I can still remember our goodbye. It was the Saturday night of Thanksgiving weekend, 1997. I was in grade ten and, while I usually spent Saturday nights out causing trouble with friends (just kidding–I was totally square), for whatever reason I stayed in that night. My parents had invited friends over for the evening, one of the first times they entertained in their new house–a house I resented because it was in the suburbs and far from the friends (and historical charm) of our old neighbourhood. We met on the tiled landing in the foyer, where the home’s two staircases intersected: he was going to the lower level, and I was heading to my bedroom on the main floor. It was dark outside. The guests had all gone home. The hallway light was on above our heads, casting a warm yellow glow over the scene. We hugged as he said, “Good night. I love you.”
“I love you, too.” I said. “G’night.”
By morning he was gone.
A lot of memories of my dad have faded in the seventeen years since he passed away. After his death, grief, fear and pain hijacked my entire being, but some conscious part of me had the good sense to file away our final moments together. I cling to this memory like a cherished childhood blankie–it may be tattered and frayed around the edges (maybe he was the one going upstairs?) but its essence remains intact. It’s comforting to know that we had what, in hindsight, feels like a proper good-bye, even though we thought it was only good night.
My dad has missed a lot of important events in my life. Father-daughter driving lessons. Graduations. My wedding day. But the most significant event that he missed was the birth of my daughter earlier this year. She would have been his first grandchild. I couldn’t help but think of my dad, as I held this tiny girl in my arms just as he had once held me. Having a child of my own gave me a new understanding of the love he must have felt for my brother and me, and it makes me sad that he was robbed of the joy of watching his children grow up. Of seeing his daughter with a daughter of her own. I know he would have loved Olivia to bits, and I think he would’ve gotten a kick out of being a grandfather.
Every October 12, we remember my dad. We remember his warm smile, his gentle demeanour, his wisdom, his compassion, his goofy sense of humour, his giant, loving heart. There really was no else like him. This Thanksgiving weekend, I am so grateful for the time that I got to spend with my dad. I am also so incredibly thankful for Olivia and the fact that some part of my dad, however minuscule or magnificent it may be, lives on in her.