The Outsider: Memories, mending and sepia-tinged sorrow
|By Will Jones - The Outsider | July 26 2018|
As I sit in my office on a rainy Sunday afternoon I’m looking for inspiration, a spark to set me writing this column. My office is normally a great place to find such a nudge towards a story because it’s crammed full of gear. Skis, fishing tackle, minnow traps, baseball caps, architecture books, car cleaning products, a skeet thrower, sparklers, a poster about Second World War aircraft, hip flasks and a hand plane, and photos, lots of photos pinned to the wall.
My eyes stop on a particular photo, one of my dad holding a big slippery eel that he’d just caught on my fly rod. He is grinning like a big kid, holding out the eel for the photo and also to stop it coiling around his arm and covering him in slime. I remember the moment and it makes me chuckle. And I kind of hear my dad’s laugh as he struggled with the creature. And that made me a bit sad because my dad died over a year ago now, but it made me happy too because until this moment I’ve found it difficult to remember him from before his illness.
My mourning, my memories until now have been filled with images of him in the throes of Parkinson’s disease, fighting to be heard and understood while his body slowly, brutally betrayed his mind and failed him. I didn’t want to remember my dad like that but those were the images that until now I got whenever I thought of him.
Now, as I sit and think, looking out at the milkweed, tag alder and spruce, I still struggle to picture the myriad of happy times I had with my dad. The childhood memories in our garden at home; his happy face at my college graduation; sitting at the dinner table listening to him as he told funny stories about his work. The memories are there but they are blurred, soft, cloudy. I can’t make out the details, the true sound of his laughter, the wrinkles around his eyes - that I have inherited – when he grinned. And this makes me kind of blue until I realize that there might be a reason for this softening of my mind’s eye, this sepia wash over my memories.
It is a way of lessening the pain, easing the sorrow and allowing me to go on enjoying my life without the raw stabbing of loss being unbearable. It’s not that I am forgetting about my dad, but I am coming to terms with the fact that I’ll never see him again, apart from in photos like the one with the eel, another as he shot my rifle, and one with him taking a toddling Little Z for a walk.
I love my dad and as I finish writing this column I’m happy that even after he’s gone he’s able to give me the inspiration, or introspection needed to put my thoughts into words. And as I sit here in my scruffy, cramped little office thinking of him, a fresh memory springs to mind. One of him sitting here with me, his hand resting on my shoulder, I think, as I showed him my rifle, a lever action. And, as I babbled on about hunting and shooting, he smiled a now ailing crooked smile and through hardly moving lips I’m sure he said, “wonderful ... just like John Wayne’s.”
WILL JONES - is The Outsider