Cockles to commemorate, fire, and locally brewed beer for the libation. It’s no grand gesture; lavish with expense and pomp. There’s no purchase of mass-marketed cards or trips away. Instead it’s something simple and heartfelt.
The cockles were chosen because she couldn’t stomach jellied eels. They were a Londoner thing, an Essex thing, two things she was not. But shellfish and ports had a long history and it was a treat that the two shared on occasion. Cockles, that bizarre looking shellfish, served with generous splashes of malt vinegar and a gentle dusting of white pepper – not too much to overpower their salt-tang seafood taste, but just to accentuate it as good seasoning should – served with wholemeal bread lathered with good butter. It was a traditional summer treat that wouldn’t be partaken of again as a joint activity.
The fire had a practical purpose along with a sentimental one. Paperwork amassed quickly in the modern world, information printed on by machine scribes too delicate and confidential to trust to the refuse and recycling bins, so fire was a good way to rid the shelves of the clutter of communique. It was hot and bright and would dance merely in its crucible on the patio, fed by kindling wood and no longer desired documents. The flames would always bring back fond memories of cold winters and open fireplaces, slices of bread being toasted on and thick logs belching up burning embers on occasion. The act of using fire as passage to the beyond went back tens of thousands of years, the perfect medium for transmission of a simple message written on neatly folded paper.
He had a fondness for rich, dark ales brewed from around the country. It was not her preferred drink, leaning towards the fruit beers and ciders when it came to her own preferences of tipple, but many a time would she sneak a sup from his traditional pint glass or pewter mug when he seemed unaware, scampering off with telltale foam on her upper lip once the crime had been committed. So a brew that would be to his liking would be purchased, some (not all mind; he was never one for waste by being a product of the late 40’s, where post-war rationing molded the menus of households like the one he grew up in) tipped out on the ground as was a custom in parts of the world, the rest quaffed to wash down the taste of the seaside treat before the bitterness of the ale was cut through by another cockle and mouthful of bread.
It was the first Father’s Day sans father, having the dubious honour of falling close to the half year in his absence and his first missed birthday. It wouldn’t be the last. But lack of physical existence did not also come to mean a lack of presence. So like she did on all days, she’d remember the memories left behind, and the wisdom imparted to guide her on. And she’d talk about his deeds and of the wonder of his breadth and depth of knowledge, of experience.
Tales of holidays taken on summers long ago, of stories recounted from bygone ages, of the standout moments in everyday life. As long as such things were remembered, and such things commemorated, the dead were never gone.