There was that same mischievous grin, the one that starts with a glint in the eyes and works it way down to the mouth and chin — an expression that requires all the different face muscles to co-operate.
It was bittersweet — an unexpected gift combined with a short, sharp stab to the heart.
Now you see him, now you don’t.
I miss my father. The one who was hale and hearty, not bent and crumpled with cancer pain. The agile Dad who could still pick his way across a flotilla of anchored bobbing dories at 65 like a fleet-footed kid hopping ice pans. The Dad whose gentle presence charmed birds out of the trees and onto his outstretched palm.
The Dad who laughed at his own blunders, like finding out the hard way that the wooden checkers in the bowl on the coffee shop table weren’t complimentary chocolates.
Or the one who turned his wife’s purse into mall security after finding it on the bench next to him and not recognizing it as hers. (Boy, was Mom mad).
Or, better yet, the one who frightened the wits out of himself during a midnight encounter with his own reflection.
(Staying with relatives during a visit to St. John’s for a medical visit years ago, Dad was urged by Mom to bring along pyjamas, for they found that house somewhat cold. Dad normally wore boxers to bed. That night, stumbling to the unfamiliar bathroom half-blind without his glasses, and wearing the unfamiliar ensemble, he came face to face with himself in his pale pyjamas in the full-length mirror and thought there was an intruder approaching. Rushing back into the spare bedroom and shutting the door, he said to my mother, “My God, Vera! What a fright! I just saw a strange fellow out in the hall and he was wearing a karate suit.”)
I was lucky enough to spend time with him over the years, sometimes just the two of us in each other’s company; we enjoyed comfortable silences and felt no pressure to say something just to fill up the space — unless it was something worth saying.
One gloriously starry night, walking the darkened road through his boyhood community of Gin Cove, Trinity Bay, we marvelled at how many stars you can see in the sky when there’s scant artificial light.
“I am constantly amazed at the wonders of God’s creation,” he said, and I knew he meant it.
The cruel thing about death is this: no one tells you that it’s not like it is in the movies, with one last loving conversation and a proper goodbye.
No one warns you when the last really meaningful moment is being experienced, to “hold on to this one — there’s no more to come.”
No one tells you that the last look you exchange might be when one of you is in the fog of delirium and only the other will remember it.
They don’t tell you that the person you always thought would approach death with the most tranquility might not actually want to go, and will tell you so, even though there’s nothing you or anyone can do.
But there’s plenty to be grateful for. Dad took great joy in simple pleasures and was quick to express his gratitude — for Mom’s gift of a Mason jar filled with cold well water during a hot day’s toil in the yard; for a piece of turkey liver pilfered from the roaster at Christmas and Thanksgiving; for second helpings — of everything. For all God’s creatures. For books; his faith; his family.
Pam Frampton is an editor and columnist at The Telegram. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: pam_frampton