Once upon a time a young man went to war to give my father his name…to give me mine, and now my son’s, and maybe, one day, he will tell his son where his name came from and why his father was so proud.
I wonder sometimes between the halls of the white room and my parents divorce and the tests to see if there was a reason inside I didn’t want to learn after he left, after the fighting went too far, before the rest began…you know, the heavy stuff that keeps kids quiet. Or maybe you don’t. I just wonder.
I didn’t mind the times when there was less…because I could see colors in the grey hues of my pencils. I could see from behind the space between the chair and the long windows where we hid there was so much more than long shadows, fields of frozen white and a Saskatchewan lined with barbed wire…I just didn’t know what.
He wasn’t there to show me or to stop the hand, or whatever else she was holding, from beating the dreams of a father who cared from my imagination. I know now, he wasn’t there to open a book or show me that pride that every child should know…or in the teenaged years to put down the bottle…but in the tops of trees with Jack knives or in the stolen peace of moments on the linoleum in the sunlight of a winter day I was so proud because I knew.
I knew, I just knew, my closest sister forgot and my oldest sister ran. I knew it wasn’t right. Not the obvious, don’t hit your kids…or worse, but that the world he left us wasn’t right. Right in the sense of tipping an immovable object on it’s side or walking past some garbage or seeing an old man fall down drunk at a parade while the crowd ignored him or worse stared with indignant indifference because his skin was a darker shade of pale. There is a right you know.
Like I am so fond of repeating in the words of Jackson Pollock,.”I defy the accident.” I defy the inevitable accident of that vicious cycle of who did what and why I know there is no answer why. There is no reason or purpose or greater good. There is no excuse…and if it hurt you more than me then I know with all the certainty of the edge of a knife or a burning cigarette that I do better for my own kids each and every day.
Kids need books and hands to hold. They need a warm jacket and boots and a roof that doesn’t leak. They need parents who stop…and breathe…who teach them how to be the next generation, to be themselves…and yes, more than that, they need to dream. They need our love.
The year the water went bad I walked the old overgrown road to the creek and piled rocks until the my hands were numb for a bath…splash, soap, dunk, towel. I never went back.