This photograph was probably taken in the spring or summer of 1948, near Hillyard, Washington. The family lived in the vicinity of Beacon Hill, overlooking Spokane. The woman on the left is my great aunt Bessie Moses Andrew. She is holding her infant daughter Diana, who sadly died less than a year later. The woman on the right is my grandmother Minnie Moses Cannon. She is holding my father.
This week marks a time of memory; a procession through the shadow of my father.
As a reminder to my readers, January 5, 2009 was my father’s 61st birthday, had he lived long enough to see it. January 8, 2009 marks the 15th anniversary of his death (in 1994), and January 12, 2009 will be the anniversary of his burial.
The tears have long since gone away, but every day of this week remains a ritual of remembrance. Each year, beginning on January 5th, my father’s memory weighs upon me until the morning of the 13th when the world begins anew. Strangely enough, my father admired the number 13. After the 12 moons of the year, the Creator sometimes adds a 13th moon. And Coyote built the sacred sweat lodge with 12 ribs, but he bound it all together with a 13th rib. I suppose it’s the number of completion. For my part, the numbers never change. They’re like stone monuments on the landscape of my experience, or stations on a long journey, but each year the ordeal softens just a little.
This year I choose to honor my father’s memory using his own words.
On November 5, 1993, he submitted a foster parent application to the state of Washington. The application form required him to answer a series of questions designed to assess his qualifications as a child care provider. The questions addressed a wide range of concerns, starting at the mundane details of daily routine, and progressing to his beliefs about children, parenthood, and family.
His answers were short, almost blunt. In fact, some of the responses might be considered politically incorrect by today’s standards. Even so, his application is a priceless window into my father’s experience of the world.
The application offers a few clues to his early family relationships. Some of the highlights:
When asked to describe his relationship with his parents, he wrote, “Did not know my father until I was older. [Mother] left me when I was in third grade. I was raised by an Aunt and Grandmother.”
In regard to his siblings, he wrote, “I was the oldest and took care of my family when my mom left us often for a week at a time. Most of them are in their 30’s and live in Spokane are (sic) the reservation. We are still very close. There was very little discipline. It was at times unfare (sic).”
He described his greatest achievement as “The Love of life that I now have.”
His greatest disappointment was “The Loss of my aunt who raised me. Her Love gave me the strength I needed in life to know Love and give Love back. [My aunts] taught me I was rich in Love.”
For me, the most surprising part of the application appeared at the end when he expressed his feelings for me. He described my personality as “very outgoing, a leader,” and my interests as “God’s work. Very active in church.” He wrote that I work well with all people and that his relationship with me was “Very Good.”
I have no memory of my father telling me about love. He certainly never said “I love you, son.” But as I read these simple words, I FEEL the love he could never speak. I FEEL his eyes looking back from the grave. No words are spoken, but I feel his admiration and approval.
As I approach the 13th day of my yearly ritual, I take these words to heart. This is no longer a time of grief; it’s a time to gather all painful memories, and through careful observation, to discover the beauty and perfection in all human experiences. In the end, love is the one healing memory that makes all things right.
This photograph was taken at an unknown time and place. It typifies my childhood memory of my father.
This photograph was taken some time between 1986 and 1989 at a powwow in Inchelium, Washington on the Colville Indian Reservation. My father stood at the back making his best stoic-Indian face. The rest of smiled like fools. I stood at the far left, my brother Bradley Moses is standing in the middle, and my sister Kim Moses is standing on the right.