Sunday, November 07, 2021

It Was(n't) a Very Good Year

My dad by a river's edge, before I was born. Date unknown, photographer, presumably my mother.

A piece of luggage, I suppose, is a fitting place to find a memory. As I packed a rarely used garment bag (I hardly ever travel with a suit) with my costume for Halloween night, I thought to reduce some weight by removing the laptop liner. Unexpectedly, there were some items still inside the insert’s many pockets. Mostly there were bandages for foot blisters which I painfully discovered were common when I travel. This is probably because I ride a bike everywhere, and on trips where walking is more common, it turns out I’m a bit of a tenderfoot. There was also a faded receipt.

At first I thought it was an overlooked business expense but then I saw the time and date and instantly knew what it was.

Tim Horton’s Toronto Int’l Airport,
JAN07 '14   9:27 AM

It was the day I travelled back to St. John’s for my father’s funeral.

2014 was, as they say, a helluva year. In January, my father died. Three months later I bought a house. A few months after that I was officially divorced. That autumn I would join a local advocacy group on a project that would take six years to see finished. They say the cadence of such eventful years is ten. I can’t say that’s true or not and I’m sure the Universe is on no such schedule.

“Death is not the opposite of life, but a part of it.”
—Haruki Murakami
I have come to realize the truth in that Murakami quote. This isn’t any even-numbered anniversary of my dad’s death but the recent passing of a loved one’s father certainly stirred up some grief from the bottom of the glass that is my memory. I was surprised by the emotion but it helped me come to terms with it like a surrendering army. There was disappointment but also relief. The grief will always be there but so will the funny and joyful memories. If death is a part of life then the grief of loss is also a part of knowing that life. You just have to roll with it.

What are the milestones of a life? I recall Facebook had attempted a timeline showing your birth, your graduation, your marriage, a change of address, a divorce, a long held job, et cetera. They seemed to have abandoned it for a "Memories" section instead. My phone will sometimes feature photos from "A Year Ago Today". I now question my earliest childhood memories as perhaps implants placed there after hearing so many stories of some event from my family or from projecting myself into a photo I've looked at many times. I remember my last day of high school. I'd purchased an newly releassed album (or LP) as a sort of gift to myself. It was a "special edition" pressed in translucent yellow vinyl. When I returned to the car, the album, left in the heat of the car, had almost folded itself like a hard shell taco. Later, I very carefully heated it in the oven to return it to flat, but it still had an undeniable wave form. I returned it to Sam's complaining it came out of the sleeve like that. I remember the day I realized I had completed my bachelor's degree. I still remember the first time I filed my income tax myself. That seemed like a milestone. I also remember the year I didn't pay any tax because I hadn't earned enough. For some reason, I can never remember the dates I was at college studying animation. My point is, I've always been someone who, while very conscious of my past, has not dwelled on it. I do not live there. I also am not the most forward thinking person (ask my accountant). Life is now, not then. Yet, occasionally you find a receipt in a pocket of some luggage that has its own baggage.


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