Standing in front of the Sun

My earliest memory is of my father. But I’m not sure the event is genuine or if it was manufactured in the lonely mind of a girl who wishes she could remember him.

The memory is both simple and complex. I remember being a fat baby and sitting on the floor of our subsidized home in Dickensfield. The close quartered row housing with the thin walls. The home of our poverty, the home of our grief, of loss, of loneliness, the home in which we became wards of the state, dependent on hand outs, sitting at the bottom, filtered to the lowest level, waiting for life to begin or end. This is a simple beginning but it becomes more complex when I realize that it might not have occurred that way. I don’t doubt that it happened but I recognize now that I wasn’t a baby in that house. I was three years old when we lived there. So maybe the memory I have is manufactured from the limited knowledge of my own life and the desire to have a memory of him. The thought of not having that memory is akin to being a bad daughter.

I am sitting on the floor of this home and I look up to see a person walk to the door. This person has no face. He is standing with his back to the sun, a sun that shines so brightly that it washes out all his features and blurs his outline. This, I’m sure, is an erasure of time but not of intention. I’ve lived this moment over so many times that the reliving has knocked off the edges of all the images and deleted essential elements. Because how would I know it was my father standing there unless I recognized his face at one time, even if I don’t see it now?

I have the distinct feeling of joy as I look up and see that it’s him. I reach my arms up. He opens the screen door and embraces me. And that’s my only recollection of him. That one small moment when I felt perfectly safe and wanted to be no where else. Part of me says this didn’t happen because he was never at that house. My mother left him and took us to our new life in Edmonton, leaving him alone in Whitehorse. And we never saw him again. And he never walked through the door of that house. Another part of me says that the details are unimportant, that I filled them in with things that I knew. Like taking a piece of a puzzle and putting it in the earliest house of my memory where it almost fits but not quite. I need to believe in its truth because, other than half a dozen photos, I have nothing left of him, only my reflection in the mirror, the olive skin on my face and the shape of my eyebrows.

I don’t even remember being told that he died. I just remember always knowing. One time, my older brother asked my mother “Dad’s dead right?” and my mother answers yes. “He was hit by a car right?” and she nods. “Didn’t he see the car coming?” and she says “I guess not.” I perked up when I heard this confirmation of something we already knew. We just accepted it as part of our lives. She must have told us what happened but this piece of the puzzle has been lost to time.

Funny, he died two weeks before my little sister was born and I remember that event. I remember being brought to our Godparents house because Mum was having the baby. My creepy Godfather always called me his girlfriend when I was only three years old. I squirmed to get away from him while he held me firmly on his lap and everyone seemed to think it was a great joke that I was his prisoner. But I don’t remember my father dying even though I remember all of this.

As an adult I think how difficult it must have been for my mother, who just lost her husband, to explain death to us, even if her marriage was colored with discord and I feel certain it was. How hard it must have been to speak to her fatherless children who had to learn of death in the most unerring way possible.

Years later, I contacted my father’s brother, my Uncle David, and I learned the truth. He told me how sad my father been, how lost he’d been without us, how much he wanted us back, all the things I wanted to be true. And they were true. He confirmed the suicide I had suspected. In Prince George, there was an old highway where people used to go to kill themselves. The road came around a sharp bend and pointed downhill. So on a dark night, a tired driver might hit a person who threw themselves in front of the vehicle. And if the vehicle were large enough, the human remains would not be salvageable. There were many deaths along this stretch of road. It was called “Suicide Corner.” And that’s where he went when he was too sad to deal with losing us, when he knew he didn’t want to live without us. Was it a truck? A car? A semi? I would have chosen a semi. Did he live long enough to regret his decision or was he killed instantly? I want to know the answers to these questions even if it gives me pain. Because there is also pain in not knowing.

My mother might know the answers to some of these questions but I can’t bring myself to torture a 77 year old woman with that recall. And I have come to understand that there are more questions than answers in this life. What I need to do, is take this memory and bed it down, and cover it over with soil so I can make room for some new experiences that don’t include the sad end of his life. It’s become too convenient to hide behind it, blindly clinging to the darkness of his image. I need to do what he could not do. I need to find the courage to stop living in the shadows and put my face in the sun.

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167 thoughts on “Standing in front of the Sun

  1. What a powerful piece. I’m not entirely sure which is worse…having very few memories of a parent that died young as a result of grief or, having a parent still alive & dealing with a lifetime of memories of said parent’s indifference to his only child. Both of my parents are still alive and all about themselves…

    Would hypnotherapy help?

    Liked by 10 people

    1. I always think hypnotherapy helps. For the first few years of life our minds are in a theta state so we absorb everything. Hypnosis puts us in that state so we can rewire things that we think are wrong and make them better. And I agree with you about that I can never think which is worse. Thanks so much for your comment.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. A brilliant and evocative piece of writing. How sad for you all and for your mother who may have felt too guilty about your father’s death to be able to share memories with you so that he wasn’t a faceless shadow.

    Liked by 10 people

    1. I’m almost 50 and she’s only talked about him twice. And I understand her wanting to walk away and never look back. But that makes it difficult for her children to create closure. Thanks so much for your comment. It means a lot.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Whatever has happened try to make peace with the past and what matters is the now to look forward to make or allow our lives to be better , to grow , learn and evolve .
        If we put a smile o
        In the hearts and on the faces of others , cheer others and support to the best of our abilities , we could add to the peace , joy and unconditional love of the world …
        May God help us shine the light bright like the stars in the darkness of the night …
        Through both joy and pain , we transcend evolve and pain ,
        See the silver lining in the rain ,
        Have patience the rainbow is a sign
        That your blessings are coming back again
        For our power to get back and re-gain

        Liked by 8 people

    1. Whatever has happened try to make peace with the past and what matters is the now to look forward to make or allow our lives to be better , to grow , learn and evolve .
      If we put a smile o
      In the hearts and on the faces of others , cheer others and support to the best of our abilities , we could add to the peace , joy and unconditional love of the world …
      May God help us shine the light bright like the stars in the darkness of the night …
      Through both joy and pain , we transcend evolve and pain ,
      See the silver lining in the rain ,
      Have patience the rainbow is a sign
      That your blessings are coming back again
      For our power to get back and re-gain

      Liked by 4 people

    1. Most of the time I’m happy. But, as I get older, I feel the need to document my life or it will feel like I wasn’t significant in any way and I think everyone is significant. But also the stories that are worth sharing, the painful ones, might help others get through pain of their own, they might realize that pain is universal, that we can all get through it and that there’s light on the other side.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. What is a real memory? Isn’t it just something that we cherish for some reason, but can’t quite put our finger on what that reason really is? I wonder why we choose to remember certain things that happened, or at what we imagine to have happened? Why didn’t we remember the memory just before, or the ones just afterwards? What in our childhood, or adulthood makes us want to continue to keep certain memories alive, even though they change with time, experience and the way we look at ourselves as we age…..

    Liked by 7 people

  4. Dale this is full on but very touching. I’m glad you know that your father loved you, that means a lot and not everybody gets that confirmation. I’m sorry for all that pain felt by everyone. Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 8 people

  5. An honest recounting of this part of your life. My Father also committed suicide and it is something I have had t do a lot of work on in my mind. Your story is a touching one for me and bravo to you for working through the events that happened all those years ago and releasing them

    Liked by 9 people

  6. Memories are “erased” around the age of 4. Or probably the “address” of the memory. Freudians would say those early memories come to form a part of the Unconscious. Now, there are exceptions. At 3, some events can be strong enough to not be erased later. My first memories are from when I was 3. (Including one involving a baby tiger!)
    Now, you’re right. Look for the sun. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Have a nice week.

    Liked by 7 people

  7. Excellent writing. If you truly believe it would help bring full closure, police reports may be open to the public in your nation. On a moving-forward note, however, when my grandmother died, I planted a whole lot of crocus bulbs. It was that time of year. Now, right around the time of her birthday, I have 200 some flowers blooming in the yard and loads of honey bees. It’s such a treat at the end of winter and has become deeply symbolic to me. Blessings!

    Liked by 8 people

  8. It’s hard to know what to say but a simple press of the “Like” feels desperately inadequate. I’m only a few years older than you and I found recently that I’m also still dealing with childhood pain even though I thought I’d left it behind years ago.
    There is comfort in company, even in pain. Thank you for sharing your story.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. And thank you, Sarah, for sharing with me. I don’t know if we ever get over the scars of our youth but maybe that’s the point, maybe we always remember the difficult times with a mixture of fondness and bitterness because that’s what it’s like to be human.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Hi my friend. I’m back from an injury and so glad this was one of the first blogs I’ve read. It never ceases to amaze me how you can so eloquently capture such painful and personal experiences so honestly from the heart and soul and how courage and resilience shine through despite the adversity. Again we find ourselves with another thing in common, back in my high school days I lived with my aunt and uncle for a few years in Dickonsfield as well. The snow is melting and spring is here – would sure love to meet for that diner lunch sometime soon – maybe next weekend?

    Liked by 9 people

  10. Such a beautifully heartfelt recall of a time in your life. I was captivated with every word. A very brave write which I think can help so many.
    I had a sister who died in the same type of suicide. A horrible tragedy at age 30. A son left behind and family left with questions. I believe we donโ€™t forget but we do find a place in our heart to put these horrors to bed and continue to have questions with less pain.
    Thank you for writing this โ€ฆ
    Isadora ๐Ÿ˜Ž

    Liked by 7 people

  11. Such incredible writing. I normally don’t find the time to read other people’s blogs much, sadly, but I your writing is bewitching. I don’t remember my father much, either. We can fill the gaps with our imagination. After all, it doesn’t have to be true โ€“ย it has to feel true. Right? May I recommend a book that ight speak to you? “The Photographer at Sixteen” by George Szirtes.

    Liked by 8 people

  12. ” I need to do what he could not do. I need to find the courage to stop living in the shadows and put my face in the sun.” I love this last line. Sometimes we just need to leave the darkness behind and step into the Light, bathing in the Light, so that we won’t be pulled under by the darkness. Blessings!!

    Liked by 7 people

  13. Hi Dale – I’m sorry, I’m not going to be able to make it today. I hope you get this in time. We have to head to out of town – mother in law has woken to a bunch of water in her basement.So sorry for the short notice – hope you have a great day and we can try this again.

    Liked by 5 people

  14. Dear Dale, What a moving and powerful piece!! Thank you for sharing your deep and personal feeling in your post!! Love your insights at the end. Some things have a lifetime hold on us. Bravo, My Dear!!!
    xoxoxo

    Liked by 7 people

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