Digging up the past

Published 10:22 pm Tuesday, September 23, 2008

His aunt had come to school and asked to speak with his teacher. Somberly, his teacher returned to the classroom.

“Richard, your Aunt Sarah is here. Gather your books.”

As he did so, he felt the eyes of his classmates on his back as he left. A thousand questions raced through his mind on the ride home. He saw tension in his aunt’s eyes, and her usual jovial manner was marked by strain. To this day he remembers the small tremble in her lower lip and her tight grip on the steering wheel.

Nearing home, it seemed odd that his yard was filled with strange cars. Why had they all come to his house? His mother had mentioned no such gathering.

Crossing the yard with Aunt Sarah, he glanced up and saw his sobbing mother burst forth from the front door. As she raced towards him, he dropped his books and realized — for the first time — something terrible had happened. Five minutes later, he was to learn what it was. His father had been killed in an accident.

And now, 30 years later, it still percolated in his mind, that moment that so impacted him. There was no father present when he caught his first bass, no dad to teach him how to drive, no man standing in the corner watching him blow out his birthday candles. He grew up without wrestling on the living room floor and without hearing a deep male voice singing in the shower. He used the word “Dad” only in restrospect.

He grew up imagining what it would have been like to have had a father. As he visited other families, the yearnings increased as he observed other fathers and sons. Just to be around masculinity and all its wonderful uniqueness. How it told jokes and laughed. Its mystical roughness and tenderness at the same time. Its air of authority and camaraderie amongst other males. Its wonderful pursuit of the opposite sex. He missed seeing those strong arms embracing his mother as she smiled and glanced his way.

At that moment, he was jolted from his mental journey by the phone.


“Hey, honey.”

“Our son’s birthday party this afternoon? Of course I didn’t forget. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”