Sometimes I can smell my dad. Not B.O. or aftershave. He gave up smoking many years ago and he didn’t drink near the end either, so it isn’t that sort of scent.
Sometimes I can just smell my dad.
Dad died five years ago after struggling with dementia and some other conditions that come with getting old. And when I say struggling, I really mean it – he struggled to understand why he no longer really knew who everyone was, where he was and what he was meant to be doing.
He struggled to know what time it was and what was appropriate behaviour – why can’t he take his teeth out and put them on the plate for the waiter to take away? And what is so wrong with telling that fat man who looks ridiculous in shorts that he is fat and looks ridiculous in shorts? (Though to be honest, that last one had nothing to do with his dementia…)
He struggled to dress himself, shave himself, shower himself.
He struggled to go to bed at the right time, sleep at the right time, be awake at the right time.
He struggled to know how to comfort my at times distraught mother, the love of his life, the wife of his life.
And in the end he struggled to die.
Through all of the struggling, my dad kept his smell.
Most of us have lost people we love…a weird way to explain death, as it implies that we have misplaced someone…but maybe that is the point, we don’t really know where they are…the loss is real.
We all deal with loss in different ways…part of our exquisite uniqueness. We find ways to keep those we have lost with us…photos, ashes on the mantlepiece, rituals, clothes kept in wardrobes, visits to special places, sharing stories with other who loved them too, remembering special dates, writing blog posts…
For some the loss can become overwhelming, the grief all encompassing and it can take time and help to move forward, to continue to live their life.
Some find solace in beliefs, faith, spirituality…
Often strength can be found in others, people close to us who support and comfort us at those times when the loss gets too heavy to carry on our own.
At times it might be solitude that is needed, space to be sad, to remember in your own special way.
I can’t describe dad’s smell but I can describe what it means to me.
Dad’s smell makes me feel safe and secure. It means that everything is going to be okay.
Dad’s smell reminds me of camping, St Nicolas feasts, Christmas, Easter, fishing, bush walks, four wheel driving, travelling, singing inane ditties, whistling, long stories of yesteryear, short stories of yesteryear, wise advice, not so wise advice, skipping, laughing, crying, hoping, loving…
Dad’s smell means that though I know he is gone, I also know he is here…
Sometimes, when I really need it, I can smell my dad.