The thing about memory is that it is so easily reconciled. People say ‘I’ll remember this moment forever’ but the reality is that they will probably remember a version of that moment. One that has been contorted to fit their needs. The mind is weird you see, it never really remembers completely, it never does what you think it will or even what you will it to.
When I remember standing in the hospital room looking at my Dad three years ago today, it’s not, as I might have assumed, the numbing pain of his death that I remember most or the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, the disbelief that it was me standing in those shoes looking at that bed. It’s the way he looked so dead already, hollow and suddenly very small. Old. Even though he was so young. I remember the rose they put on his chest and thinking how inappropriate that they should think we would want that, that he would want that. I remember thinking my mum would hate it but still didn’t move it. Maybe she wouldn’t hate it after all, how could I know? I remember being annoyed that they couldn’t close his mouth.
And this is the part of my grief that I struggle with most. Those slightly mundane memories hurt. Sometimes, less now than last year, perhaps more than next year, when it’s late at night and my mind has no other focus they seem to fill up my brain until the top of my head hurts. But still, I want them. I don’t want an altered memory of him. I want real memories. All of them. The humour, family morals and the incredible generosity but also the dubious political views and the fiery temper I inherited. The holidays and his laughter and the sound of his voice, but also the way he looked when he took his last breath.
Because that is what will keep him alive in my head. I won’t allow his memory to become a watered down version of him, sitting behind yearly platitudes about endless sleep, meeting again and Heaven. I don’t want to hear poetic words of comfort. I want to dwell. In the good stuff and the shitty stuff. In how fucking unfair it is that he isn’t here. In all the stuff that makes his absence real and all the stuff that makes him real, that makes him my Dad.
Because then he isn’t really gone. In that place, in those memories, he’s still here.