My brother Jonny and I sat on two wooden chairs opposite the bed hunched over our knees. Numb. The chairs had never got so much use as they did that morning nor would they get any kind of practical use again except as features in Mum’s new bedroom. Dad’s eyelids started to rise slowly and it appeared he was looking at us. We shivered and Jonny said, “That’s a bit eerie huh?”
It was in his face too, you could tell. It wasn’t him anymore. Then we realised ‘it’ is gone altogether. It wasn’t ‘him’ gone so much, but ‘it’; the heartbeat, the rhythm, the core, the point around which the wheel of our family span. All incomprehensibly gone. The ‘something’ who always put us in front of himself as if he was of no consequence. Other days may have passed by barely noticed, but this day, this hour, this minute would stick in our minds for the rest of our days.
I didn’t know then what I knew now – my ground of history gave way. It was a changed world. Well it would be years later when I realised how changed it was.
I remember Mum walking in, grabbing his hand, and shaking it, yelling “Come Back Colin, Come Back!”. Finally I curled up on the couch, wanting to sleep. Dad still laid in the bedroom for hours. The ringing in my ears of Mum’s plea wouldn’t go away. The replay was relentless. I would also learn that tragedy is repetitive. Offering neither the fulfillment of detachment or release from change, it would merely always be there, always terrible.
Neglect was a solution I took after Dad died. I lived in a culture which turned its back on its annoying traditions. I turned my back on the family. Family seemed a vehicle of oppression. Family was like a tapestry of characters who I belonged to but didn’t quite gel. At middle age I still felt I can’t turn back. I had learnt this in my own traditions and rituals. You are probably more self conscious, a bit more vain, a bit more brittle in your youth which scars you later.
But there is a lot in the culture which is nurturing. Only now in a sense I felt I betrayed Mum. I kind of turned my back on her. I didn’t give her her due. My method of problem solving is avoidance. But what I know and struggle to embrace is there is so much culture in the family. I will revisit the same place because it’s me, it’s who conceived me into this world and out of that learn to recuperate from the self obsessed world I built since then.