It’s Canada Day today, and normally we would try to do something a little festive for the occasion. But, this year was a little different what with Mara working today and myself and Lea being together for the day.
The weather is sweltering today – my kind of temperature. I love the summer days (daze) when the heat is so thick in the air you just want to veg out. My family thinks I’m crazy. My wife thinks I’m crazy. On a day like today, I usually will get a call from a sibling or my mother sarcastically telling me how I must be so happy that it’s so hot outside. And i agree. I don’t mince words – I love the heat and I want to stay in it.
I guess I must have been in a more nostalgic mood than normal. Last night, an old friend of mine whom I haven’t seen in a real long time came over for dinner last night. And it was like not a day had passed and we went into old habits of joking about the stupid things we’d talk about all with the shading of age permeated within our words. It was a great night.
For the last couple of weeks, Lea has been asking me questions about where my Dad is, and how he died. She’s quite the perceptive soul and definitely taps into the silences and emotions that I’ve subconsciously let out in my words. I’ve shown her pictures of my Dad, and associated that he is her grandfather. Obviously there’s a whole area of understanding that she is not getting whatsoever. But, I think she understands bits and crumbs of what I’m talking about – and it’s quite amazing to be able to rediscover and question my own unresolved issues and feelings through talking about it with Lea.
I brought my mother with us and we drove to our old house. Because it was Canada Day, there were tons of cars parked all over the street to make way for the parade that was coming by. I had forgotten about that. I pointed to the house and showed Lea that that’s where we all used to live. There are many elements to the outside of the house that are completely different now, but the foundation and root of it is the same. Same shutters at the windows, same hill at the front that I used to slide down. I’m flooded by milliseconds of memories staring at the house. Too numerous to count. And I’ve clearly romanticized what that house represents but I like that. Driving around the corners and side streets to get to the house was familiar and yet seemed like a lifetime ago now.
Upon driving to the cemetery, I framed it as a place where “Daddy can think about his Daddy and his Nana” rather than go into the literal meaning of what it was. I hadn’t gone to visit in 7 years – the last time I went was the week of my wedding as part of the process of what I had wanted to do. To my knowledge no one really does go to visit there as much as they used to. I always want to go, but then life gets in the way and I forget. But, I’m a firm believer that what lies there is not my father. I can tap into what he is whenever I want to. I don’t necessarily have to go there to do it. But, for Lea’s understanding because we were driving there, I said it in that way to ease her mind.
When we got there, like clockwork, I always remember where his stone is. Mom was questioning my navigation skills (which on a regular day is a thing that should be questioned as I have no sense of direction at all) but I found it. I find it funny that for someone who knew him the least physically when he was on this Earth, I can find his “permanent address” without any issue.
The stone was a mess so I started to sweep off the excess grass and dirt that was on there. In typical Mom fashion, she told me that i had to wash my hands afterwards. It took a few minutes to dust everything off. Lea was standing next to me when I was doing this. She immediately pointed out that the stone said “Matthews” just like her name. And I told her that that was my Daddy’s name too. She listened. She then ventured off and wanted to look at the different flowers people had left on other tombstones. I loved seeing her skip around joyously in that moment.
I asked my mother whether she wanted some more time there, and she said something to me that basically spurned me to write this blog post. “It’s 36 years this year. He’s not in this place anymore.” I had never thought my mother would say something so progressive, and so introspective in my life.
“You’re right”, I said to her.
In that moment, I realized that perhaps my mother didn’t really need to come to the cemetery this morning at all. Maybe I didn’t either. I like to do it so that I can see his name on that stone because it reinforces for me my connection to him in some weird way. It’s the same connecting that I did as a child – I had been going to that stone ever since I was Lea’s age. And that was how I made my link to him. I want Lea to understand these moments with which I came from. I want her to see that I’m not protecting her from anything and that I want her to be able to talk and ask questions which a lot of times I wasn’t able to growing up. I don’t foresee myself picking up and bringing her here often – but I think a seed has been planted somewhere in which the questions will grow from her, and I want them to.