Friday, 25 May 2012

One week, one day: Parts of Calista

The sun is shining today and the Straights are relatively calm and almost Mediterranean blue. You can see the Little River Docks if you know where to look and I can imagine Comox as she saw it every day. She loved it there; she used to look up at the distant glaciers every clear morning and just shake her head that there was anywhere on Earth quite so beautiful. After a lifetime spent in the prairies where the horizon is pretty much the same in any direction, this was a whole new world to Calista.  She was embracing the west coast lifestyle with both arms and I loved her for it.

I have to take a break from wallowing in self-pity. At least for a couple of posts. Calista would have frowned at me and told me to "just suck it up". There will be more; people need to know what to expect when this happens and there is no time like the immediate to get these feelings down. Hemingway said that all writing is great if it is real. I am not sure that is true; not everything Hemingway wrote was great and certainly not everything I write is a pearl. But at least it is real in this case. Too real. I joyfully could go with "completely imaginary" for everything that has happened this last 8 days.  Either way, out with the bad and in with the good. My reader has to know something about my daughter Calista. She was a really worthwhile person. A person of substance.

As long as I remember Calista was described by everyone as "independent".  That would be the one dominant personality trait that best describes that girl: her own woman. Even when she was a wee girl. I once described Calista as the "leader of the pack" and that was patently unfair of me. It was a false description and I am pretty sure Calista would have taken offence to the term "leader". My little princess would never want to lead nor follow anyone; she took great pride in always finding her own unique way of living.

When she was about three we started to see the person she would become. Of course, we did not know what we were seeing, but looking back she was already there. I remember her first experiences with "daycare".  At the time her mother and I lived above our veterinary clinic in Whitehorse and, as a result, we rarely ever left the building.  We started feeling like we were neglecting the development of our daughter, so we enrolled her one morning each week in daycare.  I would receive my surgery patients for the day, see a couple of clients, and then hike over to the day-care three blocks over regardless of how cold it might be outside. Calista never seemed to care about the cold; to the day she died (1 week, 1 day ago) she could tolerate temperatures that had other people running for the parka. Heat she did not really care for (but did love a good suntan; thankfully she inherited my skin that allowed her a golden girl look within minutes of going outside).

I guess I should have seen the independent streak in her back then: her first day at day care was filled with outrage and tears. Outrage that dad was not staying to play in the wonderland of children and toys and tears when it came time to leave.  Home? What home? This is where my friends are!! (pronounced "Fwends", something she still strangely did for people she really loved right to the end. But only for people she truly cared for). We soon had to expand her day care days to three per week as she constantly harassed us by standing on the sofa in front of the windows overlooking the street plaintively crying "Fwends,  my fwends" all the while pointing in the general direction of the day care.

Living in a veterinary clinic was something she just took for granted. We had a strange little pocket door that led from the clinic into my living room. The door had been an old wood pass for stocking the large wood bin in my living room. We had cleaned it out when Calista was born because we were scared of the wood stove in our ancient WWII house and clinic. When an addition was added to the house, we ended up with this peculiar little door about five feet off the ground, right about the height of a client's head when they were sitting on the bench next to the door.  We kept the door unlatched for the most part because it was a nice way for me to quickly get home if Roni needed me. And Roni needed me frequently because her relationship with her daughter was closer to that of sibling sisters than mother and offspring. They were either inseparably in love or had to be separated to spare blood shed. Somehow I was always the peacemaker and mediator.  Calista quickly figured out the pocket door and, when mom was being BAD, Calista would kick open the door with all her strength (which was always respectable) and scream for daddy or for our receptionist Christy.  Christy had learnt early that the way to quell my daughter's rampage was chocolate, therefor she always seemed to have a spare chocolate bar stashed in her drawer.  I had more than a few clients forced to dodge the door as my daughter came screaming to it's opening wanting either a hug or chocolate (or a hug and chocolate if both Christy and I answered the call).

Now, years later, I still see the results of that early childhood training. Calista was always loyal to friends first and parents second (but we never felt unloved. Never), she preferred to be out on her own rather than stuck at home, and her ability to down chocolate was nothing short of legendary. One thing I know Christy taught my daughter: bribery always wins the heart. Her good friends at school were all laughing because Calista would constantly arrive unannounced at their homes with pet treats lining her pockets. She would constantly bribe all their pets, even the immensely fat cat; they were sure she wanted their pets to love her more than them.  I laughed when I found a bag of unopened pet treats in her cupboard the other day. Typical of her to keep a secret stash for pet payola.

Calista came home today across the wide blue straights. Her ashes are now sitting in a bronze urn atop my bedroom armoire. There was some debate between my wife and I about where we will sleep tonight. My wife could not bear the idea that our little girl would spend her first night home alone in our bedroom, but she also cannot bear the idea of leaving Calista's bedroom where all her personality lives.  My feeling is that the ashes are just ashes while that bedroom, filled with my girl's art and mementos is the true Calista. If the essence of Calista still lives, it is in that room with it's three hot pink walls that are countered by the lime green fourth. You heard me: lime green and hot pink. I was not enthralled when I first saw it, but now it is just perfect. That is perfect Calista: do your own wild thing and pull it off with grace and elegance.

I am going to start telling my readers about the future now, how are my wife and I going to get past this. And I am going to cover one heck of a lot more about Calista. She was a big personality and she deserves much better than the self-pity fest I have been giving her. She deserved a memorial and a send off that everyone will call unique and therefor perfectly fitting.

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