Reading the personal essays in Finding Father edited by Mary Ann Loewen was a bit like paging through a photograph album filled with intimate snapshots. Each of the thirteen Mennonite women who have written reflective memoirs for the book includes vivid and moving descriptions of small scenes from their relationship with their fathers that have left deep impressions.
Elsie Neufeld standing behind her father’s chair at dinner and playing with his hair, sliding the gray strands through her fingers and measuring their length.
Maggie Dyck’s father carefully going through each new issue of National Geographic and meticulously covering up any bare breasts in the photos with Band-Aids before his impressionable daughter looks at the magazine.
Carrie Snyder watching the juice drip down her Dad’s arms while he eats peaches at the border because he is too stubborn to turn them over to the customs agent who won’t allow him to take Canadian fruit into the United States.
The moment Rebecca Plett finally pushes the words, “I’m gay” out of her mouth and her father who has always been reticent about physical contact rises from his chair and puts his arms around her.
Cari Penner watching her Dad get ready for work in the morning, patting his face with a bristle brush full of white shaving cream and then carefully scraping it clean with his razor.
Lynda Loewen crying as her often emotionally unavailable father lies on an ambulance stretcher after a fainting episode and then reaches up a thumb to gently wipe away her tears.
Magdelene Redekopp refers to these memorable scenes from her life with her Dad as beads on a string, each a different color. I found myself creating a necklace of sorts as well while I read the book recalling scenes from my own life with my now 90-year-old Dad.
I savored each story in Finding Father, especially since I know about half the women in the book in a variety of ways, and most of the writers are around my age. It was fascinating to learn more about their childhoods and family life. Finding Father made me think about how interesting it would be to read the stories of Mennonite women my children’s age or even younger, raised in urban settings. How would their reflections on their fathers’ lives be different?
I can highly recommend Finding Father. It affirmed something I’ve come to realize lately. The journey towards finding out who your father really is, or was, never ends.