It’s been a year today since I lost my dad. Some of you will possibly relate to the sense of panic I have about this day passing. Because in that year after a loved one’s death, that person is somehow kept alive to you through the comparison of time: last year on this day, we would have been doing this.
Yesterday, for instance, was the day he woke up only once, thrashing around in his bed like a feverish child, throwing off the covers. When I’d put a cold washcloth to his forehead he recoiled like he’d been bitten by a snake – too cold, too cold – and the nurse had said it won’t be long now. Last Tuesday was the day we walked a lap around the third floor of the hospital together, and he fainted on the way back and I was startled when I caught him and could hold up his weight – he was so light: I just closed my eyes a minute and then everything fell from me.
Or further back – last Christmastime when I was hormonal and furious with M. for telling me I couldn’t buy this pair of earrings I was looking at in the store – what do you mean we can’t afford it? What’s all the overtime I’ve been working for! - and my Dad had casually drawn me aside and revealed that M. had actually bought them when I wasn’t looking, to just keep quiet and be nice to the poor man for once and for god’s sake don’t tell M. he told me (I still haven’t told him). Or the day my brother scolded him for something I can’t even remember, and he’d looked down at his shoes like a shamed child.
But after today, the sacred hold of that first year without him will be over, and I won’t be able to say last year we were doing… because after day he will no longer exist last year. And from now on my father will continue to recede further and further into the past. I will forget. I will start to remake him into the person I want to remember him as, and he will stop being the person he was. And that terrifies me. Because what if the day comes when I can no longer remember his strange wheezing laugh? His hunched shoulders and the way he rolled on his toes when he was nervous, jingling his change? The way his eyebrows comically flew to the top of his forehead whenever he took a bite of anything? Those are the things I miss the most.
Back in February of last year, at the beginning of his illness, when the chances were still 50/50 - that’s pretty good he’d said, better than I’d expected - I was sitting with him in the hospital during the first round of chemo. I was trying to explain to him that I could put off my MA till he was better (we didn’t mention the other possibility) – that I could be there to help out, do whatever was needed – really I just wanted to feel needed. He was leaning on his side, the tray containing the vegetable soup and salad I’d optimistically ordered for him pushed discreetly away. The needle was dripping the CHOP therapy into his vein – a nice acronym that made me picture the cancer cells being judo-chopped by microscopic black-belts. I want you to go, he said. I’ll be better by then – Mom and I will come to visit, you can take us out for fish and chips. There was that tone his voice, like fathers get, that said there is no questioning this statement. I would go, and he would be there with me when he could, and we would have fish and chips.
And of course he was right. He is here with me, in my thoughts, all the time. This one’s for you, Dad.
- 3 large baking potatoes
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- fresh ground black pepper to taste
- ½ pound fillet of cod or other white fish
- Slice the potatoes into thick wedges, leaving the skin on (so much better that way). Put them into a pot filled with cold water, and bring the water to a boil. Boil for 8 minutes and then drain. Remove the rosemary leaves from one sprig and chop finely. Add it to the potatoes along with the salt and pepper and toss well to distribute (don't be gentle in your tossing - you want to rough them up a little so the hot oil will have all sorts of delicious nooks and crannies to seep into).
- While your potatoes are boiling, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F/ 200 degrees C. Drizzle the olive oil over a large baking tray, and place the tray in the oven to heat the oil up. Once the oil is smoking hot, add the potatoes and remaining sprigs of rosemary and replace into the oven for about forty minutes, flipping them halfway through, until they have a lovely golden crust.
- Rub the cod all over with salt and pepper. When the potatoes are done, push them aside in the tin to make a space for the fish. Nestle the fish amongst the potatoes and return the tray to the oven for another ten minutes, or until the fish is cooked to your liking. Squeeze a lemon over the top of everything and serve hot with home-made tartar sauce.
If you can't find cornichons, use dill pickles or dill pickle relish.
- ½ cup (125 ml) Greek yoghurt
- 1/3 cup (about 5-6 medium sized) cornishons, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced capers
- ½ teaspoon English mustard
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- small bunch of parsley, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried dill
- freshly ground pepper to taste
- Mix everything together in a medium sized bowl. Garnish the top with extra chopped parsley and dill.