I should remember more because it is one of the few half-decent memories I have of my dad. It’s half decent because I was 13 and he drank but the deal was I’d get to go shopping in Vancouver and we’d go see a Canucks’ hockey game together. I don’t remember my mom offering words of warning or wisdom in case he started drinking. No asking “Do you want to go?” No saying “You don’t have to go.”
I remember being worried as he got behind the wheel of the VW Westfalia, sniffing beneath the coating of Old Spice aftershave for a whiff of whiskey. I remember holding his empty glass of milk and inhaling, nostrils flaring, not smelling anything.
I don’t remember the two hour drive south through the long tunnel of tall firs to catch the ferry to the mainland. I don’t remember the halfway-there stop at the Shady Rest café in Qualicum Beach or what we talked about or if we talked at all.
I remember the first glimpse of the city as we approached it, seeing buildings blooming above the greenery of Stanley Park, twitching in my seat, eager to be there so I could get the promised new boots.
I remember dad dressed in a suit, his booze belly covered in respectability. I remember standing outside a building that hurt my neck to look up at and whose top disappeared into the sky like a magic beanstalk. Inside, shiny elevator doors reflected me, although my body was kind of wavy. When we got inside and shot to a lofty floor I felt seasick.
We shook hands with an important lawyer whose suit gleamed like a new 50 cent piece and outshone my dad’s. There were big words spoken, agreements of purchase and sale signed on long pieces of paper with double red margin lines that slid to the bottom of the page where thick boats of black lines waited for signatories.
I remember a big desk. I remember drinks offered. I remember my dad saying “Two ginger-ales”.
Then we shopped for new boots for me to wear to the hockey game because, he said, it would be cold in the arena. I got mukluks at the Hudson’s Bay Company made of seal-skin. They had fur-ball tassels and smelled recently harvested.
I wore them as we walked back to a small hotel on Robson Street owned by a family friend. I wore them to lunch with the friend while dad went on an errand.
I screamed my heart out at the hockey game but I couldn’t hear my voice in the crowd. I clapped my hands until they were raging red. My feet sweat and I got a blister. I wanted to feel cold.
Then I smelled it and I stopped cheering.
I don’t remember the trip home.
I don’t remember my mom asking.