It Was Love

Lately I awaken, the dream remnants lingering cast like a veil over form. An unanswered question hovers. Pushed aside, betrayed; shame surfaces. The frightened young woman deep within whispers, I must be flawed, something is wrong with me. The adult reasons, Perhaps not. Perhaps it was as simple as you didn’t fit in anymore.

 

I am his daughter, patiently holding silences. Chosen memories safe, I snug the precious moments, choosing to believe magical qualities endure. Perhaps not, perhaps fooled into believing an illusion of love.

 

I want to let him go; there are moments I turn and face the skies, a silent scream of anger for one who betrayed. Believing words that ring hollow. Never an illusion the memories stay, resurfacing at the moment between something to believe in and nothing. The unanswered question remains.

 

It is hard to trust. Pausing to view the world, once I ran to greet it, cautious now. Someone said,

“Find a way to let it go.”

When I find that way, it will be final. The world will darken a shade as I face the truth.

A hardened heart will alter. So you see, I hold on to him, cherish what I knew, all for a belief in love; I loved him so.

 

 

 

A Dream

Her words written on an email~ I had a strange dream last night.  Tell me more, I wrote back.  These are her words.

I was sitting on a beach, tracing shapes into sand, watching as the grains shifted, the sand bits refusing to stay put, rearranging themselves, she wrote. A man came into view.  He looked to be in his early seventies and was wearing a navy cloth baseball style jacket; the same style that he used to wear.  Do your remember that jacket, Grace? The man stood and watched, met my stare.  I saw compassion in his weary eyes.  The man did not speak, merely stood in front of me.  It was surreal, as if time had stopped.

There were no words exchanged between us, no need to check the reasons, expose the painful events and emotions that tore us apart.  There were no scores to settle.  We simply met on a beach and faced one another. Then he turned and walked away toward the sun’s rise.

Dad came to say, “good-bye” to me.  He waited twenty years. 

Layers

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Layers

When I recall my father I remember is eyes, the long almond shaped lids, their colour and clarity.  His eyes were the darkest green, unnatural actually, animal like in their brilliance and sparkle.  His hair was raven black, combed straight back from a high forehead.  These attributes were his best features along with an attractive expression.  He had youthful good looks and boyish charm which others found appealing.

“Never trust a man with a weak chin line,” my mother would later comment.   I would have to agree, she would know.

There was a presence about my father when he entered a room.  Aware that he possessed beguiling charm, he would captivate the crowd.  To say he had presence was an understatement.  My mother would sew her clothes from curtains and remnants, my father would have his suits hand measured and stitched by Modernize Tailors in Vancouver’s China Town.  Some claim that a great suit can make a man and it certainly was my father’s motto.

“Roy dresses better than the President of the company,” my mother would comment.

My father had aspirations of becoming a President of a company and reputation was everything.  He studied the look of success, choosing the basics of style for the era of the 1960’s and 70’s.  Suits made from the deepest navy blue cloth, burnished browns, or charcoal slate were his choice of fabrics.  He was slim and of regular height, the careful lines of tailoring made him look taller, the hand stitched jackets fitted to his strong frame, padded through the shoulders.

The pants were straight, pleated, and hung perfectly from his waist.  It was my father’s shoes that I admired, his brogues.  I would watch him as he slowly twisted the lid off the tin of shoe polish, gently pushing the soft cloth into the polish and applying it to the leather, the polish sliding across the top, back, and sides of the brogue.  After a bit, he would take out a clean cloth and polish the shoes to a brilliant gleam. It became my job to polish and shine his shoes placing them on the mat beside the basement door.

In his closet hung wool fabrics for winter and lighter mixed blends for summer.  Sometimes, I would enter his bedroom and open the closet door.  The suits would be neatly lined up, colour blocked, hanging in wait from wooden hangers. The blends and the tweeds beckoned touch; there was a luxurious depth to them.  The distinct scent of cigar drifted away from the clothing.

When my father began to vanish, he’d take items of clothing piece by piece as if they were evaporating.  Was he trying to trick us into thinking that he was still present?  Perhaps he was momentarily off course, his compass a suit in the cupboard, a direction finder for when he found his way back home.  I would realize he had finally left when opening the cupboard, it would be empty, the biting scent of cigar, gone.

December’s Words

Your last, whispered words spoken were, “I love you, honey.” It is as if the words floated through the air between us and found their way inside, under my skin, pumped through my blood stream until they found their home.  The four little words tattooed on my heart. Those four little words have a surging, pulsating power of their own.  The power to reassure me when I doubt, the power to comfort when sadness seeps in, and the power that allows me to offer a hand in forgiveness when I find myself in the midst of anger. Questioning. Just words spoken.  Still, words hold such colossal power over our mind.

On the anniversary of your passing, I take comfort in those four little words for I was wandering lost in a forest of uncertainty and doubt.  Frightened and fearful.  To walk away from a loved one, one must reach a grey place.  For there is no joy in this act. Then, one must switch off a piece of heart cell, much like one switches off a light.  Click, done, off.  Only then, is it possible to turn around and walk away.  Well, almost possible for it never gets easier, just possible.  The scar thickens, providing a protective barrier. For this is what happens when hearts break, something penetrates deep inside, thickening and scarring the core of life.  Just words that hold the power to pull us together, reconnect us, healing our brokenness.  Bits and pieces fall away from our shell until I imagine us finally gone.  As you are now, gone from my life.

I love you, dad.  Just four little words sent forth on a winter wind to you.  Catch them,  tattoo them on your heart.

x

Fall Back

Part 2~

The opportunity to fall back in time, to face him, the questions lined up in rapid fire, the judgements already sealed, words tattooed upon the woman’s heart .  Its every pump, sending forth doubt, frantic searches to find the missing puzzle piece, the never-ending search for an answer to the question, Did you love me?  An answer to the why.  There had been time to prepare the words and wonder, the unsettled musing about, the shedding of tears.  Journeying back in time, the woman rediscovered the place where the stars crossed, the point that they had started from.  It became her only way to find inner peace and a desperate sense of belonging.  Journey back to the beginning of the story.  Mine and scrape the mire off of hope, dreams, and love.  This became the quest.

The woman discovered that the story begins with family strength.  Many generations of men and women struggling to raise their families, surviving the cruelest moments that life has a way of tossing out.  Families living with a strong faith, guided by a belief that their God would provide, in time.  Patience.  It started with love; actions such as the scrapped pieces of poetry, carefully cut from the newspapers, glued into a now tattered book, dedicated to the man.  A mother’s enduring love for a son, the words on the page calling forth wishes, expressing sorrow, and hope. Belief and patience.  The unspoken words on the page, the silent messages of a mother’s undying love.

Did the man appreciate how much he was treasured; was the message softly spoken?  The woman wonders if the man knew his value.  Did the man realize the talents he possessed, the ability to see the details, an eye that could create and fix, rendering works of beauty and function?  Did the man realize that he was good enough? Did the man lose his heart?

There was so much the woman could have said; so many questions to ask.  What was the point?  It is what it is.  It is not what should have been.  The woman and the man both know that fact. The woman stepped forth and took the man’s hand.  The touch screaming the words that she could not express, the questions unimportant now. I love you, dad. For that is all that truly matters.

Tea With Alice

Lily's Tea Cup
Lily’s Tea Cup (Photo credit: Joe Shlabotnik)

Tea with Alice was amusing, if not, slightly charming.  My Grandmother Alice enjoyed a spot of tea, Earl Grey being the tea of choice.  Alice used a cooking pot to boil the water before transferring some of the scalding liquid into a metal teapot to warm it up.  Then, my grandmother would take a minute timer and tip it over, the sand slipping through the tiny channel of glass.  After 3 tips of the timer, 3 minutes, according to Alice, she would dump the warming water into the sink and fill the teapot, adding Earl Grey to the mix.  From my vantage point at the cluttered chrome table, I could see Alice’s prep area, a tiny room that extended off of the kitchen area, as if built as an after thought, Where shall I cook, Charles?  There was a window through which Alice could observe her two sisters who lived in the house next door.  Looking to the right, Alice could see her garden of pansies.  Usually, Topsy, the cat was sunning on the brick borders or the adjoining sidewalk between the two houses.  Painted white cupboards attached on either side of the sink area.  The counter top was wooden.  There was a plunger on the floor.  Beneath the sink was open shelving crammed full of various odds and sundries, a container of Ajax, a tobacco tin, plastic bucket, oil, paper bags, bolts, washers, and a mousetrap.  The Scotch and Sherry were hidden behind the plastic bucket. The everyday cutlery sat in a large empty tin of Nabob’s Instant Coffee.  The yellow handles looked like they were fashioned from bone. Open shelving lined the wall opposite the sink, where Alice kept her box of saltines, sugar biscuits, canned ham, flour, and baking items.  Did I mention the cookie bags and cake boxes?  I should tell you that Alice stashed cash in the bottom of cookie and food packages.  Like a  resourceful little mouse wife, Alice managed to stash a lot of cash.

The stove was in the open area of the kitchen, where I would patiently sit, watching and waiting for our tea to brew.  Alice preferred her tea strong and would let the tea brew for five minutes, before pouring the dark, amber liquid into a teacup.  I preferred my tea, weak.  It’s practically water, Grace!  Carnation Evaporated Milk to flavour the tea, turning the liquid to a creamy, caramel shade.  Alice would pour a drop of canned milk into her cup and stir it slowly with a teaspoon, the creamy milk creating swirls in the dark liquid.  The biscuits were usually Peak Frean’s Sugar Biscuits, the thin wafer deliciously sweet with sprinklings of fine sugar.

We always sat across from one another, Alice with her back to the mudroom, mine to the stove.  Picture this, Alice’s drying rack hanging directly behind me to the left of the stove.  Always, there would be bits and pieces of personal garments hanging from this suspended contraption.  Slips, nylons, knit wool socks, when my Grandfather was alive; Alice never wore socks, only nylons. Sheer scarves would dangle, along with the occasional brassière.  I always thought that this was rather unusual and out-of-place to air your laundry in full view of the guest, so to speak.  If the space heater was blowing or the window open, it was not unusual to find a sheer half-slip or a pair of nylon stockings on your head or dangling off a shoulder-blade, all the while sipping tea.  It was rather cheeky and quite disconcerting to politely pick the undergarment off and return it to the drying rack.  Alice was rather proper in her deportment therefore I never understood this rather improper arrangement she had with her laundered undergarments, scarves, and guests.

A comfy Queen Ann style chair sat beside the stove, under the suspended drying rack. Alice would sit and read the daily paper; teacup perched on the stovetop, before retiring off to bed.  It was the very same chair that held her tired shell, the morning I looked in the window and saw her sitting in the chair, dead, with a half-slip covering her hair.

Alice’s sister, Molly fascinated me.  Molly was constantly soaking her feet in hot water.   Newspapers would be spread under the bucket to catch the splashes and drips.  Sometimes, when I would enter Alice’s kitchen, Molly would be soaking her feet as she rested her ample bottom on the Queen Ann. My grandmother, Alice, said that Molly worked in a local Fruit Cannery and had, rheumatism. Molly’s legs bowed as she ambled with an awkward, stiff gait.  Aunt Molly never spoke, ever.  We would look at each other and I would say politely, How are you Aunt Molly?  She would nod and grin.  Whereas Alice was pretty, Molly was crone like, slightly frightening, her feet plunked in a bucket of hot water, watching and grinning. I’m ashamed to admit, I imagined Molly flying about the night skies on a broomstick.  Molly read trash magazines; that’s what my father called them.  The National Enquirer was her choice.  This tidbit piqued my curiosity as I was only allowed to read real books, forbidden comics, no sensational trash.  Once I located Molly, sunning in her chair, I would stroll by, attempting to crane my neck enough to see the tabloid cover shot of the MAN WITH TWO HEADS or some other fantasy alien creäture.  Purposely, I would venture to the side of my Grandmother’s house, lurking about, hoping to find a forgotten copy of Molly’s trash tabloids. That opportunity ended abruptly, my childhood days spent visiting Alice, over, and by the time I was seven.

That’s the perplexing thing, why did our occasional visits to see Alice cease? My father appeared uncomfortable in his childhood home; he didn’t seem to handle the small, claustrophobic space that well.  Pacing about the perimeter of the small kitchen, sitting for a few minutes, standing and pacing, that’s how I remembered my father’s actions.  Sometimes, my Grandmother would bring out some of my father’s tin toys with wind up keys.  Minstrels, feet tapping  on a tin stage, wind up cars, a one-eyed sawdust teddy bear, and mechanno covered the living room carpet.  Our visiting time was usually up, shortly after we arrived.  On the car ride home, father would comment on his mother, She’s an odd old bird, junk and stuff everywhere, never throws anything out.  Dad does everything for her and the sisters.

 

It was about the time that our visits ended when Alice began to take it upon herself to preach the word about, Cod Liver Oil.  Alice decided that my sister and I could use a bit of fortification and took it upon her self to administer a tablespoon-sized dose of the ghastly oil.  We weren’t impressed.  The grown ups crowding, Molly, grinning that crazed grin, watching as the spoon got closer and closer.  My sister would cry until my father picked her up, puckering her mouth shut, refusing the vile liquid.  I would resist for as long as possible until finally weakening, succumbing as the hard edge of the spoon was pushed into my mouth.  It was about that time that I decided that it would be best for all if we never returned to Alice’s house.  We never did, not as children.

Life Lessons Inside The Glass House

Mums flowers
Mums flowers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My father enjoyed gardening, in particular, growing prize chrysanthemums, which he would enter to show.  Every fall, dad would choose the best of the mums, name some after his girls, and take the blooms to the Royal BC Chrysanthemum Club show event.  Dad would ready for the show the night before, carefully choosing the perfect blooms.  Next, dad cut the long stems, gently pulling off any brown or wilted leaves from the length of stem.  “Patience is important”, he would say. We would crowd around the bloom, our eyes searching earwigs.  Spying one, dad would deftly remove it with tweezers.  The perfect bloom carefully placed into a tall white bucket of water where it would stay until being loaded into the back of the wagon.

As we grew older, experienced, my sister and I were allowed to enter our own chrysanthemums for show.  My sister chose to grow purple, spider mums.  I chose white disbuds.  Dad was a talented, meticulous mum grower and won many “First Place.” We were proud of our father and his efforts as we carried the armloads of blue ribbons and certificates to the car. Few growers could match dad’s talent.

Grandpa Tom would discuss the plants, look over the greenhouse improvement plans, and offer advice on the fickle heater in the space.  My sister recalls gardening with Tom and credits him for her affection for gardening today.  My grandfather was a believer in fish head fertilizer and would bring the bag of heads for us to dig under and into the growing soil pile.  We hated the stench!  “That’s the secret ingredient,” he would say.

When I pass a florist, I am automatically drawn to the white chrysanthemums, disbuds, their perfectly round heads with the petals curving to a tight centre.  Elegance. I can never resist purchasing a few.

It Is Always Winter

When I recall my father, it is always winter.   I’m not sure why that is.  Upon calling forth memory, I visualize his smiling face, then, a postcard-screened scene of the perfect winter appears.  Snow, blanketing the ground.  Frosty shades of blue, the softness of the scene, like peering through mohair.  Sunlight streams through the dancing flakes of snow. Evergreens dusted, branches bending, sunlight streaming through the limbs, frost glistening, sparkling diamonds upon the earth.  A deer standing behind the tree, alert and frozen on the landscape.  Perhaps, winter evokes a memory of fragile beauty, frozen in time, a precious beauty that will fade and disappear.  Some of my fondest memories are of times spent together, shared during the coldest winter months.  My father died on winter’s cusp.  My sister was born as winter peeked through the window, nature’s gentle touch, leaving a dusting of frost on the windowpane to prepare her for the cold nights ahead.

I recall one particularly harsh, relentless winter, unusual for the West Coast.  The snow piled halfway to the roofline of our house.  High banks of snow massed at the sides of the driveway, the endless shoveling, forming mountains of snow, standing fort like in front of the house.  My father decided that the conditions were perfect to create an igloo, for you girls to play in.   My sister and I waited impatiently for him to finish carving out the igloo’s entrance into the perfectly shaped dome.  Wind swept snow compacts well and interlinks the ice crystals.  Perfect conditions, girls!  My father dug, shaped, and carved away at the mountain of snow until the rounded pile was formed into a perfect dome.  We lost track of time; it blurred from morning to evening as we created our snow ice masterpiece.  Finally completed, my sister and I crawled inside of the structure.  The solid white walls, smooth and damp to the touch, leading upwards to the rounded roofline, the cold air inside, chilling our rosy cheeks and little noses.  Our pure delight in the simple beauty of the snow house.  Awed by the effect; we discovered that we could almost stand inside the structure.  Inside the dome, my father placed two small, wooden crates for us to sit on.  We collected a plastic tea set, apple juice, and a sleeve of Saltine crackers to dine.  Bundled up in snowsuits, scarves, and mitts, we played inside our frozen playhouse from dawn to dusk.   It was if we were miniature characters, enclosed within the simplest of snow globes, frozen in time.

My sister and I were the friends of choice for the neighbourhood hooligans who scampered into the yard, just to get a “pass” into our wonderful world.  We had a small window to peek out of and through it we could view the twinkling stars in the inky sky. We rolled snowballs to keep handy incase of a rogue attack.  Protection.  Our snow house would endure that winter.  Finally, slowly, deliberately, the sunlight warmed and melted our magical world away, until we were left with pieces of dirty bits of snow, reluctantly melting on the ground.

Another memory.  The temperatures dropped below zero for a prolonged period, causing the local lake at the end of our street to solidly freeze over.  Some of the neighbourhood children were taking advantage of this gift of nature, skating on the lake’s frozen surface.   We longed to join them.  One evening, my father arrived home, earlier than usual.  Inside the Sears Roebuck shopping bag was two brand new pair of skates.  Gently, touching the soft, chalk-white leather, my fingers slipping over the surface of the boot, I could imagine wearing the skates, twirling pirouettes upon the lake’s surface.  The steel blades, shiny and sharp.   Aching to try the skates on, would they fit? They’re a bit big, Grace.  Wear an extra pair of socks.  You’ll grow into them.  A perfect fit!  Driving the short, never-ending distance, to the edge of the lakeshore, headlights shining onto the icy surface to light our way, my father tested the thickness of the ice.  Never walk onto ice, girls.  Ice must be thick and tested by an adult.  Pushing the snow shovel, dad cleared a patch of ice.  Smooth as glass, I wondered, could we see the fish below the frozen surface?  Carefully, dad tied our laces, giving the slightest tug at the beginning of the skate boot to offer support to our wobbly ankles.  Next, my father held our hands and walked us onto the ice.  We were apprehensive, What if I fall, Daddy?  Will the ice crack? Coaching and encouraging, Hold your arms out like wings, Grace. There you go!  Holding us, gliding us along the slippery surface.  It’s all right, Grace.  I’ll catch you if you fall.  The car’s headlights illuminating the surface, under a moonlit night, stars as our witness, we learned to skate on the arms of our father.  We learned to be brave, to fear less, to fall down, to get up, and to try again.   More than that, we learned that the man we called, dad, was kind and gentle, a man who enjoyed spending times with his little girls, our hero, a man who would catch us if we fell.   It was a magical moment in time and if I had the power, I would have conjured a lifetime of magical experiences.  Alas, as with all that is magical, there is an elusive, fleeting quality, that in the end leaves the audience wondering, What happened?

On a chilly December morning, earlier than usual, I would awaken and go to the window.  It was as if a conjuror had stepped forth to create a beautiful, magical show to delight my sleepy eyes.  The perfect postcard picture of winter. Transfixed, I watched the sunlight’s brilliant rays streaming through the window, illuminating the sleeping garden.  This morning, there was an unusual clarity to the view. The winter colours, brilliant in nature, a staggering beauty to behold, more than an everyday occurrence.  Tumbling snowflakes perfectly spaced apart, falling to earth from a cloud placed overhead.  For a moment I was transported into a magical kingdom of beauty and light.  Standing in the middle of a snow globe, a magical space, the flakes like glitter raining down upon us, my sister delighting in the scene, my father holding her close.  In that moment it felt as if we were connected by a mystical love or energy, interconnecting and binding us together for eternity.  Later that morning, the telephone’s ring and the words, Dad passed away early this morning.  I already knew.

A Peek Into Heaven

Two people on the shore of the Pacific Ocean
Two people on the shore of the Pacific Ocean (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For many childhood summers, always during the month of August, our family would pack up the car, tossing in the bright plastic buckets and shovels, oversized towels, a large, loaded cooler, dented and scratched from use.  These items crammed into the trunk of the Wagon.  We would head to the ferry terminal to sail across the Strait of Georgia, to Kaye Bay Lodge, on Vancouver Island.  My sister and I cherished this time, as it was an opportunity to spend uninterrupted time with our father, in what could only be described as our Camelot.  Fortunately, those were the days before cell phones and computers; we were completely disconnected from daily life, as we knew it.   Dad would relax, explore the beachfront, and swim in the chilling Pacific Ocean with us; we knew where he was and that fact comforted my sister and me.  My sister would hang seaweed and kelp from our father’s head and shoulders.  Our Prince of Tides.  If the tides were right, we would dig for clams.  My father taught us how to look for the tell-tale bubbles, barely visible under the low puddles of seawater.  Other times, we would walk farther out, our tiny feet feeling the damp, cool sea floor, to pick oysters for supper.

Freedom to play for hours on the warm, sandy beachfront and opportunities to mix with others awaited us.  This vacation was the highlight of our year and became a wonderful family tradition, especially when my cousins began to join us.  My sister and I would compare it to taking a peek into heaven, imagining that if we could actually do so, we would be blinded by the brilliant rays of sunlight, multi shades of blue from turquoise to azure, and an earth below us, that sparkled like diamonds in the light.  The white, fluffy clouds, cushioning and carrying our tired, little bodies.  On the beach, there would be precious moments of love and laughter, children and adults spending time together, singing around a campfire, the sharing of meals, and arms encircled, as we held one another close, allowing nightfall to curtain the scene, bringing another beauteous day, to an end.

A peek into heaven, it truly was.  We couldn’t wait to rise at dawn, arguing over who would get which, Kellogg’s mini cereal box.  Our cabin was rustic, made of sturdy logs, one of the original structures on the property.  There was a small front step to rest on.  Yellowed, wild beach grass grew on either side of the structure.  The occasional shell would find itself relocated to rest just outside the cabin walls. We never explored the backside of the cabin, too afraid of what we might discover.  At night, in our tiny room, we would draw the curtain to avoid looking through the thin glass window and to keep the night away.  I still fear the darkness of night.  The silence allows my mind to activate and I begin to remember memories, both happy and sad, however, then, the silence was comforting as the rhythm of the ocean’s waves, crashing to the shore, lulled us to sleep.  We were content, dreaming of our beautiful days spent at the beach.  A peek into heaven, it truly was, for my sister and me.

We Shared a Song

You Are My Sunshine
You Are My Sunshine (Photo credit: StarsApart)

Dad's car

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.

You make me happy when skies are grey.

You’ll never know dear how much I love you.

Please don’t take my sunshine away.

The other night dear, as I lay sleeping,

I dreamt I held you in my arms

When I awoke dear, I was mistaken,

So I hung my head and I cried.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.

You make me happy when skies are grey.

You’ll never know dear how much I love you.

Please don’t take my sunshine away.” [1]

-Jimmy Wakeley and The Sunshine Girls- Bob Hamlin

-Jimmy Davis- 1940

Songs can bring back memories.  Dad loved to sing in the car and we loved to follow along for the ride.  As we traveled the roads in a variety of weighty cars, the Impala, the Cougar, the functional Wagon, the radio’s volume turned to high, it wasn’t long before he’d break into song.  Then, I’d join in. Off tune, oblivious to the fact, we sang together. Shortly after, his hand would move behind to the back seat, seeking mine.  He would give it a squeeze. Then, it was my sister’s turn.  Her small fist would reach up, to find his strong hand, above the seat back.  Briefly, joined together, we would continue to sing.  It was a spontaneous, loving act, a moment in time.  Songs can bring back memories.  Dad loved to sing in the car and we loved to follow along for the ride.