The last time I remember having a sustained cold snap like this was 20 years ago. That was the year Finn was born. In the days leading up to his birth, Paul and I watched cars maneuvering up and down the hill outside our condo, commenting on their progress in the ice and snow. “Oooh. That SUV is not going to make the turn. It’s going too fast. . . .and into the stop sign.”
Paul had a gig the night Finn was born. I had stayed home and, in a fit of pregnant nesting, was making chocolate truffles. My water broke as Paul crawled into bed in the early hours of December 20th. It was two weeks earlier than the doctor had pegged as due date.
As advised I called the perinatal unit to let them know. The nurse on the line told me to come in and get checked out then go home until birth time. I told her I was not going to drive across town in 3 feet of snow and then drive home again only to drive back later. I would come when I was ready. She was not happy about it but what could she do? As it turned out, my labour kicked in at three minute intervals from the start so we left right away any ways.
Twenty years. I can still remember watching Paul sitting at the night darkened window with infant Finn in his arms, our little snow angel. Lit only by the coloured Christmas lights, they bounced gently on a large exercise ball, watching the snowy world outside. So precious.
Paul started teaching Finn music even before he was born, singing and playing guitar to my growing belly. And it carried on when he was born. I have a vivid image of tiny infant Finn lying on his back listening to Paul play guitar. As Paul played Fernando Sors’ Variation on a theme of Mozart’s the Magic Flute, Finn would rock gently side to side cooing to the music. Then Paul would switch to rock music and Finn would laugh, his little arms and legs dancing wildly in the air. It was both funny and a joy to watch.
Now they sit together on Paul’s hospital bed watching their beloved Habs games. Finn, who used to fit into Paul’s forearm, is nearly twice Paul’s size now. Finn has grown a lot in 20 years and Paul has shrunk in the past several months, pretty literally now just skin and bone. The other day when I came into Paul’s room, he was napping on the bed and Finn napping on the little pull out hide-a-bed chair beside him. It reminded me of one of my favorite early pictures of them sleeping together in the big bed.
There are so many pictures of the two of them. They were always together. Paul was the at-home parent and took Finn with him everywhere. He would settle Finn into the snuggly and off they’d go, Paul talking and singing to Finn the whole time. Later we joked that Paul had taught Finn to speak too well. Finn talked a lot once he got going.
When Finn was little, he and his dad spent hours sitting in the park across the street from the little fire hall near our place. They’d sit with their juice boxes and snacks, watching the firefighters wash the trucks and check equipment. They tore that hall down when Finn was about seven. Paul wandered over there and told one of the demolition workers about this favorite pastime. He wondered if there was a brick or something that he could take for Finn. The worker told him to wait a minute and walked back through the rubble. When he returned he handed Paul the station’s fire bell. We still have it.
Christmas was quiet for us this year. Paul came home for a few hours. Finn had bought his dad a simple model fire truck for Christmas, something they could build together in an afternoon. As they sat at the dining table with all of the pieces spread out, Finn read the instructions, something his dad would have done for him when he was little, and they pieced it together. Paul is quite shaky now from pain medication and it was lovely and tender watching Finn help his dad cut apart the pieces and snap them together.
Paul has never been chatty and now he can hardly speak. Much of his communications is done through writing. But the boys don’t seem to need to say too much to each other. Sometimes Finn just sits and holds Paul’s hand and it seems to be enough. Twenty years feels like a long time. But it’s not really enough time for a boy to know his father. This is too soon. Finn is just coming to the time when adulthood starts to shift how we relate to and understand our parents. As much as I will miss Paul, I cry more when I think of Finn’s loss. Even so I know that Finn will be ok, ultimately. We both will.
Shortly after Paul came to this hospice, Finn video messaged us from home. He filmed as he walked from our condo down the stairwell and out to the side yard where the snow was deep and pristine. He lay on the ground and, as we watched, made a snow angel.
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