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December 05 , 2009

In My Father's Shadow


My name is Cameron Pierce Vincennes but everyone calls me Cam and I'm 11 years old. I’m a student of my father. I don’t mean that he’s my teacher (although he has often been) but rather that I have spent a lot of time studying him to try to figure out who and what he is.

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Shea Rafferty ran away from home when he was 16, his only destination "out west". Until, after almost 2000 miles of walking with only his pit bull, Fergus, and a black kitten, Clancy, for companionship, he saw in New Mexico a band of about 40 wild horses, mostly gray and white and roan and buckskin with a few bays and sorrels, manes and tails…

If you are a fan of films or auto racing, you’ve probably heard of him. His name is Rafe Vincennes (Rafael Alain Vincennes, if you want to get technical). He’s won the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship three times. His movies all go to number one. He recently finished filming a western flick, called Falcon’s Nest. He doesn’t like acting though and only makes a film now and
then as a favor to Mom.

When you read articles about him, the writers always make a point of saying how sexy he is. It’s hard for a kid to think about his father being sexy so I’m going to include a description they used in People Magazine one time.

“Rafe Vincennes is tall and lean and brown as a gypsy, with a graceful, almost feline way of moving that brings to mind a black panther – a panther that perhaps is only making a pretense of being domesticated. His hair is raven black and a little long; an appealing lock of it dangles onto his forehead. If you are a woman (or a gay man), you probably have to resist the urge to brush it back for him. His midnight eyes are compelling, but at the same time, send a signal that it might not be quite safe to plumb their dark depths. As you have these disquieting thoughts, one black brow arches in gentle mockery, as if he knows exactly what you’re thinking. The brow arch is followed by a gleaming white smile which crosses his chiseled tan face so quickly, you spend the rest of your time together waiting for its return.
In short, if someone asked me to define sex appeal, I’d ask, “have you ever met Rafe Vincennes?”

You probably know my mother, Rhiannon, too. She’s one of those people so famous they only have to use one name, like Madonna and Cher. She’s been voted “the most beautiful woman in the world” several years in a row. She is medium height and slender with a tangle of sable hair (that she mostly pulls back in a pony tail when she’s home) and smoky gray eyes. Her mouth is full with a little beauty mark beside it. She’s been a Hollywood star since before I was born. She’s won two Academy Awards. So, you’re probably wondering, why am I writing about my Dad instead of my Mom?

It’s because, although my mother is special too, it’s in a normal way. I know to her fans and the media, she’s considered glamorous but to us, she’s just Mom. Not like Dad. He’s anything but normal. In our galaxy, Mom is the earth – familiar and reliable and nurturing. Our housekeeper, Delight, is the moon, keeping us all on an even keel. And I guess my twin sister, Ciara and I, are satellites, circling around and dependent on the others.

But Dad, well, Dad is our sun and we are sun-worshippers. Without him, the light would go out of our world. Sort of scary, huh? Especially considering that he isn’t the most reliable in some ways. You never feel you truly own Dad, only that he loans a part of himself to you. I think we have the biggest piece, me and Mom and CeeCee, but every one of us (probably Mom, especially) worries sometimes that he could take it into his head to drift off to another solar system some day.

He seems to understand this low-grade anxiety we all have because he tries to reassure us that it isn’t so, but no matter how much he swears he’ll never leave us, he’s still a sun and everyone knows suns don’t play by the same rules as everyone else. No one even expects them to.

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