20 Questions 

Emmett stumped me last night. I can’t recall with 100% certainty if it has ever happened before in our game, but try as I might I could not come up with a complete answer.

We have this little ritual that we have started since the loss of Colin and Madeline. It isn’t a formal tradition and we have actually never acknowledged to each other that we do it. It was sort of deliberate on my part, but I never imagined it would turn out like this.

The issue is neither Colin or I were terribly good at remembering to take pictures. Most family holidays that we do have photos of are because of other aunts, parents, or relatives. Any vacations that we took will have only a handful of memories captured on film and most of those will be from a specific moment as we tried to have at least one good shot. And even our first child’s photo album stats would probably rank closer to the typical third or fourth child in regular families. There are times when I regret not having a particular shot or moment framed, but I also know that it does mean that we were very present for each of those occasions as we were not fumbling with a camera. This is not a knock on anybody else, this was just the silver lining that Colin and I chose to celebrate as we identified this shortcoming.

When all you are left with is photographs and memories a lack of pictures can be disappointing. So I have tried to enjoy the ones that we do have, and mostly relive all the memories. So throughout the day, in all our activities, I share my memories with the boys and they share theirs with me. They can be simple or special or deep or funny.

And it’s not just the memories that we visit, but the stuff you can’t take pictures of. The feelings and the thoughts and the ideas that they had. Taking the time to consider how they would have impacted and changed every experience that we are having. From something as basic as mealtime to things as extravagant as Disneyland.

And for some reason it evolved into: “Could Madeline run now?” “Would she fit into these shoes?” “Do you think Daddy would like our new truck?” “Would he have been proud of the touchdown I made?” “Do you think Madeline would have liked peanut butter?” “Do you know if Daddy would have been good at this?” “What words would Madeline be saying now?” “Would Dad like Monopoly or Go Fish better?” The 20 questions of speculation.

So when Emmett said at the supper table, “I’ve got one for you! What are 5 foods Daddy didn’t like?” I really had to think. Colin appreciated food, good food. He was a delight to cook and bake for because food moved him. You would know when he liked something, and he liked a lot of things.

So I really had to dig to find foods he didn’t like. Number one was chickpeas, there is a story there so I knew that one for sure. Two was Dates, it was a texture thing. Tofu was three, we had an opportunity to eat traditional Japanese food when we were dating and he did not have seconds. And Eggplant, though I don’t actually know if he had really tried it.

For the life of me though I couldn’t think of a fifth. Even with the boys “help” we could not come up with one more. The boys surmised that their Dad loved food so they weren’t shocked that there was only four. And they were sure he would have loved our supper too. And even Madeline if she was old enough to have it.

And so we travel this road as we try to think what these moments would be like if they were here with us. As if we are getting to know and reacquainting ourselves with who they were or would have been. Sometimes the answers are easy because I knew him so well. Other times the answers are contemplative as we hardly got to know her at all. But in it all they both become so real again. We can clearly see how they fit, how they have never left our hearts and our home. How these conversations, this game we play, is so much better than any photograph we have.



When Friday arrived a combative and harsh attitude permeated our home. I was not prepared to accept anything but perfection and my boys were defensive and fragile. If emotions could emit colour, the air around me would have been thick with crimson. Stained red from the anger of each of my unmet and very unrealistic expectations and from the cuts that my weapon of condescension inflicted on the boys. To say that our morning was unharmonious would be like calling the ocean big.

And as we all sat quietly in the truck on our way to “Thanksgiving Weekend” I tried to dissect the morning to uncover the root of these feelings beyond our grief. As I sifted through causes such as: exhaustion, selfish hearts, unresolved issues, not enough hugs, and even a change in weather I was struck with an epiphany. Every holiday, celebration, birthday, or anniversary since that fateful day in July starts like this. This may have been one of the most intense starts yet, but those shades of red have been present every time. And as I thought back to many special occasions that we have celebrated since the deaths of Colin and Madeline the familiarity of those emotions was strong.

Even as I have planned and orchestrated many of these moments to help us celebrate, remember and give us something to focus on it is like that car crash has altered the very fabric of our DNA. We can’t understand and see the deep undercurrents that are at play yet our bodies still revolt. As though subconsciously we realize that it is not right. That these precious holiday times that are so centred on family and the ones we love most don’t fit us the same anymore. A crying out of our souls in a language that is foreign to us, but desperately begs and even fights to be heard. And though our methods need a bit of polishing, they are effective. It makes us stop, and weep, and reflect, and try again.

And when we begin afresh with one another in each of these special days we learn something. That things can be adjusted to fit again. They may not be better, but they can still work. That there is still a place for us and there are still new memories to be made. I think that is the shock for each of us. Our expectation has drastically changed and we don’t necessarily believe that the peace and joy of these moments is ours to share anymore.

As we drove home after the weekend spent with family I stared out the window at the beautiful prairie and bright blue sky. Which was surprising to see after the overcast and blustery weekend that we had started with. From the back seat I heard Emmett say, “ Today was actually a good day.” I nodded and asked him if he was talking about the weather to which he replied, “No, just in general.”