Dale is lifting his shoulders excessively as he speaks, “I know it was her; I was on the beach and I happened to look up at the pier. She was looking out to the water. It was Gail; I know it was. I called to her and kept calling as I clambered off the sand and ran onto the pier. She was gone. She had disappeared, but I know it was her.” He drops his shoulders and puts his hands on the back of his neck, rubbing it.

Callum stares off in the distance and speaks, “You think you know someone; you think they are perfect, but all the time, it’s a lie. Everything they ever did for you was a lie. Their love is a lie…”

“I never said she was perfect. I never said our life was perfect, but maybe our love was, is a lie, I don’t know.” Dale hangs his head.

Callum realizes he has spoken his thoughts aloud. He shakes his head bringing himself to the room and the group.

“Yes, it must be so difficult for you Dale…right.” Callum stands. “If it’s okay with everyone, I would like Dale to pretend I am Gail and I would like you to say whatever it is you would like to say to her, if she was sitting here.”

Dale blanches at this. “Oh my God, I don’t think I can do that.”

“You are in a safe space, Dale. This might help you to voice some of the feelings that you have trapped inside you. There is no right or wrong here. We are here to support you.”

Dale looks at each of the group members and they all nod to give their encouragement.

Callum takes his chair and puts it directly opposite Dale.
“I’m sorry I left you, Dale. Can you forgive me?” Callum takes on the role of Gail.

Dale looks dumbly at Callum and then his face changes. His mouth stretches to a grimace; his eyes turn dark and his normal pallor becomes flushed.

“You, you…BITCH!” he shouts. “I knew you were selfish, but to just leave like that? Don’t you know the suffering it’s caused? Not just for me but for your family. Why, Gail, why? If you needed help, we could’ve gotten help for you. If you didn’t want to be with me anymore, then just let me know. I’m not going to force you to stay. God, you must know me better than that after all these years. Do you realize the hate that some people have for me? They blame me for all of this.” Dale expands his arms around the room. “I’ve been accused by friends, family of hurting you; complete strangers call me a murderer. Well, it’s not right. It’s fucking not right, Gail…I can never, never forgive you for this.” Dale is standing now, pointing his finger at Callum, shouting at him. Callum stands up and slowly goes to Dale and hugs him. Dale collapses in his arms.

“I just want her back; I just need her to come back,” Dale sobs.

“That was very brave, Dale. Very brave.” Callum whispers in his ear. Both men cry, as does the rest of the group.


Callum sits in the coffee shop that he agreed to meet Michael in.

‘Why am I doing this?’ Callum asks himself for the umpteenth time.

He looks at his watch as the time creeps by. He arrived early to get a good seat out of the way of other people.

Callum didn’t tell his mom he was meeting Michael. He just emailed him one evening when he was feeling despondent. Michael got back straight away and now Callum waits for his half-brother to come through the door.

Callum lets out an audible sigh. Some patrons look in his direction, but Callum smiles as if everything is okay.

The door of the coffee shop opens and a young man enters, scanning the tables.

“God, I can’t believe how much he looks like me,” Callum says under his breath.

He motions Michael over. A broad smile covers Michael’s face and he extends his hand to Callum. Ungraciously, Callum refuses it but motions him to sit down.

“Wow, I can’t believe we’re meeting up. Thank you so much for agreeing to this. It’s so exciting…” Michael practically gushes his enthusiasm.

Callum remains silent, afraid to speak in case he says something hurtful.

“I’ll, I’ll get us a drink; what would you like?”

“It’s fine, I have one.” Callum indicates his cup.

“Do you want a refill?”

“No, get yourself one.”

Michael gets up from the table, almost tripping over the table leg. Callum can see he’s nervous.

“I’m such a bitch,” Callum admits to himself.

When Michael returns, his hand is shaking holding the cup. He puts it down quickly, slopping some coffee.

“I’m such a clutz.” He goes to the counter and gets a napkin to mop it up.

Callum sees the anxiety on Michael’s face and his therapist mode sets in.

“This must be nerve wracking for you,” Callum says gently.

“Wow, yes, it is. I mean, I didn’t know about you until my dad—I mean our dad—died. I had no idea; I mean, my mom and I had no idea. Well, that’s what she says, anyway…”

“It took almost, let’s see, I was ten when he left, and now I’m 30. 20 years before I knew about you or that my, I mean, our dad was still alive.” Callum’s bitchiness sets in again.

Michael lowers his head. “I’m sorry. I mean it must have been terrible for you, not knowing…”

Callum softens again. “Look, it’s not your fault. It’s just…I feel betrayed you know? We had a good relationship, or so I thought. God, I was only ten. What an asshole.” Callum’s eyes tear up, but he blinks several times to clear them.

Michael reaches his hand out to Callum, but Callum pulls it away.

“Don’t do that. You’re not my friend, okay?”

“I’m sorry, I guess this was a mistake…” Michael gets up to leave.

“Wait, don’t go. I’m the one that should be apologizing. I’m being a prick. Sit down.”

Michael sits.

“I worshipped him. He was a great dad. We did everything together. I don’t know what I did to upset him.”

It was Michael’s turn to become the therapist.

“You didn’t do anything. Dad was great, but he had demons. He used to get really depressed and go off by himself for a while. He didn’t tell us where he was, but he came back as if nothing happened. It was hard on my mom. She almost left him, but I think she stayed because of me. He had high blood pressure and he didn’t take care of himself very well. I think he knew he didn’t have long to live. After he had a few drinks, he would get all tearful and say he was sorry and that he had done some bad things. Things he could never forgive himself for.”

Callum sees for the first time what his dad was really like. He feels empathy for Michael, his mom and Michael’s mom.

“We’re all fucked up one way or another,” Callum says bitterly.

“I’m hoping—well, if it’s okay with you—I mean, can we, you know, see each other sometimes?” Michael looks eagerly at Callum.

“I don’t know, Michael, I honestly don’t know. I have to think about it.”

This time, Callum reaches for Michael’s hand and covers it with his. “Okay?” he asks.

Michael smiles. “Okay.”


The group is winding down, and despite encouragement from Callum, Rosamie and Dale, neither Amanda or Yvonne will do a roleplay speaking to their missing loved ones. They don’t feel comfortable and Callum knew that it wasn’t the right time for them to do it, but he also knew it would happen at some time. Callum had his own roleplay to do with his father, but he wasn’t ready yet either, so there you go!

Dale is more comfortable in his own skin. He has confidence and is less hunched over with minimal shoulder shrugging now. Yvonne and Amanda think he is very brave to have done the roleplay and look at him almost like a hero of sorts. This makes Dale feel good.

Amanda fidgets in her chair. It is clear she wants to say something.

“Amanda, do you want to say something?”

“Well, yes as a matter of fact. I am volunteering—well, I haven’t started yet—but I’m going to volunteer at Covenant House in Vancouver. I’m doing the volunteer training now and then I’ll be able to volunteer with youth that are vulnerable; you know, runaways; drug addicts, that kind of thing…not counselling, of course, but just talking to them, maybe helping them gain some life skills. I realized I’m not doing anything with my life except mourning my daughter. I still love her and want her back, but I need to have some meaning, or else what’s the point?” Amanda looks at Callum with tears in her eyes.

“Wow, Amanda, that’s so great. It’s a wonderful and meaningful purpose. Be kind to yourself when you’re volunteering. Take a step back when you need to; but that’s amazing.”

Amanda blushes over the compliments.

Yvonne puts her hand up.

“Yes, Yvonne.”

“I think that’s great. Amanda and I have my own news. I’m getting a dog. A rescue dog. A little mixed-breed terrier. I found walking in nature has really helped me a lot. I need to keep doing it, so I thought if I got a dog, I’d have to do it. It would make me get out. And also the company. I need something to love. She’s two years old; Daisy is her name. She’s getting spayed, so as soon as she heals, she’ll be mine. Here, I have a picture.” Yvonne takes out her phone and shows the photo of Daisy to everyone.

“Ah, she’s adorable; what a cutie; that’s such a good idea…” everyone speaks at once with their approval.

Dale is next to speak. “Well, I have officially gone off Facebook and Twitter for a while. I refuse to look at those hateful messages anymore. I have some dear friends who are non-judgmental and kind and that’s enough. I also contacted my in-laws. I told them that I was very hurt that they won’t speak to me anymore and I even said I know you think I am responsible for Gail’s disappearance, but it’s not fair to blame me. I love Gail, I want her back, and I will continue to look for her to find out what has happened, but I wanted them to know what their silence has done to me. Well, they didn’t say much, but they have agreed to meet with me, so that’s a start.”

“That’s terrific, Dale. You are taking responsibility, and even if your in-laws don’t want to be a part of your life anymore, you have said your piece and can feel proud of yourself for doing so.” Dale puffs out his chest with pride.

Rosamie claps her hands. “You all do wonderful things. Very proud like you are my family. I also feel better now that I have a plaque for my husband and son on Grouse Mountane. I like to go there quite often and I even make peace with my daughter-in law. I call her to ask if she wants to come with me. I also say I not judge her for having another man in her life. She young and has to carry on. She thanks me and say she will come up soon to see the plaque. She say it very hard for her to remember my son as it make her very sad. So I understand a bit better why she is the way she is.”

Callum beams like a proud father. “You have all come such a long way in this group. This is all your doing. You have taken the tools that were presented to you and used them for your wellbeing and happiness. Well done!!

“I have some news of my own. I will not be leading this group when it comes back in the fall. I have decided to take some time out for myself and do some much-needed work on my own…well, issues…yhe next leader will be Danielle and she is very experienced, kind, compassionate, and I’m sure she’ll be great…”

“But she won’t be you,” Dale says sadly.

“Yeah, it won’t be the same,” Amanda laments.

“Look, I know it’s difficult to deal with change, but it’s necessary sometimes and you’ll pick up information and tools with her that you didn’t with me.” Callum takes a deep breath. “Also, I would like all of you to come with me on another field trip. This is for my healing and I can’t think of any other group of people that I would like to share it with.” Callum sighs deeply, afraid he’ll break down.

A few weeks ago, after his meet up with Michael, Callum wanted to binge eat, purge, and have sex with just about anyone, but amazingly, he didn’t. He turned his phone off, did some yoga and meditation. He took some of his own advice and walked in nature. He walked the seawall and did the climb to the wuarry in Deep Cove. He was exhausted but felt better than he had in years. One night he had a dream about his dad. His dad was walking ahead of him, almost running. Callum was desperately trying to catch up. “Dad, wait,” he called, but his cry fell on deaf ears. He passed his mom, who was asking him to stop, and his half-brother, who was asking him to stop, but Callum kept on going. He woke up in a sweat as if he had been running. Callum decided then and there that he was going to enroll in rehab for his eating disorder and sex addiction. He needed help to deal with his feelings for his dad and his self- sabotaging coping methods. He needed to mend his relationship with his mom and also maybe develop a new relationship with his half-brother. He then called Michael and asked for a favor.


The group is standing on one of the sandy beach areas of the Chilliwack River. It’s breezy, but the sun is out. Lazy clouds float by and the world seems to pause for reflection along this fast-rippling river.

Callum holds a small urn. He closes his eyes and holds his face to the sun, gaining strength from its powerful rays. “I want to thank all of you,” he turns to acknowledge the group, “for coming with me to spread some of my father’s ashes on this river. I used to come here with my dad to fish when I was young. It has a lot of wonderful memories for me. It means a lot to have you here with me and I know you can understand what it’s like to lose someone you love and not know what happened to them. I am lucky to have finally found out his fate, but there is still loss and grief around his death and his deceit. My half-brother was kind enough to give me some of my dad’s ashes. This is a healing and cathartic experience for me.” Callum opens the urn and unties the plastic bag inside. He steps into the river with his rubber boots on. Gently, he turns the urn upside down and the ashes spray out over the river and also some land on himself. Callum laughs at this and brushes them away. He bends over and splashes some water on his coat. The others follow suit and come into the river. Each one holds a flower. Amanda places her flower in the river and watches it float downstream.

“This is for Emily.”

The rest drop their flower in the river. “This is for Gail.”

“This is for Antonio and Rodrigo.”

“This is for Jerry.”

Tears flow along with the flowers and ashes.

Callum whispers “goodbye” to his dad. Without thinking about it, Callum scoops some water up and splashes Dale, who is standing next to him. Dale looks at Callum with uncertainty but sees he is laughing. Dale then splashes Yvonne, who then splashes Rosamie, who then splashes Amanda. They are laughing, splashing each other, and playing like children.

The unforgotten are forgotten just for a brief time.


For all installments of “Unforgotten,” click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1
  2. Part 2