Transatlantic Life

Things Left Unsaid Can Be Turned Into Song

My father passed away in November of 2012 and I vividly remember the moment he took his last breath. It was both shocking and comforting. Then a wave of grief hit me making my skin flush warm as the panic of things left unsaid set in.

In the immediate moments after he died, I noticed a small, sprightly yellow bird looking through the sliding glass doors from the garden outside the hospice room. I didn’t focus on it, nor identify what type of bird it was, but I remember being aware of its bright, sunshine presence and it’s song as it flew away.

My grandfather, seen here holding my dad as a baby, who was a mysterious figure due to his early death (he was 28). He wasn’t often discussed and photos of him seemed to not exist (growing up I only saw one picture of him). It wasn’t until after my father passed away that we found a whole new chapter of his life and many photos of his dad.

My father was deeply flawed, including the complexities of inaction, reverie and regret that come with deeper bouts of depression. He was also intelligent, wickedly funny, forgiving, accepting, kind and caring. He was like a pied piper to random animals that he would feed, care for and take in. He was a good man, far from perfect but as I see it, perfect isn’t how any of us are meant to be.

After my parents divorced, we didn’t nurture our connection as carefully as we should have because we spent periods of time, sometimes years long, where we didn’t speak. A hush and lull created from misunderstanding how we fit into each other’s lives. I didn’t want to disturb his pain, and maybe he didn’t want to disturb mine. I don’t have the answer, but I’ve come to know that’s okay.

Poem by Molly from Transatlantic Notes called ’Things Left Unsaid: “Things left unsaid can be turned into song."

There was no big bust-up or betrayal. No nastiness or hate. Just a bond that was always there, albeit a quiet and sometimes distant one, that could be picked up again like there was no break in continuity. I wish I had told him that. I wish I had told him that I knew the ebb and flow, the drifting was not a lessening of that bond, just in case he ever felt that it was.

I think about him often and the time we did get to spend together. I valued it all. Maybe he knew I did because every time we reconnected there would be some reassurance that he’d always be interested, he’d always want my sister and I to be well and happy. He’d always listen and catch-up.

My grandfather and dad on a beach, not long before my grandfather died. To die so young would have left much unsaid – a sadness that my father carried all his life.

I recently saw a sprightly, little yellow bird singing loudly in a bush right near my home. I noticed the flash of colour, and as I watched it for some time, giving me pause to think all the things I’ve written about here, it sang one more verse and then flew away.

Maybe some of what I thought was turned into birdsong. Maybe he’ll get to hear what I wish I had said after all.

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