Today would be my Daddy’s 69th birthday. This is one of the easier years. Not quite sure why some years are harder than others, but even the anniversary of his death this June wasn’t as terrible as other years. I miss him incredibly, and think about him almost every day. My little brother is the spitting image of him. My baby pictures are damned near identical to his. I carry lots of great traits from both my parents, and I feel lucky to be the blend of them.
When he died, my Mama got a little blank journal and titled it “The Book of Daddy”. It still lives on a bookshelf in her house. She got us to sit down each night and write a sentence or two about things we loved about him, or remembered about him. At the time, my young brain couldn’t imagine what a fantastic tool it was to preserve his memory and to help us through that stage. The older I get, the more appreciative I am. I think I’ve read it through maybe 5 times in the 21 years since. It’s one of the things that instantly breaks my heart to read, but I need that every once in a while to cleanse my soul and cope a little with my grief still. It’s not a linear process, and I’m not fully convinced that I will ever truly be done with my grieving. I cherish the memories I have and I love years like this one because I can smile when I remember the little things.
Today I was reminded of that book because we used to go buy him a new tie every year for his birthday. And I vividly recall one of his birthdays, when both my mama and I had the flu and he spent his day rubbing our backs while we threw up, and keeping us company and taking care of us. He was good shit like that. I think we wrote down, and possibly doodled, the tradition of Daddy’s Birthday Ties. He’s been on my mind oodles this week. When I was a kid, we used to go to The Bay I think, and get pickled onions when we were done shopping. I found a jar of pickled onions at Walmart the other day and bought them on a whim. They are just as delicious as I recalled, and it made me smile to think of that happy memory.
If you know me personally, you’ll be quite familiar with the cartoon fish I doodle everywhere. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid, always the same style. I only realized the other evening that the reason I do that fish is because of my Daddy. We used to sit and draw together, his style was more cartoonish than anything and I tried to emulate it. I have a couple of his paintings of fish on my walls, and as I was glancing at the one in the computer room, it finally clicked. So it’s another part of me that is so influenced by him, and it took me this long to realize it haha. It’s kind of nice being surprised at the correlation between what he did and what I do.
We used to play Boggle and drink hot chocolate with mini marshmallows. He used to draw faces on our Tupperware sandwich containers for our lunches, one little cartoon of me and one little cartoon of my brother. He used to make the coolest designs on our Toaster Strudels. As you can probably gather, he was an artist. He painted gorgeous fish, and a crab, I remember he made one for my mama for Valentine’s Day and the spots on the fish were little hearts. We all used to make Fimo ornaments for Christmas as a family. We used to walk our dog Chaucer down along the Arm at Regatta Point in Halifax. Daddy taught me how to skip rocks, and we’d do it together on those walks. He would come to my elementary school and do face painting for my class.
When we moved into the house we’re in now, I planted a pear tree in his memory. I call it Norman, after him. Norman gave us 3 pears this year, despite the pesky deer breaking into the yard and feasting on the leaves. My best friend Brit took a shirt I had of Daddy’s, and turned it into a pillow. When I’m going through tough times and crying my little eyes out, I snuggle into it. It sits on my bed every day, and makes me happy when I look at it. I still display Miss Bunny, the stuffed animal Daddy and Mama got me the day I was born. I have so many little trinkets to keep him fresh in my mind and in my life.
I guess the point of this blog today, along with honouring my awesome Daddy, is to advise anyone who has lost someone close to them to make a “Book of _____”. It will hurt like hell, your pages will get stained with tears, your heart will break a little, but it will be so worth it. You will have a little book of happy things (or maybe even not so happy things) to pull out when you feel like remembering your history with your fallen angel. You may not feel strong enough to look through it annually, but the times you do have a little boo, you’ll be reminded of things that maybe got lost in the piles of information our brains store. It’s so important to be able to remember the little things because there will inevitably be periods in your life where you’re so mad at them for leaving you. Doesn’t matter if it was cancer, suicide, a freak accident, whatever. A major stage of grief is anger, and sometimes you’ll hit that phase more than once. Being able to hold on to the light they gave you when you’re enveloped in the dark they left is paramount.
Happiest Birthday to my amazing father.