– Mum is coming by to pick some blackberries.
– I think there’s enough room to land a broom.
My parents were married for 12 years when they separated in 1978. I was practically a baby when Mum secretly found an apartment in town and moved out while Dad was working.
My first memory is standing on the couch in Dad’s kitchen, little hands on the window ledge watching Mum parking in the driveway. I don’t know how long they had been separated but I had no memory of her in the family home and was shocked to see her there. They fought in the other room and all I understood was Dad yelling something about having signed the papers. I was too little to open the kitchen door and Mum drove away before I could get to her.
It wasn’t until Grade 6 when my brother was first admitted into the hospital for mental illness that I saw them together again. After that was Grade 8 at my sister’s wedding in a small, dry town in Alberta. No scotch to help him through, Dad would leave the room whenever Mum would walk in. Photos were awkward.
Jokes about my mother and her broom made up for most of the conversation Dad would make with me prior to my coming of age. That, singing KKKKatie as I howled happily for him to stop and the sudden, randomly timed question that he used to break the normalized silence.
Pause. Pressure. Blank.
I hated Dad for making fun of my mother.
– He wanted a dog, not a wife.
Says Mum when asked why she gave Dad a Labrador puppy he named Satan.
She was no different. She just didn’t laugh afterwards.
My graduation from university was the first nuclear family lunch and photo ever taken. The second photo was Dad’s 80th birthday party last year.
Though they have gradually started co-participating in family events over the past decade, it is only these past few months that blood has finally started to run clean.
– She would have been miserable with me. She’s a world traveller and I don’t want to go to Sooke.
– He’s a good man, just not a good husband.
Picking blackberries on the farm with my parents, sitting outside while Mum shows Dad old photos she found while spring cleaning and listening to them reminisce about their good old days, is surreal. The memories I don’t have of my parents together in the past are being made now.
Returning home from a weekend in Vancouver, Dad welcomes me with his funny bone tickled.
– My ex-wife made me dinner this weekend.
– I know. So nice of her.
– When I asked her if I could put my plate down for the dogs, she told me she wouldn’t want to endanger them.
His loud laughter at her insinuating she would poison him.
– That’s a good one, a real Classic!