Atlas & Alice | Issue 5, Winter 2015/2016
interrupting my reverie. “Which what, honey?” “Which Hallow. You’d want the Resurrection Stone. So you could bring your Daddy back.” My younger daughter is not usually perceptive about matters of grief. But Harry Potter has opened a new channel in her almost-six-year-old brain, because she’s made the connection between my crying and my father. She knew that Harry used the Stone in the forest to bring back his parents, vague memory-figures he can’t touch but who talk to him, then accompany him to face his death at the hands of the Dark Lord. “You’re right, Carmen, I’d want the Stone,” I told her. “And then I’d get to meet your Daddy,” said Carmen. “Because I never knew him.” “But he’d be all shadowy and see-through!” protested Ava. “He wouldn’t really be back.” “He could talk to you, though,” I said. “He’d probably play a trick on you.” “I bet he’d hang Ducky out the window on a piece of string!” Carmen laughed, remembering stories about my dad’s penchant for practical jokes. “I’d want the Cloak,” said Ava gravely. “So I could be invisible.” “What would you want, Carmen?” I asked. “The Elder Wand?” “Yeah, the Wand. Then I could defeat anyone in the world!” My girl uttered a precocious chuckle, warning me again to worry about her adolescence, approaching us like a distant asteroid seven light-years away, its trajectory fixed on our happy naked summer of swimming and ice cream and Harry Potter.
When my father died the first time, I’d just turned eighteen. It was June 21st, the Solstice and my mother’s birthday, an unusually humid afternoon. Dad collapsed on the squash court during a brutal game against his colleague and rival, Professor Bernstein; someone thought it was heat exhaustion and called the paramedics. Lucky he was in the hospital when his heart gave way, in the ICU hooked up to the beeping machines, my mother at his side. When he flat-lined the doctors and nurses descended like a rush of moths, insistent but calm. My mother was ushered out. Rob shocked him once, twice on the chest with the defibrillator and eventually he came back, after a minute, two minutes, three minutes down the starred throat of the universe, three minutes dissolved in white light. He said he was a drop wanting to join a great waterfall, merge with the source of all love. He’d had a choice, like Harry at the end. He told me about it afterwards while I sat by his bed in the blue-aquarium light, his body fed with lines and wires, his face glazed with a strange glow. He’d had a choice. He came back.