day 10165: happy birthday, da
He would have been 57. I think. Maybe he would have been 58. I can’t remember anymore. He stopped aging in my mind 9 years ago… I think he was 45 then. But that would make him only 54 now, wouldn’t it. I could have sworn that he was 30 when I was born just like my mom was 30 when my sister was born. Nothing makes sense anymore. I can’t remember anymore. It’s only been 9 years.
He wasn’t my first thought this morning. Instead, I thought about hockey and about how Triscuit is supposed to be there tonight… and *sigh* as ashamed as I am to admit it, I thought about what I was going to wear… to hockey… besides the shinpads, kneepads, shoulder pads, shorts etc etc. Hockey… wow, October 1st already… October already… October 1st… Da’s b-day… whoops… I almost forgot.
Happy birthday, Da? Dad? Daddy? Ba? Pa? Oh my God, I can’t remember what I used to call him. Ba-ba? Pa-pa? Daddio? Dee-dee? A-Ba? What the heck was it? It’s only been 9 years, and already I’ve forgotten so much.
I remember the year we forgot to get him a Father’s Day present. How we stole a tie out of his closet, wrapped it up, and gave it to him with a home made two-minute card. He loved it and was nary the wiser. Over the moon and around the corner… and then we burst out laughing our asses off and the game was up.
I remember how he used to pick us up from school everyday. He’d walk into the after school day-care, we’d come running and show him the little arts and crafts things we did, or our test scores. And even if it wasn’t so nice and even if we didn’t do so well, he never really said anything except “Wow, and that’s really good.” We’d all walk home together, we’d race the last little bit from the street to the house, and he’d cook dinner while we messed around in the house and pretend to practice piano when all we ever did was sight read top 40 songs, Les Miz and Phantom of the Opera. He’d sometimes try to sing along… I think he was a tad tone-deaf.
I remember the last trip we took to Tremblant together the Christmas before he died. How we ate chicken flavoured ramen noodles and frozen Clementine oranges for breakfast as was our custom. How we stayed off-resort in town and had steaks for dinner one night but had to smuggle out some salt and pepper from the cafeteria because we didn’t want to spend the $1.99 to buy a whole bag when we only wanted a sprinkle. How my mom was home by herself and she thought there was a gas leak, when really it was just the musky odour of the dried shitake mushrooms she was rehydrating and how we laughed when we figured out that she was perfectly fine and just extremely paranoid.
I remember the last thing that I said to him before he collapsed in the gym during our fencing lesson. He was teasing me about having a boyfriend. I said, “What boyfriend. I don’t want a boyfriend.” I didn’t say “I love you.” I didn’t say “You’re the best dad in the world.” I didn’t say any of the things I probably should have said had I known that those were going to be the last things he would hear from me. I remember his last meal – chicken with cream corn over mushy rice. I haven’t eaten it since.
I wake up sometimes thinking that he’s still alive and that I’m so excited about something that all I want to do is find him and tell him my news. And then I remember and imagine my conversations with him anyway.
J: Morning Da…
Da: Hey baby. How’s everything? [he never really talked like that, but I can’t remember]
J: Getting better, Da. Everyday is getting better. Things are going pretty well these days.
Da: I can see that. You’re smiling a little more. You’ve lost a little weight haven’t you? How’s your mom?
J: Mom’s fine, I think… she seems happier, a little. She’s stronger than I am.
Da: You have to lean on each other more. Be there for her. Family is everything. Go have dinner with her more often.
J: Yes, Da. I’ve been busy. I’m seeing her tonight though. I’m staying over at her place after hockey. What have you been up to?
Da: Not much. Catching up with your Grandfather. Little things. You should see the view from up here. Gorgeous.
J: I wish I could see it. Must be nice.
Da: You will. Just not right now. Enjoy things while you have them.
J: I know. That’s not what I meant.
Da: I know you know. Be careful down there, I don’t want to see you any earlier than I have to.
J: I will. I miss you sometimes.
Da: I miss you too… but hey, that’s what memories are for.
J: Yeah, but I’m starting to forget.
Da: Everyone’s like that. You remember the important things.
J: I want to remember everything…
Da: You’ll remember things when you need to remember them. Now, let’s talk about your boy.
J: What boy? I don’t have one, remember?
Da: Yeah, I know. Go get one. One that will love you and appreciate you… maybe even that loves you a little more.
J: I’ll try. But it’s hard, you know. I have to get up and get dressed now. Lots to do today.
Da: Ok. I’ll talk to you another time. Things happen when you least expect it.
J: I love you.
Da: Me too… I’ll talk to your mom and the surfer chick later… she needs a little talking to too! Crazy kid… I saw that giant wave she surfed…
Happy Birthday, Da…