at some point (thinking ahead, thinking back)…

William John Abernathy

On this first day of August, I think six days ahead to August 7, which, if my father, William John Abernathy, were alive, would be his 106th birthday. In thinking ahead, I think of him, which, at some point, I do every day.

His was a circuitous story of the quest for identity. (Thus, is mine. Truly, I am the fruit of his existentialist seed…need.) His life’s chronicle is laden with half-written chapters and missing, irreplaceable and irreclaimable, pages, which he, to the extent that he knew, for much of his life, sought to conceal. (Why? I don’t know. Disappointment? Anger? Despair? All this and more?)

Whilst I live, my days are darkened by shadows, within and without; my gossamer, ghostly imaginings of all I wish I knew, but do not, cannot know. (This lack, perhaps, explains why I alway have loved history.) What little I have are the sketchiest details, discovered, after my father’s death on April 27, 1996, among a cache of unlabeled papers and undated photographs.

This is a part of what I (think I) know…

Pedro Silva, paternal grandfather

My grandfather, my father’s father was Pedro Silva, born at some point in the late 19th century in Santiago de Cuba. At some point, Pedro migrated to the United States. At some point, he changed his surname to DeLacey (perhaps, and this is only my surmise, “Silva”, whether spoken or written, was a barrier to American assimilation, at least, as much as possible as that might have been)…

Edith Blondell Abernathy, paternal grandmother

At some point and somewhere, Pedro met and married Edith Abernathy. Their union bore two children, my father and his younger sister, my aunt, Benita… Dad and Aunt Benita (Becky)

 

At some point and from somewhere, the family moved to Portland, Oregon…

At some point, Pedro and Edith died…

William Henry Abernathy, paternal great-grandfatherAt some point, Edith’s father, my paternal great-grandfather, William Henry, adopted my father and my aunt, declaring, in so many words, “Those who dwell under my roof will bear my name”, and changing their surnames to Abernathy.[1] 

There is much that I do know about my father from the time of my birth to his death. Today, one thought dominates. My father was plagued by an abiding, angering melancholia that nothing – not his faithful love of his wife, my mother, Lolita, not his dutiful devotion to the care and provision for his family, not his ardent patriotism, not his loyalty to the church, not his daily prayer and Bible study, not his artful mastery of avocations as diverse as model railroading and photography, not, in his darkest moments, his alcoholic binges and the pseudo-cathartic raging that always followed, nothing – could ease, much less exorcise. His quest for his identity – his longing to know and, in that knowing, to be comforted with who he was and where he belonged – ne’er came to a restful place in this world.

So, it is that I, at some point during every day for the past 21+ years since my father’s death, have prayed his peace:

Dad, in the loving presence of God, your story is complete.

You are complete.

Love, Paul

 

Footnote:

[1] This occurred at some point in my father’s 11th or 12th year, for the inscription on the inside cover of his Book of Common Prayer (1892) reads: To William DeLacey – Because you have been so loyal and faithful as “cross bearer” I am exceedingly proud of you and I know all the members of the congregation of St. Phillip’s (the Deacon Episcopal Church) feel the same. Clarence Porter, Lay Reader, Christmas 1922

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6 thoughts on “at some point (thinking ahead, thinking back)…

  1. Paul, thank you for sharing this deep and poignant story. I pray his soul now feels the peace that so eluded him on this earth. Comfort and love to you as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Paul,
    Oh Lord help me!!!! So I should have read this on a different day!! But no matter, I love allowing myself to feel what I feel. I had seen the post on FB and saw it was about your dad. But this post spoke to me… IDENTITY!!!!!!!! I know my Mom of course, and I have a few pics of my Dad… BUT everything I know I learned from others so I have always felt part of me is missing. I’m happy to say that it hasn’t caused me to not have peace, but I certainly do feel like part of me is missing. You and I have had lots of talks about our Dads but what I got from this blog that I hadn’t thought about before, is that I wonder if my dad felt not at peace because he didn’t have a relationship with me. He had everything success wise as your dad, and he had 10 years with my mom and my sister, but virtually no time at all with me, other than seeing me from afar at my graduations. I hope he died knowing that I loved him as much as he loved me.
    I hope your dad also found his peace in heaven that he didn’t find here on earth. I hope that your mom died knowing that she’d been the best wife she could be and that it wasn’t her fault he never found his true identity…
    I thought I’d read this quickly and get ready for bed… but instead I’m thinking of things about my identity and my dad that have never crossed my mind before tonight.
    You never know how something you read will touch you, right??
    Much love and thanks!!

    Liked by 1 person

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