Flight, Sherman Alexie, Words

My mother died of breast cancer when I was six. I remember a few things about her. Her voice, her red hair, and the way she raised one eyebrow when she laughed. I sometimes wish she’d died when I was younger so I wouldn’t remember her at all. I remember her green eyes.”

– pg 5, “Flight” by Sherman Alexie

In turn, though this quote happens to be about a dead mother, I completely read it through as a quote about a dead father and had to do a double-take after getting about three or four paragraphs past it. I just started the book today. My first exposure to Alexie was through the film Smoke Signals. It was a story and film packed with reflections of a missing father, a failed search and breath-taking takes on the impact he had on the main character’s life. And the final reflection with the shot panning over a river, sticks in my head, though out of context it needs context:

How do we forgive our fathers? Maybe in a dream. Do we forgive our fathers for leaving us too often, or forever, when we were little? Maybe for scaring us with unexpected rage, or making us nervous because there never seemed to be any rage there at all? Do we forgive our fathers for marrying, or not marrying, our mothers? Or divorcing, or not divorcing, our mothers? And shall we forgive them for their excesses of warmth or coldness? Shall we forgive them for pushing, or leaning? For shutting doors or speaking through walls? For never speaking, or never being silent? Do we forgive our fathers in our age, or in theirs? Or in their deaths, saying it to them or not saying it. If we forgive our fathers, what is left?

Having lost my own father, having occasionally thought how life might have been different with any father figure early on in my life (none after about three to about 10) – who died when I was older but I never met again, it was devastating when I watched Smoke Signals and completely snatched my breath and ripped down tears. It will be again when I watch it again – and I need to read the book, as well. Now, when I do it will have new, painful layers of meaning because of new people in my life who I love dearly and deeply, whose father passed away. The film’s father is flawed, violent absent, as mine undoubtedly was. Still, father, right? And I’m stepping into that role with purpose and an awareness of the awesome responsibility it entails.

  • I think the violent, flawed, absent ones may leave a bigger hole in their wake, not because their loss was greater than a caring, present father, but because they created a hole and a loss before they were ever gone in the first place. The ghost of what one doesn’t have is there, before the actual man is gone.

  • I think the violent, flawed, absent ones may leave a bigger hole in their wake, not because their loss was greater than a caring, present father, but because they created a hole and a loss before they were ever gone in the first place. The ghost of what one doesn’t have is there, before the actual man is gone.

  • The ghost of what one doesn’t have is there before the actual man is gone.” Beautifully put. Sadly true. I do fine these days, but it tugs a little every now and then and brings the thoughtful, the what if? out.

  • The ghost of what one doesn’t have is there before the actual man is gone.” Beautifully put. Sadly true. I do fine these days, but it tugs a little every now and then and brings the thoughtful, the what if? out.

  • And the what-ifs are stronger with the failed fathers than with the good ones.

  • And the what-ifs are stronger with the failed fathers than with the good ones.

  • Sherman Alexie is a magnificent writer and he speaks volumes about any number of subjects.

    On fathers…he gets it right. It’s not just fathers alone. It’s parents as a whole. It’s also brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. It’s amazing what the people we love and who are supposed to love us can do to our hearts.

    (Playing catch up, obviously)

  • Sherman Alexie is a magnificent writer and he speaks volumes about any number of subjects.

    On fathers…he gets it right. It’s not just fathers alone. It’s parents as a whole. It’s also brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles. It’s amazing what the people we love and who are supposed to love us can do to our hearts.

    (Playing catch up, obviously)