in response to ‘I Remember’ by Joe Brainard
I remember our family ritual of Friday night fish and chips.
I remember Dad pointing a strong finger at the chalkboard menu, his hunger piqued
by the partially smudged options. Frittered or battered, that’s all that mattered to him.
The Messenger newspaper improvised as dinner plates across our laps, layered with nuggets and flake, dimmies and potato cakes, all dipped into dollops of tomato sauce.
I remember wondering what Dad’s Friday night tradition was as a kid
and how he clammed up when we asked about this.
He let one scant tale slip of his mum serving bread and dripping for an after-school snack.
I remember Dad licking his fingers as he told us this.
I remember believing he could still taste it.
Rarely did Dad cook for us. He would win the bread, mow the lawn, enthrone the couch.
I remember when he did cook. Vapour billowed from his culinary concoctions,
the kitchen full of humming. Even the smoke alarm chirped along.
He made a seafood stir fry once and added dishwashing detergent instead of oil.
I remember mocking him for that more than I ever showed him tenderness.
He was fond of us as his captive audience, the dinner table a pulpit
while the soccer highlights on SBS went unwatched.
I remember skimming the brimstone of his sermons back his way.
I remember needing to move out of his shadow.
Accelerated half a country away. Filled up with petrol and a yearning to return to him.
I remember hugging and crying together on my wedding day,
our doddered reconciliations, my jaw unlocked from the reticence of apology.
I remember believing we would have decades to perfect our connection.
I remember how cancer took over his lymph nodes and life’s simplicities.
I wanted to surpass him, not Steven Bradbury-pass him
as malignancy crashed his body into a gurney.
I remember sitting, numb by his bedside.
Hands clawing at air, an atrophied finger pointing out invisible beings.
I remember shaking. A full-chassis panic, fuelled by premium helplessness.
Gasping for the oxygen of a comforting memory.
Dad attending our sporting matches every Saturday, I remembered.
Scoring my first fifty for the high school cricket team.
I remembered raising my bat, scanning the oval as people clapped,
to look for his response.
I remembered Dad smiling.