Writing the Distance: Saundra Middleton

The Covid 19 pandemic is isolating Alaskan writers. We can no longer attend workshops or public readings. The coffee bars where we met with other writers are closed. To bridge these physical gaps, 49 Writers is providing this on-line forum for Alaskans writing the distance. Today, Saundra Middleton writes about her dad.

Dad’s Memory

He dragged 87 years of memories behind him like a ball and chain, locked safe within the iron, inaccessible.

“I have all these memories,” he’d say smoothing errant hairs in his white mustache. “I’m just not sure if they

are all true.”


“They go back a long time and you wonder,” blinking a little faster. “Was that true or not true.”

Conversations are predictable with the same comments on the weather, the same stories. If someone talks

about a place they’ve been to, he responds, “I think I’ve been there. I don’t know how I got there, but these

people invited me in. They fed me. There were women there also.”


It doesn’t matter if the location was Mt. Baker or the International Space Station. He’s been there. And he had

a good time. It’s a pleasant thought and he is happy.


Sasquatch was always a hot topic. Dad had a genuine interest in it for many decades. He bought all the books

from all the acclaimed scientists studying all the sightings. Some of them he bought again. Even when his

memory was good, he knew there were skeptics. He screened his audience. “Do you believe in Sasquatch?”

he’d begin. “Can I read you something by this scientist?” The Sasquatch stories faded.


“I don’t talk about Sasquatch anymore,” he told me last year. “I was getting bad feelings from people. No one

wants to hear about it.”


Dad has another favorite story. He was an Air Force jet mechanic during the Korean War. One day, all the

troops were lined up on the tarmac. Dignitaries and the press were all around. Suddenly, there appeared a ball

of flame pulsating a distance away. It hovered there, for a minute? Three minutes? Then swoooosh! His

arthritic index finger pulls his arm to the sky, gesturing something flying off very quickly in a curved trajectory.

“It went THAT fast,” he boomed, “It was GONE in a second or two.”


The object remains unidentified, but this story is true. We heard about it long before Dad had memory issues.

He held onto this one. But it’s evolving. The flame ball is just a few feet from him now. The president of the

United States was there. “I think I met him,” he says. “I can’t remember who he was, but it wasn’t the jerk we

have now.”


Now Covid fills the news and confuses him further. “Are you in Tonasket?”

“No, I’m at my apartment.”

“Have you seen Sandy?”

“This is Sandy, Dad.”

“Oh, yah, that’s right,” chuckling a little, “Well, come over anytime.” But I can’t.


My mind falls back to our last family get together. March 7. A dozen of us celebrated Dad’s birthday. Dinner

was ablaze with reunion and stories. Dad sat at the head of the table, smoothing his whiskers. “Are we telling

stories? I have a story. Maybe I told you already. Maybe some of you already know it.” We all know what’s

coming—the fireball story. We’ve all heard it a hundred times. Suddenly, dishes need clearing from the table.

People have to pee. The dog needs to go out.


“Ok, I’ll wait till everyone comes back.” But they don’t. He blinked a little faster. He stroked his white



Saundra Middleton frequently travels to care for her elderly parents and currently finds herself trapped behind Covid-19 enemy lines.

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