The year of her birth. 1983. Our first child. Entering our lives. It’s her life now. And she’s turning 40. It’s probably affecting her. I know it’s affecting me.
I wish her father were here. We could chat about how it was a similar winter (until the recent snow/cold), with no snow, green grass. How hard we had to work to pay our mortgage payments. You think rates are bad now? Ours went from 11.75% to a whopping 18.75%.
We were so broke, so young, we couldn’t afford to engage in the “nesting” the kids do now. I avoided all stores but grocery stores. Hauled my growing body downtown each day in some cobbled-together outfit: borrowed maternity things from a sister-in-law and a lot of dresses that were not maternity per se, but shapeless. Trying to look sharp for the office.
For sure I had bad hair. I didn’t know enough to leave it alone back then, was always cutting, perming, high-lighting, colouring. A series of unfortunate styles. And no clue that pregnancy would affect the hair. It was like the body and mind were separate parts back then, working independently, cut apart at the neck.
(Alexa, who I told to play songs “like Norah Jones”, just put on “Desperado”. It’s a version by Diana Krall, not the Eagles, but regardless, past-present-future are smashing together. Tearing my heart to bits.)
So, back to the downtown accounting office, I’d be trying to look busy, filing probably. Dad’s social worker called. (Mom and my younger sister were “down home” on the east coast.)
“Your father has no food to eat,” she said, accusingly.
I said, accusingly, “Well, he seems to have no problem getting booze to drink.”
It was a bad convo. While our era did come up with some cool language, like “far-out” and “man” and “groovy”, we didn’t say “convo”. We didn’t say “baby bump” either, and that’s what I was working on at the time.
I cleared my desk. Drove west. Entered the house through the laundry room, which perhaps afforded me a more vulnerable impression of my father. He was up, teetering, in the kitchen, at the top of a short flight of stairs. Might he fall? He was shaky, frail. Thin, but belly protruded. Disoriented. Below his shorts his skeletal legs worked overtime to hold him erect.
First thought? He’s Winston! From 1984. After Winston was broken, forced to look in a mirror by his overseer? He saw a “bowed, grey-coloured, skeleton-like thing”. And, like the proverbial nail in the coffin, this sentence in the last paragraph of the book confirms Winston’s utter brokenness while rendering the reader an emotional wreck: “Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose.”
I did not see tears trickling down Dad’s nose, but I was looking at a broken man. Subdued by booze. I could picture tears. Perhaps they trickled down when I wasn’t around? Unscented though. Vodka tears.
I took him to the nearest grocery store where he put carton after carton of skim milk in the cart. Like skim milk could save him. I don’t recall what else he bought. Potatoes perhaps? He was from New Brunswick, after all. Fruit of the earth.
I believe I was driving the old Charger. White then, but we had it painted red because people always pulled out in front of me. It was two-door, not child-friendly. Sporty. Another dream of my late husband’s, he had so many.
I was so angry with Dad. So disappointed. Humpty-Dumpty could not be put back together. I was coming to terms with this. We were splitting, he and I. I would soon have a child to care for; I could not continue to care for him.
I left him with his groceries, drove the hour home, to my life, my husband, child-to-be.
(Guess what Alexa is playing now? “Daughters” by John Mayer: “Fathers be good to your daughters, Daughters will love like you do, Girls become lovers who turn into mothers, So mothers be good to your daughters too” Sometimes she’s so spot-on! I think, as I shed more latte-flavoured tears.)
It occurs to me, I lost my father, who was so good to his daughter for so long, because I gained a daughter. And because he could not fix what was broken.
And my daughter, who will be 40, lost her father so long ago, in 2004, well before she had her three children. Her sister and brother lost him too, of course. He was anything but a broken man. A man in his prime. A good father to his daughters and son.
How sad is that? Two generations in a row not able to know their maternal grandfather.
I text my son, about how this is breaking my heart.
It’s a weird thing you project about when you have your kids. I recall us talking about her turning 40. 2023. Where will we be then?
My son texts back. He and his gf chat about this too.
Where will we be in 2050 etc. Crazy to think one of us could not make it to that year!
Time – it’s both friend and foe