2012-02-03 17:12





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By Kate Simonson

凝墨 选 仕乔 译

My childhood was filled with the kinds of activities that were common to every kid in the 1980s but are considered almost death-defying these days: tree climbing, bike riding without a helmet, and daylong road trips spent in the backseat of the family car, where we bounced around like Super Balls[1], nary a seat belt in sight.

Still, my mother was safety-obsessed about some things, like swimming lessons. Year after year, she forced me to take them at our local pool in Iowa City since my mother could not swim and was actually afraid of the water.

My dad was an electrician, and he died in an accident on the job when I was three. I have almost no memories of my father. Instead I remember Mike Fieseler. He was a former industrial-arts[2] teacher whom my mother dated off and on for much of my childhood. Whatever my mother’s affection for him, it didn’t rub off on[3] me. And when they stopped dating, when I was 15, I wasn’t unhappy to see him go.

Then, on February 18, 1991, when I was 17, my mother suddenly died of a brain aneurysm[4]. One minute she was laughing with friends, enjoying an evening out; the next, she was unconscious on the floor. She never woke up. Just 19 hours later, she was dead, leaving Jason, my 15-year-old brother and me orphans.

In the moments of shock and horror that followed, my relatives all gathered in the hospital, and I went home with only a close friend for company (Jason followed a while later). We spent that night on our own. I was numb; it had all happened so fast. I could barely think beyond the immediate moment.

The next morning, my grandfather, aunts, and uncles were still immersed in their own mourning. Shell-shocked[5] as I was, I knew I had to let people know what had happened. I saw my mother’s address book lying where she had set it only days before and started dialing. One of the phone numbers I found was Mike’s.

Even though he lived about an hour away, it felt like he was there in an instant. As soon as he walked in, he took charge―and took care of Jason and me. Among other small kindnesses, he gave me a credit card and said, “Why don’t you buy something to wear to the funeral?” He gave me permission to be a 17-year-old―to focus on the more mundane[6] issue of what I was going to wear instead of weighty adult concerns.

Generally, when children are orphaned, a family member comes forward to take them in. This didn’t happen in our case. Everyone had a good reason, I suppose. My mom’s father was too old to assume responsibility for us; my mother’s sister and her husband had three kids of their own and weren’t able to take in any others; her other two siblings were both single and worked long hours. The guardian named in my mother’s will was a babysitter that none of us had seen in 15 years. But I can tell you this: Abandonment, even for very good reasons, feels awful. It was heartbreaking and terrifying to have lost the person we loved most and then to be set adrift. Months passed and it felt like our relatives could offer no reassurances. The only news we got was that if Jason and I remained without a guardian, we would have to enter foster care[7]. Our mother was gone, and there was nothing we could do to save ourselves.

And, once again, there was Mike. After the funeral, he was a constant presence. He made sure that food filled the cupboards, the bills were paid, and the lawn was mowed. (Mike’s adult daughter, Linda, pitched in[8] and took care of his house.) He made sure I went back to school even when it was the last thing I wanted to do. His overbearing[9] personality―the trait I had hated the most―was what comforted me the most and got me through those difficult days.

One day he offered to become our guardian. In a moment where the grief of loss and the pain of being unwanted threatened to capture my very breath, this man, whose only tie to us was having dated my mother, said he would be honored to take us in.

From that moment on, everything was different. His girlfriend, Patty, threw us a “guardian party” when the paperwork[10] became official. It was just a small gathering, but it made us feel special.

Over the years, Mike has become not merely a legal guardian but a real father to me. When I fell into depression in college, unable to get past thoughts of my mother and all I had lost, he was there to listen. When my husband, Eric, and I bought our first house, Mike spent weekends installing insulation and repairing our gutters. He never wrote me off as[11] a good, mature kid who could handle everything herself. He walked the line between trusting me and recognizing when I might need help. And what more could you want from a father than that?

His was an unconventional path to parenthood, to say the least.[12] It is not by birth or adoption that I consider this man to be my father; it isn’t even through his presence in my childhood. It is rather by sheer good luck on my part. Before he made that generous offer, I felt as though I had lost my mooring[13] and the waters were flooding in; afterward, I simply felt rescued. If my mother had taught me to be strong and depend on myself, Mike imparted his own lesson―that the world will provide for you, even when you least expect it.

Eight years after Mike stepped forward, he walked me down the aisle[14]. Four years after that, I gave birth to his first granddaughter, Emily Michl Simonson. (Mike’s legal name is Michl.) The name is a reminder of my saved past and a promise for the future, and I hope one day Emily will see that as well. Because as much as I plan to teach her to swim (indeed, she’s now six and enrolled in lessons), I also want her to know this: No matter how fast the waters rise, no matter how hard it may be to keep her head above the waves, someone will throw her a line.







他住的地方离我家有一个小时的路程,但他好像立刻就到了。他一走进来就接手了家里的事情——开始照顾我和贾森。在他很多充满关心的举动中,其中一个就是给了我一张信用卡,对我说:“去给自己买件葬礼上穿的衣服吧。” 他允许我做一个17岁的孩子——让我将心思放在更实际的穿什么衣服的问题上,而不要求我像成年人一样思考沉重的问题。







迈克进入我的生活八年以后,我结婚了,他拉着我的手走过教堂的通道。又过了四年,他的第一个外孙女埃米莉• 米希尔•西蒙森降生了。(迈克依法登记的名字是米希尔。)这个名字让我想起得到拯救的过去,看到美好的将来,我希望有一天埃米莉也能明白这些。因为就像我如何策划教她游泳一样(事实上,她现在六岁,已经开始学习游泳了),我也希望她明白:无论水涨得多快,无论在浪花中将头露在水面上有多困难,总会有人扔一根救命的绳索过来。



1. Super Balls: 超级球,由人工橡胶等材料制成,能弹得很高;nary: 〈古〉一个也没有。

2. industrial-arts: (用作单数)工艺课(美国中小学的一门课程)。

3. rub off on: 因接触(或相处)而对……产生影响。

4. aneurysm: 【医】动脉瘤。

5. shell-shocked: 恐慌的,迷惘不安的。

6. mundane: 世俗的,平凡的。

7. foster care: 指将因家庭遭受变故、失依、失养或遭虐待等事情的儿童及少年安置于符合的家庭寄养。

8. pitch in: 投入,做出贡献。

9. overbearing: 专横的。

10. paperwork: 文件,资料。

11. write off as: 把……看成。

12. unconventional: 不寻常的;to say the least: 至少可以这样说,最起码。

13. mooring: 停泊处。

14. aisle: 通道,过道。在西方婚礼中有父亲拉着女儿的手走过教堂通道,再将女儿交到新郎手中的习俗,walk me down the aisle在这里意为婚礼时父亲牵着我的手走过教堂通道。



















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