How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting

 art by  Ben Tour

art by Ben Tour

The way they describe him seems a bit unfair, but my memory can't be trusted. Relic was an unsavoury cheat. The protagonist's nemesis and competitor. A middle-aged, unkempt rival. A tour de force character that everyone could hiss and boo at, as he made every other character seem normal, well-meaning and hard-working. Shifty-eyed, untrustworthy, sneaky, dirty, despicable, complex and larcenous. Thoroughly disreputable.

Very few of us know that the man who played Relic on The Beachcombers—the third longest-running dramatic series ever made for English-language Canadian television—was a Canadian war hero with a back story both tragic and triumphant. This perhaps gave him the inner grief and I-don’t-give-a-damn aloofness to play the part of the country’s most reviled, yet strangely loved, character. —Vintage Wings

I don't remember what I remember. He was a necessary counterpoint, and I knew that even at ten years old. I knew that Relic wasn't just a grumpy cheat, even at ten years old. Relic was a sad man. A sad, sad man who used his boat as a battering ram.

Relic's been on my mind lately, for a decade at least. Of all the selves there are of me, one of them is him.

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I haven't seen her in ages but I am seeing her now and it comes out in my mind, thank god only from the inner-monologue mouth that only I can hear, but that is such a head-shouting distraction I worry I've made it real and let it go out loud.

Chickenshit

My Relic thinks it of her. He always has. I straighten my face. I am chatting about how to massage kale and making weather smalltalk.

Chickenshit

In my head he shouts at her again. I straighten my face again. She laughs lightly in that social way. She is older now, and so am I. I don't want to think about how criminally, absurdedly cruel she was to me when my baby died. I don't want to recall, as I'm sitting here across from her, all her forcible bootstrap-pulling.

Relic, chrissakes. Go away. That was ages ago. I don't care anymore. I'm well past it.

No you're not.

Liam is nine years of love and longing, not upset. I'm long beyond acceptance. Sort of. Most days. I wonder if I imagined him. He is a distant planet, a pulsar, a sabretoothed tiger. At some point, you have to trust in science to know something ever took up time and space. For some time he was a phantom right in front of my face. I wept and wept. For some time I talked to him. He talked back. He was vivid and beautiful and pained. Then he went elsewhere because it was time for him to go elsewhere, and I reached for him, but no. Many years passed and many other hurts and pains made fresh bruises, and those bruises got real ugly and then faded. Grief was superceded, upended, re-formed. Grief became compost, making the earth stinky and rich, and from it new things emerged and became green.

It was so long ago. I am okay. I am so much more than okay.

It was so long ago. I feel love, longing, but not upset. I watch her face. She is roasting a cut of beef. My Relic revs his engine and scowls from underneath his toque.

Chickenshit

God, Relic. Shush. Why are you even still here?

Chickenshit

It's okay, Relic. I don't need you anymore.

Yes you do.

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"Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!"

Henry Scott Holland

Relic is out late again on his boat. It's the part that never made it on the show. He's sitting on the stern with a beer and a sigh. I'm sitting there with him. I read to him.

That's nice. I like that.

That's Henry Scott Holland.

Yeah.

Why are you still so mad, Relic? Why are you hanging around?

Because you can't help it. You can't help me. You like me, though. Everybody likes me. They like to hate me but they like me, too. There'd be no show without me. There'd be no heart.

Yeah.

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What shape does your anger take? Does it persist? Has it changed? What makes it resurface, and how does this make you feel? Do you think anger can coexist with good health and healing? Do you think it's possible to reconcile with our own inner grumpy counterpoints, let alone with an often unsupportive world?
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Kate

Author, photographer, founder of Glow. Mother of three boys, one of whom died at six weeks old nine years ago. Nine years ago, I was someone else. Love and sorcery and poetry and terrible luck and wonderful luck.