This particular blog, will mark the one hundredth post I will have made since I started blogging this last January. To celebrate that milestone for me I decided that something a little special was in order. To that effect I have put together a true story taken from my life, a couple of segments of which I did post in part quite a while ago. Today I will post the whole story, now that a few missing pieces have finally fallen into place completing the picture.
This is about the most personel thing that I have written to date, other than the earlier ~ “Eyes of a Child” autobiographical series of posts. So forgive me if it is a little lengthy.
Mist & Mystery
The yellow haze hung in the air like an impending disaster. Above the haze even larger volumes of stormy clouds swirled around tenaciously. Slowly at first the drizzle came down, the kind they call Scotch mist. It saturates the clothing in a very short time and leaves you standing there freezing to the bone. From the edges of the undergrowth rose a cold damp mist that enshrouds and clings to everything. Visibility was at a minimum, making one feel like they were trapped inside some endless void or a drain, much like a drowned rat.
Slowly out of the murky depths emerged a figure, a small slight woman holding the hand of a child. Hunched over against the cold and wet breeze she peered looking for something. Gradually, slowly, like ghostly apparitions, headstones emerged from the mist. Still my mother and I moved on seeking now we can presume, a particular grave. ~ I was four years old.
That is all I can remember about that visit other than eventually we arrived at a headstone. Then we just stood there in the cold misty rain, and my mother adding a warming tear or two.
That was the only visit I ever made to what I found out years later, was my fathers grave. Came the war, evacuations and I just forgot the road back.
At the time of my fathers death, I was a baby of two, with a brother one year old and my mother was six months pregnant with my youngest brother.
As a child growing up it’s not too difficult to notice that other kids have a dad, yet I did not. Whenever I brought up the question I was always told he had died in an accident at a steel mill.
I was ten years old when my mother remarried.
As time passed my stepfather changed from being the nice okay person we had come to know. He became instead quite hateful and spiteful with us kids, with beatings and saying terrible things about how our real father had died, thus creating doubts & mystery that stayed in my mind. Consequently I never did reach any good relationship level with this new man in our life. Instead, I left home at age 17 and never lived there again.
In 1969 my step-father died, so I flew home from Canada for his funeral, but only for my mothers sake.
I might add that even then I was filled with bitterness towards that figure laying in the coffin. It came as no surprise, when I couldn’t shed a tear at the funeral. It took many years for me to come to terms with all that happened and eventually reach a state of forgiveness. ~ Surprisingly, it was only then that I shed a tear for this man.
Before I left England to come back home, I remember my mother calling me into the sitting room. She said that she had something to show me that she thought I should see now, it was something she had kept hidden from us all of our life. Carefully she reached up and took down a sizeable picture that had hung on the walls all those years. Taking the frame apart she removed the picture and revealed yet another picture hidden behind the original.
With misty tears clouding her eyes she handed it to me. It was a fading picture of my biological father hidden behind the other picture.
I was almost 37 yrs old at that time. It had been hanging on that wall all those years! yet she had never spoken a word about it.
Up to that point in time, I had never seen a picture of my father before not ever! Now being an adult, I can understand her doing that rather than having to dispose of it, in light of her getting remarried.
Because of the advent of her death, I have that picture today. Pretty strange no matter how you want to look at it, for I never suspected. ~ Even after all these years I am still amazed. ~
Years later, 2007
Recently at the age of 74, I received a very pleasant surprise. It was an email from my niece in England. In her mail she asked me for some help because she was doing some research into our ancestry/family tree.
It is amazing really what turns up once you get started into something like that. With the documentation we have put together, there is information that goes as far back as six generations.
Of course what seems so ironical is, I had already been writing about our family history myself, there were however many gaps and unanswered questions.
All of this had of course raised the spectra of the doubts of my fathers death, the product of the seeds, sown so long ago in my mind by my stepfather. Doing this research then prompted the possibility of a death certificate for my father? My hopes were slim but we set out to determine that possibility.
For a few days while I waited for more news I was thinking, it was almost like this ancestry thing was just meant to happen, for in doing so it opened that door that had been closed for far too long on unanswered questions.
Later I heard from my relative that after much difficulty, she finally had the document. I waited expectantly for a copy to arrive in my mailbox.
Trembling, I opened my mailbox and there it was, his death certificate. With bated breath I magnified the copy so I could read what it said.
“Cause of death: ~ Coal Gas poisoning ~ Suicide.
I should have felt something at the news, maybe bitterness, even anger? Yet I couldn’t find an angry bone in my body for this man, the man who could have been a father.
With a lump in my throat I tried to swallow, tears trickling down my cheeks. Finally at last. ~ Closure. ~
It was a cool wet miserable day outside, which kind of jogged my memory because of all the things that had been going on. I stood at the window peering through the misty rain. I remembered a visit to a cemetery as a four year old child so long ago.
I thought about that now cold, wet, worn headstone and found myself adding a warming tear of my own. ~
Eric Valentine Aug 25/07 ©