October 03, 2006

Photo Album

It is 1976 and my white hair falls well below my shoulders, skimming the floor and picking up dust when I lean under the bed to pull out the photo album. I run the pads of my fingertips over the front of the album, across the face of the foal pictured there. At 6, I'm a natural at wistful longing.

Inside are three pages of photos spanning a decade or so. In one, he leans coolly against a car, not smiling, but soberly penetrating the lens of the camera. This picture I took from a box of photos belonging to my mother and I imagined it was taken during their "dating" pre-baby years. In another, he is younger still, dressed in a military uniform. I retrieved this one from the same box and I know this was taken before my mother. She knew him after he was in the navy. That much I knew...that much and little else.

I stare for long moments, look into his eyes and try to figure out who he was, where he could be now, and why he didn't love me enough to stick around and see me through childhood. I hated and longed for him simultaneously, the hate playing a much smaller part because it was dangerous to be too angry. What if there was a good reason? What if something had happened to him? No, it wasn't ok to hate him. At 6, I knew that too.

I fantasized about him knocking on my door and scooping me up with a big smile, clamping me with strong arms and assuring me he never ever would have stayed away so long if he hadn't been lost at sea, his pockets full of the letters he couldn't send. I strain over the photos in the album, some fading, trying to piece together who this man was, my father, trying to remember his voice, his smell, his laugh. I remember nothing of those things, though I paint my own picture of him in my mind, glued together from the photos on the page.

(image: http://www.garderisettes.fr/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=15&Itemid=57)


Alexandra said...


famjaztique said...

Yes, I did ache then.