Sunday, 17 November 2013

The Word-a-day Writing Challenge

Day Fifty-Three: Bone

Tonight as I was brushing my teeth, I caught sight of a photo of my father and I. I remember pulling it out of a box just after I’d moved in and, not knowing what else to do with it but wanting it somewhere, I'd put it on a shelf just below this mirror. It wasn't a particularly significant placement, just a decoration, an ornament to fill one space with another.

Sometimes it makes me sad, though, that photo, that space. Why do we keep such things? Why are those the things that matter? Because it's important to be sad? Because being sad reminds us too of our happiness, of our humanity? Yes, sometimes. I am alone in the house tonight, and right now that seems to signify that I am alone in the world. I don’t know what I felt before my father died, if I thought I belonged to something, or someone, but I learned from him that whatever you love can always be taken. That is a fact, and not a bad one to know, by any means. It's how we negotiate that fact which determines our level of freedom: Either we celebrate our own liberty by tying ourselves to no thing, no person, no feeling—we embrace impermanence by accepting the risks of vulnerability and loving what we love despite ourselves—or we perpetually complicate our lives by living in fear of (and trying to avoid) the burden of loss.

Sometimes sadness is a habit that must be broken. Sometimes it must be shaken off, outrun, beaten back, laughed at. Some days it is unwise to reflect on loss. Today was one. I looked at the picture of my father and I; I looked at my six year old self looking back; I looked at the brown Osh Kosh corduroy overalls meant to match his brown Levi corduroy pants; I looked at his long, thin hands brushing paint onto boards the colour of bone, and my small wrists swimming in gloves too big for the task. I thought, Thank God for that time—for gloves that didn’t fit, and clothes that matched his, and the work of painting boards for a fence. Thank God for the time before everything else.

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