Fragments of my father

by Jen Ross Laguna

Sammy Snake
(publishing December 12th)
The things Dad left behind
(publishing December 13th)
See you at the cottage
(publishing December 14th)

Sammy Snake

It’s an early spring morning at Mud Lake and 7-year-old me is meandering through sprouting ferns and dew-covered grasses, scouring for the slightest movement. Dad follows closely, binoculars dangling. Finally, I spot that signature light yellow line against silky black and red scales roping slowly around dampened rocks. I lunge forward and catch him mid-slither, careful to grab close to his head so he can’t bite me. The garter snake writhes angrily, but finally relaxes after I place him in the small cardboard box I’ve decked lovingly with rocks and leaves. And I gleam: “Daddy, meet my new pet, Sammy.”

The things Dad left behind

I couldn’t bring myself to sort through it all in my grief, the memories still too raw, and I’d been gone too long. But Mom was decided on downsizing, so my husband handled the basement.

Mom had always hated clutter but had let Dad have his man cave, that dingy dungeon that smelled of mold and old newspapers, with its cruddy green carpet that no vacuum had ever seen.

We ditched his rickety chair with the ripped orange vinyl and uneven front leg, the crumbling chest of drawers he’d found on a curb, vowing to fix good as new, and the obsolete electric typewriter he could never bring himself to part with.

We donated the books and the boxes of used eyeglasses he collected for the poor but tossed the local Mud Lake protection files and the spine-cracked photo albums, replete with Polaroids of cars, trains and buses, but few faces.

We dumped the stacks of Dad’s old campaign signs tucked under the stairs, remnants of his three – or was it four? – unsuccessful bids, frugally kept in the hopes of that final sha-bang that never was.

We salvaged any family photos or vacation souvenirs we could find, the binoculars we’d use on family walks through Mud Lake or the Chickadee Forest, and his framed Governor-General’s Caring Canadian Award.

Then my husband emerged triumphantly with an old violin, convinced it was a Stradivarius… after watching too many episodes of Pawn Stars. At least it had a story, having emigrated with a Scottish ancestor in the 1800s. It sold on Craig’s List for a couple hundred bucks to a teenager taking lessons.

Some vintage photo lenses and garden tools fetched a few hundred dollars at a yard sale – not enough to pay for the 20-foot dumpster that had to make two trips.

The kid who bought the violin got in touch with us a few days later to tell us she felt as though she could feel that ancestor when she played and wanted to know more about him. That brought me to tears. Why couldn’t I conjure Dad by looking through his binoculars?

I knew these were just things, fragments of a life interrupted, and that nothing would bring my fuddy-duddy Daddy back, but watching it all get hoisted into that dumpster was deeply unsettling. The final curtain-call on an autistic and altruistic life, snuffed out, inconceivably reduced to ashes.

Gone, like the dusty old things we were throwing away.

See you at the cottage

I’m teary-eyed as I blather to the towering sugar maple that stands like a sentinel before a legion of poplars – here, where I’d laid Dad’s ashes the day before – when my normally serious 16-month-old bursts into laughter at seemingly nothing at all. I search the forest for a meandering squirrel or chipmunk. A quick shoulder check at the placid waters of Lower Beverly Lake shimmering behind us. Then my gaze veers up towards the bright-green mid-June canopy obscuring the cerulean sky, as blue as Dad’s eyes. And I remember the medium’s message after the funeral: that Dad would see us at the cottage. And although I can’t see him, my son’s giggles are all the confirmation I need.

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3 Responses to “Fragments of my father”

  1. Charlis Hajjar Says:

    Beautiful memories. We shall remember in life, not after death.

  2. Charlis Hajjar Says:

    Beautiful memories. We shall remember in life. Long live our parents

  3. Charlis Hajjar Says:

    Only Beautiful memories shall forever live.

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