every moment of my daughter’s birth from the moment my wife said “it’s time” to that first choked mewl. The happy moments I hold close like a security blanket on a stormy night are many.
But today, May 12, 2012, marks the sixth anniversary of my father’s death: he died nine months after he’d been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer; one month and one day before his 65th birthday; two days before Mother’s Day.
Dad and I weren’t especially close. He was an armed forces guy, away from home a lot as I was growing up; I was a bit of a black sheep with my long hair and my heavy metal music. We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, to say the least, but he was my father. I never doubted that he loved me and wanted the best for me, even when he didn’t agree with what it was I wanted or my way of getting there. Despite the years that have passed, he surprises me quite often, showing up in a phrase I speak, a song on the radio, or popping up out of the blue for no apparent reason. And that last day, May 12, 2006, I remember as though it was yesterday.
It was a hectic week for me. I’d just started a new job in a new town and was in the process of buying a house when my mother called to say she thought we should come. We were all there: me, my wife and two children, my mother, my sister and my brother who had travelled from Ontario to B.C. to be there.
When it was apparent Dad didn’t have much time left, they brought an adjustable hospital bed into my parents’ house so he could die comfortably at home with his family instead of in the hospital. It was surreal seeing him in that bed with its white sheets and metal rails in the living room where he should have been sitting, feet up, in his recliner. There was no newspaper draped across his chest as he napped — mouth open and snoring — after a meal. Instead, there was pain and discomfort; a poorly drawn facsimile of the man who’d raised us and later spoiled his grandchildren with candy and treats.
We were all gathered around the bed as the end approached, except my daughter, who was only four at the time. Each of us had a hand on him, including my brave eleven-year-old son who I was as proud of then as I am now. I see it all clearly as I sit here in a coffee shop fighting to keep tears back (why do I have to be a cliché coffee-shop-writer?). But the moment that stands out most to me six years later is the last few minutes, as the clock crept toward 10:47pm. Dad’s eyes were open and, although we couldn’t be sure if he could still see, if he was still aware, he was looking into my mother’s eyes. She leaned forward, touched his face, and told him it was okay, that it was time for him to go. And he did.
In that gesture, in those words, I saw the love my parents had for one another, a love that wasn’t always so apparent after almost 43 years of marriage but, in the end, stood out above all else.
On the evening of May 12, 2006, my four-year-old daughter went to bed with a sick grandpa; when she woke up the next morning, he was gone. Six years later, she still remembers him and talks about him as though they shared a lifetime. Six years later, my wife is angry with him that he left before they could have more friendly debates. Six years later, I sit in a coffee shop typing, fighting back tears, doing my best to expose and vanquish that animal that stalks me, taking little bites out of me at the most unexpected times.
Six years later, we all miss you, Dad. Wish you’d hung around to read my novels and watch your grandchildren grow up.
In Loving Memory
William Frank Blake June 13, 1941 – May 12, 2006