That Reminds Me

Susan's post about seeing her husband, but not really, reminded me of how my father and my uncle met.

Years and years ago, long before I was even a twinkle of a twinkle in my father's eye, my father went up to Yellowknife to work. The thing you really need to know about Yellowknife is that it's a small town. (Also, that an ice road connects it to the mainland, because of the whole Slave Lake thing, and that food is actually cheaper in the winter as a result of the road. Also, yes, it really is light for 24 hours on the 21st of June, and more or less dark for 24 hours on the 21st of December. And, also, the northern lights are more amazing than you can ever imagine.)

But, back to the point. The Yellowknife of circa 1965 is tiny. It's the major city in the North West Territories, and it's population is about 4,000. No, really, I'm not kidding. It's that small.

And so, my father arrives, to work on something or other, and people on the street, in the store, in the bar, start asking how Faith is? and the kids? And my father stares blankly at them. Very blankly. And he insists that his name is Howard, he's not married, has never been married, much less to anyone named Faith, and he doesn't have any kids. None. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Not a one.

And the people in the bars and the stores on the street actually get mad at him. Really mad. "No", they insist. "Stop the stupid games. Who is this Howard? You are Ken, and you are married to Faith, and you have two children."

And finally they met, this Howard, and this Ken. They were and are brothers, full brothers.

My father says that he knew this man, this person named Ken, husband of Faith, and father of a son and daughter was his brother, when he unthinkingly opened the cupboard, and the bottle of Tabasco sauce was in the cupboard. There was no need to explain what happened to their mother, how she fled, and wound up in Yellowknife. The bottle of Tabasco was proof in a way that blood tests and genealogy could never be.

30 years later, I was in Yellowknife for a wedding, my father had passed away on the first of May that year. I had not found out until the end of July, only 3 weeks before. Now, my father had not really been a part of my life in years, but I was struggling. It's not that I hadn't been fatherless - I had, for 10 years, but now I was an orphan, and that was a different thing entirely.

And one morning, I was laying in the place between asleep and awake, and my uncle's voice came down the hall, so like my father's.

And like my father, I knew that this was family.