Bob Jackson January 14, 1923 --September 9, 1990
When I was a child, a portrait of my father sat on a table in our living room. This was one of my favorite pictures in all the world. In the photograph my father serenely sits with his right hand resting on top of his left as he comtemplates something to his right field of vision. He is neatly dressed in suit and tie and his hair is immaculately groomed. The background is dark except for a luminescent corona which backlights his shoulders.
Sometimes I would gaze thoughtfully at the portrait. In that strangely multidimensional way that children are able to think, I would wonder who the man was. He looked like my father and yet did not seem to be the same person who I would see in the evenings, often loud, sometimes funny, sometimes angry, and always outgoing to strangers and friends alike. The man in the picture was quiet and absorbed. What was he looking at? What was he thinking? Did he know me?
Of course, I knew that it was really my father in the picture, but then again I pondered the possibility that it might be another version of my father who I could only see in the portrait. Occasionally I would tell my sister that the picture made it look like our father had died and gone to heaven. With the aura of light behind him he looked like an angel to me.
When my father was at home I paid no attention to the picture unless he had become angry and yelled at me. In my fear, through my tears, I might catch the alternate reality daddy in the picture and be reminded that the real daddy would not be angry forever; and that even as I cried his angelic countenance might be watching me from some hidden place. These thoughts would bring peace to me and make me sorry that I had misbehaved.
Over the years, after we had moved a few times and I was older, I don't recall seeing this picture around our home anymore. But the image stayed in my heart and held a sweet place in my memory. Then a few years after my father died in 1990, my mother sent me a copy of the portrait. She knew that I had always liked this picture.
The framed picture now sits in the center of a display of family pictures in the home where my wife and I live. In fact, it's right in the hall outside the office where I work. I often look at it as I frequently pass by it during the day. Sometimes I pause a moment to reflect upon the peaceful gaze of my father who looks like an angel in heaven.