My 10-year old son saw my article on CBC and read it. He asked if I would write about him. So this is to you my boy. You were born during my first year of University, technically my 2nd, but the year prior I had just lost your uncle, my brother, a good man; and I would be content to say the year was a waste. The loss of a loved one is never easy because the human condition is structured in such a way we attach to others, spiritually. You will find this with the love you have for your mother, brothers, sisters, the woman you one day marry, your children and of course your old man, but remember those who find that love for their people make great leaders.
The loss of that attachment is a painful one, an empty space attempts to fill the void of the loved one whom once stood before you and made you smile, laugh and helped you dance around your greatest fears, a dancing partner gone, existent somewhere between a memory and prayer, teasing you in your dreams. An unfortunate but necessary part of life, a reason to appreciate today and those in it because life has a funny way of making you think that once you have a grip on it, you actually don’t.
This was the way my life was when I lost my brother and I wandered aimlessly, attempting to avoid the obstacles rather than defeat them, then your mother informed me you were on your way. I was told that Anishinaabe children choose their parents and that I should feel blessed and I did. I pictured you a youthful, playful and somewhat rambunctious spirit anxiously waiting to meet his father, confident he made the right choice.
You were due on a cold Winnipeg night, the roads I travelled to get to you were slick with ice and the Arctic winds from Churchill made their way through the prairies bouncing off the homes like waves hitting rocks. If you ever watch waves collide against rocks or a drift of wind so cold in its power, you will see the power of Mother Nature, sometimes mean, taking lives when she wants, many lives lost in those winds appearing deceitfully graceful.
At that moment I would pray to her and ask her to get you here safely and I made a life long promise to her that I would protect you. A promise I have kept so far, one that did not come for free as she wanted something in return. You see my boy, my relationship with her is now a rocky one at best, a past we share in which I went against her wishes of returning me home.
A time you may remember when I was caught between two worlds, fighting to remain and walk this world with you, at least until you didn’t need my guidance anymore. This story I will share with you another time, a time when you can understand the concept of life and death, both of which I have experienced and the latter experience carrying with it a reason I have yet to discover, one that will reveal itself in time, we call those teachings.
When you arrived in our world you were tiny, with a full head of thick black hair, a beautiful trait making you unique to me and dark brown skin that would determine where you came from, a land of beautiful songs, a drum beat heard in the womb, one needed to feed the air into your lungs. Your dimples were the first I saw, which helped turn a nice smile into a beautiful one, dimples that your wife will love and admire because her children will carry the same.
The giggles and cries were one of the same, a language you spoke we didn’t understand, only understood in the world to which you came from, the learning of our language would take you years. Our first summer was spent together and I stayed home with you, much like a mother would I fed you and rocked you to sleep while singing to you. I sung you little lullaby’s and held you, just a little bundle in my arms and the reason for everything amounted to those moments, the reason for my hurt and loss was for the right to be your father.
At the age of 10 you and I have endured more than most fathers and sons have because much like I, you almost had to experience the loss of someone you were attached to, you would have been left with a lifelong void, something you didn’t deserve. So I am grateful we are here together as we embark on this journey, one that includes my career and your upbringing in a generation that is changing the social fabric of our Nation, one to which you will be a fundamental building block, one to which you will succeed and the reason for your success will be the love from those who love you most.
You and I were united when you granted me the honor of being your father and our only duty is to make this work, give each other guidance, love, companionship which in turn will lead to an abundance of treasures on a journey in which we search for truth and try to understand principles that can right the wrongs or correct infractions against a Nation to which we were born.
Thus, our strongest bond is part of a larger brotherhood, in which a tradition of teachings guide Anishinaabe values that will help us stand proud and one day when we float toward the sunset on the Sachigo River, our traditional land; we will discuss the accomplishments and obstacles conquered and we will do it as father and son, an attachment of spirits never broken, continued in all worlds, not just this one.