Tuesday, July 21, 2009


When I was little I constantly mixed up memory and remember. Easy to do, isn't it? I thought so, and my parents thought it was ever-so cute that they still tell the story. "Remember when you used to say 'I have a really good rememory'?" And then they'd laugh, at their cleverness, at me, at my cuteness.

I no longer mix up the words but sometimes bring it out at opportune times to get a giggle from my dad. He'd then launch into another memory - about me, at 18 months old - wearing really, really big, pink sunglasses. I mean really big. Really. Or about my very first black eye. Okay, I've had only one, but the story is cute so he insists on telling it.

I had decided in my wise five-year-old brain that it was a brilliant idea to fashion a train out of two bikes joined together by a long skipping rope. What I hadn't taken into account was the physics of the task, with my oversized tryke and my friend's oh-so-cool but much squatter two-wheeler with training wheels. All was well until we went around the corner . She went one way, I went the other and landed face first on the pavement. And from high on my perch, it was quite a tumble.

But, I didn't cry, and I think that's what my dad was most proud of. Not one tear. Instead, I calmly walked back to my house, went inside to where my dad was reading in his bathroom library (I actually gave him a sign that read "This is a bathroom not a library," until he reminded me that I was afflicted with the same bathroom reading disease). I calmly asked if he could come out and look at something. He opened the door and I said in my five-year-old voice: "Daddy, is this black?" I explained what had happened and he handed me a cold face cloth and said "Don't tell your mother or you'll never be allowed back on that bike." I wondered then how he could be so intuitive. Well, I wondered how he could be so smart as I had yet to learn what "intuitive" meant.

I have a lot of rememories, from as far back as I can remember. Some are as clear as day and others are a little blurry from years of trying to remember particulars. Sometimes I still feel like that little girl who was inaugurated into the world of black eyes, who would run past doors in the basement for fear of hands reaching out to grab her, or would hide behind her father's legs when she was too shy to even say hello. I've outgrown my shyness to some extent, but in new situations I still wish I could fit behind my father's legs. I wish he could still swing me into a pool and cheer when I managed to swim up to the surface.

He's older now, approaching 80, but don't tell him. He'll just deny it. But I couldn't deny it about eight years ago when he went into the hospital to repair a bulge in his aorta. My mother was a basket case, which is a normal occurence, and I was going through the start of a messy separation and subsequent divorce. And here was my father, my hero, my slayer of dragons, the man who would tell me we were going to Timbuktu when we were driving only an hour north to visit my grandmother, hooked up to intravenous tubes, oxygen and a mess of EKG wires monitoring his huge, loving heart. His damaged heart.

I fainted. I felt so weak, like I did at four years old, scared of the monsters lurking beneath the stairs. But this time the monsters were real - a potentially fatal bulge and a threat of oncoming pneumonia - it was the first time, in my 30 years, that I was faced with my own father's mortality. It was close and I wanted to hold my breath until the monster went away.

The story has a happy ending. My father and I got a reprieve. The operation was a success, and while the recovery was a tough one - pneumonia did rear its ugly head - we fought the monster together and we've had almost nine more years of memories.

I've always thought my dad was cool. While I often romanticized my mother's Scottish upbringing, it was my father who held the cool card. A third-generation Canadian in Ontario farmland, my father grew up in the time between the Depression and World War II. He not only knew what a "teddy boy" was, he was one. He had a pet crow that would land on his head on his way home from school, he knew how to rollerskate, ride a bike and a horse and he could whistle any tune. When I was 12 and entering into my pre-teen world, my father offered to drop me off at the roller skating place - SkateCountry - and I was mortified when he announced that he would skate too. Until he put the skates on and did five laps around the rink -- he could kick my butt on rollerskates, blindfolded.

At 78 (or 80 as I often add two years on for good measure), Joe is still cool. He's Joe Cool, the epitome of cool, and though we may disagree on some key points, I know that he'll always offer me refuge behind his legs. I can always count on him for a quick joke and a teasing tone and a twinkle in his eye as he says he should have got another dog instead of having me. A quick wink and I know he's got his fingers crossed behind his back. Thank goodness for reprieves.


  1. That's wonderful. Those are good rememories!

  2. Thanks Summer!

    My father's ears must have been burning because as soon as I posted this, he called and wanted to go for dinner. Wooo hooo! Free dinner! (and good memories too)

  3. Beautiful post, Scribe. I enjoyed every word of it.

    Have fun at dinner!