A few moments after I woke on Good Friday, I thought to myself, as I have for the last thirty-something years, ‘this is the day that my father died’. Then I rolled over and slowly counted up to twenty – my getting-out-of-bed trick – and got on with my day.
You’d think that, given my family history, I would prepare for Easter. It would make sense for me to set things up so that, should my unconscious get the better of me, I am ready for it. But I never do. Instead, each year Easter springs up on me, catching me out with its carpetbag of memories.
This year, I decided to treat Good Friday like any other public holiday. I did a bit of housekeeping before doing some writing in a local café, and a long dog walk to a pebbly beach. But before leaving the café for the beach, I sat down at a table near the till, where two friends and their daughter were sitting; within minutes, we were in a deep conversation about the meaning of life. Half an hour later, I left the café, thinking, ‘Perhaps this is what Easter is for’.
Late the same day, I passed by a friend’s house. Except that Anna no longer lived there because she has separated from her husband and her house is on the market. A new, bright blue ‘Under Offer’ sign was stuck across the real estate advertising board nailed to the front fence. I was sad to see the sign, sensing how completely Anna had moved on. I also knew that she and I had lost touch because a couple of years ago she’d read and been critical of a manuscript of mine and, more recently, because I’d confided to her some wobbles in my marriage and then thought better of it. At that moment, standing outside Anna’s old house, and without thinking too hard, I took out my phone and sent Anna a brief ‘hello, how are you?’ text. Perhaps, I said to myself, as I pressed ‘send’, this is what Easter is for.
On Saturday night, before Easter Sunday, old friends came for dinner. Three weeks ago, Fiona hurt her foot, shattering ligaments on the ball of her foot so badly that she needed a walking frame to hop through our front door, and into the kitchen. It didn’t take long for me to realise that the pain and inconvenience of Fiona’s injured foot were made that much worse because her mother died three months ago, and so wasn’t around to look after her daughter. Cleaning up the kitchen after Fiona and her partner left, I felt chastened, knowing that Fiona’s fall down five steps could have as well happened to me. Switching off the kitchen light, I again had the thought, ‘perhaps this is what Easter is for’.
My son has used this Easter break to hike up a mountain with a friend; this, for him, is what Easter is for. However, even if Alex had been around, he wouldn’t have gone to church with me on Sunday morning. My daughter gave up church a few years ago, and so she wasn’t a likely candidate either; while my husband, an ex-Catholic, gets so agitated during sermons that I’ve stopped asking him to attend. This means that I was alone in the pew when the Dean of the Cathedral launched into a polished sermon about the meaning of the resurrection; the full force of which were we, the congregation, to truly believe, we would be unable to ‘just go home’ at the end of the service. I understood the Dean’s exasperation at preaching to people who attended his church just twice a year, who would never become the parishioners the church clearly needed. It definitely made me think twice about taking communion; however, once I was standing in line near the altar, I decided to take the wafer anyway, figuring that, if there is a God, he would mind less about my low attendance at church than the Dean did.
Later that day, walking my dog in a local park where the trees are so tall they touch the sky, I happened to see Anna, who I’d texted two days before but not seen for a year, just up ahead. I called out, she stopped and, since I was going her way, I walked with her to her rented apartment. Within twenty minutes, we’d established our friendship on a slightly different footing. ‘Perhaps’, I suggested as we parted, ‘a film some time?’ ‘I would like that’, Anna said.
On my way home from the supermarket, that night, thinking I was beginning to understand what Easter is for, I dropped in on a friend that I lost touch with after her marriage ended and she changed her gender from a woman to a man. I knew it was my fault that Ross and I had lost touch; somehow, I hadn’t been able to understand his decision. Now and then we’d met by chance, once at the chemist and once at the petrol station. But we hadn’t connected beyond social chatting. So, on the way home from the supermarket, I parked outside Ross’s house, fully ready to say how sorry I was that we hadn’t stayed friends. But as soon as I opened the gate, I sensed that the house was empty. I knocked, but no-one wasn’t there.
This morning, as I headed to a café at a local beach to write this post, I bumped into a Korean friend who was clutching a notebook to her chest. ‘I’ve just been writing about a phone conversation that I had last night with my father in South Korea’, Angie said, sounding excited. ‘After thirty years, I finally got up courage to tell him about the things that he did in my childhood that harmed me. And I was so surprised when he said how sorry he was, as if he really meant it. Even a year ago’, she said, ‘I think he’d have brushed me off’. ‘Wow!’ I said, knowing how big a deal this was. This was a father who’d been so authoritarian with his kids that they’d lived in fear of him; a man who’d had a chauffeur and kept his cutlery separate from the rest of the family. The kind of father that I have the good fortune not to be able to imagine living with. Standing there, the sea behind her, Angie looked lighter somehow. I smiled my encouragement and we chatted some more. And as we parted, I thought to myself, one last time, ‘perhaps this is what Easter is for’.