I went to see my Father the other day. I haven't seen him for ages and I have no idea why. He's out in Howick, in place overlooking the sea, and when I do go see him I prefer that lounge with those views than sitting in his bedroom with him as that space just looks out onto a wall.
The first thing, after pleasantries, Dad remarked on was a bruise on my cheek. It's seems now that I'm older the skin where I find pimples that are worth the effort doesn't like me doing so and bruises easily. He thought it was just dirt, which is more likely I suppose with the me he knows, and I'd forgotten it was there so it was either me painting or working on cars or machines and then just going out into the world not thinking of approvals. This then might have been why he asked me how old I am now, 54, and this surprised him. "Well, Dad, if you're 82 then it stands to reason I'll be 28 years younger as that's how old you were when Mum had me."
And Dad is the oldest man now of the family that issued from Mum's side and even those on Dad's side of whom we didn't have much to do with. I went back to Canada in '95 as the Matriarch wanted to see me and she payed for it except I wasn't so interested in her and hung out with the old men dying. My uncle Ralph had Parkinson's and though he shuffled about he wanted me to meet Indians and take store of that lands needs as if this coming closer to his God, and I smoked my pot out at his altar in the Garage where he smoked his cigars and ruminated before his Pope, gave him access to deeper streams he knew I swan in.
Uncle Ralph had a model A pickup that he couldn't drive anymore so Uncle Davey, who was dying too, came 'round and took me for a drive and while we rattled and chugged he too spoke of his dying as if he too, being close, somehow understood my way with ghosts.
And it is, this town by the lake in Southern Ontario, a steel mill town and Uncle Ralph spoke of a dumping of Cobalt out on the edges and how it seemed to be taking all the Men and maybe that is why my own father has age because we left that place and went way across the earth... I don't know.
And now my Dad is walking again which is rather amazing though he has a toughness even the doctors find somewhat miraculous especially after their cousins, the psychiatrists, fed him willingly quite the huge doses of anti-depressants over many years. So Dad getting walking again isn't really surprising and it seems this toughness he has way down has just gotten bored with being a victim of the after-effects of these tranquilizers and no Doctors being able to do anything about it... so he will.
Dad was the youngest son of his fathers wifes second man and that family was the poorest of the poor in a shipyards attachment of tenement housing in Glasgow and though they were Irish Protestants, the blackest of the black, they finally had accrued some money and so he was sent to a Catholic school and there my tough but thoroughly sensitive father was scared out of his wits, or into his wits, as the case might actually be.
And maybe it worked because as luck would have it he was given an apprenticeship in plumbing after leaving the Nuns and the Priests though, my father, still at a tender age didn't see his life as shovelling shit and maybe that, somehow, was too alike the racial slurs those Scottish neighbours seemed far too willing to heap upon him and his as if five to a bed and a shared outhouse weren't enough.
To the high seas then my father went and still young he signed on as a cabin boy in those rusty old hulks that crossed the Atlantic to Islands in the Caribbean where just two dollars bought more than enough alcohol to forget and lithe young dark skinned woman for the whole of a night even if they were only forgotten and sweating warmth alongside.
Then at the opposite end of these rolling and huge swaying through the Atlantics high seas were the ports of Europe where the same occurred except more silver was needed and the grasses of mattresses more refined but still it was the same heathen crawl.
By this time too I think his own father had died, of a cancer in the stomach, and a step brother too morose from a war spent in bombers killing wholesale the innocent and the guilty, so it was only then my father and his slightly older brothers in a whole family of older women who altogether made flight to Canada to leave this bitter place.
Within all that which was so hard and crushing my father remembers high summers spent fleetingly at Lochs and a small and intensely loyal terrier which had a penchant for attacking and trying to kill old mens long beards so even in the Northerly place not quite North enough in it's mass to be really cold there seemed just enough sunlight, just enough warmth, to keep him knowing that smiles and laughter were precious.
And he knew tenderness too. Somehow as still a youth and on those rolling seas he saw the life almost completely beaten out of a man whos love was the kind not spoken of, that love which is furtive and secret but still just wants to be love. He saw this and he knew somehow it was more honourable than the rage that would kill it, stamp it out and leave it bending upon which ever surface it fell.
So I'm glad my father is walking again for the truth is he was boring me. It was just, when we sat in that small room, stories of his time in the Army. Stories of more drunken days and the stealing of trucks to go on binges where he was always freed of time in lockup because he wore his uniform well, his body filled it out and stood straight, so he was pulled early and shined up and stuck out the front to grace the high born.
And it was as if this trolling back was an invite to dementia alike his two sisters who have completely forgotten. That it was the years crying down to his green eyed soul and the flamed head was left shining that the recourse to a doctors easily prescribed advice had made the flames of his red locks engulf his legs and make them burn as if he stood waiting in some inner clarity aligned to his toughness that whilst others walked quickly upon flaming coals that my father stood still and waited for permissions none, it seemed, were willing to give.
So even Dresden and it's bombed out glories could hold him for long and bring him to forgetting. And me, it's taken me years and years and years to piece together all these fragments, not even necessarily because they were offered but because I too have chosen my own narrative. That somehow it was less about the grist of the stories, the chewy bone ends of the telling, and more about the changing perspectives somehow, despite worthy traumas and any significance that made the choreography a set of juxtapositions, that it was about choosing our own camera angles, directing our own scripts to even see beyond them.
In then comes the Canada days and me the first squalling infant who as soon as I found my legs whacked a head throbbing father across it's cranium with a bottle emptied the night before that ended all his drinking days. That my father who drenched his history had now to wake up and set things out for my own methods of undoing. For by this time my father had become a socialist, a man of union hopes, and that dull surge of righteousness called McCarthyism was instilling a pernicious and loathing pride in it's adherents in the Maple leaf lands and men aligning with the carmine of Rus were disappearing in molten vats and under the crushing wheels of trains though mostly it seems that that matriarch who called me years later back to that land was a bitter rival for the now owned daughter, his sway in those circles about not having freedom in men so we found a plane willing to carry us far away.
I was seven and already far too old, already bitter somehow as I have found photos of this time and my eyes are much too distant and calculating. New Zealand became straight away an adventure and a forgetting place with my first freedom being finding myself alone, making sure I was, and climbing a very noble tree and jumping onto a high roof then scrambling up it's steep and dangerous to get atop the ridge of Parnell and having the whole magnificent harbour before me and knowing this was a place just for me, that calculating could end and the boredoms of the slow cast aside for real adventure.
Now I've lost the thread. It could be that the New Zealand story is so completely a new thing it cannot be joined to this. That all this clumping of the old world is such a different set of colours it demands it's own canvas... or I've simply had enough for one morning and the hot is here. I felt it on the cat, Tutti, as I rubbed across his silken back, him back in wondering if food has appeared. These are the things I trust... that cats become silky with heat, especially the new sun's grace, and so being lazy and soaking is a worthwhile thing.