Legends of Myself 90

Posted on July 26, 2014


90.  Brothers

I am not fond of guns, and I imagine the incident of the 30-aught-6 and the porcupine is one of the reasons why.  Idlers with guns often made a game of shooting the insulator glass on the transmission poles which ran beside the railroad.  There is something about such a toy which prompts someone to use it, even when there is no immediate use.  Rifles are power at a distance.  Most target practice, I suppose, is harmless, if only tins and targets are punctured.

But porcupines should be allowed to go about their business.

I have reason to believe that Squires’ character, sans rifle, was considerably better than that incident showed it.  No one should be judged for one thoughtless, careless moment amidst an entire lifetime.  Guns have a way of amplifying moments into a lifetime of consequences.  But I think having me as a witness may have amplified consequences here, at least to Squires’ reputation, and this far on, reputation is mostly what is left of him.  I am the porcupine’s revenge, perhaps.

But my father had Squires as a partner, and I have reason to trust my father’s judgment.  That judgment navigated me through a childhood in other people’s homes, something which could have destroyed me if those homes, meaning the people in them, had not been so well chosen.  And my father’s implicit confidence was not the only testimony.

Squires had a family in Prince Rupert, a Nisga’a wife and a number of children, I’m not sure how many.  They lived in a house in Cow Bay, their house located just where the town’s main drag, Third Avenue, drops down towards the head of the Bay.  The street breaks left towards the main harbour just in front of their door.  (It’s not quite that way now.  The muddy indentation in Prince Rupert Harbour called Cow Bay has since been partly filled in, and the water no longer rises so near to that corner.)

Oddly, I remember the house by Cow Bay as a place I visited, but it was my brother Don who made it clear that it was Squires’ house.  Otherwise my memory had assigned no inhabitants to that house at all.  My brother’s was the other testimony to Squires’ character that I mentioned.  He grew up in Cow Bay.  There or wherever Squires’ family happened to be housed at a given time.  He was part of that family.

When my sisters learned about Don, oh so many years later, a sibling they had never heard of, I remember they did a calculation.  It was, they decided, more than 9 months after my mother died when Don came along.  Which meant that Dad hadn’t cheated on Mom.  Since I had no emotional investment in my mother at all—and she was more than three decades dead before the question of Don came up—it had never occurred to me to care.  But my sisters remembered my mother and I did not.

Now my father was hardly innocent for his part of things, even if you left out my mother.  In 1952, when those activities which resulted in Don occurred, my father was a widower but Don’s future mother was already Mrs. Squires.  Don was born a Squires.

All that is scandalous, I suppose, but I got a brother out of the transaction, and that seems like a good enough deal to me.

I don’t know when it became clear that Don was different from his siblings.  A child of a European father and Aboriginal mother could theoretically fall anywhere between the two parents in terms of appearance, and babies tend to have a look all their own, so it might not have been right away.

But Don tells of growing up being teased by his brothers.  He was taller than they were, and built differently, with no signs of Squires’ curly hair.  Somewhere along the line, it must have become obvious to everyone that he had a different father.

But there is no evidence that he was ever treated differently by his parents.  Walter Squires was his father, and Don was as fond of him as any boy is of his father, and he was raised as Walter’s son without a suggestion of illegitimacy.

Whether Walter knew all along, learned in time, or went to his death in willful ignorance of Don’s actual paternity, we will never know.  Whatever the case, father and son loved each other as father and son.  Returning to where I started this discussion, I believe it shows some grace in him that Walter allowed that to happen.

I suppose by 1961 it was already clear, to Don and siblings at least, (and presumably his mother) that he had another father.  I’m uncertain whether he knew his father’s identity at the time.  I know only that by 1971 he had learned it, and learned about me, and he came to Vancouver to meet his brother.  He didn’t tell me who he was then.  I think he assumed I already knew.

When we met, I was surprised to find someone who looked so much like me.  Don said, referencing that resemblance, “We’ll say we’re cousins.”

I agreed, suspecting that it was likely anyway.  I didn’t know or suppose, you understand, that I had any brothers except Tommy.  And my father had always said that it was better for me to live in Vancouver since I had so many cousins up north.  There’s no harm in gadding about with male cousins of course, but Don’s appearance did somehow confirm my father’s thinking.  Or did so to me.

I was naïve to have missed the subtext of my meeting with Don in 1971.  He slipped in and out of my life from then on, but it wasn’t actually until my brother Tommy, under his lifelong adoptive name of Aleck, contacted me in 1983, that my father confessed to Aleck and me together that he had a third son, and what the true relationship of Don was to us.  A dozen years after encountering Don, I finally discovered why he looked so much like me.