Back to the path

Piles of books on my father's sofa.

I spent the weekend before my father’s funeral sorting through his books. He had them on shelves in different rooms, but they were also tucked in drawers, stacked at the bottom of wardrobes and piled behind old televisions. Some went straight to the tip because of damage or being completely out of time, but there were also entire fantasy series, thrillers, horror, that people would still want today.

On a whim, I called in the local library, which is now community-run and needing funds, and I offered them his collection, and amazingly they said yes. Taibach Library is where he took me for my first library tickets when I was five, so it’s part of my story as well as is. He would love that his books are going back into his community.

Dad’s death wiped clean my imagined year ahead and brought up some big questions, like why bother doing anything if we decay to nothing? But his energy lingers in his objects and spaces. When I hold the TV remote I see him in his chair, and when I pull out his books I can see him smile. I’ve created these intense associations from decades of being with him: lottery numbers, glasses cases, his cereal bowl, the knife he preferred, his favourite radio station, the way he liked the recycling bins to be put out, the bird table, fluorescent tubed lighting in the kitchen, golf clubs, his favourite pruners and gardening gloves. I project my memories of him onto the space through the objects I see.

That’s like reading. We turn sentences into our own version of what the author imagined. In that way, our lives are a gift to everyone who spends time with us, because they create versions of us for themselves. Both my parents live on in me as memories I can talk with whenever I want.

The path I’d imagined for 2024 was vague. Dad’s deteriorating health was a constant threat to any plans, so I found myself being reactive and anxious. Sometimes life needs us to step off the path we think we’re on and go into the woods. I lost my literary ambitions for a while. It’s been ten years since I enrolled for the creative writing MA, and five years since The Complex was published. Dad won’t read my next book. His reaction to The Complex was that he liked it. That was it. He wasn’t one to articulate feelings, especially love, so that had to be enough, but it’s a tender spot, because part of me was writing for his approval.

Anyway, I had a dream where I wanted to take an important kick in a rugby match, but an old friend with more natural talent pointed out that I didn’t have the power. I knew they were right, and that I had to get serious and practice. That’s about as literal as dreams can get short of dreaming that your house is on fire and waking up to find your house on fire.