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Last updateTue, 06 Aug 2013 2am

Monday, 12 December 2011 17:26

My Father's Eye

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Do you love? Can you? Those are the questions.

My father taught me many things growing up. I could list them, but what’s the point? He did his job; made me the man I am today. It is how he lost his eye I wish to talk about. How he lost it, yes, but more importantly, why.

Growing up there was the farm, it being all we ever knew. From sunup to sundown, the six of us would work. If not in the fields, there were always chores. We would milk and hay, we would plant and harvest. This was life in wheat country, and whenever I look back on it, the images I pull up appear older than they should. This is mainly because of my age, I think, and possibly because I have just turned fifty---the big five-O, as Janice would say. They seem to curl is what I’m saying, these memories that I have, like photographs abandoned in the sun.   There was my mother and father and the four of us kids. Jennie was the oldest, followed by Clark, Sabrina, and then me, Stross. It is a different name, I know, and I imagine my Grandfather felt the exact same way.

At night, around the fire, we would sit as my father rocked and smoked his pipe. Picture Little House on the Prairie and you will probably be able to envision what I mean; although you will have to substitute the actor playing Doc Baker for Michael Landon as being my dad. And it was not only the bible my father would read to us from. Most times, yes, but not always. As well, he never pushed the lessons he was teaching us.   This is why I believe he excelled; that he didn’t push. Free of influence, he allowed us to form our own opinions, guiding us with a hand he never raised in anger, not once. I wish I was able to say the same.

“As long as you try,” I remember him saying, and he saying it on more than one occasion. This was just before the bird took his eye, there as we were walking home from the school house. It wasn’t on purpose; we just came upon the wrong place at the right time. The blackbird in question was indigenous, its red chest puffed out as it squawked and clawed his face. I recall many things as this happened, my father’s big brimmed hat and how it fell from his head as he fell backwards to the ground being a big one. Altogether there were three of them---two parents and the wounded child they were attempting to defend. To this day I have never heard a story quite like mine; that a blackbird---small, no larger than the average fist---of all things could become as vicious as it did in an effort to protect its own. It causes one to pause.

“Stross,” my father said, trying his best to soothe me. I remember his hand was covering his eye; that blood was seeping through his dirty fingers as he knelt to talk to me on the side of the road. “They were protecting their young is all. We should be as lucky to do the same.” That was my dad---finding the good in everything bad. And I’m not just talking about that particular moment (although I am), but others, each scattered upon the road which makes up my life. I didn’t come to understand this until I was older, but once I did, the way I perceived my father shifted a little bit more, and I strive to be him still.

Home, Jennie ran to fetch the doctor, and once he did what he was able to, my father was left blind in his right eye. More than blind actually, as the bird had thoroughly destroyed what it attacked. With nothing to repair, and no money to afford what a glass replacement would cost, the doctor offered to sew the wound shut. Only once did I see it without the patch. It was ugly, yes, but he would always be my father.

As I said: he taught me many things. I have used them throughout my life, trying my best at raising a family of my own. For a while it worked too, for both Janice and I. In our very first year we met, wed, and brought Josh into the world. Within the next five we added Joyce, Corrine and Shay.

Shay is what this is really about.

On the video footage they retrieved from the gas station across the street you can see the piece of garbage first asking for directions then pushing Shay into the van as she turns to point him the way. He wore leather and a ball cap and had closely shaven facial hair. It is his hands that keep me from sleeping, however. Dead, they found her twelve days later in a ditch on the side of a road I have travelled many times. They say she didn’t suffer, but the realist in me is unable to believe such claims---especially now, after seeing everything being leaked by the press. I try not to think of rape and sodomy and the way his hands tore her apart. Instead I focus on Shay’s accomplishments, her voice, and how her green eyes shone when Christmas came round.   It is memories like these which help me up in the morning. Not always, as good memories contain a special kind of weight as well. Too much and…

He is being released today---the reason I am here. Two years less a day is all he served---this in exchange for the life of my child. I would laugh if it didn’t hurt so much. It’s okay, though, because I’ve come here to set things right. Stripped of the right, I can no longer protect my child, not as I should have. The only option left to me is this, which is all I can ensure. Doing it brings back memories of the birds, of how they protested that day. My father said they were only protecting their young; his entire life spent aspiring to do the same. In memory of my father, I will aim for the monster’s eyes. In the name of my daughter, I will reload until I no longer can.

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Beau Johnson

Beau Johnson lives in Canada with his Canadian wife.  She is very understanding and allows him to write even though they have three small monsters who do their very best at keeping them on the go.  Unfortunately, all three boys have inherited their father's hair--poor kids.  It will now be a much tougher life.  Only once, over at the Carnage Conservatory, Beau continues his dream of being published.

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