I threw eggs into the forest today.
My dad died from complications of pneumonia on July 25th, forty-seven days after my sister died. I think I’m in shock though it feels deeper and stranger than that.
Robert—“Bob”—Marrington was born on August 29th, 1933, one of eight children in a poor family, though I suppose most families were poor at that time. You can always tell the people who lived through the Depression, they don’t throw anything away. In the kitchen of my childhood, on the windowsill over the sink, there was a collection of plastic bread bag fasteners. Why? What did we use them for? Nothing. But they were useful items that could seal a plastic bag and so they had to be saved.
When my sister was first admitted to the leukemia ward of Vancouver General Hospital, we had long conversations about the future because we believed there would be one that included both of us. We bemoaned our elderly father’s junk collecting tendencies and shivered at the thought of what we would have to sort through when he died. Dad was not in the best of health—diabetic, arthritic, suffering from COPD and a bad knee and tinnitus and so much more—and we had to be realistic.
“When you’re out of here, we should plan a week and go through all his stuff and have a garage sale,” I said.
Kelly agreed. It was going to be good for him and us. We were excited about the prospect of unburdening our father. It would be joyful work, digging up memories together.
Then she died.
Dad had never been a fool. He sat me down and said, “I won’t be around long, babe. I always thought Kelly would look after everything when I’m gone but now it’s all on you.”
I always thought it would be Kelly and me looking after everything.
Who am I kidding? I would have helped but my responsible older sister would have taken on the lion’s share of the work.
“You’re going to have a hell of a mess to deal with,” Dad said. Then he showed me his will, with Kelly and me named as co-executors. He told me that he wanted to be cremated and have his ashes put in with my mom, who was buried on the mainland. He said he should have weeded through his many possessions years ago and apologized for not doing so.
“I’ll be back in September,” I told him. “I’ll help you clean out everything and we’ll have a big garage sale and make some money for you for Bingo.”
He seemed enthused by the prospect. Or maybe that’s what I wanted to believe.
Then he died.
The next day I drove to his rental place to get the will and some other paperwork…and to be close to him again. I pulled up the driveway and shattered into a thousand pieces. The sounds that came from my body were not human. I cried so hard I nearly passed out.
I knew this day was coming but it wasn’t supposed to be like this. It was supposed to be me and my sister consoling each other, crying and laughing together. I wasn’t supposed to be alone. Mom, Dad, Kelly—all gone. And though I knew that I had an amazing husband, in-laws I loved, my half sisters and brother reunited with me at long last, and more friends than I deserved, in that moment I was not only alone, I was an orphan.
My family is no more. I am the last of us. I alone carry all of our memories and they are too heavy.
At the end of his life, my dad resided on a piece of rental property slightly off the beaten path in Coombs, BC. Through a series of disasters—none of his doing—he was virtually penniless, relying on his meager pension to survive. The trailer and its add-on living area was a step above squalor but the setting was pastoral and peaceful. Dad could have a big garden and there were four storage sheds for all his “treasures”.
Dad’s Depression era thinking proved a boon on a fixed income and because of his deteriorating health he could not do much more than watch TV, putter in his garden, clip coupons, and make it out to Bingo a few times a week with my sister.
Kelly was his companion, his caretaker, his drill sergeant. I was always the gypsy child, coming and going and never staying long. Whenever I came to visit, I cringed at what he had been reduced to and berated myself for not being smarter with my own finances and, thus, not being able to help him. If he felt the same, he never showed it. Always so happy to see me, to steal a few moments of my time. He would sit in his brown La-Z Boy and tell me the same stories he told me every visit and I would laugh like I’d never heard them before. He would ask when my books were going to get made into movies so he could buy that yacht he wanted.
That brown La-Z Boy recliner was the center of his small universe. That was where the paramedics found him when they came to take him away to the hospital for the last time.
The day after he died, standing in his living room, all I could think of was how empty that chair was. I would never see my dad in his chair ever again.
The next day, knee deep in the job I’d dreaded, I dragged that chair out of the house so I didn’t have to look at it.
But he was still sitting there, watching me paw through his treasures, throwing out perfectly good bags of old elastics and being generally wasteful.
On the third day—today—I cleaned out the fridge. Jars and juice boxes went into the industrial garbage bag, milk containers went into the recycling bin, organics got dumped into the forest at the back of the property.
It was the eggs that stopped me. I carried the mostly-full carton to the treeline, preparing to simply toss them all, when I was seized with an urge. The brown chair was behind me. I felt my dad there. Each egg was, for him, a meal. More than a week of breakfasts. And here I was just throwing away perfectly good food.
I didn’t care. If my dad couldn’t eat these eggs, then I didn’t want anyone to eat them.
I picked one out of the carton, cocked my arm, and launched it into the forest. It hit a tree with a satisfying crack and yolk flew. I picked out another and did the same.
“Oh, you think that’s funny?” I said to Dad, in his chair. I threw another one.
I laughed. We laughed. I started to cry while I laughed.
“Why did you all leave me?”
I threw another egg and screamed.
I screamed and laughed and cried and threw every egg until the carton was empty.
And then I went back inside and kept cleaning.
Tomorrow, he’ll be waiting for me, in that chair and, now and then, when the weight of the memories gets too much, I will sit with him and we’ll laugh about that time I went crazy and threw eggs into the forest.