I bought some photo albums this week and had intended to spend today filling the first one up with pictures. The first album I wanted to complete was one of all the pictures I have of Cliff before we were together. I met Cliff when I was almost 18, so this album would include images of him - a chronological record - from his birth up to his late to mid-thirties. I was going to include some of his childhood treasures (or pictures of larger items such as his Chemistry Set and toy soldiers), accompanied by written notes (but using his words) of various experiences that he told me about, some of which were funny, sad or downright terrifying. Naturally, my own memories of him from the age of 26 would also be included, along with notes about his favourite food, drink, interests, names of friends, the music he liked etc. This book will be the easiest to fill on a practical and emotional level and would be a good start.
I already made up albums/scrapbooks for our wedding and our trip to the Dominican Republic, but still need to do the same for all of our other adventures and shall probably tackle them next. I have kept mementos, including airline stubs, receipts, brochures etc as well as photos, and they are fortunately all kept together, so this will be fairly easy to do on a practical level.
The second big scrapbook/album would be "our story" ... photos over a period of 15 years, his interests, favourite movies, a CD of his favourite music (that I compiled for him a year before he died), meals that we cooked together, his cocktail recipes, where we lived, words faithfully captured verbatim, a lottery ticket with the results written on it by him, the plans he drew up for renovating our home, letters, cards, his favourite soap, photos of his art that he particularly liked and bought, his idiosyncrasies - stuff that he hated (itchy shirts, injections being needle-phobic, crusts on sandwiches), what he collected (glass, coins, silverware etc), concert and cinema tickets, where we drank, the people in our lives, and innumerable keepsakes (either on paper or photographed for the scrapbook).
This book is going to be a record of our time together, of everything that he did for me and taught me, how hard he worked, how much he looked after me, how much we loved each other and will serve as a security blanket, should I ever worry that I will forget anything ... I know that I shan't ... but, you know, just in case. It will record our dreams, disappointments and happiest days. So many memories, some tender, some hilarious, some enlightening, some heart-breaking. Frightening even. The songs I would sing to him. Routine daily stuff. The funny things we would say to each other. Crazy stuff.
It will be an emotional roller-coaster putting this book together and it will take a long time because the paraphernalia that I want to include in it is spread all over the house, even in the attic. I think it will be cathartic, painful at times but ultimately, it will bring me comfort. Completing it will mean that I will have the luxury of taking nostalgic trips through precious memories when I want to, not because all of these items are scattered throughout our home, sometimes stabbing me through the heart with pangs of loss. It will also bring me peace, because recently, I have been getting really irritated at people telling "stories" about him inaccurately.
So, that's the plan. My first practical mission. I kept looking at the pile of photos, kept peeking at those empty albums. I could envisage the end result. But I just could not motivate myself. I desperately wanted to make a "book" up, but not the ones I had planned.
I was puzzled. Why the hell had I thought in such depth, why had I bought the albums, brought down countless photos from upstairs, located the safe key so I could retrieve our most precious photos from it? Only to feel as though I was missing something.
I kept thinking about his daughter. It occurred to me that one day (when I die) she will be given these memory books and will therefore be able to read his story. The truth. She will know what mattered to him, see a set of ethics that he believed in and followed. The whole picture. Get many if not all of the questions she doubtless has, answered in her mind. My mind kept playing cine-movies of him talking to me about her, explaining decisions he made, watching him get so heart-breakingly upset because he hadn't seen her for too long, or because he couldn't explain things to her for reasons that are too complex ... secrets that are too deep not to remain safely buried where they are.
And it came to me. I would make his daughter a scrapbook.
And I did. Using http://www.mixbook.com/, a book of love was created and named: A Father's Love ... and his words.
An excerpt is included above. It's written for her, so I chose pages that don't disclose words that are really only intended for her ears and heart.
I filled it up with photos of him at different ages, randomly. Only selecting pictures I thought she would like. And on each page I typed in the actual words that he said to me - of his love for her. In his words. Words of love. It is such a comfort to be able to remember, word for word, so many things that he told me. It has brought me such peace to create this testament of his love for her because he worried and wondered if she truly knew that he loved her. After he died, I vowed that I would make sure that she knew. And believed it in her heart. Closure. For him. For her. For me - borne out of my love for him, and a need to do this for him.
I hope it brings her peace, healing and comfort. Then I will have done the last thing I could do for him ... out of love, and as his wife. I care about what he cared about because I love him. Because his feelings are still more important than anything else in this world, even today.