My dad is gone and not gone. The only way I deal with this is forgetting. If I was the drinking sort, this would be a bit of a problem. If I was the career driven sort, I'd be a millionaire. Given that I'm the studious sort, it's a slightly more worthy way of making stuff go away. When I was at university originally, my old life and family in Hereford were gladly and thankfully lost at the back of the mental cupboard.
As I get older it occurs to me that there is so much else I've forgotten. Not just some of the unreally traumatic bits, but the valuable too. Whether it is a family holiday, an old family friend or even just a pet I used to have, I'm not sure why, whether it's a normal part of age or life. Or whether it's something more perniciously psychological.
Do people who live in the same village they grew up in, surrounded by physical manifestations of memory retain more? Is my emotional amnesia due to a combination of a thirst for knowledge and the inevitable grief caused by loss. By looking for connections, have I lost the obvious ones? And by trying to distance myself to avoid being vulnerable, I've actually lost myself. Or are some people hard wired to keep the stories alive and I'm simply not like that?
I've spent so much time avoiding or hiding from family I think I've forgotten it's importance in the cultivation and maintenance of what made me, me. It's not that I want to sit there with a notebook and pen and write my family stories but when I'm with them, they jog so many distant images, its almost unbearable. The sounds of my fathers' friends enjoying themselves is the sweetest music. To sit and listen and simply be is to revert to being twelve.
I was touched by the memory of my father today in an unusually visceral way. I'm used to my wonderful aunt, and she keeps my dad and grandparents alive in her own unique way. She is so like him in presence. Her voice encapsulates all that I love about them all. The pattern of speech is my grandad and the laugh is pure grandma. She is inspeakably special to me.
But it was dad's old motorbike police partner that did for me today. I didn't remember the gentleman but inevitably he remembered me. 'Bob's daughter'. I've not been called that for many years and it was like being a kid when I went to meet dad at the police station. His Wirral humour was suitably and familiarly macabre on recounting the usual decapitation/body parts stories, so beloved by ex police officers. I genuinely wish I could run back and ask him everything that he could tell me about dad. God I hope we meet again.
I am becoming cautious about my year away because I'm sure it's just an escape from negligible responsibilities and an avoidance of an empty familial ache. But in the meantime I'm determined to see everyone more, appreciate and remember how they helped shape me. When I get back, I want to be the best aunt I can me, after all, I have the best role model!