In his poignant memoir, Charles Foran presents a portrait of his gruff-but-fond father wrestling with the end of life as Charlie acts as witness, solace, and would-be guide while facing his own mortality. What story can we tell ourselves and those we love, this radiant book asks, to withstand the inevitable mutability of time and self? A powerful meditation on fathers and sons, love and loss, and what it means to be alive "just once, no more."
Dave Foran was a formidable man of few words, from a different era than his sensitive, literary son, Charlie. As a younger person, Dave had lived alone for months in the bush, overcome snow blindness, hauled a dead body across a frozen lake on a dogsled, dodged bullets in a bar, and gone toe-to-toe with a bear. Some aspects of his life were rollicking while others were more restrained: A decent father and a devoted husband, Dave was also emotionally distant, prone to laconic cynicism and a changeable mood. As Charlie writes: “He struggled most days of his life with wounds he could not readily identify, let alone heal."
The year Charlie turned 55, his 83-year-old father began a slow, final decline, and Charlie surprised himself by wanting to write about their relationship. On the surface, his motiavation was to reassure his father that he was loved. But there was also a deeper desire at work. “Late into the middle of my own lifespan,” Charlie writes, “sadness took hold of my being . . . I wanted to say so frankly, never mind how uncomfortable it made me.”
In spare, haunting prose, Just Once, No More pulls on these delicate threads—unravelling a fascinating personal story and revealing its poignant universality.