Monday, 11 June 2012

Three Weeks, Four Days: My Favourite Things

"To die, to sleep.
To sleep, perchance to Dream: Ay, there's the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come"
 Shakespeare's Hamlet, from "To Be or Not to Be"

Lately I have finally started dreaming again while I sleep, but nothing I really want to dream about, just random garbage dreams about desperately needing to get someplace or do something and encountering numerous obstacles as time counts down.  Just the standard nightmare I have been having for years without any visits from my daughter.  You would think that a person that is so desperate for some small contact with his girl would get even just the shade of a dream to fulfil his wishes.  Of course, I have just now, in the last year or so, started dreaming about my dad and he is been gone 6 years or more now.  Funny thing is that my dad's shade is not giving me much advice these days and I really could do with a little support from him.

If I could dream about my Calista, what would I dream about?  I know that I would want to hear "It's all right Dad, I'm right here watching and it's all good. I'll be waiting". Even just one good hearted jibe to the effect that she wants my credit card to buy some really cute shoes would be great. What I likely will get, when the dreams finally come, is some nonsensical statements pertaining to me being late for an important meeting.( Of course, a deeper man would realise that is a reference to "Alice in Wonderland", one of Calista's favourite stories; she had two copies on her book shelf and her last tattoo was Alice telling us to "Believe in the Impossible") Basically just a repeat of my standard recurrent nightmare.

But what do I think about when I do daydream about her? The dreams come in two forms. There are the horrible waking nightmares I get when I start considering her last moments; how long was she conscious of what was happening to her? was she in pain? was she scared? was she calling for her mom and dad silently as she died? Those occur frequently and they go hand in hand with the personal recriminations of what I missed and why did I not look closer? Perhaps those mild headaches were more than just an out-of-date prescription for corrective lenses. Maybe that cough she had was not just a little left-over cold, maybe it was streptococcus that became meningitis (that miraculously left no signs on autopsy).  Of course that guilt rides right beside the guilt I have for not spending far more time with my girl when I had the chance (because every 20 year old girl wants her dad following her around like some stray pound-puppy). Then there are the good daydreams; those few fleeting moments when I clearly remember the good times. Those are getting a bit cloudy already as real memories get mixed up with imagined memories (those wishful thinking memories of occasions I heard about but was not really present).  It's funny how your brain can fool you into remembering things that never happened or only half-remembering things that really did.

My over-riding memory of Calista at her best was a candid shot that she never knew I saw. It is easily my favourite memory of her and it was not really a shared moment; it was me spying on a young woman having fun with her friends and loving life.  Calista was involved with "Improv" theatre since she was about 12 years old.  She stuck with "Improv" through to her senior year at high school and she seemed to love it. She was never really great at it; to thrive in "Improv" you need to have a loud voice, like to upstage people and you need to be fearless when it comes to making an ass of yourself.  Calista never was terribly loud, did not really crave the spot-light and definitely did not like to make an ass of herself....ever. The few times she did shine at Improv was when her ability to make a caustic comment at the drop of a hat surfaced. Those few times she would bring the house down. One thing all Improv actors need is high energy; they need to hit that stage ready to take on the world and throw all comers to the ground decisively.  To do that the improv groups usually have a warm-up room where they go through some process to get themselves revved up and ready to rock.

Every year Roni and I would dutifully book two or three nights off to attend her annual "Improv Games" where schools from the district would get together and compete in improv theatre for the coveted single position at Nationals. I personally did not understand improv all that much and I really did not enjoy it, but it was my girl, she was on stage, and I was going to be there even if I had no idea of what was going on.

In her grade 11 year we arrived at the venue a little early and, somehow, we got turned around and ended up backstage.  Realising our mistake, we circled around aimlessly trying to find the door back into the public areas. We kept on trying doors one after the other, sure that the next door would be the one we needed. Finally, hearing the loud roar of laughter behind one of the doors, we thought we were headed in the right direction. We opened the door to find a group of maybe 8 teen-agers grouped around a single girl in a circle, all dancing wildly, shouting, and laughing. In the centre, arms alternating up and down, dancing to a hard rocking beat and with the most radiant smile you can imagine was our Calista. She may not have stood out on stage, but she was definitely the ring master back-stage. As I write this I can still picture that one golden moment where I got to see my daughter with her friends, full of life and happy to share that life with the world.  We never told her we spied on her, but to the day I die, when I picture Calista, that is how I will remember her: smiling, laughing and dancing. To the beat of her own drummer, no doubt.

The coroner called today while I was at work. My wife took the call; bit of a mistake there since I have been killing myself to shield her from all the more graphic elements of this situation. She is already riding right on the razor's edge (I chose Hamlet's soliloquy for a good reason; it comes to mind when I consider some of the raw conversations around my house these days)  They still have not found anything; her blood alcohol registered 0.03, so we cannot blame alcohol toxicity for her death.  We are now depending on histopathology (microscopic examination of the tissues) and screening for other toxins that might be a COD.  This is becoming a greater mystery and is starting to feel a little like a curse; I begin to wonder if I am not being punished for some horrendous sin. If that is the truth, well the joke is on the God that sends this evil my way: he punished an innocent in my place and therefor, in my books, is forever damned.

This pill is terribly bitter to swallow.

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