Sunday, 27 May 2012

Intimations of Mortality

Yesterday, I made myself wade into past Mays, but you can also get pulled into the past, yanked backward by a sharp hook of memory.  This morning, I found myself in a May when I was eleven, having the last birthday party of my childhood.  As I recall, it wasn't a terrific birthday party, and I was perfectly content in following years to simply take a friend to a movie, and eat at a diner or fast-food restaurant.

 My father, who was attempting a doomed reconciliation with my mother before disappearing from my life forever, had given me an inexpensive box camera, probably second-hand -- the flash wouldn't work.  We were living in the Gorge area of Victoria, BC, so I took my guests down to the local park where I could take pictures.  My sister, being nine and a pest, snuck into every single one.  Except this one.

Tori was pretty, way prettier than I could ever hope to be.  Because her surname had the same first two letters as mine, we were always in the same homeroom.  Our fathers knew each other, but we never mentioned this to each other, possibly because my father fell off her father's balcony at a party.  He was drunk, of course.  We had known each other since age nine, but only as well as two people who are in the same classes know each other.  The pool of people you know gets bigger as you move up through the school system, and she was at a different end of the pool.  I knew when she got married to a wealthy restauranteur, and heard not long after that that the marriage had failed.  Victoria is a small city.

When I saw the name in the obituaries this morning, I was a little surprised by the feeling of shock and grief welling up slowly like blood from a deep cut.  I thought of my mother who is at the age when familiar names in the obituaries are nearly a weekly occurrence.  I thought of Tori's parents who have lost two of their four children in the past two years.  (Tori's brother was a patient of my mum's after a devastating motorcycle accident put him in a wheelchair not long after graduation.)  And I thought of Tori, the pretty girl who came to my last birthday party on a windy, sunny Saturday in May during that rather sad year when I turned eleven.  She turned eleven a month after I did.  She died on her birthday last week, leaving a daughter a bit older than mine.

I feel diminished, and know this is only the beginning.

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