Tag Archives: family

Losing things

I was moving too fast: I had just 10 minutes to catch my coach to London from Bristol and I decided I had just enough time to try on a tunic top that was on display in the Debenham’s window.

Tried it on, bought it, made the bus with seconds to spare…and realized I’d left my favourite gloves–a pair of hand-cut, hand-stitched leather ones made in Newfoundland especially for my small hands–in the dressing room. Sigh.

But now, on the long drive back to the city I find myself thinking about all the things I’ve lost before–small things of little value except for the memories they hold.

Earrings. Watches. Once, a purse. Even a special umbrella.

And in the moments after they were lost, each became somehow more precious to me than it had been when it was actually in my custody. I took them for granted, or at least, didn’t cherish them sufficiently, when I actually had them in hand.

And then they are gone, usually by my own stupid negligence, and suddenly it’s as if someone has ripped the locks off my memory vault and the circumstances surrounding the original acquisition of said object come pouring out.

My gloves were bought for $110 at a time many years ago when I was perennially short of money.

They were an extravagance that made me feel sick after I left the shop–a family-run tannery in rural Newfoundland. But I had felt a connection with the young owners who were trying to make a go of it with a young family and a small business in a little-travelled corner of the world.

My husband and I were in a similar position in our lives. My husband ran a critically, but not financially, successful restaurant on a small island in western Canada. I wanted them to succeed as much as I wanted us to succeed.

I think their business, Neptune Leatherworks, may be gone now, but I hope their marriage and family bonds are still strong. Mine are.

I may get the gloves back; I’ll get in touch with the store and see if they can send them back to Canada. And if not, then I hope whoever acquires them senses that they are special and should be treated with respect.

I will buy new gloves in London–it’s colder here than I was prepared for–and I will no doubt take them for granted. Unless I lose them too.

And then I will remember this bus ride and the slant of golden light on the copses in the distance near Oxford where my child-dad once traded gifts with Italian prisoners-of-war. And that’s a memory worth the price of a new pair of gloves.

How about you? Have you ever lost something that became more precious after you lost it?

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Bring back the black armband

Several times as a child I heard the story of how my father had returned from military service to discover that his mother had died and been buried in his absence.

This story fascinated me on so many levels.

At a time when I was just beginning to understand that families were complicated, and that not all children loved their parents equally–or vice versa–the hard facts of this story spoke volumes about my dad’s difficult relationship with his own father.

That my grandfather had waited, in an age of telegrams and trans-Atlantic telephone cables, until my father stepped ashore in England to tell him that his beloved mother had died just a few days before and was now in the ground…well, I understood that there was something very wrong and probably eternally damaging about that scenario.

Beyond that, there was always the mention of the black armband my father wore for months after his mother passed.

I had only ever seen such things in books and movies, and found the notion of betraying one’s grief and loss as oddly embarrassing. Thank goodness, I thought as a youngster, that we didn’t have to do that any more.

But now I am grown up.

And I am starting to lose my family in bits and pieces.

And I wish I had a black armband to tell the world, “I am bereaved and sad and a little emotionally unstable right now. Cut me some slack, will you? You’ll understand soon enough, if you don’t already.”

There have been several deaths in my life this year, beginning with the loss of my dear dad-in-law, Bob, last November 28th. I am just emerging from the deep first-year funk of grief.

I now understand why the Jewish tradition teaches that you shouldn’t make any big changes in the first 12 months after a death in the family. You aren’t in your right mind.

I’m feeling like I’m back to my right mind now.

I am ready again to socialize and can trust myself (more or less; see the Raffi post) not to burst into tears at the sight of Bob’s old camera sitting on the table, or my Aunt Donna’s elegant script adorning a birthday card.

But for the past several months, it would have been nice to have had the shield of a black armband. Something that served as an early warning system for unassuming friends and colleagues. Something that screamed: Caution! 

I say: let’s bring back the black armband, the badge of broken hearts.

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