They sat without a word to each other, without a laugh, without a sigh, without a cry. Silence. Just silence. And though the tears rolled down his face, he never uttered a sound. Things would never have been like this before. How had he suddenly found himself at a loss for words ? God, if only things could have been different. All the things he had so longed to say. All the words and phrases he had twined together in his mind, just hoping, wishing for a moment like this to make them known. And yet, nothing. Not a sound. Was it the shock ? The surprise ? The sadness ? It was both his greatest dream and his worst nightmare combined in one ; his father sitting before him, without uttering a word.
One year. That is how long his father had been dead. “Cancer,” they said. It took his father. Just like that. He was only fifteen ; not quite a man, yet too old to be a boy. He needed his father. To guide him, to carry him through. He did not know how to proceed when his only direction was now lost. He was unsure how to find his way after being led astray.
In the days and weeks after the cancer’s fatal toll, he reflected on all the words unspoken, all the storeys that remained untold… that would forever remain untold. He remembered what he should have said and what he should have apologised for, and with a sickening discernment, he realised he would have never have the opportunity to change the fact. It is funny how so many long-lost thoughts we hate to have misplaced suddenly return to us when we least want to remember them.
Day after day, his hope for an extra day, an extra hour, or even simply an extra minute grew exponentially, and day after day, the acceptance that such a wish could never be fulfilled strengthened as well. How could he have known when he said “I’ll be right back,” and left for the hospital cafeteria, that those would be the very last words they would exchange ? They had so much left to discuss, so much left to share. But his final opportunity had slipped through his fingers as tragic as the last grain of sand falling through an hourglass, and he forever remembers how his father never replied when he cried, “I love you, Daddy,” as they rolled him away in a long black bag.
They took him away. They put him in an iron locker. They placed him in a box. They buried him. They trapped him beneath a purposeless stone. He can remember these details with the utmost clarity -- as if he had just watched the events unfold in on an old film reel. So how can his father sit before him as healthy as he was in that picture on the mantel wearing his faded jeans and Motley Crue t-shirt ? And how can he have nothing to say ?
The memories, sometimes they linger in the back of your mind and appear when you least expect it, knocking you off that emotional stability you slaved for so long to rebuild. Other times, they come when you are prepared, so you may smile and laugh at a dim inside joke and remember the legacy left behind. But the worst are the floods. The ones that do not stop. It does not matter how prepared you are, how strong your walls have been built, how thick your skin has become. When the wave arrives, like a tsunami, it destroys everything in its path, it evokes screams of pain and leaves behind streams of its burden on your face. That is the kind of memory that plagued him at that moment as he sit facing the one person he had waited so long to see most.
In a rush, he recalled the park his father took him to every day as a child and even slid down the slide when they played tag together. He remembered the hockey games his father turned on CBC every evening to watch during those cold winter months so they could yell at the television set together in frustration and celebration as their beloved Montreal Canadiens played. He reminisced about Orion on the days the stars outshone the Montreal city lights, and his father would sit outside with him and magically pull images from the twinkling orbs. He relived the car rides when his father tuned the radio to the Classic Rock station and cranked the volume, allowing them to sing to Sweet Child O’ Mine at the top of their lungs. He smiled as he called to mind the time his father took him to his first concert in the summer of 2004 to see Simple Plan debut their very first album. He dwelled upon that goal and the elation that shone on his father’s face the first time he managed to hit the puck just right and score, even if it was in his own team’s net. His thoughts wandered to the garden where, one summer his father decided to build a roof over the back deck and could not be more appreciative of the 7-year-old paint job on the wooden beams. And finally, as they sat side by side in the stillness, he felt gratitude for the quiet that reminded him of how his father read every night just before closing the drapes and climbing into bed, emitting no sound yet demonstrating complete serenity. How he missed those moments of contentment and peace.
The flood, the tidal wave. It had returned. But as he sat before his father, instead of screams of agony coming from his mouth, they left an intensifying smile ; instead of trails of sadness leaving his eyes, they left tears of joy. At that moment, he realised how foolish he had been to worry, how vacuous he had been to fall in despair. Despite his unfortunate reticence, all the time he had spent pondering things left unsaid suddenly seemed insignificant. In that second, he understood his reserve was voluntary. It had finally became clear that all those once unuttered words had, in fact, been known, for, as he reluctantly awoke from his dream, opening his eyes to an otherwise bleak reality, his father whispered in a voice barely audible, “I love you too, son.”