In Place of Yahrzeit

Religious relatives used to remind me of your Yahrzeit but I didn’t need that. I would mourn you every day. In the same way as I feel that everyday is my birthday. Anniversaries are too literal. They make these things into duties. But recently I haven’t thought about you too much.

So why am I sitting here in a coffee shop writing about you and crying? Because in a discussion with The Anna I said that death is a Taboo. And so I thought maybe I should talk about it. Because last night on Twitter … what would you have made of Twitter? 18 years ago the Internet was new and you were just beginning to see the power that it might have … last night on Twitter was #LossLit where people wrote about loss in 140 characters or fewer. I wrote a couple of tweets about you and they opened me up like a can opener opens a can.

¶ On our way home we saw an ambulance at the petrol station. We wondered what had happened. Turns out it was there for you.

You fell like a tree. A woman dressed a wound on your head, not knowing that you were gone. She told me that she prayed for you, and apologised that her prayer was a Christian prayer. I said that I was grateful that she was there with you in that place of desolation.

The policeman gave me your watch, your wallet, your car keys. His face was blank. It must be the hardest job to say to someone – your father is dead. Here are his things.

Neighbours came. And so did P&S even though P had had a few drinks. When he heard what had happened he came straight away. P knew that it was better to be pissed and present than absent. Other people looked askance at him but I needed him to be there and I loved him the more for it.

Next day in the hospital we viewed your body. D said: that is not my father. And she was right. You had checked out and this carcass was empty. Only at this moment would my mind accept that you were gone. The Irit was not there at that moment. At the shiva she went looking to find you so she could give you a cup of tea. But you weren’t there.

I was angry with you because you had insisted on leaving despite the fact that you hardly had the strength to get up from the sofa that you were lying on. Despite the fact that you told me that you had been ill for three weeks . You said you had been to hell and back. You told me the surgery had said the next available appointment was in three weeks time. I don’t think you had been ill in your life and you didn’t know how to be ill. How to insist that there’s something serious wrong and you needed someone to see you now.

The night before I had called an emergency doctor and he said it was flu. You let him say that it was flu.

You hardly had the strength to rise from the sofa so I collected your car from where you had parked. I didn’t think you could walk that far. You sat there for at least ten minutes before you drove round the corner to the petrol station. You started to fill your car. You fell. Like a tree.

Four hours later you hadn’t arrived at B’s house and I started calling all the hospitals en route. It didn’t occur to me that you hadn’t got that far so I didn’t call the local hospital. When the phone rang I knew what the message was going to be. Which was fortunate because the delivery was a little too direct and I might have fallen over had I not worked out that something dreadful had happened.

I was angry because you were in denial. And because if you had known how to be ill you’d have got treatment and maybe shared a few more years with us. But I also knew that in your place I could easily do the same thing. And that maybe you wanted it that way.

You never got old.

You never lost your mental abilities.

You you were never dependent on others.

¶ I don’t think you ever said it to me or I to you. You because you were a yekke and me because I was the son of a yekke and also I knew it would embarrass you. But I knew that you loved me and you knew that I loved you. I still do.

What I hadn’t realised until that time was that you were my friend. The one to whom I wanted to show all the nice things. The one who I wanted to be pleased about the things I had done. The one who, when slightly drunk, asked me to sing that one about the cowboy.

¶ We were four children and there was always a fuss about who got to “sit next to Mummy”. One day I realised this was not nice for you. From that day and forever after I would sit at your right hand. Now when she is here The Anna sits where you would have been. She is more than worthy.

¶ I miss you. I miss how I would open the front door to find you bobbing up and down clutching two bottles of celebratory wine. I miss the way you would sit in the garden reading the paper, full of a simple joy of being amongst family. I miss your love of the British countryside and your enthusiasm for smoked fish and whisky.

¶ One week today you would have been 90. I don’t think you would have made a good old person. You and Mum both checked out without warning. It was tough for us at the time but we remember both of you as young. And I am glad of that.