My children, they love to look at photos.
Most children do, I think? And now, especially for my little Chop, photos are a very important way of remembering Daddy. A remembrance, to trip our conversations and our memories.
I wonder if it hurts my little man, in the same way it does me, to look at pictures of Tony. A bitter sweet sting. An ache that just won’t go away.
I look at photos of him, I can smell the sweetness of his breath. I can taste the salty, warm skin of his shoulder, that was so big and rounded, tattooed and solid.
Sometimes I can taste the vaseline on my lips from the very last time I kissed him, mixed with a sour scent that proved to me his body was slowly dieing.
Tonight, while we waited for a batch of cupcakes to go golden brown in our outdated, slow cooking stove; my children and I pulled out photo albums and sat flicking through them.
My daughter, she will be two years old in a few months time. Her father has been dead for five months now.
So why am I so shocked, why does it feel like cold water in my face, when I realise she no longer points to pictures of her daddy?
Her nonna, her brother, me, Thomas the tank Engine… but I say “Bump, who’s that?” and she doesn’t point, doesn’t laugh or gurgle or attempt butchered pronunciation. She looks straight past him. In one photo, I watch as she points to me, Chop… and then, when I prompt here, an Iggle Piggle toy sitting in the background.
She no longer recognises her father’s face.
I know…. the inevitability of that should have been obvious. Such a tiny little thing when he passed away. It is unlikely- highly unlikely- that the Bump will ever have any organic memories of her own father. Surely, she will know all about him… I’ll make sure of that. But her memory of him will largely be one generated by myself, her brother, and our extended family.
Not a memory of her own making.
Some days, I try to remember, to freeze in time, the exact developmental stage my children were at when Tony passed away. The Chop, being older… he was much the same as now, but his comprehension of abstract subjects in amazing, his language blows me away and he speaks now of feelings and emotions- I’m not sure if that would have happened despite his father’s death, or not.
The Bump…? Five months is such a long time when you’re a one year old. A big girl now, she has all her teeth. her hair is long enough to put in a tiny, spiky ponytail, and I wept as i first did that, because I know tony would have adored it. She says words now- Tony never heard her speak- and she runs, rather than waddling along.
All this, he has missed. It’s a tiny fraction of what he will miss. And I feel the need to keep tabs on it, to pay extra special attention to their milestones since the lost their father.
Maybe it’s because I know there is only me as a memory bank for my children now. The comfort of having a back up… the pleasure of having someone to reminisce on my most private moments with. My son, he is still very much my husbands…. but my daughter, she is beginning to feel like mine and only mine, because I am the only one to testify to her daily growing up.
Parenting as a sovereignty… I’m discovering that, among so many other things, it requires a very good memory.