Two separate deaths. Two separate anniversaries.
It was my father’s birthday yesterday. He would have been 77. He died, destroyed by dementia and regressed to an aggressive, pre-verbal state, in July of 2019. Truth to tell, his passing meant very little to me, as had our disintegrated relationship, which had never recovered fully from his abandonment of us when I was a teenager and had only ever reached the heights of easy familiarity. We hadn’t spoken for a couple of years before his death: his increasing disability, and moving so far away physically, made it easy to acknowledge what I’d had in my heart for a long time– we simply did not belong in the same world, and there was no need to keep trying to force us together. Harsh, probably, but a harshness forged over more than forty years of experience. Even his birthday would not be worth mentioning, were it not for the other anniversary occurring this weekend.
See, I’m sitting at home, alone, while I type this. Luscious is in Perth. She’s attending the awarding of the first annual Blake Triffitt Memorial Prize for Excellence in First Year History, at Edith Cowan University, the University where Blake was studying when he completed suicide two months after my father’s death (And congratulations to Corbin Bright, whoever you are: I hope the scholarship will help take you where you want to be). In the two years since Blake left us the outpouring of love and remembrance for him has been constant: everyone who ever met him has a story, or an anecdote, or just a warm feeling that they can bring back at a moment’s notice. The University itself has contributed to the scholarship, matching our donation and more to give it real heft and make a proper difference to someone’s studies (Corbin’s, obviously. Corbin this year). And I should be down there with her, but it’s the middle of term, and we could only afford the one flight, and so she’s down there with our eldest son Aiden and those family members who live there already, and that’s all well and fine and good, but they’re not me, and…… I’m worried for her.
Grief never leaves. At best, you can throw a sheet over it like a parrot in a birdcage, to send it to sleep for a while, and redecorate around it in the hopes that the shiny new colours will help it blend into the background for a while. But it doesn’t take much to whip the sheet off and for the parrot to start squawking obscenities at your visitors again. This scholarship will do wonderful things, and be a positive contribution to a world that Blake was heading towards joining, but none of that will be a consolation to the woman who has to sit in the audience and hear his name spoken on stage, and know why.
There’s no lesson here. No moral to pass on. I just wish I was with my wife today, and even more so, that Blake was.