I smiled to myself when my petrol strimmer started beautifully, first go, today. Why would it be any other way, it was my Dad’s strimmer. He always made sure he bought the best he could find, with plenty of research thoroughly enjoyed in the process.
The small, sudden ways he comes to mind feel both sad and good. A turn of phrase, a favoured outing, an old possession, a long-held bug-bear, a good wine; any of them and more can be the trigger. The rush of memory often takes me by surprise, as does its strength. But I am happy it happens, it brings him into the present.
I remember talking to a friend, who lost her mother around the same time, about my fear of him fading from me, from my memory. She said she found comfort in talking to her mum, thinking about what she would say in situations my friend was facing. I found that helpful. I still do.
I find having photos up of him helps too. I see him as I walk past, the kids see him, we talk about him. We sometimes come across videos, but that’s a bit harder to take, hearing his voice, seeing him ‘in the flesh’. But we have them, and I know that will be important as time goes by.
He’s present all over our house actually. I love that his hand is in virtually every room – rewiring, moving radiators, building shelves, rebuilding kitchens. He’s also present in spirit at our annual and family events. His well-stocked picnicware basket, folding furniture and gazebo help us out no end at our annual summer BBQ. Whenever we’re setting it all up, I always smile at his way of collecting more of everything than he could ever need.
Probably my favourite way of remembering him, though, is when we make ‘new’ memories. We talk about what he would say or do in situations he loved or hated, sharing a quiet laugh at his loved and missed idiosyncracies.
Each small element keeps him present; keeps the synapses buzzing, the connections alive. I can’t pretend the pain, worry, hope and despair of his fight with cancer didn’t happen and doesn’t still hurt to recall. Nor that the savage, deep, raw pain of those last few weeks, days and minutes doesn’t still hit like a hammer to the chest when something triggers it. But, mostly, when he comes back to me, it’s for how he was in life, not those horrible times as he approached death.
I believe the art of remembering is to grab those small, positive memory rushes, sometimes fleeting, sometimes overwhelming, and savour them. Stop and be in them for a few seconds. To share him with our children; to talk and smile about him between us and with those who knew him; to miss him, to value him and what he was to us; to keep him alive as part of our lives and those of our children.
Love you, Dad.