Sunday, August 23, 2009

Crazy Arms

My dad came home.

He drove nearly 5000 km from the west coast, through the rocky mountains, across the great flat praries, all the way back to the teeny Ottawa valley he has always thought of as "home".

I'm so glad he did.

And maybe, if i wait, my mother will too.


He picked me up this evening for a catch up visit over dinner and a movie. We were supposed to meet up much earlier in the afternoon, but i had fallen asleep with the ringer turned off on my phone, and did not wake up until well after one. I probably needed the sleep, and he had a lot of friends to catch up with after getting back, and anyways thats just how we roll. Something about apples and their respective distance from trees, if you will.

He buzzes up to my apartment, which he has never seen before, and we greet each other with great and crushing hugs that are long overdue. We've already missed the first of our two movie choices for the evening, so i give him the ten cent tour and we drift out into the evening, still in no great hurry for movie number two.

"There she is!" He gestures with a flourish to an ancient, boxy silver van, "the old caravan, still kicking!"

He tells me all about driving through the mountains, praying against breakdown and how the old girl held up just fine, in spite of constant 30 degree inclines through the rockies, and a nearly bald tire on the front left. He's pleased by the trip, but will sell the van before its transmission dies, and while the mileage is still low.

As I slide into the passenger seat, what i remember about this van is winding down the Pacific Highway in the morning, on the way to the beach with a wetsuit on the back seat, and a surfboard crammed up the hatch, listening to Jerry Lee Lewis sing "Crazy Arms" while the mountains creep by outside. Singing along, driving one handed and trying not to spill my coffee on the on the corners...

I drink it all in.

I was young then... I find myself thinking. So young.

It was only a year ago.
Am i really so tired?

We make our way to the Mayfair theatre in time to catch most of Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo , then head to the market for burgers at Chez Lucien.

I'm relieved to hear that my dad sounds good. I worry about him being away from mum. (and about her, being away from him) Its a weird situation, this apart-ness.

He tells me he'll be teaching music lessons and fixing up the house again, and he's already lined up a few playing gigs in the few days since he's been back and he tells me about them as we drink our beers. We talk a little bit about nursing, and the things i think i'll like about it. He laughs at me for still having my old junker of a car in the parking space behind my building.

I pull out my camera and snap a few pictures of him from across the table. I examine the display images, furrow my brow, and scold him and tell him to sit up straight.

He laughs and tells me he's an old man now.
And somehow, as i'm focusing through the lens, and just at exactly the same time as he says it, i see it.
For the first time ever. I can see it.
I see all the wrinkles in my dads forehead. I see all the laugh lines around his eyes. And i see that his beard has now turned completely snowy white.

Suddenly he has aged.

and i begin to cry.




He didn't make it.

my favourite picture of the tiny orange boy... from the night i first brought him home - I promised Jen i would print it
and frame it and hang it somewhere
as a reminder that it is ALWAYS worth trying... even if it doesn't always work out in the end

And even if it fucking stings