I have always fancied myself as having a really good memory. Certainly, when I was younger, I never forgot anything. I was always able to remember trivial facts and, in my schoolwork, I seldom had to revise hard for my exams. I also did a great deal of acting at home and at university, and learning long scripts was never a chore, or something that I gave a second thought to.
Now anyone reading this that works with me is probably laughing quietly to themselves. It is true, now that I am in my sixth decade, the memory isn’t what it was. I do find that I need to make lists and be reminded of things that I am meant to do. On the whole, I think my memory is still pretty good.
Then, the other day, I was in the sitting room and looking around at the pictures on our wall. One of the pictures is made up of a number of pictures of Mac, Swee and me. As a gift when Mac came to live with us, some good friends bought us a professional photography session. It was the perfect gift. So early in our time together as a family, those photos taken of us show something of the fun and hope that we had as a newly formed unit – us against the world. We had hundreds of photos taken – so much so, it took a very long time to choose the best ones – but we now have fantastic photos as a clear memory of that time. There are great ones of the three of us, but also some wonderful ones of Mac dressed as a wizard, and holding one of his most prized possessions at the time (a ceramic motorbike that he had painted himself).
But, as I looked at the pictures, it felt as though all of that had happened to someone else. Yes – I could remember the occasion; I could remember how much fun we had and how carefully Swee had picked clothes that would show well in photos. But somehow it all seemed so distance. Somehow it felt as though I was losing that memory, as if it was another lifetime. I went to find Swee and for the first time in a long time, I sobbed and sobbed. It made me so sad to think that somehow, maybe my memories of Mac and my memories of being a Dad were fading away.
But then I thought more about the nature of memories. It is true that some parts of our memories fade. One of the main reasons I wanted to write down my memories of bringing up Mac and our time together was that one day I would find it harder to remember, and I didn’t want his life, and the memories of all that he was, to die with me. I wanted there to be something more lasting to honour him.
So, is it inevitable that my memories will fade?? I guess in some ways that it is. One of my greatest fears has been that one day our short eight years together would seem such a short part of my life – it’s already nearly four years since he died.
But I do know that those years were the most important time in my life – it doesn’t mean that what went before, or what will come after will not be equally important – being a husband, being a son, a brother, an uncle, a godfather, a boss, a friend, a priest – all of these thing define me. All of these things have changed me and made me who I am. Just as being a dad to Mac has been one of the most important things – made all the more precious by being taken away all too soon.
What I do know about memories is that certain things come back very easily, and don’t seem to fade at all.
My gran died in 1997 – I loved her dearly and I can still feel her hug made strong by years of manual house work. I can still feel her sense of complete unconditional love. I can still hear her soft Wearside accent.
And with Mac, I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling of complete love that I had for him; I won’t forget singing with him in the car; I won’t forget the way he bumped clumsily up the starts like a deer that hadn’t grown into his long limbs and I won’t forget his laugh like a peel of bells.
But most of all it is the feelings that can come back in an instant. So maybe the memories will fade, but I know the feelings never will.
I love you Mac. I miss you, but thanks for all that we had.
Happy Father’s Day, my dear boy xxxx