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Thursday, January 31, 2008

father


It is ten years since the death of his father. He comes to the realization that the memory of the man is undergoing a gradual metamorphosis. They did not have a good relationship. He remembers, for example, the terrible argument of the night before his death. There were angry words. Hurtful, unmeant things thrown back and forth. Things that can never be taken back, apologised for, made up for.

The events of the following morning is blindingly clear; an untouched monument guarded jealously by his mind, as though it would be sacrilegious to forget a single detail of that final link to his father. His mother, whose birthday it is, wakes him by yelling for his help as she rushes down the hall. He runs to the garage without bothering to put on a dressing-gown or shoes. Forcing open the garage door, he sees the pipe going from the exhaust into the back window of the idling car. His father sits motionless behind the steering wheel, hands serenely folded on his lap. Suffocating black vapour pours out when his mother yanks open the car door (it is not locked, did he expect to be found in time?). He pulls his father roughly out of the car by one arm and switches off the ignition at the same time. There is a sickening thud as the limp body hits the floor. He drags his father outside into the fresh air, still only clutching him by one arm. His mother runs back into the house to phone an ambulance.

He is alone with his father for a minute or two. Anxiously holding the limp hand that raised him, he notices a single tear running from the corner of his father's closed eye. He knows now that they are too late this time. The ambulance drives past the house a few times and he has to run into the street, still only dressed in his sleeping shorts, before they find the right address. Neighbours, hearing the siren, come out to look. He shouts at them to leave. The paramedics find that both the rechargeable batteries of their portable defibrillators are mysteriously uncharged. The CPR does not have the expected results. They load the body into the back of the ambulance and drive off to the hospital with false, reassuring smiles.

It is from this point that things becomes muddled. His sister and other family members are phoned, but he cannot remember phoning them. He calls work to say he will not be in. He cannot remember driving his mother to the hospital. There are many people there, doctors. One of the doctors gives each of them a tiny, incredibly smooth white pill, cold as though it is chiseled from hard marble. It is a silly ritual, almost cruel, before he gives them the news. Had they been hoping, after all, flying in the face of the evidence? His mother collapses. Thankfully, his practical sister arrives.

The funeral is a complete blur. He remembers going to have a look at the body beforehand. How small the face looks, surrounded by dark wood and white fabric. This is not the face of his father. This is a stranger with blushed cheeks and strange rouged lips. He does not cry, not yet.

*

More and more often he is startled by his own expression in the mirror; by the sound of his voice, yes, by the familiarity of the man that he is becoming. He misses the father that his imagination is fabricating.

Finally, in private, the tears come in thick, raw spurts.

Written by I

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