(The following selections are a brief introduction to my forthcoming novel, 'Rafael')
My father: I have never known a man like him. He is more than he appears to be, but less than he expects of himself. I don’t know if he was born too late, or if he just came into his own too early for everybody else. He wants to be honest, from the inside out, but from the outside in as well. And he is.
There are those, however, who never wanted to allow that in him. They were just not comfortable with it. Not because they didn’t respect him. They did. But because they were just not willing to comply. It was too high a standard. It was too much work, they said. It was just too hard. The unfortunate part about it is that he did not require their compliance. He required it only of himself.
But honesty is not linear, it is a revolving glass door; the kind you’ll see on the entrance to a fancy hotel in the City. Most people find it to be clumsy, though; more unwieldy than they are willing to live with, more difficult even than deceit. They continue through life with the door of truth open only inadvertently at times, or closed up deliberately, but never transparent, as it were. It is not circular for them. Someone else’s honesty, they feel, does not necessitate their own. And no, it does not for them, but it does in the broader interest of life.
Many continue to hide behind opaque disguises, even though it doesn’t need to be that way. My father was never one of them.
* * *
Dad put up a teepee and camped on the property with very little in the way of creature comforts. He constructed it entirely from the bounty of the land, the natural resources, by his own imagination and with a practical, no-frills utilitarian sixth sense. He focused on being alone. With the absence of his wife, and his youngest son, he wanted to feel everything he needed to feel. He wanted to remember every moment they each shared throughout their many years together. He wanted to miss them both, he wanted to grieve their absence, and he wanted to become friends with the void. During that first year on the property he explored every acre of his new world like a young boy would explore the insect world beneath an old decaying log. He got to know every nook and cranny, every bend in Pilot Creek and the Rubicon, every pool, falls, rock, wooded glen, canyon, and anomalous outcropping. He also got to know himself, better than most would have, even over the course of a full lifetime. My dad became sole guardian of both his property and his own sanity. Eventually his sanity began to mirror the 350 acres, changing quite noticeably with every change of season.
* * *
I must admit, after so many months apart early on, seeing my dad in an old hotel bar in an ageing gold rush town was a very difficult challenge, an unexpected first impression for me to get past. With his grey scraggly beard, and weather-worn demeanor, he looked as if he’d wandered out of the makeup trailer of a spaghetti-western movie set in the hills of rural Italy, or like he’d been lost in history, waiting for the world to come back to catch him up on things. I got a cramp in the pit of my stomach, my heart raced with anxiety and bewilderment, and my eyes moistened like a mirror in a settling fog. But when he opened his mouth he immediately became my dad again, the man I know, the dad I’ve always known. He said, almost under his breath, “Had I known you were coming, son, I would have shaved, and worn something more appropriate to the occasion.” We both laughed, and we were back on familiar ground.
It was a long time ago, but I remember that we met up at the Georgetown Hotel on Main Street. We spent a couple of hours catching each other up on the previous year, then jumped into his 4-wheel drive light beige 1972 Ford F-250 pick-up truck for the twelve mile drive out to his property. He’d named the truck Henry. Still has that old dinosaur today. Says he wouldn’t trade Henry for a Hummer. I was anxious to see how my dad was living, where he was living, and what it was about that particular place that had so captivated him. What was it that had the kind of hold on him that nothing, or no one, had ever had, other than my mother? The picture of our meeting is still vivid in my mind, like an old Polaroid photo you might have carried around in the pocket of your coat for all these years. A little faded, crinkled, ragged, but vivid, nevertheless, because of its importance to you.