It's now over three months since my Dad died and the longest I have ever gone without talking to him. When I lived abroad, we would talk on the phone a once or twice a week, not for very long but simply to exchange a few words and for him to tell me what the weather outside my door was like. At the time I found it silly but then I've learned that's it's the silly things you miss the most. We often talked about Venice, his memories of a day spent there many years ago, how we wanted to go there together as a family and rent an apartment in the centre. For his birthday in June, I gave him two books on Venice, including the Venice Sketchbook, about the city seen through watercolours which my Dad really loved. I'm glad I did that. In the ambulance, my mother told him he had to be well in time for Venice. He just smiled and nodded.
One of the things I found hardest to accept when he died was the fact that nothing changed. His paints and brushes were there on the bathroom shelf for the next watercolour, the clothes neatly folded in his closet for him to choose, the letters which came through the mailbox for him to open with the paper knife the garden in full bloom awaiting his return. He died on the most beautiful summer's day full of sunshine and nothing changed. There is something almost obscene about going to one of the most beautiful cities in the world without the person you wanted to share it with. We felt his absence in the plane with the missing seat at the end of our row and choked back the tears as we came into land on the perfect summer evening. The apartment was also perfect, cool and quiet, tucked away in a little street just a few minutes from the Rialto and decorated in rich fabrics. It felt good to go back there for lunch of radicchio salad, tomatoes and mozzarella, bought fresh from the amazing market that morning and in the evening we poured a couple of glasses of ice cold Bellini or Prosecco. I lit a candle in every church in memory.
On the second day though, we took the boat over to Isola San Michele to scatter a few of my Dad's ashes close to the water's edge so that he a part of him would always be there, watched over by the cyprus trees. We tried to imagine what he would have enjoyed most and painted, how he would have sat on the terrace of a café having a beer while we went off sightseeing. Yet after a week, I felt ready to come home to the patchwork fields and crispness of the English autumn, the landscapes that he knew. We landed in Birmingham in the middle of a brilliant sunset and I thought of the painful contrast between that evening and the end of June when I arrived back to find my parents waiting for me. It left a lump in my throat.
|A shop for cat lovers|
|Isola San Michele|
|Ice cream from Rosa Salva|
|Sheltering in La Salute|
|View from the Campanile of San Giorgio|
|At the Peggy Guggenheim Foundation|
|The Yoko Ono wishing tree in the garden|
Now that a little time has passed, I realise that the shock is gone but what remains is the unbearable longing to see him again. I have so much I'd like to tell him, so many questions I'd like to ask. We talk about him every day, remembering things that made us laugh, talking about what he would have thought about his or that. I will always look for him in the garden now damp and covered with fallen leaves. I can only make the best of what remains, knowing that a part of me is missing.