Friday, 6 March 2015

A shadow of his former self

Oh, I had noble plans. I had the day mapped out. Then I ran into my father. The one who has been dead for six years. The one I haven't seen for many more years than that.

I have a British subscription to Find My Past, but the site is offering free world-wide access this weekend, so before embarking on the day's activities, I tried entering some familiar names. I stumbled across three articles about my dad, two with pictures, all from Bay Area newspapers which is where he settled after he left us for the final time. The articles themselves didn't contain anything of which I wasn't aware; they concerned his involvement with the local branches of Junior Achievement and the American Diabetes Association.

I wasn't prepared for the heavy sad feeling somewhere below my heart. In the first photo, he is back-lit in a group of four men, but I instantly recognized his stance, his posture and the shape of his head. It was taken when I was about the same age as younger daughter is now, and struggling through a haze of depression in the final months of high school. I noticed with another small shock, that the photo had appeared in the San Mateo Times. My aunt, my mother's sister, lived in San Mateo for many years.

The second photo was taken three years later, after I had decided, based on a dream I'd had, that he had died. I was staying with a family friend in Muswell Hill, in the house he'd often visited with my mother, and was haunted by what I had imagined were vestiges of him. The photo is crystal clear. He is unmistakeable.

It took me a while, but I recovered and got on with my day. I didn't weep. I saved the articles and archived them until I can decide a safer place to store them. As I have mentioned in this blog before, a number of people need to be safely off the planet before I can tell his story to those who remain.

Grief, it seems, takes strange shapes, as tangible as a knot in the stomach and insubstantial as a shadow. It returns in a different form every time.

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