31 October 2004

In Lieu of Flowers

Rowena's dad's wake was today, and I didn't make it down to Victoria. I've been trying to come up with a few words for days and days and am forced to conclude once again that there are no words. Or not the right ones. But I will try anyway.

When I was a teenager and young adult, most of my friend's parents didn't like me. One girl's dad said I was "spooky" because I hardly talked. I was debilitatingly shy (I grew out of it, mostly). Rowena's parents, on the other hand, always made me feel welcome, fed me delicious food, and never made me feel like I was required to say anything. Which is maybe why I need to find these words now.

I didn't really know Rowena's dad very well (which may be why I always seem to refer to him as "Rowena's dad" instead of "Mr Hart"), but I remember him as a man who told the coolest stories. Stories about eating ants in the jungle, about finding a shoe--complete with foot--while dredging a river, about poaching pheasants at night with a flashlight and a loop of copper wire. Most of the stories were told at the dinner table, and I thought it was cool that at Rowena's house dinnertime conversation covered topics most people wouldn't touch on while eating. I think, I hope, that Rowena's dad thought better of me because I wasn't bothered by curry with morbid stories.

It's a cliché, maudlin even, to say that the best a person can do with their life is to leave the world a better place than when they entered it, but I do think it's true. And Rowena's dad did leave the world a better place--for me, at least. I don't tend to believe in an afterlife, but if there is one, I'm sure Mr Hart is keeping all the other dead people amused with his stories. And if you happen to encounter a bit of pheasant poaching or a shoe with a dead foot inside in one of my stories, don't blame me.

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