Stinging Retreat

“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” - Michael J. Fox

When the word divorce comes up people get uncomfortable. I see it in their gaze. When I explain that I cannot remember a time when my parents were together, or that the sight of their wedding photo truly elicits a sense of disbelief and awe, they generally feel pity.

For as long as I can remember, it was Mom or Dad.

We saw my Dad as much as we could growing up. We lived in Drumheller, Alberta and he was a short distance to Calgary. Once a month my brother and I would venture to the big city to spend the weekend renting movies, skiing, biking along the Bow River, and definitely watching Hockey Night in Canada. He took us all over the country, chasing sports stadiums with his brother Rob, soaking up the sun on any and every beach we could find. Dad knew how to work hard and have fun. When I turned 19, I moved in with him. We hadn’t lived together since I was four years old. It was tricky at first, getting used to each other again. I’d leave the stereo on, he’d reprimand me, I’d wake him up coming home late, he’d offer his words of advice on how to be more responsible. I knew that these words came from a place of missing out, of longing, he’d never had a chance to really catch me sneaking in or being even remotely irresponsible. I was an adult now and appreciated his love and concern.

And now it’s my turn for concern once again. In his 70 years, he has battled cancer and won, survived a major heart attack and as he battles cancer once again, I am reminded of how delicate this relationship is. How vulnerable we all are, moving through time and space. How it’s never too late to say what needs saying, to laugh, to anger, to cry. As a parent myself, I can’t help but wonder how hard it must have been to miss my ball games and school plays, parent teacher interviews, and Christmas mornings. Life is rife with choices and sacrifice. 

I hope I can look back on this poem and be reminded of the battle that my Dad fought and won.

by Sadie Rosgen

Somewhere between Abott and 
Rose Avenue,
my heart fell apart,
sprung from my chest
with a start.

How do you do the right thing?
How do you show up for the people that made you?
How does this suffering end?

The rain mists down now
a caress for the shattered,
a silent prayer for the people that mattered.

The beeping hospital reels me in as I reluctantly activate the doors.
I politely explain who I am and why I’ve come,
but they know me already.
They know my name,
ask how my children are
remark how my eyes are just like Dad’s.

My father sleeps,
exhausted by his 70 years,
afraid that this is where it ends.
“Just look at me,” he croaks.
I am.

He’s aged a lifetime.

I remind him that this too is temporary, that all of us are made for this,
living and dying.

“That’s just it kiddo, to live or die.”

His eyes close again,
a gentle retreat inside,
our lives together,