Our voice / by Deborah Clague

I like to visit my hometown, Winnipeg, during the summer. It is so lively and lush, the skies a never-ending palette of cotton candy hues while the warmth of the sun envelopes my skin in an embrace that seems apologetic for the always harsh winter. It is a time to visit and reminisce with family and friends but I also take time to be alone and get lost in my thoughts. I have secret places I go to hide, unwind and reflect. Secret places in which, for a few hours at least, I am the only person in the universe. 

Despite the magic present in the air, this time of year is always one of the hardest for me. July 3 to July 13 are two bookends for an expanse of space which will permanently be incised on my ether. It was three years ago that I lost my father and best friend. It hasn't gotten easier. Not a day goes by in which I don't think of him and feel the ebb-and-flow of anger, sadness and resentment wash over me. But, of late, I've worried about forgetting. Or rather about missing some of the pieces, especially relating to his voice. Our voice can carry so much weight and is such a comforting, familiar sound when bridging distance. Whether booming or quivering (which was a rarity for him), I've been thinking of the heavy silence left in his absence and at times have caught myself trying to recall the specific tone or how he structured sentences or how he expressed emotions verbally, which was hard for him to do coming from a generation of men that were taught restraint. It's not something one thinks about until time robs us of those memories. I don't want to reminisce about just a face but that is often all we are left with. 

The last time he spoke to me was actually ten months after he passed. I had been going through a rough time and gotten involved with an individual that took advantage of my kindness and state of vulnerability. I was getting accustomed (and accepting) of being disrespected and dehumanized on a regular basis. My father knew I deserved better and visited me one night in a dream telling me, in that voice, this time stern: "Deb, you're better than that."

I woke up immediately, eyes fixated on the dark ceiling in my bedroom unable to return to slumber. The next day I had chills about how accurate and timely the advice was. It took me awhile after that to enact the change (such is being caught up in an unhealthy relationship) but this dream was the catalyst that made me realize my worth. I was worth the truth, not constant deceit. I was worthy of love, not abuse and manipulation disguised as such. Regardless of differences in gender, faith or cultural background, it is important to possess moral integrity. Some might argue that the dream was psychological, my mind telling me what I already knew, but I will always feel that his spirit travelled the space/time continuum to relate warning. I wish I could conjure his wisdom and voice again without putting myself at risk. I do take comfort, however, in knowing that he is watching over me still. We have a shared secret place, of the night in dreams.  

I left my hometown a few days ago after bidding "adieu" to family and friends. I felt refreshed and hopeful again just from being in the city. This place gave me life. This place gives me sustenance. As I drove away, staring at the lush greenery and cobalt sky, tears welled in my eyes. I remembered what was, what is and thought of the potential of what can be.