Today, we go back into London for my first full day of sightseeing. We do a lot of walking, take tons of pictures, and stop to eat lunch indoors when the rain comes down too hard for us to be out. We see the Thames, House of Parliament, several monuments, parks and gardens. I feed pigeons in Trafalgar Square. They come right up to you in hordes, very uncomfortable and creepy, Hitchcock-esque, but funny.
I have a childhood girlfriend, Bonnie, who absolutely hates birds of any kind. I imagine her shrieking at the proximity of so many pigeons, birds we’ve learned our whole lives are disease-ridden. Other tourists are literally covered with the filthy things and looking quite pleased about it. I can hear Bonnie’s voice in my head, see her running in circles with arms flailing, screaming without concern for how ridiculous she looks and sounds. I can’t help but smile, images of home bringing comfort while I’m far away.
Perhaps the stop that affects me most is Westminster Abbey. It has beautiful gardens, architecture and sculptures, with many monuments to historical figures. There is a tomb for the Unknown Warrior and the engraved marble brings me to tears. The overwhelming air of time, age, life and death, not to mention all that falls in between, gives me chills.
Dad was a caring, sensitive and deeply loyal parent, but he had his issues and could be a real SOB at times… not unlike many of us. If anything, we were too much alike, my quick temper a mirror of his, usually over little things that would easily send either or both of us through the roof. The bond between us was strong but damaged, and his death has been difficult for me. I never took the opportunities for closure when he was still alive, and now he’s gone. I long for peace in my memories of him and the relationship we never brought to the adult stage. I was always limited to being his youngest daughter, never really another person. Looking back, it seems now that we both had much to prove to one another - and to ourselves. This was as much my fault as his, and it’s a loss I’ll feel for the rest of my days.
For some reason, this visit to Westminster Abbey, this entire trip, has brought Dad to mind. I wonder if he knows that I made it here, if he sees what I’ve done, what I’m doing. Is he cheering? Is he yelling? I want to have a light burn here in Westminster Abbey for him, a place that feels old and permanent, a place of faith, where I can send up a wish, make a connection. I simply whisper, “Here’s to you, Dad. Now your light burns here in this sanctuary, with others who contributed both their gifts and their sins to this world. Amen.”
Beth Kallman Werner is the author of the book Travels of an Independent Woman, from which this story was taken. She educates, encourages, and empowers writers with her company Author Connections that provides marketing and editing services. She lives with her chocolate lab and husband of unspecified color in the woods of Pennsylvania, where she pursues travel, photography, cooking, and gardening.