Friday, December 5, 2014

December 5, 1975

Memories of a December Day
It started like any other day,
and could have ended in the usual way,
and almost did.
Except for one incident,
warranting nothing more than a brief mention,
on the radio news.
(after all, it was a gory…
But it meant more to me.

Time moves in a blur in my memory,
then reaches a point in time,
a day, an hour,
and slows suddenly, excruciatingly slowly.
Each minute as clear and painful as if
it happened yesterday.
And then a blur again
of sudden torture,
emotion, agony,
like a dream,
like a nightmare.

We had a game that night,
basketball I think.
Erica and I,
in our skirts and sweaters,
jumping, shouting,
cheering on our team,
as if it really mattered
whether we won or lost,
as if it would have made a difference.

I remember I glanced at the clock.
It was 10:30 pm.
A critical time,
if I had only known.
But an unimportant time,
because I didn’t.

“Is that your Dad over there?”
Erica asked breathlessly.
My eyes strained across
the roaring gymnasium floor,
to the stands.
I picked out the figure,
similar, but…no.
A man in his late forties,
dressed in the blue shirt and pants
that identify the working class.
He’s carrying a steel grey lunch box.
Looks like Dad,
but no, it’s can’t be him.
It’s only 10:30.

He won’t be home till midnight.
Or so I thought.
I could have said
No, I don’t have a father…
if I’d known.

Our team scored,
we jumped into action.,
but the game was over.
I looked back to the stands to check again.
A chance to see.
Maybe he’s off early?
(He was)
Maybe the mill broke down?
(It did…
but not in the usual way.)

He was gone.
In more ways than one.
And at that moment, I knew only one way.
Probably someone else’s father,
picking up his son, or his daughter,
taking them home, congratulating,
or not,
weary from work,
happy to be home with his family.

We went home.
It was 10:50 pm.
Mom, my sister and brother,
watching a movie on TV.
“It’s Planet of the Apes,
come and watch”
So I sat,
half changed into my jeans.

The phone rang and I answered it.
“You get it, Barb, this is the important part.”
But so was the phone,
if they’d known.
It was for Mom,
but it was late so I lingered near,
to hear,
to be sure.
I watched my mother’s eyes grow wide with terror.
“It’s Daddy—“

I ran to the neighbours.
Banging on the door, my blouse.
half buttoned, screaming.
They thought I’d been raped
If it had only been that,
instead of…

Back to the house,
me and my support team.
I knew that Mom would need someone,
that I wasn’t going to be able to help.
The police were in the driveway,
when we arrived.
Mom collapsed when she saw
“N.O.K.” on the young officer’s clipboard.
Next. Of. Kin.
“This is the second time I’ve had to do this tonight.”
He was apologetic, uncomfortable.

My mind was spinning, everything became a blur.
I don’t remember someone actually saying the words,
that he was dead,
not even the usual euphemisms.
All I heard was “freak accident”,
“He never knew what hit him”
“Thank God there was no pain.”
But how did they really know?

“It happened about an hour ago.
about 10:30 pm”, they said.
What took them so long?
I still don’t’ understand.

There was an inquest,
to determine who was to blame.
After all, he had asked repeatedly for his “box” to be raised.
It’s not safe, he’d said.
A log could just split,
and come flying through the glass and…
…and crush a man,
his family,
his friends,
his community,
his daughter.

They decided it was no one’s fault,
but they raised the box,
just in case.

By Barbara Park

Dedicated to my father, Mel Park, who died in an industrial accident on December 5, 1975. I was fifteen.

ETA: I can't remember when I wrote this.  I think it was within a few months after he died but i tmay have been any time in the first 5 years.