“Mom, did Dad ever lather my face with shaving cream and pretend to shave me?”
“Not that I remember.”; She acknowledged. “You were only six when he… passed. To be perfectly honest, he didn’t have much of a sense of humor. Your father was a kind, intelligent man with many wonderful qualities but he was also painfully serious. I can’t really imagine him pretending to do anything. He was always away on business trips so you didn’t get to spend a lot of quality time with him. In my heart, I believe he intended to spend a lot more ‘daddy time’ with you when he finally had the chance. But because of the accident, that opportunity never came.” There was more than a hint of sadness in her somber response.
On the rare occasions that he dared to bring up questions about his father, she usually reacted with withdrawn melancholy. He usually dropped the subject in deference to her feelings. This time however, he pressed on. Something was eating at him and he needed answers; even if it was so painful to her that it cut to the quick.
“The weird thing is that I remember looking in the mirror and seeing Dad stand behind me.”; He continued. “He patiently demonstrated the proper shaving technique and razor position. I vividly recall his reflection as he stood behind me, guiding each stroke. The vision is so clear! Come to think of it, it didn’t seem like he was pretending at all. I actually had some sparse facial hair starting to develop. It appeared to be a serious effort to teach me the proper shaving method. I guess I had just entered puberty and needed instruction.”
“How could that be?; She remarked in a slightly concerned tone. “He died when you were still a child. You must have imagined having him around so often that it manifested itself into a false event. I understand ‘phantom memories’ are quite common.”
“It’s not just that one out-of-place memory I have, Mother.”; He defended against her dismissive suggestion. “I have several others that I can’t explain.” Realizing that he’d have to tread lightly in evidence of her increasingly agitated feelings, he continued more cautiously.
“I have several very lucid recollections of doing things together. Some of them are definitely when he was older. In one memory, he had gray hair. I’ve never seen any photos of him that way in our family albums. Was his hair starting the get thin on top, or gray on the sides before he died?”
“No. Never. Your father was only 37 when he unfortunately left us. He was very much in his prime. He still had the same thick, chestnut hair as he did when I first met him in college. Your father was so handsome! I miss him every single day.” She let out an audible sigh and her voice trailed off as it always did.
Immediately he regretted dredging up her lingering feelings but there was no other means to satisfy his burning curiosity.
“Honestly, I have no idea where you got those fanciful ideas from, hon. They couldn’t have possibly happened. You know that, right?” She looked at him with hurt in her eyes.
The only thing worse than making her sad about the past; was going though the gritty process and still not getting the answers he sought. The damage was done. Her mood was already morose. He decided that he might as well ‘finish the hazy trip down memory lane’. He felt compelled to get the conflicting memories out in the open. He needed to discuss them with her; regardless of how unfavorably they would be received. With determination he soldered on.