My father died three and a half years ago. Except for his eulogy, I haven’t written a word about him since. It’s still too hard. I can’t even talk about him without my throat getting tight and my eyes welling up. My father’s death is too big for me to take on.
It’s funny the way grief works.
My usual way to process things is to write about them. I have a stack of journals, heavy with pain, chronicling the end of my marriage, and more recently, the end of my relationship with Griff. I’ve journaled about these endings; I’ve blogged about them; I’ve written a memoir about my divorce; I even have a collection of poems I wrote when Andrew and I broke up. But about my father, even in my journals, I’ve written virtually nothing.
And so today, on Father’s Day, I’m going to start small. Rather than trying to write a tribute, rather than trying to express all that he meant to me, rather than trying to sum up his many good qualities, I’m just going to tell you one little story about my dad.
I back through the swinging door separating the restaurant from the kitchen, my arms loaded down with empty plates. “It’s crazy out there,” I announce, depositing the plates in a pile beside the dishwasher.The kitchen staff move fast, carefully plating the meals for table eight. The chef looks up and says, “Your dad called. He said to call when you’re done tonight and he’ll pick you up.”
I look to the open door at the back of the restaurant. Outside, the snow continues to fall heavily, the flakes an eery yellow under the streetlight. “He can’t drive,” I respond. “He just got out of hospital yesterday after his surgery.”
The chef shrugs, and garnishes the meals. “Well, call him anyway.”
It’s a couple more hours before the last of customers head out into the winter night. They trudge away, leaving deep footprints in the snow.
I call my dad, knowing I’ll have to be firm. “Hi Dad, I’ll be on my way in a few more minutes.”
“You can’t drive in this, love,” he says. “I’ll come and get you.”
“No you won’t. I’ll be fine, Dad. There’s a plow going through right now. I’ll follow it out to the highway, and I’m sure the roads will be okay from there.”
There is a long pause at the other end. “Drive carefully, love. There’s a foot of snow here. Don’t even try to get up our hill.”
It takes me nearly an hour to make what is usually a 10 minute journey, and a wave of relief washes over me as I see the line of snow-covered cars left at the bottom of the hill where I live. I inch along in the snow, looking for a place to park, when my headlights illuminate a snow-dusted figure standing at the side of the road.
It’s my dad. A day out of hospital, he has trudged through a foot of snow, down to the bottom of our hill, to wait for me with a pair of boots so that I won’t have to brave the snow-covered hill in heels. He’s been waiting and worrying, I find out later, for nearly an hour.