I add it up in my mind right now and I’m slightly horrified– I went a whole year without mentioning that memory to him. Twelve whole months I just assumed it was safe, never once turned the soil on it to let in the sunshine and fresh air.
So how can I be surprised when the song happened to come on the TV the other day and I smile and say “Look, Chops, it’s the Dino Stomp!” and he looks at me blankly, without the foggiest idea of what I’m talking about? I can’t be, not at all.
I break my own heart and kick myself over and over as I stand in shock, my mind echoing with a empty clang, over and over ‘He has forgotten….’. The consequences of the are startling, terrifying… Forgotten is forever. A memory, once it’s gone… it’s difficult to bring it back.
There are days when I wish I could crawl into my child’s mind and peer around it with a flashlight. Open all the drawers and cupboards, tidy things that need to be straightened, look out through his eyes and see the world the way he does. And I’d go to the filing cabinet tucked away in a corner and open it to ‘Daddy’, and search its contents thoroughly to see just what it holds.
I want to know how my little boy remembers of the man who was his best mate, his hero. I want to see how much of it is truth and how much legend, check in on that every few years from now until… forever, I guess. Isn’t that what mothers do better than anyone, that forever thing?
I see occasional anomalies between what my little boy remembers and what the truth is. He remembers his dad’s orange car, but not that we got rid of it months before he died. He remembers that Tony was angry sometimes, but also remembers that mummy and daddy used to kiss and hug… I can’t help but wonder if one cancels out the other. He remembers going to swimming lessons but has the pool he attended confused with another Tony occasionally took him too. And while a year ago he remembered swimming in the Purple backyard spa with his dad, I think that memory may have extinguished itself too, leaving a dark space and a the thick nostalgic smell of candle wax in the air.
My son tells me a few days ago that “Daddy’s don’t smoke” and the desicion I have to make surprises me. Do I correct him with the truth, or let the much healthier impression he has slide and become truth in his mind?
I do what I always do, when I don’t know what to do. I err on the side of the truth. Well, most daddy’s don’t smoke, but yours did. He thought it was very yucky though, and he was trying to stop.
Tiny little Lego building blocks of all shapes and colors and sizes, stacked on top of one another to create a picture of a man who was not perfect but was a good person, and loved his children very much. Hoping the foundations are strong enough so the whole thing doesn’t topple. Double checking and crossing my fingers that I haven’t missed bits, left gaping holes where vibrant color should be.
I find a gruesome fascination in how very differently my children will remember their father in comparison to the man I remember. I wish I could spool all these memories I hold– my husband feeding our one year old son chocolate cake for breakfast, or whispering to his day-old daughter “You’re not going to date any football players, are you darlin’?”– onto a film, a disk, something so they can be played back in all their richness for my children, the people who will need them the most, over and over again.
Reminiscing, telling my children stories of their dad…. it’s a cold comfort. They take the stories I tell, the words I say, and mold them with their own memories, their own thoughts… and there lies the potential loophole for inaccuracies.
I remind myself that, really, it only matters so much. Is a genuine memory of their father any better than my children’s own little minds creating a hero or a villain for them? It has to be, surely– reality’s a bitch, but it’s always that little bit more palatable than lies, omissions or half truths. Especially when what’s at stake is so huge.
I’m creating memories for my children of their father, lest they are too young to keep them for themselves. I fill big holes with stories and anecdotes and I feel the chilly breeze that comes though them– the absence of so many of his mates to help build this picture as it should be. I support my fragile reminiscing with photos that seemed to be plenty at that time, but now are an unspeakably small amount of visual proof.
But I found something a few days ago, on the external hard drive I’d bought and booted in those hazy six months in Paradise. I thought I’d lost the footage from Tony’s mobile phone when I threw it out, not realizing until days later the travesty I’d committed.
I was wrong. Video footage, files of video footage from my husband’s mobile phone, hidden in the digital depths of my hard drive. I plan to watch it, to sync it and burn it onto a disc for my children.
I just haven’t had the courage to open the files yet.