C’mon, think! Last memory.
There’s gotta be evidence of what he looked like, back then. Considering it’s only been half of my lifetime ago since I’ve last seen him, I should be able to remember. So, think! Last time. Last memory.
Half and half. That’s how this story goes. One half — chalked up to my childhood; the other — to having to grow up. The first — to innocence; the other — to no choice.
And only in the later day reflections of myself in the glossy surface of a photograph with someone who looks like the younger me, do I occasionally notice it again.
“Huh. Is that — innocence?”
Sometimes, though, I can’t even name it.
“That thing, that thing… you know,” I snap my fingers, trying to speed up the memory. The others grant me weird looks: They’ve got no problems remembering.
So, think: Last memory. Last time.
I was innocent. He — was quickly aging. I was rushing time. He would die if only he could slow it down, at least a little.
How could that happen: that the other half of life demanded a leap larger and longer than any of my or his predecessors have ever committed? Why wouldn’t growing up alone — be enough? Life had to change. So, continents shifted, and so did our outlooks. Our lives.
And I couldn’t wait, too. I’m sure he had something to do with it, though. I couldn’t wait to be of age, to understand him so completely; to answer him right on the dot, precisely, perfectly and so grown up. I wanted to become the company he’d always choose over all others, while he walked and chain-smoked. I would be equal, I imagined. And I would be so poignant, when grown-up, so fascinating, he’d want to jot down my statements. Then! Surely then, he would be so proud!
But first, I think it started as a rebellion against my kindergarten naps:
“When I’m grown up, I’ll never nap!” So serious — so stubborn and determined — I was already very certain that my life would go in a different way; my way. At least, the other half of it; the one that I myself would dictate.
And so I got my wish: Somewhere at the end childhood, things began to change. For all of us. Most grown-ups I knew had no choice — but to catch on. The children had to grow up: Historical transitions aren’t merciful to innocence. So, yes, I got my wish; and halfway through my teens, grew up so quickly, one day, he would have to rediscover me, in awe:
“Whatever happened to my little girl?” he’d say. Surprisingly, he wasn’t proud at all, but mostly shy, a little bit embarrassed and definitely awkward.
He’d go on thinking that he had failed me; had failed my innocence. He could not protect it from the avalanche of new events. Why wouldn’t growing up alone — be enough? So, for the entire second half, my father was ashamed.
To think: Last memory.
I was already grown up, or striving to be so. Completely clueless about the challenges of an adult life, I was flippant and quite impatient to depart. I would choose to do it all alone: to make a leap larger and longer than any of my or his predecessors had ever had the courage to commit.
But I — had the courage. I was his daughter, after all.
One thing I do remember: Dad always bore his feeling bravely. In all my life until then — in all of my innocent first half — I hadn’t seen my father cry. I would that day: The day of the last memory.
But think: The details, the evidence of what he looked like.
Stood tall, I think. Or was I merely short and still a child (although no longer innocent). His hair had been turning gray quite rapidly. On every waking morning — another start of his courageous bearing — I’d watch him pour another cup of coffee and become an older man.
That day: He chain-smoked. But of course! Standing outside the airport, he chained smoked. That day — he’d look at me, so proudly, I’m sure, but to protect my innocence, to prolong my childhood — he thought he’d failed.
Neither one of us suspected that it would take a whole half of my lifetime — to reunite; and that a half of a life — is long enough to lose one’s last memory.
So, I would rather learn: What does he look like NOW? What will he look like, when we reunite. But any way he looks, I think — shall be a start. A good one — of a new memory, after the second half.