I spend sunday in a state of contemplation, in the house of my dad and his late wife, my mother. A comfort, and a binding, to be in amongst all her things.
Dad doesn’t remember the plan we made before coming back to Canada. We would empty their house, we would return to our old place, which was now empty anyway, he would move in with us, as his memory is failing (the latter of which he mentions multiple times daily). Also due to Covid he has little opportunity for community. (I had set him up with rec centre classes for the elderly, which he was enthusiastic about, just before leaving after the memorial last year, but they were cancelled shortly.)
That plan has been forgotten (by him) now that he is comfortable to have us just a three-hour drive away. It still seems far, to me, if anything happens; and expensive, as it includes a ferry.
When we arrive the smell of marijuana pervades his clothes like a heavy greeting. He smiles and seems tired to see us. Nonetheless he is kind and welcoming.
First thing I find myself doing is finally logging into my mom’s computer. Not to tidy anything, sort through old emails or anything like that. Funny how we imagine that when we die, people will read through our most private filings. In truth people are just too busy living and remembering and future-dreaming. and most of it will end up trashed or stashed in the world’s piles of waste and recycling.
Oddly, and by no conscious design of mine, the only things I have looked at of hers are nothing related to paper or writing. They are mostly her clothes, years’ worth and masses of them, and her paintings, and of course the kitchen things, so I could do some cooking—though the main utensil used here was and still is the microwave, of which how to use properly, I purposely know next to nothing.
I go to her computer to visit DuckDuckGo and search for the Heart Sutra New Translation lyrics and sheet music which I left behind in France. I find it here and here.
I bring my dad up first, to my mom’s office/computer nook on the mezzanine that overlooks the Georgia Strait in the near north of a near-forgotten small town that is, however, the centre of existence for many. From my perspective at least… while looking upon the sleepy “heritage” houses that crowd the long slope down to the water, some in need of repair, each with its internal screens flickering.
One of my sons, one my dad’s grandsons, is in dad’s favourite chair, watching The Simpsons and he never will stop unless it’s because I tell him too, he runs out of episodes streaming, there’s something on the table worth eating, or maybe to go skateboarding.
The skateboards for him and his younger brother were the best relatively recent things I said yes to. I was afraid of course, afraid of them falling, afraid of him adventuring, of something happening. But I hoped for them to continue to live a real child’s life, even far from the true countryside, even in places that approach suburbia. We learned it from youtube together (the three of us) and then they practiced together on their own in a nearby cul-de-sac.
The streets are amazingly quiet and safe. Hardly ever, ever a child in sight. He gets lonely, though, maybe, here on his own, though he says it’s the best weekend he’s had in five years (I don’t know why five, maybe it’s a random number), finally away from all his pesky brothers… and eventually comes back again from skateboarding, turns on the flickering light.
But that all happened later. I’m still upstairs, my dad is with me, as is Y, I show Dad how to turn on the computer again, what the password is (it’s on a paper stuck to the front of it, hilariously), I show him how to DDG. I print out the lyrics I was looking for. Surprisingly, even after a year, my mom’s very old system all works beautifully. Only the batteries in the mouse needed changing.
I go downstairs, dad and son with me, Dad goes back to alternating between sidoku and reading and yellow-highlighting Gurdjieff, my son and I play and sing, and laugh sometimes, through our many mistakes, as we both love laughing. My mom seems here with me, and her voice is ringing, though this is not a song she had ever known or chosen. Play, she’d say, just play anything… and she’d sit down and play something amazing.
There is so much of little importance that feels important happening, and what else to tell you?
I didn’t get much done on the house-emptying. I sit around for long stretches of sunday afternoon, as in the morning, staring, gazing, in wonderment of decades of life, of love, of family documented and deemed worth framing…
I didn’t know where to begin.
Dad moves from one couch to another (in amongst the basement bookshelves) and back again, depending on his urge for a little smoke and his preferred level of introversion. Reading, tapping.
I marvel at how able-bodied and sound of mind he is and at how many of us and how much we enable him. And yet, other than the pot, which was a substance that never agreed with my body, and instead this driven urge to not only read, but write constantly… at this stage of my life, I am not much different.
My sister calls and wants to pre-organize his estate financially (with his very agreeable consent) for tax reasons that I have no clue about but seems to make sense. She wants me to set up Netflix for him with shows of her choosing… something about The Queen’s Gambit. I’m like, “I don’t think he can navigate to Netflix nor will he want to watch it… he likes the news, and every time I tell him how to do something he forgets it. Which he is the first to say. And he’s told me he has no interest in it.”
She suggests that I could watch it with him, and/or write down the instructions. You like chess don’t you?
I feel embarrassed and a bit stupid, and surprised after all our years growing up together that she would think so. “To be totally honest, no. And I already have a lot to do… which I don’t seem to get to doing…”
“But there is high fashion.”
“Oh, ok, that sounds good… is okay for Y watch it too?” I ask.
She says something about scenes of a kid getting pill-addicted… but that it mirrors real life, so it should be fine.
But popping pills is nothing that Ythan is familiar with yet…. though he has come across many, many bottles of pills in this household, when looking for things like a comb or toothpaste, all of them prescribed and recommended by doctors. Which of course is normal here, for someone in their late seventies.
Honestly it still doesn’t sound good, nor important to me… but I really don’t want an argument, and the clock is ticking.
“All right, we’ll look it up.” Though I have only a short time left to pack up before leaving, I ask Y to stop the streaming the Simpsons and run the gambit show instead, as I run around packing; having, as always it seems, left everything until the last minute.
He can’t find it by tapping the letters into the search field. I double check his spelling. “Weird,” I say.
“That means it’s rated Mature,” he says.
And yet The Simpsons isn’t?
I don’t have time to look up the parental guide on IMDB.
“Ah ok. Well, I guess use Papa’s profile then, and Opa can watch it on his own. Dad… “ I say to him, “…L wants you to watch this program. If you want to get your homework done before she calls next time, you can watch it just after we’ve left.” I say with a wink.
Dad laughs good-naturedly, and quite suddenly aware, quite merrily. “Well, okay then.”
But when I tell L that he smokes pot all the time instead of helping with the sorting, the decision-making, the moving, before his drivers’ license is up for renewal and testing in May, she says he is able to make his own decisions, and it’s okay. And that he’s likely to pass the test anyway.
I begin to imagine ways that the younger kids and I could somehow move in with Dad instead (T understandably doesn’t want to — we’ve already discussed it). At least for a few months, to maybe make a dent in the piles, anyway. If you can’t move the mountain…
…and he’s so grateful to us all the time and kind… and one can’t help but love him.
…but uproot the kids again?
I ask Y, as we walk around the neighbourhood together later, once again visit the school, the closed-down theatre that professed to be “forever” (on the big sign behind its now-locked door), the parks close by… and oddly, he loves the idea.
I don’t know where to end this. It feels like barely the beginning.
And I haven’t even talked about the blogging…
Nadine, formerly of the “empty diagonal” in France, is a wife, mom, creative nonfiction writer and poet now living with her family in the land of their origins, southwestern Canada. She employs herself at various officially-unpaid jobs that she genuinely enjoys most of the time, including mothering, daughtering, sistering, pondering whether or not author bio’s should be written in the third person, deliberating incorrect use of apostrophes for better comprehension, and/or contemplating digital philosophies of the nature of reality, especially at early hours of the morning; while her husband does the diligent and difficult work of facing the real world, and helping with everything, both near and remotely. Thanks so much for reading. 🌷