The week my father died

October 16th 2008

I came home from school today and checked my messages, part of the daily routine.  I look at who called on my call display, who left messages and who didn’t.  Today there was one from Paperman and Sons, a Montreal area code, and i remember it is a Jewish funeral home in Montreal, i call my mother to confirm. She says it is, but thought they went out of business.  I said they didn’t, they called me today at 12:38, didn’t leave a message. We both think it’s my dad, he must have died, or a mistake, a wrong number.  She says it doesn’t matter anyway, why would it bother me if he was dead, she wouldn’t care, she hates him more than anyone else in the world.  I say that she’s a weirdo, how can she not feel anything, how does she expect me to not feel anything. She can’t know how she would respond if my father was dead.   I check Paperman’s website and this is how i find out my father is dead. They list his service, the day’s you sit Shiva(the mourning period) and his obituary, i see my name and those of my siblings and my Aunt, Uncle and cousins.  All these people i have little to no relationship to, other than blood.  I think i’m sad, i am sad, i feel strange.  I call back my mom, tell her he  is dead, she is blank, said she would call my sister, angry that i am sad i think, some kind of betrayal to her maybe.  I call Murray, not sure why, he’s like family and then I call my brother, who doesn’t know what to say, I ask him to call our sisters and pass on the news. We say we love each other and hang up.  I am writing because i don’t know what else to do.  I look at this obituary and i think of this sad life.  Someone who died of Alzheimers at 80 with none of his children near him and no contact with any of them for years.  I had not seen him for 20 years. I have a vague memory of phone contact in 1994, when i was stuck in Italy and my sister phoned him for some money. December 31st 2001, i left him a hateful phone message telling him how horrible he was to all of us, how pathetic he is, and something along the lines of him dying alone.  I was never prepared to talk to him that day or any day since, i thought about it. that it would be a cathartic experience. I had contemplated seeing him when i was in Montreal in June. I didn’t, thought it would be too painful, and he wouldn’t know me anyhow.

Friends would ask me if i ever felt like killing him, or wished he was dead. I didn’t, i was frightened of him, i felt bad for him. I didn’t know what else to feel, he made me feel bad for him, he knew i would, he knew i was the one who would go with him when no one else would.  I feel tired, but not sleepy, sad, heavy and a little relieved, my chest was pounding earlier, my body cold, and i don’t know what else to do but write. Maybe i will sleep. I read a number of years ago, or maybe i heard it in some survivor’s group that when the perpetrator dies, all kinds of feelings come forward, a type of flood. I don’t know if that’s what’s happening. I just found out today. I feel sick. He is part of why i am here in the world, his actions have shaped who i have become.

October 17th

Very little sleep, but lots of lying down. Strange dreams.  Lots of crying today, and some yelling at my Mother.  She doesn’t understand why i couldn’t sleep or why i have any tears. I looked at back at the Paperman and Sons website today and i along with all my siblings with the exception of my sister Gail have been omitted from the obituary.  I call the funeral home and ask why, they say it was my Aunt that wanted it that way.  I call my mother and she says it was my father’s request and that my aunt was following his instructions, more than willingly i imagine, cruelty runs in the family.   My sister was the only one to keep in contact with him, and the only reason she did, according to her, was so she could get money from him when he dies.  He beat her to a pulp on many occasions. I had this desire to add to the obituary,”Dear Father of Gail, who he beat with metal and leather belts, and once, a vacuum cleaner.” The revisionist history of obituaries. I think it bothers me, because however twisted it might be, i earned a right to be in his obituary, we all suffered so much, and then we are written out like it didn’t happen. In my child mind i thought he liked me best because he barely hit me. He barely hit me  because i was trying to behave, stay quiet so he wouldn’t be angry, i would go with him so he wouldn’t hurt anybody, because i felt bad for him, no one wanted to be with him, neither did i, sometimes i guess.   It feels weird to be writing while all of this is so fresh, but i’m not sure what else to do.  I feel a strange quietness has fallen on my world, the war is over, he is gone,  there is possibility in the air, freedom. It is one feeling i have, the others are noisier.  The other change in the obituary was the removal of donating to Alzheimer’s; today it was Geriatric Care at Maimonides Hospital. My sister had once questioned whether or not he really had Alzheimer’s. His mother died of it, not impossible.  It is more another question of authenticity, trust. There was no trust in my house, illness was used to manipulate, protect and excuse bad behaviour. It doesn’t matter, he’s gone now. 

October 18

Yesterday i thought i needed to get out, get distracted. I got on my bike and rode towards Strathcona because Jill had called about an event yesterday that she needed help with. I didn’t feel i could do it, but i went by to see if i could help out for a little bit.  I parked my bike at Murray’s. Went to the park and came back and Murray and i went for a drive out to Finn Slough, in between we went to a lunchtime pupussa making fundraiser for victims of the hurricane in Cuba last year.  The food was amazing, and the people were really kind.  The fundraiser was out of a basement suite in a house behind Famous Foods.  Some of the kids were watching “Back to the Future”.  We left, pleasantly full.  I’ve never been to Finn Slough, it was beautiful. All these rickety houses on the water, with bikes on top, all kinds of hippy-arty stuff everywhere.  We headed back, and i rode my bike back home to meet Keira, Brian and Harry for dinner. I get home and there is a beautiful bouquet at my doorstep, no card. I think it’s from Kerry, and it is.  I feel very cared for on this day, friends checking in on me and distracting me.  We have a great dinner at Kiss yo Mama in Burnaby, more comfort food: roti, curry, fruit punch, and pineapple upside down cake with whipped cream and ice cream.  I come home, and i’m hyper, probably the sugar, but it feels more manic. I eventually settle, but don’t really feel like i sleep, even though i’m dreaming.

October 19th 

Blur of a day.  See Jill, help her spend some of the donation money to the Afterschool Program on arts supplies, pick up some groceries and head home.  I start organizing my work area, i cook, i just can’t really focus on assignments.  I talk to my mom’s friend in Montreal, and she’s happy i’m in school, and horrified by my Aunt’s behaviour, but not completley surprised.   I spend a few hours on the phone with Marge. Do a bit of writing and head to bed.

October 20th

More cooking. Some research for my first term film and proposal writing for my communications class.  I have lunch with Charles and his friend Christos, a fellow composer.  I head to work, have some funny moments with the kids, but i’m not there.  I come home, Kerry comes by for dinner, and Bruce joins us after to throw some ideas around for the first term project. I feel a little more confused when they leave.  Anger is bubbling.

October 21st

Went to school this morning.  I was completley out of it.  I told my instructors, with the exception of Warren who i will tell tomorrow. I was on the verge of tears for most of the day.  I can’t be normal right now.  I feel angry, and i feel angry with my Mom, angry that she married this man out of spite and not love, angry that i never got an apology or any acknowledgment from my father about the harm he caused. He hurt so many people, he hurt me, he hurt me, he hurt my brother, my sisters and my mother. Hurt sounds like hurt feelings, like he called somebody a bad name, it was far more than that, he was a rapist, a child and wife beater.  I’m angry because i’m not  supposed to feel sad, i’m not supposed to have any “real grief” the kind where you can’t stop crying because you are in so much pain, because the person you admired most in the world, the person that raised you, loved you, took the best care of you, believed in you, this person, he died, he never existed, i never had this father, i had the other father, the father that held you emotional hostage, a father i hit in the face when i was 13 because i thought he did a pathetic job of pretending to be an alcoholic, so i poured his Smirnoff down the sink. I had the father that acted like he loved me more, because he didn’t brutalize me as much as everybody else, because i stayed quiet, i behaved for the most part, except for when i had to explode, when i had to hit him, when i drew blood in his face, my last memory, being chased up the stairs and not knowing what happened next.  He never bothered to find me, to make amends, not like he could have, you can’t commit crimes against a whole family and simply ask forgiveness.  He practiced denial, religiously. He would hit someone, and then say he did nothing, or he barely touched them, or deflect,”oh yeah, i’m the worst father in the world” so we would feel bad for him, or i would. I didn’t want him to feel bad.   I feel cheated, angry, sad and a bit twisted. I’m saying he’s dead so randomly, matter of factly, almost to shock, and then i apologize.  Maybe i need to stop talking and do some of this homework that i really don’t want to touch. Maybe i should just give myself a timeline, like Thursday, that would be one week.

October 22nd

I could hardly move this morning. I couldn’t go to school, too tired, and not focusing. I can just cook, tidy, write about other things and play with my computer.  Every time is start to write about my ideas, they seem to make less sense as they reach the screen.  Maybe it’s just my head right now, I was able to write a perfectly good piece of slag mail to Mayor and Council yesterday, clear, sharp, powerful. It was the punch i wanted to give to this girl cracking her gum on the bus, the punch i wanted to give to other people, maybe my bitch aunt.  I’m feeling fatter by the day.  Not even fatty stuff, good stuff, the usual, veggies, tofu, some carbs, not too bad, just a lot of it.  No exercise, the occasional bike ride, walking up the hill at school with a heavy bag, film equipment, but mostly sitting on my flat bum. I don’t need to slag my body right now. I was jokingly saying i should start smoking, drinking coffee, or doing drugs; that way i could disassociate and not get fat. Computers and food, deadly combination.  I said i would stop and i didn’t, i will now.  I went to work, we ran out of the matte board i was using for painting with the kids, so i convinced them to fix their incomplete or mucked up pictures from previous weeks, or paint collaboratively, they weren’t that excited. We have cheery young dancers to come in over the next month to keep the occupied, so that takes a bit of pressure off of coming up with new stuff for them to do.  I talked to Kathy after all the kids went home and told her about my dad dying.  She was shocked, she was glad i told her.  Her mom died a month ago. They had an amazing service, the whole family was there throughout the dying process, and they honoured her life in a beautiful way.  I wanted to talk to her because she is a person of strong faith. She believes as i do, most of the time, that there is some design in all of this mess, there is some plan.  She offered for me to come by any time and have some wine and share stories of our parents, doesn’t matter what kind.  

October 23

It is one week today that i found out my father died, and i will stop this post today.  I went to school, and listened to all the film presentation pitch’s by my fellow classmates. There were a few about family and even if they weren’t family seemed to be the reason they wanted to make their film. Not all, but many. Matt  is making a film about Jean Maclelland who wrote Songbird for Anne Murray.  He talked about hearing his dad playing piano as he went to sleep when he was little, and how comforting that was for him. I was crying, and i kept crying, through stories of taking care of aging parents, and the story of one man who was spared beheading by a Japanese soldier in the war, because a photo of this man’s family had slipped from his hand, and had been seen by this soldier who had a moment of humanity in the madness.  I am amidst people who want a more just world, who care and i feel so fortunate for that.  I made it through the day and i felt like i should have left sooner. i couldn’t really think, but i took some notes and the day ended early.  I went for dinner with Donna and then came home. Last week at lunch hour, i had a memory of this soup that i had when i was little. It was made by this woman, Mrs. Macdonald.  One of the few nice memories i have of my father was when brought me to her restaurant in the Eastern Townships of Quebec before it opened. It was my first time in a restaurant kitchen, it was exciting seeing all the giant pots and multiple stove and ovens. Behind the scenes.   She made this soup, the best vegetable soup i ever had, i was always trying to make it, and it never really worked, it never tasted like hers. I had this memory of the soup last week at around lunch time.  I got home and saw my call display, Paperman’s, the Funeral Home had called at 12:38.  Today, when i was having my soup for lunch, a lifelong soup lover I will be, I came close, it was the turnips.


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