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My Father's Footprints: A Memoir    by Colin McEnroe order for
My Father's Footprints
by Colin McEnroe
Order:  USA  Can
Warner, 2003 (2003)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

In My Father's Footprints, an articulate and loving son chronicles his 'sandwich generation' experiences, and the questions that arise in his father's last days, with affectionate humor. Colin McEnroe's father Bob was a gifted but demon-ridden playwright, whose output dried up early in life, and who once attempted suicide.

His son begins with the burial, sharing such hilarious perspectives as the fact that 'casket-shopping touches our inner Egyptian.' Then there's adopted son Joey's brilliant comment that perhaps life is 'like one of my video games. You have to get to Level Ten before you get out.' The author shares with us his dad's ability to be funny while 'about ten synapse-firings this side of a coma' and shows his small unassuming mother standing off Death as a kind of 'Borg Collective'. Being in a similar situation myself at the moment, with a beloved father close to the end, I empathized with this gleeful focus on moments of humor that make the unbearable briefly bearable.

After it's all over, the author tells us of the unanswered questions that 'sprout, fast as June radishes' where fathers once stood. He's haunted by his dad's old plays, that 'swarm with spirits and fairies' and quotes from many of them. He remembers an involved, caring father who was always there during his childhood, but was later overtaken by anger and alcohol. Colin McEnroe even heads to Ireland in search of ancestral moments and instead finds a familiar nose. He seeks for information from cousin Peggy whose phone calls feel to family members 'like alien abductions'. And at the end he finds only a father who was too good 'at covering his tracks.'

It's a lovely, loving account that ends most appropriately in a close encounter with the next generation, represented by young Joey. My Father's Footprints warmed my heart.

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