- Why do dry rocks change colour when they get wet?
- Did you really enjoy getting up at 6am every morning to mix milk for our pet calves and lambs?
- What was your most memorable moment in your teaching career?
- What did people say to you (especially the Australians) when you gave your entire conference welcome speech in Maori?
- When did you even learn Maori?
- Where did you want to travel to next?
- Were you too disappointed when I didn’t buy a house back in 2000 and then house values shot up?
- Tell me again what kind of rock greywacke is and why there is so much of it?
- And what about argilyte?
- What is your favourite flower or plant?
- Did you know how lucky I thought I was to have a Dad who spent hours helping me to understand chemistry and physics?
- Did you know how proud I was of you and how much I loved you?
I could go on for hours. All the questions I would love to ask my Dad if I could. I know I’ve asked some of them before when as a child us three girls hunted rocks with Dad while Mum wandered along behind (no doubt releived she wasn’t at the recieving end of our incessant questioning). I didn’t take all the answers in though. I knew I could always ask again if I forgot. Dad would always be there. But now he’s not.
On Saturday the 9th of August it will be one year since my Dad died. To be completely honest about it the day doesn’t seem that much different to any other day. It’s just another day that Dad is dead.
I wake up some mornings thinking that I am going to see him soon. Some part of me still hovers at the edge of comprehension, not wanting to give into the desolate acknowledgement that I will never see my father again. It’s that part that is telling me that Dad will actually be there at dinner on Saturday night. We’ll have all his favourite food: French beef stew, spicy fruit compote, gourmet dips, glazed ham, roasted potatoes and plenty of good wine. All his friends and family will be there. Surely he will be too.
Even after a year I continue to play over in my head the evening he died. It gives me a bizarre sense of hope. That hovering incomprehension cajoles me into it: maybe if I think it differently it might actually have happened differently and Dad will be pouring the drinks on Saturday. But the replay always ends the same way: my Dad dead on a hospital trolley and me gasping out the tears.
Everybody says it gets easier after a year. But then everybody also says it is different for everybody. For me it is just a constant grinding sadness that oscillates in its intensity. Sometimes it bursts forward with a demanding life of its own, insisting that I pay a bit more attention to the pain. Other times it is a quiet, almost numb, melancholy resignation.
My Dad was my friend and I loved talking to him. If I ever had troubles at work, particularly with people, he would be the first person I asked advice from. Even as an adult having my Dad there – just knowing he was there – was pretty much like knowing that the sun will rise in the morning. It gave me a sense of security that I didn’t know I had until it was gone. Life’s a little lonelier, scarier and emptier without my Dad.
But death is life: they are indivisible, interminable companions. I know I am not alone in grieving the loss of a loved one because all of us experience death – it’s inevitable. Personally, I don’t find that idea particularly depressing. I used to think that death was a constant presence when I was nursing. It was always the ultimate priviledge to be able to care for an individual through their last hours or days, and their family. So death was no stranger to me. But it certainly is a different experience loosing somebody central to your life, who you thought you’d have around for a lot longer, and from who you thought you had plenty of time to hear all those answers.