Before Edinburgh, there was London. And before London there was Bordeaux. And just outside of Bordeaux, there was a beautiful home in Périgueux filled with warmth and tartines and laughs that made me want to jump ship and go home, just a little bit.
It was in Périgueux that I found out my father went to the hospital. It was there I called my brother from thousands of miles away, going to sleep with hopes and waking up to find nothing had changed. I lit a candle in the cathedral and sat where the light comes through the stained glass. It was the only warmth I could find to hold me without asking out loud. I've always been suspicious of saying anything out loud.
On a very happy day, for a dear friend surrounded by all the love I could have wished for her, my father passed. I didn't know it yet. I was elbow deep capturing love; which was the kindest way I think it could have happened. When everyone sat down to dinner, I saw the colors of the sky turning and ran to catch them. They were all the colors I'd hoped for, and I knew, in my heart, a farewell. Before we left for the evening, I lit a candle in the tiny chapel and left the flame alive in the darkness.
The next day I left for Bordeaux, and was finally alone with everything. It was like knocking on the door of what-if's to no answer. From the bus to the city center, all along the golden river front, and finally back in the small room, I cried. The light followed me everywhere, the longest sunset of my life, and I didn't know how a day so bright and lovely could also be so sad. My aunt later wrote to me and said,
"No matter how far away, physically or otherwise, our parents are, while they are living still, we always hope for 'closer'. There is always the prospect of some good change. But when someone dies, that's it, no more prospect of closer ties. I sometimes think it is harder to lose a distant parent, then a close one, because this is a loss that doesn't heal."
And while I don't think we can compare pain, I think this was what I'd mourned. The golden sun found me again on the train from London to Edinburgh and as I wrote and rewrote my last and only love letter to my father, things finally began to feel okay.
When I arrived in Edinburgh, I felt a little new.