There are moments that creep up on me that extract memories and yearnings that l barely recalled up to that point. But in a brief moment, those vague recollections suddenly surge forward with an energy that leaves me mute. Playing with my niece tonight rendered one such moment. The sincerity in the laughter of a child is enough to restore peace to this world. At least peace to my world. Ironic then that such peace would also be accompanied by some moving memories as well.
I found myself recalling poignant moments in my life with my own daughters, both of whom were snatched away at a very tender age. It wasn’t the struggle that followed that left its mark, but instead two completely random moments that were unprompted and almost missed.
It was a typical night on an atypical weekend when my oldest daughter was with me. It was summer, not winter, unlike so many other poignant moments that somehow defines my life’s collage. She was probably less than three years old. She had the cutest brownish gold curls that wrapped around her face. I put her to bed and continued with my evening before joining her later. I climbed into bed and laid on my side facing her. She turned to me, cupped both her hands on my cheeks and just stared deeply into my eyes. She didn’t flinch. She didn’t smile. She just looked into me and held my stare for a long while before turning over and going to sleep. I can sometimes still feel her tiny hands on my face.
The other memory that revisited unexpectedly was on a cold winter’s day. My day started early around 2am when I received the news of my ex-wive’s unexpected death in a motor vehicle accident. I travelled to the township where her funeral was to be held hoping to see if my younger daughter was coping with the loss. At that point I was also struggling through legal battles to get access to her, so her only interactions with me in the years leading up to that point were stolen moments I secured when visiting her at her preschool before going to work. So I didn’t know what to expect. But that is just the context, it wasn’t the memory.
When we sat down to have lunch that day she insisted on sitting next to me. It made me happy to see her still attached to me despite the time apart. We sat there having lunch when a random glance from me caught her looking expectantly up at me. Big bright eyes, the softest smile, but a distinct sense of her reaching out to see if I was noticing her. That was the moment. That look. Seeking inclusion, affirmation, affection, or acceptance. Or maybe all of it. All hidden behind that precarious smile. Her true fragility was revealed when I took her home and saw her frail body in the bath the next morning. Her skin was flaking from her body, and her belly was swollen from a poor diet. But even that sight doesn’t dwarf the memory of that smile. That infectious, strong, but fragile smile. Enough to tug at the heart strings of a brute. Even this one.
Moments like those cannot be choreographed, but they can be easily missed. Distractions deny us the beauty of those simple moments. Perhaps that would explain my heightened sense of impatience when I find myself prompted towards that which is inconsequential.