This weekend was, more or less, the fifth anniversary of my dad’s death. So we went to Smitty’s and had eggs Benedict, and then I bought myself a very JJ parka.
Having noticed the auspicious anniversary, I was thinking a bit about Dad. I thought I’d told this story already, but I couldn’t find it in a search of my site. Maybe it was just in my eulogy.
For most of my life, Dad had a beard. If you dig out the really old SRCI yearbooks, you can find photos of him clean-shaven. I think he grew the beard in about 1980 or so, and he must have liked the way it looked because he kept it for a long, long time.
He told me once that his plan was to win the lottery, do all the necessary publicity, cash the cheque, then shave his beard off and become invisibly rich.
It was a solid plan, too. If you saw a photo of him pre-beard next to one of him with the beard, you might be hard-pressed to say the two photos were the same person. JJ : Beard :: Superman : glasses.
Then one year, when he was working up in Lac Brochet, he and Mom came out of the north for the summer and… he was clean-shaven.
The first thing I asked him, when I saw him, was, “Is there something I should know?”
I just realized a few minutes ago that it’s been
three four years plus a day.
(Thanks for the math lesson, Mom.)
I watched some Rocky & Bullwinkle and dozed off on the couch, both things I think Dad would approve of.
I overheard a mother today telling her kid, “Remember, silent suffering”, and I thought of Dad and I smiled. It just seemed like something he’d say.
Dad loved cop shows from the ’70s and ’80s. He wasn’t a big fan of ’80s and ’90s music, though. So imagine my surprise, one day, when, home for a weekend, I heard the dulcet tones of the Beastie Boys coming from the TV that he was watching. It was such an odd occurrence, in fact, that it took me a moment to recognize what I was hearing.
Then it clicked: it was the breakdown in “Sabotage”.
I came out of my room just in time for the lyrics to start up again, and Dad, realizing he’d been tricked, switched the channel.
I get it, though. It sure does look like an ’80s cop show.
With some of the money I inherited from my dad, last year, I bought an 11–16mm f/2.8 lens for my camera. In plain English, it’s a nice fast lens with a nice wide field of view, which means that it’s great for astrophotography.
Tonight, the stars aligned for me, as it were. There was almost a 50/50 chance of some aurora sightings, per SpaceWeather. The temperature was a balmy ‑1°C, which was a pleasant change from the ‑25°C and ‑35°C nights we’ve had for the last couple weeks.
Long story short, there was a faint haze to the north. Editing with Gimp brings out quite a bit more than the naked eye could see.
As my camera clicked away, I leaned back against the car. At one point I thought of Kurt Vonnegut’s quote: If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.
On my way back to work after lunch, a City of Brandon truck passed by on the street, carrying a load of freshly-cut evergreen boughs. Just for a second I smelled sawn pine, faintly, and I felt a momentary touch of nostalgia, because pine was the wood of choice for Dad, whether he was in the shed at home or teaching shop class. It was common wood: soft, inexpensive, and ubiquitous.
I grew up smelling cut pine.
Then it passed and all I could smell was winter in the city again.
Speaking as someone who watched his father slide into dementia, this is very interesting.
To combat [memory loss, researcher Anne-Christine Hertz] built a prototype called BikeAround, which pairs a stationary bike with Google Street View to take dementia patients on a virtual ride down memory lane. Patients input a street address of a place that means something to them—a childhood home[,] for instance—and then use the pedals and handlebars to “bike around” their old neighborhoods.
Hey. Just a warning: This isn’t an easy read. It wasn’t easy to write, either.
Today is January 25th, when Bell, inspired by a spirit of boundless compassion*, will give a pile of money to mental health initiatives, so long as you tag your discussion correctly. So… here’s my 5¢ worth, I guess.
As some of you know, my dad recently died. He was in a nursing home for years before he left us, a victim of pretty severe dementia. So in a way, he died twice: once in the mind, slowly falling away over years, and then in body, later, more quickly.
Even before the dementia became apparent, there were hints of depression. Maybe things could have been different if he’d spoken up, or if we’d asked the right questions. (Let’s talk, Dad.) Hindsight is, of course, always 20/20, but Dad just wasn’t the type to talk about these things. (Neither am I, really. Not usually.)
I’m like Dad in a lot of ways. I look like him, I sound like him, and many of his mannerisms and turns of phrase are deeply ingrained in me too. We both love science fiction. We both lack a spleen, thanks to a genetic condition whose name I never learned.
But I’m also unlike him in a lot of ways. I do my best to go to the gym, which I think he might find a foreign concept. I don’t like canned peas (grey salty sadness pellets), I enjoy kiwifruit and yogurt, I read the occasional fantasy novel.
Sometimes—not very often, but sometimes—I wonder if his fate is my fate. People tell me that it’s not, and I do my best to listen.
* I imagine there are tax benefits, too.