I stare at the truncated sentence and accompanying photo that has surfaced on my Facebook page. Five days before this morning’s Internet shocker, a similar message sans photo arrived in my inbox.
This is your father.
The light glare bursting from the photo’s left side manages to obscure the people’s faces in the image, yet, I see a hint of my father’s receding hairline and high cheekbones.
This is your father.
I re-read the message and read it once more. The name of my father’s niece rings true, but who is trying to contact me? Why now? Thirty-five years after his death? The dormancy of my father’s life became my truth years ago.
Internet scams abate, but so too do erroneous searches for lost family members, discarded affections, or friendships. Social media often fans the flames of loss, guilt, and isolation, seducing people into seeking out relationships that are best left dormant. Reunion fantasies imbue these searches luring lonely people to ignore the reasons behind a severed relationship. Stones unturned, souls at rest, perhaps?
I learned to write around the absence of half my family, half my history, treating the few photographs and stories (or myths), documents, and snatches of conversation I heard as a child as ‘family gospel.’ I revered the absences, resented those my father bequeathed me with his death, ignored each one, yet found comfort in their oddities. I claimed my isolation drinking in its potency like an addict.
Absence defined me. And now? What?
“I’m afraid I cannot see the faces because of the glare,” I type, my fingers striking the keyboard not with the confidence of a seasoned typist but like a novice hunting and pecking each letter. I wait.
The author claims to know the daughter of my father’s sister, Olga. Olga, the cherished sister of my father, fretted about listening to the BBC for any hint about her life behind the Iron Curtain. Long ago, strange photos of Olga’s little girls arrived without warning, too. Manila envelopes with stamps not from Ukraine but Maryland had the aura of contraband. These black and white photos of my Ukrainian aunt’s daughters brought tears to my father’s eyes.
History cannot be kept silent forever, but its emergence on a crisp, autumn Santa Fe day unsettles me.
Only ten minutes will pass before all that I have known, all that I have surmised and believed will evaporate into the mists of a once-forgotten history.