“and once my mind is free and empty I hear the rhythmic hoot of owls. The two birds call each other and when suddenly one of them fails to respond my heart stops for a moment, waiting for the call. It soon follows and a strange pleasure begins to pulsate through my body.” (Subhash Jaireth, To Silence, p. 17)
The above caught my attention while I was reading my friend Subhash’s book. I’m not sure why exactly, but the passage brought back to me memories of the first night I was left to look after Clea on my own. She was just over seven months of age, and Mum went away for a much-deserved girls’ night on her birthday, her first night out in many years. Not that I was overwhelmed by responsibility. Far from that. I actually felt elated to be alone with my daughter.
It was, of course, a cold July night in Yass. After giving her dinner and her daily hot bath, I proceeded to hurriedly eat something. Then I sat down next to Clea. We read books and sang songs, played silly little games and had some giggles. At some point I went back to the kitchen and got myself a glass of red wine.
As the night progressed Clea became a little restless and began crying. I turned on the TV, put it on mute and picked the channel that was about to show the Bledisloe Cup match between the All Blacks and the Wallabies. I downed the rest of the wine and placed Clea on my abdomen, and a blanket on top of us both.
Heartbeats synchronised. Breathings became relaxed, restful. My mind was free and slowly drifted into sleep while the two hearts, father and daughter, beat in unison, a strange and rare joy of living synchronicity. A heart pulsating, calling on another heart, the heart of a pulsating being that is your own flesh and blood, to reply. Can anything else feel closer to the sense of a perfect union?
As weeks, months and years pass I find myself clutching at things, sounds, smells even that can prod my memory, willing myself to bring as many memories of Clea back as it is possible for me to do. G.W. McLennan’s One plus One was one of the songs Clea would sleep to during her first year’s afternoon naps. Two hearts beating, Papá y Clea, One plus One.