Essay: Looking Back

May 3, 2019

“The first time I saw your mother,” my father liked to say, “I knew I was going to marry her.’” He was sitting in church choir at the time and my mother was coming in late to practice. Late on purpose so that she would be noticed. It was a fairytale beginning, my parents’ marriage. 


A couple years later they had a baby girl and then my father went off to war. He was on an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific for three years before he wrote my mother that they were heading for the “Elysian Fields.”

“I snuck that one past the censors,” he liked to say, “because the Elysian Fields meant paradise in Greek mythology.” It must have seemed like paradise to come home safe from war to his wife and daughter. Soon they had a baby boy and a new bungalow. 

It should have been happily ever after but instead, my mother was drinking and my father was angry and there were always problems with money. And I wonder, if something ends badly, was it a mistake from the beginning? Unhappy endings have a way of casting a long shadow backwards. 

“I would never have left your mother,” my father said after she died but I know he sometimes wanted to.

“Tell me about how you met,” I said. “I like that story.”