: Vickie’s Pour House: A Soldier’s Peace :

an excerpt by Maureen McCoy

The envelope addressed to Mrs. Johnny McCoy tips me off that the writer was an old bar friend of my father. I have discovered the cache of sympathy cards thirty years after my father’s death, in my mother’s bottom dresser drawer. Clearing the house is an ongoing process, still, two years since my mother died: sorting, remembering, and making new connections from doing both. My mother had stashed mementos willy-nilly, and the bedroom dresser yields up surprising gems. I have discovered a pin that belonged to her father, who raised his family on the Minnesota Iron Range: Catholic Forester. Did such foresters sing out “Hail Mary!” as they whacked trails, hauled logs and baited bears in the Superior National Forest?

The saying goes “give time time” and, sure enough, the sympathy cards for my father waited mute as death in a little white cardboard box buried by cheerful workday scarves, requiring loads of time to pass and, sadly, my mother’s life too, before they could play their part in letting new light shine in my brain and shape a fuller picture of my father.

Like the cards, much of my father’s life had lain out of reach, in an unexamined silence. He had engaged in a secret life, a necessary life of companionable and destructive drinking too generative of pain for us to acknowledge, ever, or ask about, in a place or places left unnamed. A bigamist could not have separated his worlds more concisely.