I clicked from picture to picture, link to link, scrolling through text and images looking for a glimpse of my father.
I read through obituaries (finally finding the one that I had written–poorly, I might add) and medical research…pages upon pages of research… his name attached to professional papers with titles about immunoglobin something or other and C3 proteins. I even found a handwritten census from 1942.
I kept going, a gnawing sense of familiarity in this search made me uncomfortable.
Finally the Google search: “Howard University College of Medicine” brought me to the archived yearbooks. I had been looking for traces of my father’s existence and finally, finally, there was an archive open to me, without a fee attached. Howard University Yearbook, The Bison. There it was. My clicks were a little faster. I searched “Roger Spitzer–Roger E Spitzer—Roger Earl Spitzer” and each time the message popped up instantly: no pages found. I tried every date I could think of…maybe I had my dates mixed up? I searched the yearbooks 1960…61…59…63? The date I knew was 1962, but with no trace of my father anywhere in this digitally archived yearbook, I was, quite suddenly and without warning, questioning everything. Was this another one of his elaborate lies? Was this another story spun out of control, family lore that bore little resemblance to reality? My clicks were becoming frantic, no longer seeking out details, but now just needing confirmation. In a moment of haste, I downloaded the entire 1962 Howard University Yearbook to my school issued computer. All 302 unsecured pages. Every last potentially virus-ladened bit of it.
I enlarged the text and started to look carefully, turning the pages electronically and watching the brown faces float across my screen. I got to the end and stared, disbelievingly, at the back cover. How was this possible? I went back to the table of contents. I went back to the college of medicine. I looked again. Slower this time. And there he was. Page 234. In the upper right hand corner, just above Joseph Evans Sutton, Jr. There he was, looking remarkably like my older brother.
In that instant, I was reassured that my father was who he said he was. He hadn’t embellished his medical school education. His enrollment was not a fabrication. This was something that was, in fact, true.