Exiting the lift in the car park, raw concrete I see the light mound of snow on the railing and scoop some up in my hand and marvel at its insubstantial feeling combined with the bitter cold seeping into my skin. It is a rediscovery of a world I was born into. You saw me do it, and grinned.
Woken many times in the small hours as a small child to the gentle thud of your gas torch lighting, or the tapping of tools on gold, the scattered hiss of gems into a jewellers tray, and feeling that warm joy of security and safety.
Woken by you a decade later on a school night, and blearily being shown a point of light to be told it was the MIR space station floating, flying, falling around us, over us.
Early morning walks in the Australian bush, finding burrowing cockroaches the size of a small boys palm, seeing steel blue ants fire formic acid in serried ranks as we tapped gently upon their nest, sitting still and close together, a small boy and his father, as the kangaroos watched us in their guise of gray tree stumps and rocks.
The night you stretched a nylon string to my wooden window sill and rubbed pine resin along it setting up a series of sounds in my room like a demented whale song. Only your laughter on the fourth appearance of my frenzied, terrified face at the window gave you away.
Standing in the ruins of Castle Starhemberg and seeing the jousting arena below us as you described it, your words awakening thundering hooves, the clatter of timber, leather and metal,in my mind, supplanting the sight of a space slowly filling with thistles, nettles and fern.
That tiny space on the edge of Hohe Wand where beyond the field you showed me a scar on the earth where fossilised snail shells lay in layers of stone, then walking to the base of the cliff to find cave bear bones. Your description of what to look for – porous rock with striations – followed an instant later by me lifting a rock from between our feet and saying ‘Like this one, Dad?’ Our peals of laughter that I had so quickly found a bear bone echoing off the limestone cliffs.
Tramping through the snow, heads down together, no words, only the hiss and crunch of snow, when you grasp my arm and I look up to see a stag glare at impetuousness before disappearing into the forest like a half remembered dream of happiness.
And seeing your tears, just that once, when the last ties between you and your brother were severed, seeing your vulnerability for the first time, and knowing at last that you were not a god, but a man and feeling nothing but anger and fear at this new wonder of a mountain of a person reduced to weeping for the severing of family. I think that was the beginning of the end for you – that fresh beginning in our old homeland soured, your protector no longer there to share the demons of a brutal childhood with you. The refuge in more alcohol and cigarettes, a twenty year binge that clawed its way to forgiveness and understanding in the very last. How futile it would be to speculate on what may have been. Yet how lucky I feel at what has become. What miracle that we walked this way together, showed and saw, spoke and were silent, stood and ran, father and son.