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. Dale , thank you for visiting my blog. What a powerful and personal post! I’m sorry that you list your dad. Mine is still alive, fending off Parkinson’s and dementia, not who he was. For many years he was as good as dead, having been divorced and moving in out of state with his girlfriend who became his second wife. But I can’t imagine never knowing him and the good times we had. PS I saw a documentary at SXSW this year about the dump in Whitehorse called Salvage I think. Interesting and quirky. PPS Put your face in the sun!

    Liked by 9 people

    1. Thanks so much. I work with dementia patients and I always thought that it was much harder on the family than the patient. I’ve spent a lot of time in Whitehorse. I do the usual stuff. I bowl. Drive around. The occasional acid flashback.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. This shit called life is not for everyone..unfortunately none of get it rite the first gazillion times..but if you are luckily enough to break the back of it. Kudos to you for your perseverance..it took me for ever to sort everything out..to this day my files are still getting updated…..stay strong my friend..I’ll see on the other side of creativity…Mr Yoursly

    Liked by 6 people

  3. This was a poignant word picture. I hate that it turned out this way for your father. It’s painful that he lost hope, and I know that it’s painful to retell.
    I have lost 2 brothers to suicide. That one decision by them has colored the rest of my memories of them. It really dulls the happy memories.

    I appreciate your taking the time to honestly delve into your memories and write this.

    🌻

    Liked by 7 people

  4. I’m beginning to feel like a record with a scratch in it that keeps playing over and over and over until someone lifts the needle and puts it back in its holder. I have to say once again that your writing needs to become a book – it is definitely marked to be a best-seller and this is obvious from the number of readers who respond to your posts as well. You are one of the most talented writers I have met for a long time. I remember once I went to a horse race with an elderly friend, and she and I had but a minimum amount of money. The horses came out before the race, and this one horse, who was not even scheduled to win held himself in such a way that I just knew he would win. Had I bet my $1 directly on him to win, I would have been rich, but instead I chose to bet win, place and show, and I am no expert, having only been to a couple of those races in my whole 77 years. Anyway, he was a winner, as are you. Please put your writing about this into a book. You are going to be incredibly successful, I just know it. Thank you for the beauty of living you have given color and form and filled with words that bring out all of our emotions. Please don’t ever stop writing. Thank you kind.y.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. How could I possibly let your down after such rave reviews. I wrote a book years ago and sent it out but it was fiction. I started writing this blog about my own experience which was terrifying but also empowering. Maybe I need to send out some feelers for an agent again. No one really wanted the fiction, maybe the non fiction has something the fiction never did.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You know, nothing reads better than the reality of life because it is something everyone can relate to. You can self-publish with Amazon KDP.com and I know several people who help their clients get their books sold as well with interviews, and many of the bloggers will post about your book and help get publicity for it too. You have accomplished what most folks never realize about nonfiction; it can become some of the best creative writing ever.

        I once gave a class in creative writing. The first night of the class, I told all the students to do a creative writing piece about a pencil. I could see them all visually groaning and squirming in their chairs. Couldn’t I at least come up with a creative subject? But then, as part of my lecture, I began to tell the story of the pencil, and for such a simple and inexpensive thing, how much goes into its making and how many people are ultimately employed by that simple little pencil. The students were actually amazed. They had never thought of how a very simple thing or a very simple incident in reality can become a great story all of its own.

        You truly have an amazing gift that is so rare, and I cannot wait to get your book. I know it is a book I will always remember. I too suffered in my childhood from different types of abuse, and it has taken me years to get it out even a little of it in a way that will hopefully serve others. I think for yours, it will help people who are suffering now to actually begin to relate to their own feelings because it will enable them to feel safe. Most of us grow up from tiny babies, believing our moms and dads are like Gods who are there to protect us, but unfortunately for many, not only does that not happen, but the children suffer horribly. So do go forward and get this published. It will be revered years later like The Color Purple. Did you know that The Color Purple almost got banned by libraries because the people who do the banning thought the grammar was very poor and would provide a bad example for young people? It not only changed the types of stories that people liked to read, but it recognized for once the different dialects of people in the U.S. as being valid and not just poor English.

        You know you are an excellent writer when so many folks follow your blog regularly with every post. That is telling you that what you write is valid and meaningful and will definitely appeal to many different types of people. Do give yourself that gift. I will be so happy to say that I had the pleasure of meeting you in this life. You are definitely a huge inspiration for me. Thank you kindly.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. The scripture below always helped me as I dealt with the frailties of my parents. Their fighting, which I tried to break up as a small child, weighed on my spirit. But, God is faithful; he teaches us to forgive and to bless . . .
    Psalms 27:10
    “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.”
    Blessings,
    Ron

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This piece reminds me a lot of Mary Clearman Blew’s book, All But the Waltz. It explores memory quite a bit, just like you do. It might interest you. Also, there’s a literary journal called Hippocampus that you might want to check out. I think that they might like this piece a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

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