Rediscovering My Father

Rediscovering My Father

The New York Times

Shannon Luders-Manuel

Lucy Jones

In a lost photo, I found the memory of my dad I wanted to preserve.

One night in 2001, newly married and in my first real apartment, I pulled out my grandma’s vintage leather suitcase. Its handle was long gone, but I used it to store hundreds of old photos.

I searched through each photo and negative, hoping I might find a double of the one good picture of my dad and me.

My dad had recently died of lung cancer. The last photo I had was of him lying on his hospice bed, feeble and hooked to an oxygen tank. Any hope of future connection was buried along with his ashes.

Back when I was in high school and living in San Jose, my friends Pamela and Emily had joined me on a rare weekend train ride to see my father in Sacramento. The infectious giggles of teenage girls rubbed off on my dad, who was a natural kidder but always reserved and debonair. He and I were growing apart, as parents and teenagers often do, but the space between us was inflated by the extra complications of alcoholism, poverty and racially-blended families…

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