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Monday, October 08, 2012

27 Boxes of Books

My dad died four years ago today. No one said anything to me and I feel like they all forgot. They probably did, except for mum. She probably figured I didn’t need reminding, but still. I wish one person would have said something to me today...but no one did. 
To be fair, last year I forgot. I was happily minding my own business on October 7th and in the evening, my mum called me to see how I was managing, on this, the 3rd anniversary of my dad’s death. I replied, “Well, I was doing just fine forgetting about it until you called to remind me. Now I feel like shit that I forgot. What I horrible person I am. Thanks for reminding me.” She felt terrible, but I’m pretty sure I felt worse. 
So ironically,  I celebrated thanks today, on the anniversary of his death. I am thankful though. I’m still alive. But I can’t help but be bitter that I am dadless and that my youngest daughter will tell people, “My mom’s dad? Oh, he died before I was born.” And my oldest daughter will say, “Oh, ya, my grandpa died when I was two. I don’t remember him.”
For those two things I am not thankful.
I miss my dad, although sometimes I wonder why because we had a complicated relationship. Part of me did not like him very much and will probably never forgive him for leaving my mum and me when I was 15, essentially ending my life as I knew it. Another part of me loved him deeply because he was my dad. He taught me why the moon waxes and wanes. He told me never put up with a guy with a temper, because one day the temper would be turned on me. He had this deep, gravelly laugh that I can’t quite remember anymore. He smelled like tobacco smoke and he read copious amounts of science fiction. He paced while he thought about a difficult problem or if something he heard on the news was driving him crazy. He started making bread right before he died and whenever he experimented a little too much and had a crappy batch, he fed it to the ducks in the park across the street. 
When he died, both my brother and I were living outside of Canada and we had to fly home to clear out his apartment. Neither of us had a lot of time as we had to return to our homes, so we left a lot of stuff, but we did the best we could. Perhaps if one of us had had a home in Canada, we would have kept more things that belonged to him. More things that he had once touched. I have one teak box with a few artifacts from his life and I wish I had kept a shirt or something. The most time-consuming and hardest tasks we had was packing up his books because both my brother and I would grab the odd book from his collection as we packed them up and stop to read for a bit. We both packed a box each to take home with us, but there were so many, we couldn't keep the rest. I now have one row of books in my own library that once belonged to my father. I don’t even know why I picked those particular ones or if I will ever read them and I couldn’t tell you the title of even one. My eyes pass over them, unfocused, when I go upstairs to pick a book out. I suppose it’s a type of avoidance. One day I will pick one out and hold it and think about my dad holding it, reading it. Maybe I will picture him standing in the bookstore, deciding whether to buy it or not. Bookstore visits were a thrice-weekly occurrence for my dad. In any case, I have not read any of these books yet. But I will.
So what it came down to was packing up my dad’s stuff, taking a few small things and donating the rest to charity. The last night was packing the rest of the books. We packed all the books and loaded them into a van and drove them over to a used bookstore. It was dark, raining. Middle of October in Southwest Ontario, you know? So we get to the used book store and they don’t want them. We stare at each other in the wet and the gloom and decide to take them to Value Village. It seems like a good idea because the money will go to charity and we both think Dad would like that. So we unload the boxes and there are so many of them. I tell Dave we need to count them and we come up with twenty-seven. And that’s it. My dad’s life came down to 27 boxes of books abandoned on a rainy night on the cold pavement. 
I wonder what I’m supposed to get out of this experience. Losing my dad at the age of 31 and having this difficult, often sad, often strained relationship with him before he was taken from us. In my mind, I see his books that he loved so much being dropped off at some second hand place and us driving away. It took every ounce of strength I had not to run back and take every book back with me. I wish to this day that I had. 
Do you want to know what I got out of it? To be thankful for every second I have on this earth with these dear people I love. To love life and read books. To look at the moon and remember what he taught me. And to feed the ducks.