FA­THERS AND DAUGH­TERS

Geist - - Endnotes - —Lily Gon­tard

Fa­thers come in dif­fer­ent shapes, sizes and tem­per­a­ments, and some pro­vide their daugh­ters with writ­ing ma­te­rial that is ocean deep. In two me­moirs, the daugh­ters who grew up to be­come writ­ers dis­cover who their fa­thers are—or were—by shar­ing their re­spec­tive fa­thers’ re­mark­able sto­ries. Ali­cia Priest’s fa­ther Gerry was an ad­ven­ture-lov­ing rock­hound who made head­lines across North Amer­ica as the man con­victed of The Great Sil­ver Yukon Ore Heist of 1963. In A Rock Fell on the Moon (Lost Moose), Ali­cia de­codes the enigma of Gerry Priest, the tac­i­turn fa­ther who had elec­tri­fied her child­hood with ad­ven­ture and drama. For the first ten years of her life Ali­cia lived in the min­ing town of Elsa in cen­tral Yukon. She de­scribes life as idyl­lic and Elsa as a place full of won­der. Her Ukrainian mother He­len was a stark op­po­site to Gerry: small of stature and out­go­ing. The story that Priest tells is about the heist, and also about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween her par­ents, fa­cil­i­tated by the nu­mer­ous let­ters her par­ents wrote to one an­other. I was at the start of Chap­ter 17, the ‘in­car­cer­a­tion years,’ when I learned that Ali­cia had died two days pre­vi­ously of ALS. The news hit me hard be­cause I had be­come deeply con­nected to the story of her child­hood and to the strug­gles of liv­ing with a par­ent who had gained no­to­ri­ety as an in­fa­mous Cana­dian crim­i­nal. Priest’s story gen­tly un­folds with al­most per­fect mea­sure­ments of ten­sion, rev­e­la­tion and in­ti­macy with­out sen­ti­men­tal­ity.

At the other end of the moral­ity spec­trum, Jael Ea­ley Richard­son’s fa­ther Charles (Chuck) was a driven and über-gifted young foot­ball player who re­fused to com­pro­mise. Jael Ea­ley Richard­son be­gins The Stone Thrower (Thomas Allen Pub­lish­ers) by giv­ing a lack of self-iden­tity as the mo­ti­va­tion for her book. She uses words like “wa­tery,” “dis­ori­ented,” and “lost” to de­scribe how she feels; for her, it is her fa­ther who holds the key to her own iden­tity. Though not re­cruited by the NFL, Chuck went on to make head­lines as a star of the CFL, and in 1972 was the quar­ter­back who led the Hamil­ton Tiger­cats to vic­tory in the Grey Cup. While Ea­ley Richard­son was grow­ing up in Toronto’s sub­urbs, her sports-celebrity fa­ther didn’t speak of the civil rights move­ment in the Ohio of his own youth, or of the un­just so­ci­ety he’d lived in where priv­i­lege and hu­man rights were based on your skin colour. My knowl­edge of foot­ball is lim­ited; what hooked me was The Stone Thrower’s dual sto­ry­lines: the daugh­ter’s quest for self-dis­cov­ery bal­anced by the story of her fa­ther, a man who be­lieved in his skill and po­ten­tial, and who never com­pro­mised to achieve his goals. Ea­ley Richard­son re­veals her fa­ther to be a com­pelling hu­man be­ing. Silent and strong, his youth was filled with friend­ships and a young man’s ad­ven­tures; he did what needed to be done. As Ea­ley Richard­son un­earths her fa­mous fa­ther’s hid­den his­tory and comes to un­der­stand her own iden­tity, what had seemed wa­tery be­comes rooted and firm. A fi­nal note for re­ligo­phobes: be warned, Chris­tian­ity guided Ea­ley and his daugh­ter, and is an es­sen­tial part of un­der­stand­ing their per­sonal jour­neys.

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