She reaches out, takes hold of my finger and pulls me towards her face. As our noses touch she leans in and kisses me on the lips. I feel my heart melt.
He calls me from his bedroom, “Come see this YiaYa!” And I go to his room and he shows me his excavator. Or perhaps his Dump Truck or maybe his Bulldozer. “Can you name my Bulldozer?” he asks and we go through a list of possible names until finally he gives a sweet little grin, nods his head up and down and says, “That’s it!” And again, I feel my heart melt. And when I inevitably forget its name, he always remembers.
A week with my grandchildren is like overdosing on chocolate. It’s sooooo good all reason disappears from my thoughts. Stopping is out of the question.
I watch my daughter and my son-in-love as they navigate two little ones during a time of high stress compounded by isolation and I am in awe. They are so patient. So kind. So very, very loving.
And it shows. My grandchildren are swimming in an ocean of love that has no end. Despite the restrictions of Covid, they are happy, chatty, funny, energetic, and oh so loving.
At 3, T is a lively, articulate and incredibly intelligent little boy. When I miss-name one of his legion of cars (which I continuously do) he corrects me with a laugh and a shake of his head. “No. YiaYa! It’s not a Ferrari. It’s a Lamborghini.” He loves to sing and read books and walk holding hands down the street. And he really, really likes my pancakes, especially if I include chocolate chips in them.
My granddaughter happily lets me hold her and dance with her and spin her about though I must admit, my favourite is when she is in her crib and wakes up crying and I go in and pick her up and she cuddles into my neck and is immediately soothed. Such bliss.
And though I have missed the last 8 months of seeing them, it is as if time did not separate us at all.
I was the final note in the quartet of children that made up the siblings in our family. Growing up, I often felt like the cymbals. Clashing and clanging at odd moments while everyone else knew their part off by heart, chiming in appropriately, hitting their notes, playing in harmony.
Today, only my sisters and I remain of the original band. My daughters and two nieces now carry the tune. While the notes between the sister-pairs are strong, the notes between the cousins are far apart and barely audible. Since my brother and sister-in-law’s tragic deaths over twenty years ago, my nieces have had little contact with any of us. The drama and turmoil of those days leading up to and following their parents’ deaths were incomprehensible for an 18 and 19-year-old. As my brother and mother had an argument shortly before the events unfolded, and my mother was inconsolable in her grief, they chose to distance themselves from all of us. The distance was never closed.
Losing her son was a heavy loss for my mother. Losing her connection with her first-born granddaughters was a loss that weighed heavily on her heart for the rest of her life.
Yesterday, to find balance and calm in a day that while significant in terms of the calendar, was still just another day, I headed into my studio to create.
I have always believed it is the gift of Love that brings us into this world and love that carries us out. All we can leave behind is that which carries us in, through and out of life – Love.
We, the ones left behind on this earthly plane have a choice, to pick up the remains of pain and turmoil or follow the path of love.
I am grateful for my practice of art journaling. For its grace and reflective space and healing arts. It holds me steady on the path of love.
In this page, the six roses represent our original family — My mother, father, brother, two sisters and me.
The five birds flying together represent my sisters and me and my two daughters. The two little birds just coming out of the rose on the left are my two grandchildren.
In the middle, flying separately in a misty sky, are my nieces and grand-nephew. The flowers at the bottom represent La Grande Famille growing wild and free and loving all around the world.
No matter if we spend time together or how far apart our stories, we are always connected through this circle of love that is our family.
As I finished the page, the words came to me, “In the garden of your life let love grow wild and free.”
I also created another page yesterday (I use another journal alongside me as I paint to wipe off excess paints).
As I wiped off paint and held myself lovingly within the harmony and the discordant notes of family, I knew this page was about not fitting into a box, but living in the messy of life. Something that spoke to all my emotions on this day.
I wasn’t sure what I was feeling/expressing until I finished and then sat down to write in my journal what creating this page brought up for me. And that’s when I understood…
Grief is Messy…
Grief Is Messy
by Louise Gallagher
Grief is messy.
It follows no well-known path
travelling to the beat
of its own drum
and pushing through boundaries
you desperately put in place
to keep its presence at bay.
Grief is stealthy
It dresses up in familiar clothing
masquerading as your best friend
while its steals your identity
encroaching on the spaces
of your heart
you want desperately to avoid
There is no taming grief.
There is only its heavy cloak
wearing you down
until one day
you find yourself arriving at that place
where moments spent wrapped
in grief’s company
as softly as the sweet melody
of the voice
of the one who is gone
fades into memory.
Light dances on the water where the river flows freely through an icy bordered channel. If I keep my eyes focused only on what appears to be the light dancing, it is as if the river is standing still.
I know it’s not.
It is the same in life. Sometimes, I think time is standing still, and then I notice a birthday flowing past, a memory drifting away into forgetfulness and I remember – nothing is static. Everything changes.
Life is energy and energy is not inert. It is constantly moving, shifting, changing, flowing. Like time. Always on the move. Like life. Always evolving.
It was at this time last year that my sisters and daughters and I began to gently move into the space where we knew the light in our mother’s/grandmother’s life was beginning to waver. That space where, at 97, she knew her time on this earth was drawing to an end.
It would be another 15 days before she drew in her final breath and released herself to eternity, but she knew. The one’s she had loved and lost in this life, and the God who had held her steady through every breath, were waiting, she said. She was ready to join them.
In those final days of my mother’s life, if I kept my eyes focused on each breath she took, it felt as though time was standing still. As if, her breaths would keep on going, even though her heart was growing more and more still.
It wasn’t that I wanted her to not go. It was that I wanted her to open her eyes and see that what she was leaving behind was a circle of love that she had woven together through every hardship, every sorrow, every moment of joy.
It was often hard for my mother to see the moment’s of joy. Tormented by depression most of her adult life, darkness often clouded her view of the beauty surrounding her.
I remember as a young girl wishing I could weave a bridge of words that would take us away from where my tormented mother stood in the kitchen in front of my siblings and me holding a knife to her breast and threatening to end it all. That bridge would take us away from the darkness into a land of constant sunshine.
It would be many years before I realized I was never powerful enough to break through the darkness. And, even longer before I learned that even though I could smile my way through even the darkest night of the soul, the darkness owned part of me too.
It was a therapist’s calm question of, “How long have you been depressed?” that created the first visible crack in the darkness for me. I was in my early 40s at the time.
“Me? Depressed? Never.”
I remember how she smiled, slightly, and asked, “What would you do differently if you were?”
It was a really tough question for me to even consider.
I knew how to walk alongside other’s in the darkness. I did not know how to walk alongside myself.
I feared sadness. I feared the depression that had consumed my mother throughout her life. Yet, to love my mother as she was, I had to learn to love her in the darkness. I had to learn to not be afraid of sadness, tears and emotions that did not come wrapped up in a smile.
Much has shifted since that therapist invited me to consider the shadow side of my constant smile. The icy grip I had on maintaining ‘my smile’ has eased as the warmth that comes with letting myself feel deeply, cry freely, live joyfully in darkness and in light, has helped me grow beyond my fear of the dark into loving all of it. All of me. And all of my mother.
And though my memory likes to play tricks on me sometimes, like the light dancing on the water, life keeps flowing with its beautiful truth shimmering in every moment. To see through darkness, we must open our eyes to the light. And, to truly feel and know lightness of being, we must honour the darkness that makes light so much brighter.
I watched the light dance on the water this morning. The river kept flowing. Time kept passing and always, Love moved freely through the darkness and the light holding me always in the circle of Love my mother’s hands wove together through every breath of her life.
In the stillness of morning light, I breathe slowly, waiting for the sun to break through wintery skies.
There is a weariness in my bones. I feel the weight of missing precious moments spent with family and friends. A longing for days that feel lost in misty memories of the times long ago when we opened our front door and invited others in.
In the softness of morning light, there is a heaviness to this winter morning. A knowing that today will be the same. Connections made on screens filled with tiny boxes of familiar faces who light up my heart and who once graced us with their presence around our table. My heart is light with the thought of their smiles yet heavy with the missing, Of touch. Of gathering together. Of hugs and farewell kisses grazing cheeks and a touch on the shoulder to say, “I see you. I hear you. I feel you.”
Yes. It is the feel of people gathering together. Of coming together to celebrate birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, reunions, and even a loved one’s passing, that I yearn for.
It is the knowing that today I am not with my 3-year-old grandson celebrating at a party just for him. My arms ache to hold his body next to mine and whisper, “I love you” in his ear. And to feel his sweet, precious breath against my ear as he whispers back, “I wuv you too YiaYa.”
It is the knowing that five months have passed since last I held my granddaughter in my arms and smelt her babyfresh head and kissed her tiny nose and tickled her tummy as she giggled and gurgled in squirming delight at my touch. Five months feels like a lifetime of change in a seven-month old’s world spent watching her grow on a tiny screen. She reaches for it when we talk. I like to think she is reaching for my heart. That she knows this heart she cannot touch except through a tiny screen is full of love pounding a fierce beat to the tune of her laughter and squeals and toothless smiles and sparkling eyes full of joy.
In the stillness of this winter’s morning light, I gently close the door on memories I yearn to feel come alive again. I breathe softly into this moment right now where I sit at my desk watching the river flow and the light slowly break through the darkness.
Clouds cover the sky. A blanket of grey above. A blanket of snow below. Misty. Ethereal. Mysterious light full of memory and longing on a wintery morning.
The sun is hidden yet still it shines. Eternal. Hot. Fiery.
Like my love for those I’m missing. For those not here because they can’t be and those because they never will be again. My love burns eternal.
In the stillness of morning light, I light a candle for those who are gone forever, and those whose absence is just a temporary moment in time passing until we can gather again, hold one another again and kiss one another on the cheek and whisper softly, “I love you”.
It is fleeting, this heaviness in my heart. It will pass. For now, I let my body rest easy in its embrace and warm myself on the memories I cherish and the knowing that soon, I’ll see their faces in tiny boxes on my screen and know, no matter the distance nor the times that separate us, Love will always beat fierce and strong in our hearts. Love will always hold us together.
I took a bite of memory yesterday. It slid across my lips and landed on my tongue full of tantalizing reminders of Christmases past.
It took me back. Back to my early teens. We are living in a white house with a big Chestnut tree in the middle of the front driveway. The deck overlooked the garden and then the city below. The drive backed onto a hillside that took you up into the vineyards that dotted the edges of the Black Forest town in which we lived.
Inside, the house is full of the smells and sounds of Christmas. My father is baking in the kitchen. Christmas music playing. Loud.
My sister, Anne, and I are squabbling over whose turn it is to vacuum and whose turn to clean the bathroom.
My mother is fluttering around, trying to keep dad’s dishes to a minimum and desperately trying to admonish Anne and I to ‘quit fighting’ and get to work.
My brother is wafting in and out from his room. Like a prince holding court, he stands (forever) in front of the full-length mirror in the front hallway trying to determine between blue shirt, white shirt or maybe a sweater? In the middle of turning this way and that, he asks Anne and me what we think of what ever he is wearing.
We roll our eyes and say, in unison, “Whichever”, and pretend to go back to doing our jobs.
It was our way, we’d placate our brother and then whine together, like co-conspirators in a bad spy movie, about how he always got to go out and do whatever he wanted while we had to do all the work around the house. Sometimes, if we got the tone and attitude just right, he’d think we were talking about him and pester us with questions. “What’d you say?” “What? You think I should go with the sweater?” “There’s nothing wrong with my hair today, right?” We’d tell him we weren’t even talking about him and scurry off to get our jobs done so we could go meet our friends.
If high-fives had been a ‘thing’ in those days we’d have worn our palms out.
And through it all, my father would be bustling around the kitchen, elbow deep in flour and sugar and everything nice to make one of his many baked Christmas delicacies.
Yesterday, I took a bite of a piece of Stollen. I’d picked it up that morning fresh from the bakers and was transported back to those days long ago..
My father’s Stollen were home baked. It was his way. The kitchen was his domain during the holidays. And while deliciousness was his ethic, excess was his trademark.
In later years, when I was living in Canada and my parents had not yet moved back from Europe, my dad would parcel up a huge box of Christmas goodies and have them delivered by airmail to my front door.
That box came full of his loving hands spicing up every bite and, my mother’s hands too. Because, while the production of so many culinary delights was my dad’s purview, making it all look pretty was my mother’s gift. She shared it well.
Butter tarts. Tins of many different cookies. Pound cakes. Christmas cake. All wrapped up in crinkly bows. Pretty, sparkly papers around each cake. Cheery tins of laughing Santas and elves and trees all dressed up in Christmas finery. It was a gastronomic and pictorial odyssey.
There was something for everyone in that box. Chocolates for my daughters. A treat for the dog. And always, wrapped in a piece of cheese cloth covered with wax paper, tin foil and red wrapping paper, there was a Stollen. Waiting to be devoured.
I hear his voice through the closed door of his bedroom and do not go in. My heart yearns to listen and feel the joy in his song.
When I do go in, he smiles his beatific smile, holds out his panda for me to admire and asks, “Can I have my silver porch car?”
I smile and ask back, “Is there a word missing?”
He gives that same heart-melting smile and says, “Puhleaaase.”
I’d do anything for that smile and so go and find his little silver porch car.
For the next 15 minutes, I sit in the chair beside his bed as he plays in his crib with his trusty panda in one hand and the other ‘zoomin’ the car across the mattress. There’s a carwash to visit. A tunnel to drive through and a cliff to dangle the wheels over.
Eventually, he sits up, holds out his arms and says, “It’s time to get out of my sleep sack.”
There’s no need to focus on your destination. It’s not going anywhere.
“Take time to savour every step along the way. You’ll get to where you’re going, eventually. Sometimes you’ll end up where you thought, sometimes you won’t. It’s all okay. Doesn’t matter. Where ever you end up, you’ll have discovered new vistas, new things along the way.”
With an almost 2 and a half-year-old, the lesson remains as true today as it was then. There is always so much to discover when you savour every step you take.
Inspired by the teachings of Orly Aveniri’s “Come Outside” online workshop, TJ and I have been collecting leaves and flowers and petals that have fallen on the ground. They are gifts for his mommy.
Yesterday, we smooshed our hands in paint and smeared them all over the pages of his painting book and made marks with his paintbrush and glued our collected ephemera onto the page.
It was pure delight.
Earlier in the day, we made zucchini muffins. He mixed the flour and dry goods in one bowl, poured the liquid and vanilla into the other and then stirred them all together. The kitchen ended up with flour everywhere. It didn’t matter. Though, as I said to my daughter, “One thing I forgot. When cooking with a 2 year old, make sure you have all the ingredients on the counter before you begin!” Otherwise, you risk having flour flying out of the bowl and being reminded that a mixing spoon is not just a spoon. It’s a rocketship too!
As we neared the end, he climbed down from his special kitchen stool, raced into the bedroom where his mother and sister were lying on the bed with his dad and proclaimed proudly, “I made muffins!”
I could listen to his voice forever.
I have been here for just over a week now and my heart is full.
Time with my granddaughter, Ivy, is a blessing. I savour it all.
Time with TJ and his family is a gift. A treasure. It fills my heart and memory banks as sweetly as rain trickling down a string of copper bowls into a barrel.
I will dip into it when I’m not here and come out refreshed, nourished and soaked in the sweet, tender goodness of these days.
On Wednesday, C.C., my beloved, will be driving out with my youngest daughter who is coming for ten days to support her sister and family.
She was to have flown but concerns over exposure to Covid on airplanes nixed those plans. Concerned that she had never taken such a long drive alone, C.C. offered to drive her out. They’ll rent a car so the two of us can drive home together in my car.
His willingness to take that long drive just to help out is a testament to his natural generosity and kindness.
But then, that’s family.
Heeding the call of Love to be there for one another in good times and challenging times.
These are exceptionally good times. Times to savour. Remember. Cherish.
Times to fill the memory barrel letting the sweet nectar of these days fill my heart.
My mother prayed. A lot. No matter the time of day, situation, pressing need, she would pray.
After she passed away, my sisters and I sorted through her belongings and came across the leather pouch where she stored her many prayer cards.
None of us knew what to do with them so I took them, thinking I’d eventually use them in an art piece.
That time has come.
On Tuesday, I started a mixed media online course with Orly Avineri. Orly is my kind of creative force. Free-flowing. No ‘steps’. Just you, the muse, your intuition. And the courage to take risks.
The first exercise includes an invitation to use whatever papers are on hand, affix them to a page and create.
My mind immediately leapt to my mother’s prayer cards. This would be a good home for them. Not just on the first page, but on every page I create in this art journal.
In this case, the journal is an old book I found in a box that I’m willing to release to the creative forces. It is part of a set of three I’ve had for years. Unique to this one is the way the inside pages are inserted. They are all upside down.
A book with upside-down pages seemed appropriate at this time. The world right now feels a little topsy-turvy. Like everything we once knew, relied on, took for granted is no longer so dependable. So known. So inevitable.
There are no mistakes.
Working on this art journal, “My Mother’s Prayers” is stirring up my thoughts and feelings and memories of my Catholic upbringing, my mother’s prayers and her unshakable faith and our relationships. It is giving me pause to look at it all through different glasses, angles, lenses, perspectives. Upside down included.
Yesterday, I completed my third 2-page spread in the book. As with the previous two, this spread also includes a couple of the cards from mom’s collection.
As I created the page using flowers from the garden that were at the end of their life-cycle, my mind swept back to childhood days when my sister and I would help mom with the flowers in church on Saturdays.
I go back to this memory a lot. As if somehwere in that sacred space I might somehow find the key to where my mother’s and my relationship went off the rails.
Because it was. For much of our life together, not a very well functioning relationship.
In one of Orly’s videos for the course, she talks about how it’s important to live within the gifts, not the trauma of the past.
There were many, many gifts that came through my relationship with my mother. It helped forge the backbone of who I am today and who I am as a mother, an artist, a woman, a human being.
In her final years, the tensions between us eased. In her passing, they fade away leaving behind only Love and memories of the sacred moments of grace we shared.
The gifts in those moments are what fill me up today. They give me peace, hope, faith, Love.
Perhaps, one of its gifts is also in the surrendering of any guilt I may be unknowingly carrying from the past.
And I smile as I write the word ‘guilt’.
How very ‘Catholic’ of me.
My middle sister and I used to joke a lot about our Catholic guilt. We were good at it. Doused in it as children, it felt only natural to carry it into our adult years.
It took me years, and lots of therapy, to realize guilt is not natural. Nor is it constructive.
It can however, be a powerful force for change.
To not carry guilt, I must clean up my messes. It isn’t about tidying up the past as much as honouring it so that I can let it go without feeling… guilty.
And so, I create.
A book of prayers. For my mother. For me. For my daughters. My soon to be born grand-daughter.
A book of prayers that begins with the words I wrote on the very first 2-page spread. Words that surprised me even as I wrote them: “The crosses we carry through the centuries burden us with their blind faith in what to believe in the here and now. Their weighty presence strangles our breath as we struggle to free ourselves of the guilt and shameof a past we cannot change.“
I cannot change the difficult times with my mother.
I can honour our past, all of it, and in the here and now, celebrate and cherish her beautiful thread in the tapestry of my life.
Being the mother she was, her spirit is praying for all of us now.
What a wonderful gift of life and death in an unending circle of Love that remains, as always, nourished by my mother’s prayers.
It is four months today since my mother took her last breath.
The Irises are blooming.
This is our third summer we have lived in this house. The first that the Irises have bloomed.
They were her flower. She carried their name. Iris.
And I smile. My mother is here. Around us. With us. Amongst us.
For a few weeks, she kept visiting me. Usually, while I was in the bath. That kind of bothered me so I kept pouring in extra bubbles to blur her view.
“I’m spirit, Louise. I can see through everything. Including you. Stop hiding.” She said this to me on one of her many visits over the past four months. Her laughter tinkled like cutlery and crystal amidst the chatter at a cocktail party.
I don’t remember my mother laughing like that in real life. I also know she never sat in a glittery, tight, figure revealing cocktail dress, martini glass in one black elbow-length gloved hand and cigarette in a long glossy ebony holder in the other.
“Who are you?” I asked the first time she appeared. I knew she was my mother. She had her face. Her voice. Her scent. But the rest?
“Louise. I’m spirit. I’m the mother of your dreams,” she replied, again with that tinkly, almost girlish laugh.
“But you’re so different. You’re smoking!”
“It’s not like smoking is going to kill me,” she said and then, she threw back her head, blew smoke up into the skylight above her and laughed. Loud. Deep. Sexy.
Sexy? Oh no. Not my mother. She was beautiful. Exotic. Mysterious. Never sexy. As a girl I didn’t think she even knew how to spell s-e-x, which was always said in a whisper making my sister and I giggle at mom’s descriptions when she tried to teach us her version of the art of being a woman. If we had questions her favourite response was, “Go ask the school nurse.”
We never did. Ask the nurse. We mostly just muddled our way through it. My eldest sister taking me to buy my first bra. My first box of Kotex pads. My grad dress.
Girlfriends were the source of all things boy related and as to boys… Well, as long as you kept your legs crossed you couldn’t get in trouble. At least, that’s what my mother told me.
Which was why this mother, the one who insisted on visiting while I was in the bath and drinking martinis and smoking was so surprising to see.
“What happened to you when you crossed over, mom?” I asked her one day while she sat on the closed toilet seat lid painting her nails a bright red that she never would have been caught dead in if she was alive.
“Real life put so many restrictions on me,” she replied. “It was such a heavy load I always felt like I was suffocating. Now, I’m light as air and can delight in being all of me. And with you, that means being the mother you always dreamt I’d be. You did say you wanted a martini drinking, high heel wearing, cocktail dress swishing kind of mother didn’t you?”
But then, she always said she did. Know what I was up to. And it wasn’t always good, she liked to remind me.
Softly she whispers into my thoughts. “Louise. I know you did your best. I know you wanted to be a good daughter. It’s just the pain and the secrets between us were greater than our ability to see eachother as co-creators of our life together, not as adversaries.”
See what I mean? This is not the mother I remember. My mother never used words like co-creator and she definitely didn’t acknowledge that their was pain we shared. I mean, I was the one who inflicted the pain on her. Right?
At least that’s what she told me during her bathtime visits. To acknowledge ours was a challenging relationship from the get-go and to apologize for her role in it all. (Now that’s something my mother never, ever did in real life. Apologize to me.)
“You know Louise,” she said one day during one of her ‘from-the-other-side’ visits. “What if it wasn’t about my being the mother you wanted. What if it was all about my being the mother you needed to become the woman you are today?”
That one stopped me. Still does. Kind of makes me cry too.
What if it’s true? What if my mother was the perfect mother for me? Just the way she was.
And I breathe.
My mother hasn’t visited me in the bath lately. Last time she was here she told me she had other relationships to tend.
“Relationships are like a garden,” she told me. “You water and weed and tend them with loving care, and beauty will grow. Ignore them, let the weeds overrun the seeds of possibility, and everything will wither away.”
And then she said the words I’ve yearned to hear. The words she used to say all the time. The words I often dismissed and miss so much now. “I’ll light a candle for you and say a prayer.”
She took one final sip of her martini and did that thing only spirits can do. She threw her glass over her shoulder without breaking a shard and said,” My words will always be a prayer of Love for you, Louise. Nothing will ever change that. Especially death with all its deep and mysterious beauty stretching out into eternity.”
And then she, like her martini glass, disappeared into the deep mystery of eternity.
My mother is gone from this physical plane. But she is here. Showing herself in elegant blue wonder in my garden.
She is a candle burning bright in the mystery of life.
I too have lit a candle this morning.
My daughter asked me to light it. To say a prayer for her and my soon-to-be born grand-daughter.
In it, I told the story of travelling a thousand kilometres from Calgary, to a tiny town tucked into the prairies of Southeast Saskatchewan. Gravelbourg.
Gravelbourg is the town my father first lived in when he came to Canada as a young boy.
While I was there, I wandered the streets my father walked when he was a boy. I visited the cathedral in which he served as an altar boy at mass. I visited the Bishop’s home where he and other boys who attended Collège Mathieu, the boarding school where he was sent as a young boy, sometimes visited with the Bishop who oversaw the district when the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption was the seat of the diocese.
And I toured the almost deserted town of Mazenod, a few kilometres away. I went there because I discovered, via the school records, that my father’s father gave an address in Mazenod as his permanent address while my father was at school in Gravelbourg.
We never knew that, about our grandfather being close by while dad was at school. His story was always that he was sent, alone, to the school and only occasionally saw his Uncle Pat, who lived in Regina many kilometres away, on school holidays.
So many secrets. So many mysteries in the life of my father that will never be resolved.
He had no brothers or sisters. Though there was a half-sister in England who died many years ago. Even there my father’s penchant for secrets prevailed. The presence of an aunt on my father’s side of the family was never fully known by my sisters and brother.
Dad never talked about her. Until one day, he received a letter through veterans affairs. Inside that envelope was a letter from his sister.
My eldest sister called me when she found out. “So. What do you think about dad’s sister?” she asked.
“What sister?” I replied. “Dad doesn’t have a sister. He’s an only child.”
“Not anymore,” my sister said.
I promptly called my father to inquire.
“Her name is Phyllis,” he said.
“Why didn’t you ever tell us about her?” I asked.
“It didn’t seem relevant,” my father replied tersely.
For the next two years, my father and Phyllis corresponded via mail and telephone, both refusing to go see the other, though they both stated they wanted to meet again. Dad’s rationale was always that as she was the one looking for him, she needed to come to him.
The last time they’d seen each other was when dad was shipped off to boarding school from London, England and his mother left his father to live with another man. A man she’d been having an affair with for many years. Apparently, Phyllis was actually his daughter and so, she went with her mother to live in a new home while dad sailed across the Atlantic to take up residence in a new country.
Aunt Phyllis died before she and dad navigated the distance, the years and the pain between them.
My father passed away a few years later and carried the stories of his youth he’d never shared with him.
And still, sometimes in dreams and quiet moments, my father’s voice enters and whispers quietly in my heart. “You are a poet child,” he whispers. “Woven together of the warp and weft of stories threaded through your timeline shivering in harmony with the voices of the story whisperers of the past. Be brave. Give voice to the stories calling out to be told.”
This morning, I went in search of the posts I’d written about my father long ago. Thank you Bernie for your question! Aside from having to ignore the typos, I read the stories with fresh eyes and a heartful of gratitude and Love.
Listen. The muse whispers. The stories untold are awakening.
In order of appearance, here are the stories — and btw — if you have never been to Gravelbourg it is a beautiful town set in the vast wild prairies. The cathedral alone is worth the visit!
Taotalk is a forum for the discussion of both the academic and pragmatic aspects of dao and Daoism, with participants expressing themselves on Daoist writings and pragmatics from their unique perspectives. It serves as a community for Daoists, and those interested in Daoism, to gather and talk dao.