I didn’t know how to celebrate it without him, so I didn’t. I remembered how I’d dig out the same two cards every year and give them to him in the morning, then take them home for another year until his next birthday. He liked it that way. He thought cards were a waste of money and paper, and appreciated my “recycling”.
One was a funny card, from the little girl that still lives inside me. One was the perfect card, whose lines were just right for him.
All day long, I remembered: today is Daddy’s birthday. He would have been 86. We would have had a cake of some sorts. He would have worried about my sugar and my cholesterol and my weight and how much I was eating and why I hadn’t stopped cutting my hair so short, and why I still needed to go out for a cigarette after lunch. We would have had our friends over, the ones with whom we have shared so many celebrations over the years once we discovered we had birthdays and anniversaries in common.
Yesterday was not the same, not for any of us, so our friends had dinner with their relatives, and I had dinner with my mother. She had left over curd-rice from lunchtime, and I poured myself a bowl of corn flakes. We shared a slice of carrot cake bought from a Christmas bazaar. I wondered, but not aloud, if we ought to be celebrating his life in some way, if we ought to have gone to his favourite restaurant and ordered chicken varaval and coin parat’has. If we should have gone over to my sister’s and sat together, talking about all our memories of him: the happiest, the funniest, the earliest, the best. Instead, Mummy and I sat across from each other at the dining table and ate, quietly. Afterwards, while she said her prayers, I washed the dishes, quietly. After she left, I watched some TV, played a few games of Solitaire on Facebook, and went to bed.
Today I remembered the cards again, and searched for them, all the time worrying that I might have ripped them up and thrown them away, sometime over the past year. I don’t remember doing that, but it seems like something I might have done in an attempt at closure: a way to say to myself that I didn’t need them any more, that I was finished with them, that it was over.Close-the-page-rip-it-up finished.
I couldn’t find them, and I was scared to keep searching in case I never do find them. So instead I sat down at the Internet and read other people’s poems about their dead fathers, and I cried.
Now, after the tears that always seem to wash things clear in my head, I think I will stop looking. He’s gone, and so are his cards. Perhaps one day when I’ve forgotten, and I’m tidying up and not expecting it, I will open a box and find them, the funny card and the perfect one, and it will feel wonderful. Far more wonderful than if I’d found them today. What a reunion that'll be!
And I find myself thinking, maybe it's not just about the cards. And that the time apart doesn't have to be unbearable, when I can imagine that one day, when I've finished living, and I'm closing up and not expecting it, I will open my eyes and find him waiting to escort me to wherever it is we are to go. The funny girl and the perfect father, hand in hand like we did on our trips to hospital. And it will feel wonderful. What a reunion that'll be.