Sunday, January 18, 2009

The memories

I had this whole blog planned about how my roomie had food poisoning yesterday but how at first we thought it was norovirus (stomach flu), so I wiped everything down with bleach or alcohol...

But then I rarely post without photos now, so I was browsing my collection looking for the one of the baldacchino at St Peter's Basilica to share. Came across one of my parents, Ruth and Oliver.

Staring at this image, their smiles, their eyes, remembering how they were together, I burst into tears that would not stop. Maybe will happen every so often, just when I think I'm over it. God knows what my mother feels in her lonely hours. Her eyes are always sad now, even when she's smiling.

This was their last photo "together", at the wedding of the son of an old family friend. Nobody yet knew they had been divorced for months. Neither of them had yet even broken the habit of holding hands. My dad is the best hand-holder in the world. She used to talk about the first time he held her hand, and the electric thrill that went up her arm and made her heart jump. It was real! I've felt it too.

My father could never be near my mother without reaching for her. It's like they needed each other. I will never, ever forget...the day he walked out it was so sudden and unexpected. As he turned to leave, my mother reached out for his sleeve, in a gesture of helplessness and desperation, a side of her I'd never seen...For the rest of that day, I was mute. My poor mother for some reason made me help her wash my car while a thunderstorm approached. I suppose that was better than sitting inside thinking about it. She spoke to me, and I would not make a sound.

That day she lost every bit of confidence and trust he had nurtured in her since her first marriage had ended. But then so did I. We've both had to start from scratch. I moved away to London so I made slightly more progress over that first year. I will never forget the day I began to see things in color again, as though my eyes had just opened to the world around me, but she was still stuck with the house and the memories so she went to the gym every day, working out the negativity and the pain. To this day neither of us are quite what we once were. Like a couple of broken vases that have been glued back together but don't stand quite as straight as they once did.

People tell me, I was an adult and it should not have affected me. That it happened and I should just forget about it. They can't understand what it's like to be an only child and an extra sensitive person (as my mother says, "still waters run deep"). My parents and I were everything to each other. The end of their marriage caused me to question my very existence. My foundation was shattered and the source from which I drew my strength had shriveled up. And there were no brothers or sisters to share the pain with me.

My parents suited each other so much - in looks, height, intellect, and personality. They even aged at the same (slow) rate. They had struck such a balance together and even though this was the second marriage for them (the first being disastrous mistakes) the D-word was anathema to our minds. They had found their One. All my friends wanted to grow up to find love like theirs.

My mum managed the money and my dad managed the rest. He always told her, "Don't worry about it, hon, I'll take care of it". And he did. Now she struggles to learn how to do things she never needed to do before. Although she was an ambitious and feisty career woman when they met, he would not abandon his pursuit. In the end, she put it
all aside to have me and dedicate her whole being to marriage and family. She seemed born to be a wife and mother and he seemed born to be a provider.

Of course, it wasn't perfect. She's a middle child and he's a youngest. She is bossy, he is rebellious, and both of them are stubborn. But when they argued and he'd flounce out for a drive, he'd always come back and hold her and say he's sorry, and that she's right of course. Now that I am older of course I have identified little things to look out for, to avoid, or to aim for in my own marriage one day...But what they had was as close to perfection as I've seen a couple achieve.

My father was the most affectionate, warm-hearted, positive, generous, loving, intelligent, creative, and handy man I have ever known. I hate how I always use the past tense. He is still alive, but I haven't seen him in over two years, and I miss him. I miss his blue-green eyes with the hazel freckles that change in every light. His perfect laugh, how he throws his head back and how his eyes become more blue as his cheeks turn red. His soft warm hands enveloping my little ones. His strong heart beat, the sound of safety and security. I still like to hear his warm and vibrant voice on the phone, especially when I get voice-hugs. But he never really talks about himself anymore. It's like catching crumbs. He makes me do all the talking, but when I need it, I am amazed at how much positive encouragement and advice he gives. He could almost be a life coach.

He has done everything, so now I know where I get that from. At school he wanted to be a physicist, and his bookshelves attest to this, but he was also good with his hands - he made copper bowls and a wood stool with a woven seat, things that are so strong they will outlast even me. At home, he made me a rocking chair, a train on wheels, and when I went to university he made me a dainty shelf for my cosmetics and wrote on the back of it. Before making it in oil & gas, he danced, modelled, met actors and artists and people with noble titles; worked in electronics, even on the early Concorde and other mysterious projects.

He's the kind of man who wouldn't waste time in dryness. Let me explain: No matter how old I was (and I left home at 25) I couldn't pass him more than a certain number of times without a "come here" and a lovely huggle and a big kiss on my forehead. If I was standing around waiting for something in the microwave, the last 7 seconds would not be wasted - those were to be taken up in a hug if he was nearby. Even when I have my own family one day, I bet I will still want a Daddy hug. Then again, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to plant a butterfly kiss on his cheek. And when this song came out, we owned it.

When I was in my late teens, I had to tell him that when we went to the mall, he couldn't hold my hand any more. He was so disappointed. I'll always be his baby. He still really only calls me that. When I was little he once told me, "You can get married one day one one condition." "What's that, Daddy?" "You still let me call you baba." "OK, Daddy."

But gooey stuff aside, my father made me funny. I would go home on the weekends and he and I would bounce off each other like a comedy duo. My mum would laugh till her eyes watered. Charged up with all this wit and energy, I would go back to university and spend the week making my friends laugh too. I still have a sense of humor, but the sparkle is something I seem to have lost. I miss the laughter and the inside jokes. And I miss the love notes and drawings he would scribble on Post Its as he ate his breakfast before work, one for me on my placemat, and one for mum on hers.

Growing up, to hear my daddy say, "I love you." was the most thrilling thing beside that wonderful glowing look he would give, the look only a father can give his baby daughter - a look of molten pride. And a grin. His grin is contagious, it splits his face in two.

I also miss the look of pure adoration he would bestow on my mother. We used to call them eye-beams. When he eye-beamed at her, she would eye-beam back with her big eyes, and she'd look so chuffed, and her bottom lip might tremble with the joy, which would make him laugh. She used to tell me that when he came home from work and she heard the car door close, her heart would flutter. And when she baked his special breakfast buns for him every week, she would tell me, "I love your father so much, the love is just pouring out of my heart into these buns." He would always feel that when he ate them.

And all this he left...


meimei said...

liv, this is a very endearing post

The Moody Minstrel said...

Congratulations. You got a tear out of me. Maybe even a couple. That was as lovely as it was (no doubt) painful. I don't even want to try to imagine what it must have been like, and that's coming from someone who didn't get along well with his own father at all.

And still you have the sparkle and the humor. I guess a strong soul is a strong soul.

Anonymous said...

Situations like these, always leave more room for questions, then answers. It's not easy O, but you know that.

I pray, that your questions will be answered one day. Maybe even this year. And, that you meet with your father. Maybe even something broken, can make a beautiful mosiac.

Good luck! *hug*

nikkipolani said...

I don't know what to say, dearheart, at this loss in your life. I mean, your dad is still there, but so far. I can almost feel the shock you experienced when your dad left your family. Hugs.

beginninghere said...

Liv - you have expressed both your love and your loss so well. Of course I am crying for you on both counts. At this point I just feel a tremendously heavy heart for you. Your grief is deep because your love is deep. This is really important stuff Liv. I pray for you. Hugs.

pete said...

Well written, Liv, I'm sorry that it still hurts you both so. x

Anonymous said...

I have no doubt at all that you needed to write this. Your words flowed and they read as heart-ripping/warming real life feelings. (not just words... if that makes sense) I hope you found the writing of this wonderful piece cathartic.
My thoughts are with you and if hugs help I leave you a bucket full of virtual ones.

Jo said...

Oh, Liv. You know, it's really amazing that you can still reach into that place in your heart that still hasn't quite healed and share all of that love and hurt with us. It's very generous and brave of you.

Still, though, I think you're a beautiful person. You may not be the very same Liv you were before your parents divorced, but I think you're stronger and wiser.

I'm sending big hugs your way from Dallas.

Arunima said...

hugs to you. I know how it is to see marriage of parents breaking down. In a way, don't you think it is nice you have only the good times to behold and not the ugly parts (or is it that you are ignoring it here). many children go through the ugly parts unwillingly leaving them with a scar for life.

steve said...

This is a truly beautiful piece of writing. My parents were divorced when I was 13. But I don't think they were ever as deeply in love as your parents were. That they divorced when you were an adult makes no difference. When two people appear to have true love (and from what you write, they did have it) and then divorce, it's a very sad occasion.

I hope you will be able to see your father soon, and that you will find true love of your own, with someone who will cherish you for the rest of his life.

AmitL said...

Olivia,believe me, I had a tear in my eyes reading this was so touching..and,it's just one of those occasions when I wonder at God's justice. It's good that you've been so strong-hearted since then, and,I am sure,you've been a pillar for your Mom throughout.I hope you meet your father someday,soon!
On a similar note, I passed through a slightly similar situation, some years back. But, it was my Mom's passing away. And,at that time, it left Dad shattered,since they were so close. Can still remember the doctor telling me,at 3 AM in the morning,that'your mother is no more'..I couldn't believe my ears...and,like you,since then,for me too,the sparkle's gone from my life!Sigh!!

Anonymous said...

Oh Livsybum,I know just how you feel. Sometimes parents just don't understand how a child sees the world and they don't make their parental choices carefully enough. Still at least your mum and dad are still around in the world and that's a big blessing, there's still time to tell them how you feel and hopefully make them see how their parting affected you, and whatever the outcome at least they would know how you feel. I made that effort with my dad and I was so glad I did because he died suddenly just a year later, but that year we had was the best of my life becuase we were so much closer and full of understanding for one another. I hope things work out for you and you get some peace. Love lots xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

panda_eyed said...

Oh Livs.. this brought a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat. You write so beautifully. I'm sorry you lost a wonderful little family unit. It's no consolation to know that you're stronger for what you've gone through, is it?

I really hope you and your daddy reconnect again soon. Love you lots and sending you hugs..