The Spaghetti Party – A Memoir of My Father

Sometimes the story of a single battle tells you more than the entire history of the war. And so it is true in a general sense, where a small event in the course of a much bigger one can reveal more about the big picture than you ever thought possible.

My memories of my father will always be linked to my mother’s death, and the events surrounding her death. She died of cancer when I was fifteen years old. This was a nightmare that lasted exactly two years. She died the day before my fifteenth birthday. I remember clearly how the stomach pains started right around the time I turned thirteen. She would have good days and bad days, but the stomach pains would never go away. She went to the family doctor and various medicines were prescribed, and we all hoped there would soon be more good days than bad days. But the bad days just kept coming and the pains just kept getting worse and worse.

Then, there was the first surgery. I remember my grandmother leading my mother down the walkway from our house to the car. She was doubled over in pain, but she was wearing her finest outfit so she would look her best for the hospital people before they cut her open. My mother seemed to get a little better after that surgery, a little stronger, but the stomach pains soon came back again. They were now worse than ever. Then there was all the whispering from the adults and the sudden silence whenever I walked into the room. I started to panic when I began to hear the same sort of whispering from my friends at school. I kept going to my father and asking him why my mother wasn’t getting any better. He did not like the question. He treated it like I was asking him a question about the weather, and the answer would be obvious if I just looked out the window.

“Oh, all those treatments are just taking a lot out of her,” he would say.

“But she is getting better?”

“Oh, sure.”

“I hear things.”

“What things?”

“Just things. She is getting better?”

“Yep.”

“You promise?” I would always ask.

“I promise,” he would always answer.

I knew something was terribly wrong when people began to visit the house and bring offerings, plates of cookies and pies wrapped in cellophane. They all thought they were doing the right thing, but I didn’t want their baking. I wanted our own baking. Then, there was the second surgery. My mother seemed to be in hospital a long time after that, and I have this picture of my father and my uncle carrying her up the front steps when she came home from hospital because she was too weak to walk. There was a lot more whispering in our house that day, and a lot more silence when I walked into the room. I was used to that, but now it was all so ramped up that I knew something dreadful was coming. When my father and my uncle finally got my mother into her bedroom, I think it was one of my aunts who told me to run up to the drugstore and get some aspirin or Kleenex or whatever it was that I was supposed to buy in order to get me out of the house.

I remember walking across our back lawn towards the drugstore when it hit me. I know it sounds trite to say that something hits you like a thunderbolt, but this hit me like a thunderbolt. My mother only had a few more weeks to live. I remember exactly, precisely where I was when this happened. I was fourteen years old.

When I got home from the store, my father was there to greet me. He put the bag with my purchase on the kitchen counter and he cleared his throat. He said, “Well, I think we’d better go for a ride.” I hated the tone in his voice. It was the tone he had always used whenever he found himself in a situation that bothered him. Lately, he used that tone all the time. He thought he was able to fool everyone, but the clearing of the throat was always a dead giveaway. Then, there was the ride in the car when he told me that every promise he had made to me about my mother getting better had been a lie. I cried for the rest of the day. When I finally worked up the strength to go see my mother that night, I started to cry again. All I could say was how sorry I was for crying so much.

Then there was the morphine and the night nurse and all the anguished cries from the bedroom. Late one night, I heard my mother crying to my father about how he never would have married her had he known things would turn out this way. A kid shouldn’t be hearing things like that, but I heard it all anyway. Things were getting so horrible that I even conjured up a beast who had come into our house to torture my mother. The beast lived way up in the sky, and he had selected my mother in order to teach us that our prayers meant nothing compared to his own power. Still, I still prayed every night for the beast to go away. Nobody ever said anything to me. I think all the adults had the bizarre theory that if they just kept quiet, I wouldn’t notice the awfulness of it all. I began to think everything happening inside our house was just part of a normal life. I just assumed everyone else had their own beast, and they were all praying, too.

There was a day I will never forget. My mother just sat up in bed all day and stared off into space. She wouldn’t speak. She was now so thin she could barely move. She had lost all her hair and her eyes were sunk way back into her skull and her skin was so tight that she was unable to close her mouth all the way. Her lips were supposed to be touching but this was now impossible and her teeth were showing through. I knew her as my mother but to anyone else she would have been an alien. The closest thing to this that I have ever seen are those grainy black and white newsreel films of concentration camp victims. Everyone was whispering about my mother’s silence. “She’s depressed,” Grandma said. “She’s just having a bad day,” my father said. Later that night, I went into her bedroom and sat by her bedside. I sat there, watching her. Her eyes were closed but they would not close all the way and the whites showed through, just like the teeth. It struck me that her body had now ceased to function altogether and for a second, I thought she had died. I moved to get up off the chair and my mother finally spoke to me. I don’t think she had the strength to open her eyes. She barely had the ability to form words, but she got the words out. She said, “This has been the worst day of my life.” They were the last words I ever heard from my mother.

That night, there was no need to pray for the beast to go away because the beast had already done all that any beast could ever do.

The next day, I came home from school and there was no one in the house except my father. My mother was gone and I don’t know where my sister was. My father was standing in the dining room, staring down at the lace tablecloth that had been folded into a square on the table. He saw me and he gave his familiar cough and he said, “Your mother had to be taken back to hospital.”

There was this silence, and I said, “I guess she’s never coming back to the house.”

“No, I guess not.”

This was the entire conversation. My father was muttering these words, as he had always done.

And then the end came. My younger sister and I were told to go to school the next day, and we went to school. I remember school as a place full of cruel noise. The one thing I remember most about the next day is how my teachers all looked at me funny. They didn’t know what to say, and “Happy Birthday” really didn’t cut it.

Then, there was the matter of my mother’s funeral. My sister can’t remember any of this, but I remember all the details, every word. Specific words become important here. I overheard my Aunt Ruth say she was going to have everyone over to her house after the funeral. I began to refer to this as the “reception” but I was quickly corrected. I was told not to use the word “reception” because the word sounded too cheerful. I was told to use the word “gathering” because this word sounded more somber and proper. In the future, I was to say there would be a “gathering” after the funeral at the home of Aunt Ruth and Uncle Fred.

I had never been to a funeral before, and the only funerals I had ever seen had been the ones on TV and in the movies. To me, a funeral was a strange ceremony attended only by the adults. I thought children were strictly forbidden to go to a funeral unless there was some special reason for them to attend, and this was a very rare thing. I even thought the rule might be in the Bible somewhere. The whole idea of a funeral just spooked the hell out of me. The people in the front row were always blubbering and wiping their eyes with handkerchiefs. A preacher would read to everyone from the Bible and use sayings like “everlasting life” and “faith in our Lord, Jesus Christ”. Those sayings also spooked the hell out of me. But the adults at these things all seemed to know exactly what they were doing. It was like they were all bound together by some secret knowledge I didn’t have. At least, that’s what it all looked like when I watched it on the screen.

In these TV melodramas, the family of the dead person would always sit behind this big curtain. They would all be dressed in black just like the people in the audience. These grieving families would wail away and clutch each other and clench their fists in frustration. Sometimes they would all squeeze together in a sort of grotesque group hug. No one could see them carry on like this because they were all behind the curtain, but everyone could hear the sounds they were making. I was so naive as a fifteen-year-old that I wondered if my sister and I would be forced to sit behind the curtain and hug our father while we all made those high-pitched dog sounds, just like the hillbilly folk at the height of their grief. We were a family who never even touched each other, so I thought a funeral might not be the best thing for us.

Of course, all these funerals had the dead person there in the coffin, just like the coffin Dracula slept in. The top half of the coffin was always open so everyone could see the body. People would walk by and look at the dead person lying there, and sometimes children were picked up and forced to kiss the head of the dead person. The thought was so repulsive it made me dizzy. I wondered how dead people felt to the touch, how cold they were. I had been told this would not be happening at my mother’s funeral, and there would be no coffin there at all. But this didn’t provide me with any comfort. I was lied to all the time, so maybe I was being lied to again. Maybe I would get to the funeral in my new clothing and my mother would be lying there in a half-open box. The funeral people might even take me by the scruff of the neck and force me to kiss her on the forehead. I was a kid with a warped imagination, and I had these weird visions of leaning over my mother’s coffin and the beast suddenly appearing and whispering in my ear, “No-no-no-no…” I was mortified by these thoughts, and I didn’t dare tell anyone.

Because my mother had died so young, I knew the adults were willing to make an exception for me and let me be a part of their lurid ceremony. I was the kid who had heard all those anguished cries from the bedroom and who had prayed every night for the beast to go away. I was on the verge of going insane over the sadness and the horror of it all. I did not “want” to attend the ghastly ritual that everyone was calling my mother’s funeral. All these years later I look back and I still cannot imagine anyone asking a newly minted fifteen-year-old kid if this was what he “wanted”.

“So, do you want to attend, you know, your mother’s funeral?” my father asked me.

He had shuffled up to me and he had given his familiar cough before he spoke these words. I knew immediately he did not want the conversation, and he did not want me at any funeral.

“No, I will go to the reception,” I said.

My father’s powers of persuasion were perfunctory, at best. “Well,” he continued, “ghe Spencer kids will be there, and maybe some other kids, too. Your choice all the way. Lotta crying, lotta sadness, you know. Not really the sorta thing for kids. But totally up to you though. Completely your choice.”

“No, I will go to the reception,” I said.

My father walked away. I think he might have even run out of house for fear I might change my mind. With this brief conversation, he had solved the messy problem of having his kids at the funeral. There would be no need to purchase any new clothing for us, and no sitting as a family unit behind any curtain. He would tell all the relatives and anyone else who asked that my sister was much too young to understand or appreciate such things. He would tell them in the same breath that he had explained everything to me and he given me every chance to attend, but I had simply refused to go. None of this would be his fault, and everyone would leave him alone.

Over the years, I have had occasion to run into a lot of people who were at my mother’s funeral. After the obligatory chit-chat, every one of them has gone out of their way to mention to me that my sister and I were not there. They never ask why, but all of them have provided just enough detail to make it clear to me they thought our absence was odd, and everybody else at the funeral had thought the same thing. The inference is, our mother would have thought the same thing, too. Therefore, something was very wrong. What was the thing that was very wrong? For those of you out there who were at my mother’s funeral, I have a little inside information that might assist you the next time we speak. My sister and I are well aware we were not at our mother’s funeral and we do not have to be reminded of this. The reason we were not there is simple. We were home watching television.

A few years back I read about a child psychologist who was studying the children of terminal cancer victims. He was studying the rage felt by these children, a rage no one around them ever identified or understood. He said when the pressure on these children became too much to bear, they would shatter inside and begin to act out in strange ways. I should have looked a little deeper into this because it describes me and my sister exactly. I threw the magazine away. I had nothing more to say to anyone about the death of my mother. Later in life, my friends began telling me I should talk more openly about my father’s behaviour as a means of therapy. But I had nothing more to say to them either.

Not long ago I had a bit of a revelation. Every time I had looked back over that time in my life, there was always one story about my father that kept popping into my head. At first, I thought the story didn’t mean a heck of a lot and I ignored it. It was just one of those things that happened the summer my mother died, and I never thought it was ever connected to anything. It took place after she died, so in a sense it wasn’t even a part of the two-year nightmare. But this story always seemed to rise to the top of my thoughts, and I’ve now come around to thinking it may well be the small event that captures the big picture. It is the story of my father and the spaghetti party.

I will take you back a little. During her last days, I would often sit at my mother’s bedside before I went to bed and she would tell me all about her life. She always smelled of talcum and lavender soap. There were a lot of things she talked about, but she wanted to talk mostly about my father. My sister and I had always felt loved by our parents, but we were not a demonstrative family. I’ve already mentioned we never hugged each other. We never told each other we loved them either, because that would be way too sappy. But we were a happy lot for the most part until the beast came along.

I was surprised by my mother’s obsession about my father when the end was so near. She told me my father was her first boyfriend. She told me he was the only man she had ever slept with. I understood what this meant in a kid sense, although these things have a deeper sort of meaning when you get older. She told me my father always seemed more unhappy with each passing year. She said he wasn’t always unhappy. She said his unhappiness started when he was told he couldn’t become an engineer on the trains because of his poor eyesight. Instead, he had to sell newspaper ads for a living which he hated. She told me how he was always disappointed he wasn’t a better provider and we didn’t have extra money for things. She told me the only time she had ever seen him truly happy was when his children were born. She felt sorry for my father and she agonized about what life was going to be like for him when she was gone. She was the one who was dying, but she cried when she talked about how lonely my father was going to be without her. She kept talking about how he had always loved a good time at a party and how those moments seemed to lift him out of his unhappiness, if only for a few hours.

“I hope he can have a good time when I’m gone,” she would whisper through her tears. “God, God, I want him to be happy.”

There was nothing I could say to help and I just sat there, listening, waiting.

We had a small camp up at Lake Samish, and after our mother died my father took my sister and me to the lake that summer as our parents had always done. He would make the commute to and from work, so we were there for a couple of months. There was just the three of us now, but over the last two years my sister and I had become accustomed to being at the camp alone. My parents had best friends who also had a camp at the lake. Ruth had gone to nursing school with my mother and the two of them had been inseparable ever since. She had been by my mother’s side throughout her illness, and she was there at the hospital bed when my mother died. Her husband Sammy worked in a mill. They were not what one would call a happy couple, but unhappy couples had no more distinction then than they do now. They had a daughter Eleanor whom we called Noni. Noni was a few years old than I was. She was out of high school but she still lived at home.

One evening, Noni walked over to our cabin and invited my father to what she called a “spaghetti party”, something she was going to have at their house in town next Friday. None of us had ever heard of a spaghetti party. Noni explained to my father that one of her friends had done the same thing the month before and everyone had a ball. The idea was, the kids would get together and party while their parents acted as chaperones and made a spaghetti dinner. Even though they were all old enough not to need chaperones, she thought the idea was cute and all her friends wanted to do the same thing again at her house. Her mother would be away in Florida for a couple of weeks, so would my father like to come to the party and act as a chaperone with her father? My father was thrilled. Of course he would come to the spaghetti party! My father was an expert spaghetti chef anyway, and Sammy was his best drinking buddy and this party was a wonderful idea. I remembered my mother’s words about how my father loved a good time and how a party would always lift his spirits and make him a happier person. Just like my mother, I wanted my father to be a happy person and I was happy that he had been invited to the spaghetti party.

For the next few days, all my father wanted to talk about was this party. He told us over and over that he would come to the cabin after work, change into his party clothes, and then head off into town. He explained he would not be back until late, and we were to lock the doors but keep the security latch open so when he got back he could get into the cabin. He went over this with us a bunch of times. He went over the exact time he expected us to go to bed, and what cabin we might go to if there was an emergency. His buddy Sammy came up to the cabin a couple of times before that Friday, and I could hear them talking about the sort of spaghetti they would make, and the different types of pasta, and the sauce, and how to brown the meat for the sauce, and the type of wine they would bring, and all the supplies they would need for the party.

I didn’t know much about money in those days, but I knew enough to know that my father didn’t have any. Despite this, he went out and bought a new sports jacket to wear to the spaghetti party. The next day, he found out the jacket went on sale for half-price and he went back into the shop and he was thrilled to hear they would give him the jacket for half-price, and they refunded him the difference in cash right there on the spot. At dinner, he told me and my sister all about how he would use the money to buy supplies and booze for the spaghetti party, as if some providence had dropped this bounty right into his lap.

When the Friday came, my sister had arranged a sleepover with another girl at her cabin, so I would be alone in our own cabin until our father came back from the party. As planned, he arrived at the lake early. He immediately went about washing and shining himself and he came out wearing his new sports jacket and he was happier than I had ever seen him.

“Now remember those locks!” he chirped as he got into his car.

“I remember.”

“And if there’s any problem, Mr. Morris is two doors down.”

“I remember.”

“And I won’t be back until late, so don’t wait up!”

“I won’t.”

He took off down the winding dirt road between the cabins and I didn’t expect to see him until the next morning. But an odd thing happened about two hours later. I was hanging out with a couple of friends, and I spotted my father driving back down the road towards our cabin. He had forgotten something and now he was going to be late for the spaghetti party! I ran between the lots and stood in the middle of the road. He saw me standing there and he stopped the car and I hustled up to the open window.

“What happened?” I asked him. “What did you forget?”

I looked at my father and I thought in that instant there had been some sort of death or disaster.

“There was no one at the house,” my father said quietly.

“What do you mean, no one at the house? You sure you had the right date?”

“It was today and I made it into town bang on six-thirty. I looked around and I went to the door and I knocked a few times. I went to the back door, too. There was no one home.”

This made no sense to me. “Wasn’t there a note or anything?”

“Nope.”

This wouldn’t do. There was something he was not telling me, and I was furious.

“They had to have a note,” I insisted. “You just didn’t look hard enough!”

My father was staring ahead and he would not look and me. I knew there had never been any note. I thought, does everything in the world have to go so wrong for you? Can’t anything work out? At least lie to me and tell me they left you a goddam note!

But all he finally said, again, was, “Nope.”

Then my father slowly turned his head and looked straight at me. This was the first time he had really faced me since my mother had died, and I have spent the last fifty years of my life trying to get a handle on the look in my father’s eyes at that moment. I’m drawn back to the time my sister and I were sent to Grandma’s to spend the night when our father did his final vigil at the hospital. The next day around noon, I remember the phone ringing in the kitchen. Grandma left the kitchen to answer the phone in the bedroom, and I knew immediately what had happened. There was a muffled conversation, and then Grandma came back into the kitchen, crying. She said, “Oh, your mother isn’t well, she just isn’t well.”

The next thing I remember is our father standing in the open doorway. “Your mother’s gone,” he told us through his sobs. “God took her away.” I knew he didn’t believe the bit about God. I had often heard him say there was no God and religion was for fools. I could see him rehearsing those few words in his head as he made the impossibly long drive up to Grandma’s house in order to tell his children their mother had died. I had never seen him cry before and there was endless sadness in his eyes as he stood there in the doorway, but the look in his eyes on the road that night was much different. He had gone to the party exactly as my mother would have begged him to do, and no one was home. My father may not have been sure if God had taken our mother away, but he was now certain she was never coming back again. I didn’t see the revelation in his eyes then, but all these years later, I see it, I know it.

At the time, the look just frightened me and I had to turn away. I stepped aside and my father inched the car forward and then he continued down the dirt road towards our cabin. I watched his car until it disappeared around the bend by the trees. I had hated my father for lying to me about my mother getting better when all the time he knew he’d have to fess up. My friends all tell me that he lied because he wanted to protect me. They get upset when I tell them my father just wanted to get back to his newspaper and not be bothered. When he took me out in the car after the second surgery and he gave me the news that every other kid in the school had known for months, I remember how pissed off he sounded. He was pissed off he had made me cry. He was pissed off his wife was dying. He was pissed off that he had no money. He was pissed off that everybody in the family was bugging him. I thought about all of this as I stood there watching him drive away that evening, all alone after the party that had never happened. I had despised all of his lies to the bottom of my soul, yet my heart was breaking for him and it breaks for him still.

We found out that Noni and her friends had all gone to the lacrosse game, and the party had not started until much later. Dad’s drinking buddy had called up another drinking buddy and he had gone off with the new drinking buddy to kill some time. I would like to tell you more about my father as he wandered outside that locked and empty house, knocking on doors, peering into windows, looking at his watch and searching desperately for a note, standing there like a fool in his new sports jacket and wondering how the hell his life had ever gone so wrong. But I wasn’t there, so there’s not much to tell.

Noni and Sammy told my father they were sorry for their oversight, but it didn’t make any difference. He was never the same again. I later heard through the grapevine they may not have been as sorry as they made out. They were telling people they did have a party after all, and my father was one of the first to be invited, and they did apologize, so why all this unceasing anger? Maybe they had a point. My father was always a smart guy, so maybe he should have smartened up and made himself busy until company arrived, just like any other grown-up person would do. Mind you, it is gospel they would have left a note for my mother.

I wish I could tell you my father turned a corner into a brighter future after all of this, but that never seemed to happen. My mother’s fervent wish on her deathbed for the happiness of her husband would have to wait. Old friends stopped calling and we would never see them again. I know it’s up to both sides of a friendship to make those calls, and my father may have made a call or two. But our life was so different now that the whole exercise seemed pointless.

My father drifted into a series of low-end sales jobs that didn’t pay him anything. They wanted him to get out and promote business and take positive thinking courses and he was just lost. There were money problems. My uncle got a big promotion and he was now making more money than my father had ever dreamed of making. He was the younger brother, and my father was even smarter than he was. But my uncle had pulled way ahead of my father. He was going to Europe and my father was now behind on the tax payments on the cabin.

Bill collectors started phoning. I blamed every one of these calls on my mother’s absence from our lives. She would never have let this happen had she been alive, not a single call. The bill collectors would always phone in the evening when my father was out trying to drum up sales for something or other and I was always the one to answer the call. They would ask me why my father didn’t make his car payment. They would talk about taking my father to small debts court if he didn’t come up with the money. I hated the tone in their voices. It was a flat, dead tone, just like my father’s monotone when he was forced to discuss something he found unpleasant. Some grubby-looking guy in an underwear singlet would come to the door and ask about the rent. When I confronted my father, he’d get furious and not say anything. I heard rumours he was going to sell the camp at Lake Samish in order to pay off all the bill collectors. I didn’t want him to sell the camp. This was my last link to better days, and it was my only refuge from the cramped apartment we were now living in. When the rumours became too much for me to bear, I just had to go to my father to find out the truth.

“Are you going to sell the camp?” I asked him.

“Nope,” came the reply.

“Then why did Ritchie Valentine stop me in the hall at school and tell me his father was talking about you listing the camp for sale?”

He shrugged and pretended to look all wide-eyed and clueless. “I dunno.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

A week after that, the camp was sold to pay off all the bill collectors.

My sister and I grew into adulthood, but our father never changed. And his unhappiness only changed by getting worse. My mother prayed for him to be happy, but the exact opposite was happening. Even in death, the beast had a way of getting to her.

When I was in my twenties, my father moved into a tiny bachelor suite in a seniors apartment complex up the hill behind the supermarket. One Christmas Eve I made plans to crash on his couch so the two of us could go up to Grandma’s the next morning. I had said something to him about having a drink and a cigar together. I rolled in about three the next morning. I was drunk, as I always was in those hard-party days. My father had already gone to bed, but he had six bottles of my favorite beer in the fridge, and he had arranged some treats in a few bowls on a TV tray beside the couch. There were cheezies and potato chips, along with some licorice allsorts, which had always been my favorite candy. My cigar had been placed on an ashtray with a box of matches beside it. He had made the couch up into a bed with fresh sheets and a pillow, as he had often done when I was a child and I was pretending to be camping out on some adventure.

While his health was holding out, my father had a brief stint for some extra money as the part-time janitor at the mall below his apartment complex. He would start early in the morning in order to clean up the parking lot and sweep the aisles before the customers arrived. One night when we were having dinner at his place, he took out a crumpled piece of paper he had found in the parking lot that morning. It had a list of grocery items that had obviously been written by a child. The list was full of funny spelling mistakes. The word “bread” had been spelled “bred”. The word “lettuce” had been spelled “lates”. The one word that had baffled us both had been spelled “soasses”. It took a while for us to figure out the kid had wanted to write “sausages”.

I remember my father reading the list to me and smiling and shaking his head as he read out each fractured word. “That little guy was writing all this down while his mom talked to him on the phone,” he said. “He was just doing the best he could, poor little fella.”

He loved an unknown kid with all his heart because of some misspelled words on a list.

My father had never taken care of himself and his health began to slide. He went blind in one eye and he started to fall down in public. He would never refer to the disease that killed my mother by the one-word name, “cancer”. When forced to say the dreaded word in conversation, it would always be “the old cancer bit”. He had a particularly bad fall down some concrete steps and he got all bruised and scraped up. My sister and I were worried he wouldn’t be able to stay in his apartment much longer.

There was a coffee shop in the mall where my father would hang out, and one day my office got a call from the guy who ran the shop. My father had just been in the coffee shop and he was staggering around and mumbling things that made no sense. He died the next day. The doctors said he had suffered a stroke in his sleep, and it was a heart attack that killed him. But I knew my father, and I knew it was really the unhappiness that did him in. Like the illness that killed my mother, my father’s illness just grew and grew inside of him until he’d had enough and he just gave up.

When I heard the news, I wondered if there was really some place where my mother and father were together again. These thoughts are not unique and I think everyone has them. My mother died early in the morning, and towards the end of his life my father told me a story about something that happened late that night. He said he was sitting in the living room reading his newspaper when he suddenly smelled my mother’s perfume and he knew she was standing in front of him. He didn’t see her, but he knew she was there. He said this was the only time this ever happened. I wondered how this might have affected his views on God and religion, but I never asked him.

Perhaps my parents are now together as young people, the way they were before my sister and I came along. My mother told me she first met my father on the beach when he was goofing around on the sand with a few of his friends. He ended up walking with her on the pier and he bought her an ice cream cone or something. She would tell the story over and over as I sat at her bedside during those sad last days. I often think of my parents together on that pier, young once again, maybe looking for a batch of the old friends so they could all hang out together like they did in happier times.

None of us ever really stops thinking about the past. Look at me, I’ve rambled on to you about funerals, and Dracula, and camps, and the sale of camps, and the smell of talcum and lavender soap, and nearly everything else under the sun. But it’s the spaghetti party that keeps coming at me in so many different ways. Sometimes I see it from all different angles, and sometimes I can look right through it. Sometimes I look at it head-on, and then when I step back, it looks different again. I don’t think that’s ever going to change for me. I’m stuck with the story, as my father was until the day he died.

This may sound strange, but the story of that party now takes me to a place where I feel a lot better about my father. I have decided not to gripe about these things any longer. I am going to think of the past as a part of something much larger, something that’s part of the big picture. Maybe things make more sense in the big picture. Maybe it’s a place where no beast can live, and that gives me comfort when I think about my father, and my mother, too. I imagine the big picture as a place where the houses are all warm with radiant light, and they all have people in them so none of us ever have to knock on the door of an empty house again.

My father would surely know the right house. And when he came calling, I like to think my mother was there to invite him in. He would be happy forever, and I would finally be happy for him.

Robert Collings is a retired lawyer living and writing in Pitt Meadows, B.C., a small town just outside Vancouver. He has written two screenplays that are currently making the rounds of a multitude of agents and producers in Los Angeles and Hollywood. He’s also written a satirical novella called One Dog’s Life and several short stories. Some of those stories have been collected in a volume called All I Know in Seven Stories and “The Spaghetti Party – A Memoir of My Father” is one of them. You can see Robert pitching his screenplays in an online video by searching “Robert Collings Pitch Video” on You Tube.

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2 Responses to The Spaghetti Party – A Memoir of My Father

  1. Robert Collings says:

    This guy should quit griping and get on with his life. Sincerely, Robert Collings

  2. Amazing piece….I was deeply moved by this story of your family . Thankyou for sharing this Bob.

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