real life

The little things you remember

My youngest child is almost 6 years old, and she is just a few months shy of the age I was when I lost my Dad.

I think lost is a great word in this case, because he is all but a ghost to me, a fictional character who was written in to my early childhood history but a character whom I really don’t have any personal recollection of. What I do remember is tiny snippets of time, grainy as old photos. A breakfast bowl in the sink. Long slender bare feet on the couch. A bald “chemo” head hidden under a terry toweling hat on a car trip.

Now that I have had two children myself I find this revelation staggering. I know as a parent the many thousand moments of shared history we have had together from birth. My daughter could tell you many funny stories about our lives together, with accuracy and in great detail. She could probably even give you a pretty spot on character reference of me if pressed. She could tell you I take a long time to get in to cold water for a swim. That my favourite colour is greeny-blue. That I bake cookies for stress relief. She knows that I put the zipper end of the pillow into the pillow case first, and why (so it doesn’t scratch in the night if it escapes a little). Our life is a shared life to this point. We even have the concept of the “mama-metre”: that moment when you realise everyone in the house has gravitated to being within a metre of Mama for no reason but a desire to be close.

The thought that if I died tomorrow she would remember virtually nothing of this as an adult is shocking. It seems a major design flaw that the happiest and most carefree moments of our lives are erased from our memory, lost  forever.

I have been contemplating this because of something my older cousin shared with me a few days ago. He said his most vivid memory of my Dad was at our shop, where we kept a few chooks for their egg laying prowess. One day at the shop my Dad showed him how to hypnotise a chicken. Apparently, you hold its head down, draw a line forward of its beak in the dirt, and when you let go of its head it will be unable to look away from the line. To me, this is such a mysterious, unusual skill that it opens up a world of questions about my Dad which will never be answered. How does one learn how to hypnotise a chicken, and why?

I can’t help but think, did I miss this lesson? Surely I couldn’t have forgotten it?

Have you discovered things about lost loved ones which you wish you could ask about? Do you have a thing you want to be remembered for?

Kristen Ingwersen always knew she wanted to write. It has taken turning forty, and a chance exchange with Jess Rudd on Twitter to decide to throw in her career flitting around the world, for a career skipping through the sweeping fields of her thoughts.

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