Monday, 23 April 2012

The Cavity

I thought I might say something at my dad's funeral, but I didn't know what to say. I read some of the memories my sister had written, and they made me cry, but I was still clueless as to what I should say. Then I realised that I was afraid to remember. I was afraid to remember because then I would realise my loss. Eventually I wrote (and then read) the following: When I was 6 my dad took me up Mount Cavity. He knew his children well enough to know that it would be a mountain I would love, and Karen would hate, so, I reckon, that is why he took me up there by myself. It was steep, cliffy and there were a lot of rocks. He had previously been up there, probably when he was around 16, with his brother Stan. Every year dad would take me on a camping trip. We would stop for breakfast at Smitty's, and on these trips my dad would tell me stories about his youth, and about his brother Stan. He had many fond memories of the time he and Stan had spent together in Jasper, but I was always too shy to ask about Stan, who had died before I was born, except on those trips where the conversations naturally flowed. The hike up the cavity is steep and involves a fair amount of short climbs, but I was fearless. Coming down I grabbed on to a loose rock and slipped. My dad was below me, as he always was, ready to cushion a fall, and he did, but I still ended up with a nasty scrape on my knee. It was about to rain and my dad wanted to get down before the rocks got wet and slippery, So he told me not to look at my knee, gave me an Advil and we carried on down the mountain. I still have a scar, and remembered that event clearly. This September, my dad, regressing in health, wrote a bucket list, and on it there was a family trip to the mountains. Thankfully we were all able to make it out to the mountains. We went on three hikes, the last one was up to the Cavity. As we hiked up, we came to the place where I had fallen, some 16 years ago, in a mountain full of rocks, there was something distinct about that place. It was a place where memories had been formed, a place where dad had protected me from greater injury, and got me to get up and press on through the pain. It was also there that I learned the lesson to always check if a rock is secure before using it to bear weight. It was something that my dad had told me before we started on the hike, but a lesson I had to learn on my own and would remember through our future scrambles. Falling did not take away from my confidence in scrambling. I always knew my dad was below me, ready to catch me, and would do everything he could to keep me safe.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

This morning when my mom called I was still in bed. I was awake, but not yet wanting to get up. I lie there trying to piece together my dream, a dream I no longer remember. Then my phone rang I glanced at it and saw that it was from my mom. I knew I should answer. “Hello” I don’t remember exactly how the conversation went, but I remember her saying “dad died this morning around 7” and I replied “uh oh” Looking back, that wasn’t really an appropriate response, but then again, what is? Then she asked what time my exam was at “noon” I told her, and she told me that she thought I should still write it, if I could. After all, I had studied for it. Then she asked if I thought I would be able to come up after my exam, and I said I would. In my mind I was still thinking that I would go up after my exam, and come back for my Thursday exam. At some point that question of hers made me feel like the bad child. That is not really a new feeling, I have been feeling like the bad child for a while, like the one who never comes to visit, who is the last to respond to emergencies and who stays around for the shortest amount of time. That she had to ask if I’d be able to come up, shows how many other things I have been putting before family. Sorry family.

It was about 7:38 when she called. I could hear my roommate up, but I didn’t want to talk her. Yesterday she had made potential plans to leave the house around 8:30 or 9, and I figured I could just stay in bed until then, and get up only after she left. Only, I had to go pee.

I stayed in bed thinking about how I’d tell people, and crying softly. It actually surprised me that I cried so soon after. I have often heard that people do not react so quickly, or that it will not so quickly set in. I cried, and I thought about the people who I would have to tell, the people I had made commitments with for today and tomorrow. I thought about how I would tell my friend who I was planning to meet up with in the morning to study a little before our philosophy test. There were a number of people who I felt like I ought to tell, but the one person who I actually felt comfortable telling was an old roommate of mine.

Katie was the first person I told when my father was diagnosed with cancer 4 long years ago. We had gone out for tea, and I had acted normal. I am good at masking my emotions. At the end of the evening together she walked me to the bus stop. I knew I should tell her, and when I did she hugged me, and she let me know that I could tell her anything; that I need not hide things like that from her. Thank you Katie. I remember that.

I remembered it today at 9:00 when my roommate still hadn’t left, and I still had to pee. I texted Katie, and told her the news. Within minutes she called me. It was hard to talk to her, but it was good to talk to her. I cried, and as I lie there crying I thought “I am not crying for my dad’s sake, he is fine, I am crying for my loss,” and that thought made me laugh.

At some point my roommate knocked on my door. I wiped the tears off of my check, “come in.” She asked me for advice. I told her that she probably needed to go downtown to get the answers. Maybe it was really just that I wanted her to leave. A while later she came into my room and shared her concerns with me. I listened, but I don’t think I offered the sympathy she was hoping for. I heard her talking on the phone to a friend, voicing the same concerns. At this point, she knew I was awake anyhow, so I got up and went pee. I also grabbed some cookies. Cookies make great breakfast... right? I went back to my room and started packing, though I did not want my roommate to know. If she knew I was packing, she would wonder what I was up to.

Katie had asked a few good questions, 1- If I should really be taking the test, and 2- if it was safe for me to drive alone. I didn’t know the answer to either question. I didn’t know how long to pack for. It started to dawn on me that maybe I wouldn’t want to be back for Thursday. I didn’t know if I needed to take funeral clothes, or even if I had funeral clothes. I left my room again, first determining that I should tell my roommate, but I couldn’t do it.

I went back to my room, and soon after she left (I wrote her a note to find when she got back and I was gone). It was around 10:00 when I was still packing, but that was when I was supposed to be meeting up with my study friend. She had texted to say that she might be moments late. I replied that I might also be a bit late, and might not be able to stay around for the whole time. I was starting to think that I would go and figure out how to get out of my Thursday exam, and maybe see a few of my friends.

My study friend so kindly texted me back “Okay! Do whatever you need to do Patricia! Don’t feel pressured to meet if it’s tricky”. She had no idea, but her text was so full of grace. I am not nearly that nice when I text. But maybe I should be. After all, I may never know when my friend’s dad just died. Somehow her kindness brought me to tears, and I cried longer and harder than I had before. I no longer had the fear of my roommate knowing. Through the tears I sent my study friend a quick text “my dad died this morning, I don’t know what to do.” She thought I shouldn’t write the test. We sent a few texts back and forth. She said if I did go to the university, she would give me a big hug. So I made the decision to go to the university, and decide from there. And she did give me a big hug. She also talked to our prof, and he was so very kind to me. He gave me a copy of the exam and sent me home. I am not sure exactly what he wants me to do with the exam, but I have not looked at it yet.

I ran up 8 long flights of stairs to talk to my linguistics prof to see if I could get out of my Thursday final. I got to his office out of breath, and distressed. He was the first person I told in person that my dad had died. He was not the most helpful, but suggested that I talk with the registrar.

First I went to the Q. I had a friend who I was hoping would be there, and she was. I told her the news. She also gave me a big hug, and said that she would be willing to accompany me on my drive. I considered taking her up on her offer, but she had a paper to write that was due yesterday, and I’d feel bad inconveniencing her so, but it was a nice offer.

Then I went to the chaplaincy centre, and one of the chaplains helped me with exam deferrals and bought me lunch. Then I headed off to be with my family.

The drive was long, but I didn’t breakdown, which I feared. (I just didn’t think it would be safe) and somehow my friend's offer to drive with me brought her with me in spirit... or something like that. I thought about the things I could say to her... that is kinda weird, but in some odd way she brought me company. I tried convincing myself that maybe my dad hadn’t died. Maybe I had heard my mom wrong on the phone. Maybe she had said “dad drank 7-Up”, not “dad died at seven”. Or maybe it was a dream.

Now I am at home, and it wasn’t a dream. This leaves me in unfamiliar grounds. My family has never done much mourning together. I have never lost someone so close. Never have I been part of planning a funeral. So, now, I am learning, learning how to mourn.