My Dad, the Fish, and Me.

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Dad and I are poised in front of the wood paneling that covers the wall from our living room to the kitchen in the two-bedroom home our family of three shares. I think it’s February, which means I am about 6 months old. All of the rooms in our tiny home seem to run together – from front to back. My bedroom, a bathroom, the living room/kitchen, the hallway with the washer and dryer, back to mom and dad’s bathroom and finally their bedroom. I don’t actually remember taking this photo that day in our kitchen, but I often stop to take in the two-page spread of me and this fish in my baby book.

February in northern Montana is always cold and snowy. I imagine that the snowdrifts outside came up to the windows on each side of the house  that winter – like they did most winters in East Glacier. Our house probably feels quite warm inside because Dad always had the wood burning stove going. The fire is fueled by logs he chops and then stacks on the west side of the house. Dad guts and cleans his fish in the kitchen sink after each fishing trip. In the winter this made our house smell like a stealth combination of burnt wood and raw fish. It looks as though Dad has yet to gut this fish, so the smells of metal, cold water, and fish scales has not consumed the kitchen … yet.

dad, amie, fish

Dad stands on the white linoleum with squares outlined in dark brown. I know this linoleum well. It is the floor all three of us kids crawl on as we learn to walk. In a few years I will drive my hot wheel cars over the metal border that joins the linoleum from the kitchen to the 80’s brown carpet from the living room. My cars stop at the metal border to clear customs – the US is the shaggy brown carpet side, Canada the sticky white linoleum.

I don’t know for sure, but I think Dad stands against the wall on the east side of the house as he shows off his prize catch. To Dad’s right is the hallway that leads to the bedroom he and mom share. The kitchen is directly in front of us and to the left is the living room where the wood stove is. The kitchen window that looks out to Dad’s garden is on his right. I’m not sure if the cows graze in the pasture across the creek. They might not come until Spring.

Every time I look at this photo I wonder how it happened. What prompted to the photo shoot? What kind of background noise peppered this particular scene? We didn’t have cable TV then, so I don’t think it was the TV. Maybe wood cracks in the background as it turns to ash in the stove? Is there music playing? If mom picked the music a Beatles record plays in the background. If Dad chose the music it’s something classical like Bach or Gershwin.

Dad has a strong hold around me with his right arm and a deep left finger hook in the fish. I assume mom is the photographer. The other fish photos – the ones that complete the two-page spread in my baby book – only include me and the fish. This one is the only photo of all three of us – dad, me, and the fish. I wonder what was said to initiate this picture? Did dad finally ask mom to take a photo of all three of us after taking multiple photos of me with the fish? Did mom offer to take the photo because she noticed how many photos dad was taking? Who picked out my outfit? I look incredibly uncomfortable in the frilly pink. Dad’s expression is hard to understand. Is he excited? Is he proud? Is he slightly annoyed? His 80s mustache is a story of it’s own.

What day was it? Was it the day dad caught the fish or the day after? Did Dad eventually gut the fish so that they could eat it? What was that meal like? I wonder if my parent’s interaction was awkward. Was this day one of the rare days that they didn’t fight? Did they laugh as they took the photos, or was this a serious photo shoot? I always imagine that my parents fought less when I was young and before they had kids. I don’t really know for sure though, I only remember those days by the pictures in my baby book.

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  1. Melanie says:

    I clicked on this story because of the word “fish”. I didn’t notice it was about fishing but it resonates with me because my dad goes fishing all the time. It hurts my feelings because it makes me feel like my dad is never going to come out of the closet. He’s always going to go on weekend fishing trips and hang out with a bunch of guys and never admit why he’s actually doing it. Maybe he wants to be surrounded by men instead of his wife and children? It hurts to think how emotionally abusive it is to create a family knowing you are gay and can’t live your life and choose to be a coward instead. It seems like a minority would feel the way I do and I’m still shocked and hurt and don’t know the protocol of sharing with others “my dad is gay”. Thank you for being brave and sharing.

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