la Ketch

my life story

Friday, August 26, 2005

back to Alaska

As many of you probably know, when you suffer any sort of tragedy, your mind and your body go into shock. There is a numbness that occurs, a freeze. What has happened is so incomprehensible that your mind feeds it to you a little bit at a time so that you don’t lose yourself completely. Often times, this is very common, you will erase a large chunk of time from your own mind and never give it back. You will hide it from yourself permanently.

I think this phenomenon was especially prominent with us because it was such a reality flip. We were in such la la land before. Especially, my sister and I, being children still, we hadn’t really experienced anything close to actual emotional trauma or pain. It was like everything was suddenly going inside out, upside down, black hole action. It really happened all in an instant too. I mean had spoken to my dad on the phone about 30-45 minutes before the crash.

I was sick that day with strep throat, which I had all the time. I had stayed home from school. He was working that night (the crash happened around 10:30PM) and so, he was home with me during the day. My uncle and my cousin were with me at the time of the crash. My mom was at work, as I mentioned before and my sister was asleep. Later, after it happened and my mom had come home and our house was filled with people at about one o’clock in the morning, my mom and I decided that we needed to wake my sister up and tell her what had happened. This part always kills me when I recount it. We went in and woke her up. She could tell something was horribly wrong. My mom said, “Something bad has happened.” And my sister said, “Did Taffy die?” Taffy was our cocker spaniel. “No”, my mom said, “no, it’s daddy. Daddy has died.”

Oh shit I’m sitting at my desk crying now. People can see me. I have to reel it in, get on with the story. That part about my sister always kills me though.

What was I saying? Before the crash, my dad called me on the phone. We had this very slow, very weird sort of underwater conversation. I remember when it was happening thinking that the conversation was very strange. My dad asked me if I needed him to come home. This is especially strange because my uncle was with me and my mom would be home soon. I was sick but I wasn’t that sick. Still he asked me and I considered it for what seemed like a long time and then I told him, “No, no I’m fine. I don’t need you to come home.” I didn’t tell anyone about this for a long time, this exchange. It tore at me for a long time because obviously, I felt that if I had said, “yes”, he would have lived. I have since some to peace with this. I like to think that on some very subconscious level he and I were having a conversation about his leaving and that he was asking my permission to go and that on some very subconscious level I felt that it was okay for him to go. I like to think this and it makes me feel better but if I had a time machine, I would take it back.


The accident happened in the middle of my seventh grade year and I don’t remember much of anything from the remainder of that year or what happened during my eighth grade year at all. It’s a blank. With one exception, a strong memory the pierces through the blank very clearly - our trip back to Alaska.

My dad’s uncle and his family live in Anchorage. He was estranged from them for a long time because of some rift between my grandfather and his brothers. A few years before he died, my dad wrote a letter to his uncle who was really overjoyed to hear from him and immediately invited us up there to visit. It turns out that we have this entire clan up there and that they own and operate an air service that flies sportsmen into the “bush” where they fish for salmon. They have float planes and they give you waders and a pole and a box lunch and fly you out there. You have a boat and a little shelter, they also have some cabins so you can sleep out there if you want. They drop you off in the morning, you fish and then they pick you back up again in the late afternoon. My dad loved to fish and he had taught us how to fish. He also loved the outdoors and was an avid backpacker. So, he jumped at this chance to go.

We flew up there and we had an awesome time fishing and hanging with our new family. My dad’s cousins have kids a few years younger than my sister and I and we all got along really well. We went during the summer and so the sun never went down. We got to play in the street until like 10:30pm and it looked like it was 5:00pm. I remember waking up one morning and my dad had stayed awake all night, “to see the sun not go down,” he explained. “It didn’t go down,” he assured us.

When my dad had his accident, the Alaska clan took it very hard, especially my dad’s uncle. It had meant so much to him that they had rekindled this relationship and then, he lost him so quickly afterward. After he died, they invited my mom and my sister up again and we went, only this time it was in the middle of winter, so it was dark all of the time.

During the winter, they close down the air service and put skis on the planes instead of floats. Then they fly out into the bush, which is now under about twelve fee of snow, and stay in the cabins they have out there. We went with them. It was pretty awesome. You are out in the middle of fucking nowhere. If you don’t keep the fire going, you will freeze to death. They had snow mobiles and snow shoes and cross-country skis. There are moose. There are many moose. We had a good time. There was so much white and snow and it felt like we were really far away from the sort of nightmare we couldn’t wake up from at the time.

The best part about being out there in all that snow was the snow tunnels. Under my leadership (being the oldest and the bossiest) all the kids dug a very elaborate tunnel system. We dug a huge great room that you could actually stand up in and then tunnels that went off from that and we each had our own little room. We would just dig and dig and then we played in the tunnels, going from room to room, visiting each other. It was pretty cool. Also, it was New Years Eve while we were there and we lit off a bunch of fireworks. We lit sparklers in the tunnels and they would light up so that if you were standing outside, you could see them glow from within.

The trip to Alaska was especially good for my sister and me. It was hard on my mom because my dad’s absence was really obvious there but pretty much everything was hard on my mom because she was having a really, really hard time.

The other reason that I really remember the trip was that on the plane ride home, my mom met someone. A man. She sat next to him and they talked the whole way home. I hated him immediately. A short while after the accident happened, my cousin and I were riding our bikes and she casually asked me if I thought my mom would ever get married again. I couldn’t believe she would even suggest such a thing. The very thought riled up in me such disgust. I knew that she never would. At least not for a long, long time. My mom was 36 when my dad died and she is very beautiful, funny and smart. If she had spent the rest of her life without entering into another relationship it would have been sad but I wasn’t ready to accept this so soon. By the end of the trip, they had exchanged phone numbers. He lived up in Washington State but he was an airline pilot and he was based in Orange County where we lived and he was down there all the time…

This seems like a good place to stop. I need an entire entry to properly explain how much I still hate this man to this day. They’re no longer married, just so you know and I like to think that I’m largely responsible for that. Mostly he is responsible though because he is a dick and also, he is a fucking asshole.

I just reread this entry and it’s not as funny as I would like it to be. I will try to make the next one a bit funnier.

la Ketch


At 10:55 AM, Blogger bravenavel said...

beautiful. very very moving. thank you.


(I'm on Soph's blogger account since your blog doesn't allow non-Blogger comments.)

At 11:10 AM, Blogger la Ketch said...

thanks sheila. that means a lot to me. i changed the setting. sorry about that! xo.

At 12:21 PM, Blogger tina said...

Hey angel,

Oh my god, that is so beautiful. You tell that so well, and I'm just gripped reading it. I love the part when you're in Alaska are making all those snow tunnels and visiting each other. I love the whole thing. Keep going!!

At 4:50 AM, Anonymous Dorothy said...

Hi Ketch !

That is grippingly beautiful story.
I am crying too.
I know it's been years but i still want to say I am so so very sorry about your father.
I can't imagine having gone through something like this at a young age....
Yay for your blog !

At 12:58 PM, Blogger la Ketch said...

Thanks Dorothy. I appreciate it!


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