I went to get my Dad’s car fixed at Hilltop Automotive in my recent month-long Perth visit. The “Fuel Filter Maintenance” screen icon on the dash of his Land Cruiser has been lighting up our driving experience for over a week, which he would never have let slide. Would never have. The change in tense is something that we’re all still working on. He Is. He Was. He Has. He Had. He does. He did.
It seems strangely loyal that his gear would protest his death – first it was the fuel filter on his SUV, and just after arrived I home from the Hilltop excursion, I watched as the batteries on his gourmet one-touch pepper grinder (a gift to himself that was often ridiculed by the family) slowed to a stop while my sister was preparing dinner. The thing requires an army of batteries. We speculated that that would be the end for it, that we’d better find a manual grinder. Turns out there was a stash of AA’s in the kitchen drawer, ready for duty. Mum loaded them in, admitting that she didn’t mind using it for cooking.
In taking Dad’s vehicle to Hilltop, I had to tell John, the vehicle maintenance man for our family. He had been unsurprised to have received a call from a Cameron girl, even about Dad’s car. Soon after our greetings I inquired, “Have you heard about Dad recently?” Telling people about Dad everywhere I go feels like a mini-coming out. (Well, as close as a CIS gendered hetero female might ever get to the experience.) I know that just for my part in the last weeks of life and first weeks of death of my father, I have had to tell employers, gallery owners, curators, collaborators – you know, all the ‘stakeholders’ in my little sphere of interest – in places over the world, thus developing a sense of the geographic scale of the social networks that we inhabit. Unlike his actual death, my disclosure is not a singular event, so I have had to break the news over and over again, most often to people who never knew him.
But John, he knew him. Off the top of his head, just after I told him, came; “He’s been coming here for nineteen years.” This unexpected morsel tripped from his tongue in his lyrical west-country-England-tinged accent, as he opened up the bonnet of the big white vehicle and started unwinding some screws. He looked over at me, screwdriver busy in hand, “He’d come and we’d compare heart medications.” My dad, in conflict with his skinny frame, was on some heavy-duty anti-coagulants, while it seems John is on Statins. Dad had to go off these before his two surgeries last year, when the surgeon went in to vacuum up what combined to a golf-ball sized chunk of melanoma tumour from his brain. John is still on his, and is keeping very fit. He’ll be running the New York Marathon next week. I told him I’d wave from across the country.
Perhaps it was because my Dad lived practically all of his life in the Perth hills, the locus of mourning seemed to be close by while I was near my family in Lesmurdie. Yet unseen, the reverberations of his loss of life continue far beyond the hills, as if when his heart stopped this movement superseded his heartbeat.
The energy that conveyed the change from life to its opposite echoes in a wave that has spanned oceans. Intermittently it bounces off unseen obstacles, enabling it to crisscross boundaries, although haphazardly. The signal changes in strength and the movement is erratic, so I will have to keep reinforcing it. We all do. And as we do, our loss is reinforced.
Bruce Cameron entered hospice care on the 24th of September and died on the 9th of October, 2015.