Thoughts rammed Roy’s mind. He leaned to rest his forehead  against the kitchen window. The glass cooled the fire that raged through his head.  Reality is here and now.

Reality was the girls’ laughter heard from beyond a sheer pane of glass. What about the children? Roy stood at the window and watched his daughters skip about the yard. Annie darted in and out from behind the weathered garage, her fist balled tight. Hidden within  was found treasure- a smooth stone, a feather, or some lost  bits of nature. Waving her fist, she teased Madeline, tempted her to join in a game of tag- winner take all. Of course, Madeline ignored the bait, choosing instead to pause and wonder at the creature she had discovered crawling along the bark of the cherry tree.

Earlier that morning, Jacqueline had asked, ” The old man wants to know. When are you painting the garage?”

“I’ll paint it on the first sunny day,” he had said.  And why does she always refer to her father as The Old Man?

Here it was. Full sun. The old man had already scraped the cedar boards and replaced the rot. 

There was work to do. Instead, he paused and watched Madeline pick a wriggling caterpillar from the cherry tree and dangle it in front of her nose. Gently, she placed the creature back onto the trunk. Madeline’s cat like eyes followed the caterpillar’s journey until it had roamed beyond reach. Annoyed, she crossed her arms tightly about her chest and lowered her head.

Birds flit everywhere. Robins, chickadees, and swallows glided to rest upon the tree’s branches. Lifting their wings just a bit, each bird let the sun’s warmth kiss their feathers. It was the season of transformation and just as spring announces change, he too, was in flux.

Annie skipped across the lawn like an inbound storm. Her arms reached for the branches of the tree, her fingers batting blossoms. Pure joy shone from her face. “Pink snow, pink snow!” He watched her pick the fallen blossoms from Madeline’s hair.

It was enough to witness Annie’s bewitching charm. She blew kisses to the clouds, danced with ghosts, her arms outstretched as she spun. He worried that her imagination was getting out of hand; she lived in her head.

“You need to reign her in,” he had told Jacqueline. “All this talk of fairies and-“ 

“Leave her be.” “Imagination is a gift.” 

He had watched as Jacqueline resumed her painting. Roses, their petals drooped cloud white, spilled overtop a round, golden vase. This morning, she had added leaves, tucked them in between the buds. He marvelled at her talent. 

“She needs to play with other children-,“ he had said.

Jacqueline froze mid brush stroke. “Enough. There are kids from one end of the block to the other.”  The brush, loaded with bluish paint, dropped to the pallet. Her fingers reached for  a cigarette.

“There’s a private nursery school up the street, ” he said.  “I think- ”

Jacqueline lit her smoke and paused to exhale. “It costs money, Roy. You paying?”

The loaded question she  left hanging in air, suggested that her father was the all time giver, the reason they weren’t renting some basement suite on the east side. Her tone certain; Jacqueline had a limited interest in the opinion of someone who had just married into the family.  

 

My sister asked, “Do you remember that morning at the beach?”
 How could I  forget?
A memory of us. Two children lost in fantasy, tiny feet dancing as the ocean kissed the sand. Accidental twins, our small bodies snuggled in white hoodies.
“You took a stick and drew a huge circle,” she said,
I remember.
“I drew a circle to protect us.”
I see her step inside the circle. She is careful not to smudge the rounded edges.
The circle was our make shift island. A sanctuary, both too young to appreciate, paused moments are fleeting. We didn’t know of danger.
The universe knew. Two sprites and a majestic sea. Brave and shivering as the winds blew. A shipwrecked dinghy, marooned on the sand. Their stick, an oar.
It was as if our mere survival depended on circles.
Circles were everywhere throughout our world. We scampered through dense forests, our hard backs kissed by a honeyed sun. When night fell, two wolf pups mapped the stars and howled beneath a buttery moon.
We studied planets. Ever curious, our questions wheeled with ‘whys.’ Never sure, we chased certainty’s tail, passionate in our quest for truth.
We embraced circles. In the 70’s it was mandalas, knotted bandanas about our heads, and bracelets upon our wrists. We drove cars round blocks, cities, and countries, always to circle back home.
We are all circles.  The whorls on our fingertips, the irises of our eyes, our DNA cells, to the egg that gave us life.
 She asked, “Will life break us apart?”
“Never,” I said. ” If we drift apart, we’re returned by centrifugal force and universal law. Our fingers, forever tangled by an invisible thread that binds.”
She reaches for my hand.
Our circle is strong.

Fathers and Daughters

 

I’ll cradle you in my arms like a small child sleeping

Holding fast to your lost flesh

Your once muscular body, feather- weight, gone

Your heart beat, silent

As I carry your ashes home

Where is home?

An island, Vancouver, Toronto, Australia?

It is anywhere we were, anywhere we are.

 

It is time to set you free

To know with certainty, you’ll return

In a child’s gentle touch or a stranger’s crooked smile

In a fairy tale mention of an ever- after land

In a scotch and water moment.

 

I am resolute; I’ll find the perfect spot

To lay you down to rest

A place where first light surprises darkness

On the razor edge of time

When Moon kissed Sun.

 

A sturdy tree your marker, a shelter from the wind

Yes, I remember. You sailed through storms.

A tree trunk to support me

As I collapse into the folds

The strength I seek, not found

I loved this man who died.

 

My charm, a ruthless hunter

I wish you back to life

My arms an anchor hitch to hold your heart

I beg you, “Say it.”

Speak the words you kept from me

In turn I’ll share a moment

Of a time you slept unaware

I whispered in your ear,”You are a good man.”

I kissed your forehead

Walked into our good-bye.

 

You say, “Hush.”

Rain mixes with our tears; I bow my head and crumble

And tell you, the years have been long

That I miss us; I’m sorry and know that you are, too

I speak love over and over

Love. Love. Love.

Until we believe it

Until you show it

 

You’re not here.

 

My fingers claw the earth

To find each broken bit that was once you

I’ll assemble you from pieces, return you to the day

Hold on closer than before

I ask you, wait for me.

 

Time has made me wiser

Aware of all I’ve lost

So I’ll tuck you in a pocket

Make you of myself.

 

And when it’s hard to sleep

I’ll offer you back to the night

Toss you to the sky

Sing a lullaby to the stars: this man with the gentle soul,

bless his broken heart.

 

My words form our story

Tender lyrics soothe your soul

A song of mercy

Sung from the book of grace

And I won’t forget to finish that which you could not:

to remember to hold each other up.

 

You must leave

I hear the rustle of wings, marvel at your strength

You glance back, see me wave

Soar heavenward.

 

The eyes of the deer watch me

I close my eyes to pray

Lift my palms skyward and whisper,

“This is the holding of a father and his daughter.”

 

It is time to leave you

See. I am walking away with all of my strength

I am almost there.

 

I am singing. If you listen you will hear me.

x

 

~ Family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alice Reflects

This is a “flashback” written in “Alice’s” POV. She is in the kitchen, recalls her son. Hope you enjoy reading this passage.

Alice stood in the kitchen and gazed through the window. It was oddly quiet for five o’clock, suppertime. The children from the neighbouring yard were silent. Thank God, she mused. Most afternoons, the neighbour’s offspring tussled and tumbled about the fence line. Their play stretched on for hours. Out of control crossed her mind. This thought from a woman who believed children should be seen and not heard. Alice lit the stove’s burner, felt the heat leap forth to warm her cold hand. She dropped the matchstick. All day she’d felt chilled, out of sorts.

She thought about when she’d gazed into the mirror earlier that morning, when she’d seen the face of an unrecognizable woman reflected back. Lines formed around the corners of her once bright eyes. Were the lines deeper? Silver threads edged along her hairline. Who was this time-worn woman who reflected back?

Focus on the task at hand, she reminded herself as she reached beneath the oven door and pulled out the warming drawer. Fingers searched through metal baking sheets until they felt the familiar handle of the blackened frying pan. This action caused her to smile. She recalled a memory from two years ago. Had it been two years? It was the day Roy unexpectedly returned home, catching the two sisters by surprise. The now faded mental image of her sister, Molly, as she held the heavy cast iron pan like a shield for protection, was comical.

Always, Roy haunted her thoughts. That was the reason Alice so often felt out of sorts and irritable. When he snuck into her head, she got busy. Placing the frying pan onto the stove element, she carefully poured out the correct amount of oil, just enough to brown the waiting onions. Soon the heady scent of caramelized onions filled the tiny room. Alice trimmed a small cut of beef and added it to the pan. As she stirred the mixture, the meat sizzled and browned. Cooking comforted her, gave purpose and routine to each day. It was just the two of them now. Did she mean anything, anymore to her husband?

She recalled Roy’s last visit home, checked the tallies on the new calendar that hung beside the telephone. When last year’s addition ran out, she added the number 365 to the present copy. It was exactly two years and fifteen days ago. The calendar protected the evidence, an ink mark scrawled through each day that passed, signs of her son’s absence. Proof that he was remembered.

Alice didn’t know how to fix her broken family, didn’t realize that it was simple. Shame and pride beat her down. Was she a good enough mother? Pride demanded she hold her head high and whispered back, you were.

Unconvinced, Alice thought about the last time she sat with Roy, remembered the bottled up anger that simmered in silence as they sipped tea. When Roy had left, he slammed the back door. She had noticed, even winced as the door hit the frame. After such a loud exit, Molly startled, hurried to the front door to wave goodbye to her nephew. As he roared off on his flashy motorcycle, Molly had quietly shut the door and marched back into the kitchen. She saw her sister, the cup poised mid-air.

“Alice.”

Stone faced, Alice set her cup onto the saucer and turned toward her older sister.

“Did you have to be so aloof?”

Alice tightened. Molly noticed her sister’s purposeful silence. At last, Alice commented,

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“Of course you do, Alice. You didn’t say a meaningful word to the lad.”

Molly moved closer to the table, positioned herself directly in front of her younger sister.

“Roy comes home, after two years gone and all you can do is sit silent, sipping tea?”

Alice set her jaw, looked away.

“It was Roy’s choice to leave in the first place, “Alice said.

Enraged, Molly grabbed her sister’s wrist, a bit too hard. It hurt. Her words bit Alice.

“For the love of Mike, Alice. Everyone makes mistakes. Including you.”

Alice felt her cheeks warm at Molly’s comment, a reminder of a past she would rather forget. A secret they shared. She shook free of Molly’s grip.

Molly continued, “No one sent you away.”

Alice bristled, “I didn’t send Roy away.”

Molly’s words flew back, “You never gave him a reason to stay.”

A Tribute to a Lady

My Mother A beautiful lady. I've always felt my Mom resembles the actress and playwright, Isabella Rossellini.
My Mother
A beautiful lady. I’ve always felt my Mom resembles the actress and playwright, Isabella Rossellini.

 

It used to drive me crazy as a teen.

“Tell me what you think, Mom. What should I do?”

Mom would set aside her paint brush, focus her dark eyes upon mine and shrug.

Her comment was always,

“It doesn’t matter what I think; it’s what you think that counts. Think for yourself.”
Brush strokes filled a canvas.

Think for yourself. Three words that held power. Wielding clout to the choices I made.

It was my responsibility to stand at the crossroad and choose the right path. Successes and failures were mine alone to shoulder.

Mother insisted I decide my fate. There were moments in life when I begged her~ tell me, guide me, shield me, and help me. Anything, as I stood alone at the intersection called Life, and clutched an empty suitcase.

“Buck up,” she’d say, “Life’s not a party and it sure as hell isn’t fair.”

Her words, sage lyrics spoken from the heart of a beautiful, brave woman. A lady who learned late the skill set necessary to navigate through the unpredictable forests of life. She understood I was ill prepared, too fearful to fly. So she pushed me.

When lost, my mother’s words take the helm and whisper, Think for yourself. I promise you, the answer is within. Automatically my compass resets.

The Universe sets us down, gives us what we need to deal, in a lifetime. A talisman of courage when we cower, a nudge to stand tall when another breaks us down, the sparkle of beauty amidst ruins and light to shine through darkness.

This Mother’s Day I honour you, Mom. I learned to fly.

Retrospection

My lately~ has been retrospective; maybe you can relate. This morning I attacked the basement, cleaning and placing loose photos and memories into their corresponding scrapbooks with hope that one day these bits of memory will be meaningful for family. I came across a memoir of sorts, once tossed into a box, given to me by a much missed “aunt.” In it: a family’s story,the lives and loves of a family line.
It was handed to me as the keeper of sorts, in the hope that one day I would share these stories with my own children. I was too young to appreciate the message then. Instead of cleaning I opened the binder and read. What struck me was the constant thread of hope; that even in difficult circumstances, family hung on- together. This family’s story rode through tough times, loss brought them closer and their lives grew richer. They reached out, included one another, always for their children, and valued time with each other. Their circle grew stronger.
More than anything I have sought to hold family close. My wish is that one day, family will be cleaning up their basements and pick up a binder or memory box. I hope they read the stories of family or touch the items, hold to hope and love. May the message come to them at just the right moment; give them reason to pause and remember, there is

nothing that love can’t conquer.

Love Grows

Winter House created by mixed media artist, Nicholas Brancati

This beautiful image created by mixed media artist, Nicholas Brancati~ www.nicholasbrancati.com
There is a reason that this piece captured my eye and resonated with my heart. Winter House is the inspiration for the following story, Love Grows.

Loves Grows is still in draft form; I hope you enjoy reading it. I apologize for the editing issues I am experiencing this evening.

Love Grows
The insignificant house was a typical style of the Depression era.It sat on a large lot in the east end of the city. A passerby wouldn’t pay much attention to the austere structure or frugal design. The owner didn’t mind; she knew hardship and so invented occasional fun and games. There weren’t many luxuries. The whimsy that the now fashionable term, curb appeal conjures, didn’t exist. At least not in the east end neighbourhood where she lived.
“Curb appeal?”
The petite woman would have narrowed her eyes, tossed her bobbed locks with a look of scorn. Curb appeal? Nail back the tipped window shutter, cut the grass with a push mower, and plant a wee pansy garden aside the brick path. Nothing fancy. No one could afford, fanciness.Everyone worked hard just to get by.
At the back of the house, a detached garage stood off of the lane way. It greeted the man of the house when he returned from toiling away at the Black Brother’s garden shop. Their car, along with gas cans and tools, sat inside the garage. Only necessary items used for basic maintenance and repair. If he couldn’t fix something broken, a neighbour could. That’s how it was back then.
If you entered from the lane side you would see an enclosed structure attached to the main house. It bumped out, an after thought to the home’s straight lines. This was the woman’s cold porch. The room was never warmed except for a small free- standing heat machine that they brought out to thwart the winter’s chill. Two small, single pane windows graced the add-on structure; one situated high, under the eaves of the roof and one above the side back door. Slivers of light slipped through the windows during the late afternoon affording a glimpse of the kitchen. The occasional miscreants would attempt to jimmy open this vulnerable backdoor window. Usually she would hear them first and create such a commotion that the thieves would skedaddle empty fisted.
The woman was passionate about growing cacti. Every morning, after the last breakfast dish rattled from sink to wooden shelf, she would pat her hands on the front of her cotton apron and prepare to be enchanted by their simple beauty. It was her little ritual of sorts, harmless, inexpensive, a blessing to each routine day. She always began by dashing a tablespoon of malted Ovaltine powder into a floral tea- cup. The woman enjoyed this harmless luxury. There was time to fuss about and wait for the kettle to boil. Opening the door to the cold room, she let the fleeing warmth from the kitchen’s stove drift to mingle and mix with the cool porch air. A kettle’s whistle broke through the silence of mid morning, her signal to prepare.
“I’ll be along soon, darlings.”
Loving words whispered to the cacti that patiently waited upon the wooden shelves,their segments green and dangly. They were an odd assortment; some graced tin cans while others grew from clay pots.They were multiplying, taking over the small space. The woman paused at the door and giggled. She imagined someone observing her movements, listening to her silly banter.Imagine chatting to cacti. They’ll be coming to take me away, she mused and turned her attention back toward the stove. The element clicked off and she poured the steamy water into a waiting tea- cup. The silver teaspoon swirled about as the malt grains mixed with the boiling liquid; ten stirs exactly. A precise woman, details mattered to her.
The woman turned her attention to the job at hand. The cacti patiently waited.
Lifting her woollen sweater from the coat rack, she placed the garment around her shoulders, blanketed comfort from the forthcoming change in temperature. She carried the steaming cup of warmth to the cold porch room, set it atop the workbench and turned her attention to the silent darlings. She called them by name.
“Ah~ Charlie. You’re drooping on the side.” The woman’s gentle touch plucked off and discarded the withering bits that hung limply over the metal can. She walked the length of the room, caressed each plant. Some she propagated into a new vessel; others she rearranged to take advantage of sunlight. This obsession with cacti continued for years.
It was many years later when I got the concerned call from her neighbour.
“You must come quickly. The porch light was on for two days. This is most unusual. I have a bad feeling.”
The mid afternoon sun had just passed over my grandmother’s small house. My eye caught the shutter that had dislodged from the nail, something else to do, another fix. I knocked on the front door. The familiar sound of her, “tootle loo,” now silent.
Footsteps flew along the brick path to the back of the house. Pounding the wooden frame, I begged her, answer. A sliver of mid-day light edged through the glass above the door frame, illuminating a glimpse of the tiny kitchen.  I sensed she was gone.
I closed my eyes, imagined it went like this. My grandmother woke and dressed for the day as was the routine for over eighty years. On this morning she chose her finest clothes, a sheer champagne coloured blouse and a grey blue skirt. She took an extra moment to choose a piece of precious jewelry from the velvet box that sat on top of the oak dresser. She centred the Mother of Pearl broach under the collar of her blouse. Fingers eased the pin curls loose and patted the strands into place. She lifted a cardigan from the bed frame, slipped her arms through the sleeves, checked the time on the watch she kept safety pinned to the underside. Just enough time.
Once inside the kitchen, she walked to the shelf beside the sink and lifted down the china teacup, the one with cabbage roses, her favourite. Opening the cupboard beside the refrigerator, she removed the Ovaltine jar and set it upon the table. Moving on to the pantry cupboard she opened the lid on the wooden box filled with silver and lifted out a tea sized silver spoon. I wondered if she felt a presence.
I imagined my grandmother turning the stove’s element on and waiting for the kettle to boil. As the kettle’s whistle signalled time, she switched off the element and carefully poured the boiling liquid into the china teacup. Lifting the silver spoon, she gently swirled it around and around the cup, ten times to mix the malt powder with water. She lifted her woollen sweater from the coat rack in the hall and draped it over her sloping shoulders; her feeble fingers lifted the china teacup. Footsteps shuffled to the cold porch room.
There was time to fuss over her darlings. Returning to the kitchen, she set the china teacup on top of the table, eased into an armchair, nestled her head against the velvet back and closed her eyes.
I imagine she noticed the light; it shone brighter than ever. She followed it, shielded her eyes from the brilliance that blinded. A familiar hand reached forth to grasp hers. She saw her sister. They walked on through time and space.
Later that afternoon I took one item from her home. I carried my newborn child into the cold porch room and stood still within the silence. I asked for forgiveness for not being there to hold her hand before she left. Tin cans and clay pots of cacti lined the wooden shelves, an altar’s offering. The air was cool and the room shadowed. I lifted one cactus from the shelf, walked out through the back porch door, shut it behind me. I could not look back.
For the first two winters the lone cactus baffled and bloomed. The first year, the reddish pink petals that burst from the ends of the segments delighted, like the joy felt when handed an impromptu gift. On the winter anniversary of the third year the cactus stopped blooming.
Twenty-nine years have passed since the day I stood in my grandmother’s cold porch room and lifted an unsuspecting cactus from the shelf. The newborn babe I held in my arms that midmorning has grown to adulthood. This simple cactus sits high, atop a painted wooden hutch. Its segments catch the slivers of midmorning sunlight. It isn’t much, our cactus, yet it bears witness to the stories of us, the cherished bits and bobs. Sometimes as I sit writing these stories from a life, I imagine my grandmother’s presence in the room. I sense the brush of her touch on my hair. I sense the cactus rustle as her spirit passes by and I know that love grows if we nurture it.

Believe

Long ago, I stood at the window, my small fingers crossed. I prayed for snow to fall. A child who believed that with some divine intervention, she could will the fluffy flakes to float from the heavens above.
My hand lifted the iron latch, pushed the window open a crack. I leaned into the space. Cold air kissed my cheek. Stillness lingered and paused within the eerie morning’s quiet breaths. Tall, gnarly branches of oak canopied the street. The oaks waited too. Waited for snow to dress them in winter finery.
A voice broke through the silence.
“Hurry up girls,” our mother commanded, “We’re leaving in thirty minutes!”
Time meant nothing to me then. Yet, this morning I had reason to dash.
Mother was taking us to see the annual Christmas displays. I recalled the twinkling lights and little elves dressed in red and green that bustled about Santa’s miniature village. It was the reindeer I coveted. How do they fly?
“It’s magic,” our mother said.
Quickly my sister and I ran to the hall cupboard, opened it and grabbed our newly sewn velvet coats.
“Where’s my fur hat?” I asked.
Scrambling through the corners of the dark hall cupboard, I retrieved the faux fur hidden beneath my father’s plaid scarf. The hat was a gift; the muffler disappeared at school.
“Found it!” I cried out.
I watched my sister; her small fingers struggled to slip the shiny buttons through the stitched openings.

Gently,I took her hand and showed her how. We slipped stocking feet into fur-lined rubber boots, momentarily teetering, off-balance from the weight of our outerwear. My sister and I stood in the doorway; two winter snow-babies waiting for snowflakes to tumble.
Our mother, wrapped in Persian lamb, led the way as we headed toward the bus stop at the end of the block. As we waited for the 41st Street bus to appear, I looked up and peeked through the canopy of tangled branches that crisscrossed overhead. An empty nest sat tucked within a nook of hardwood. I wondered if Santa would leave a small gift for the birds to open when they returned in the spring. Perhaps a pine cone adorned with a strand of tinsel snagged from a glittering cast off Christmas tree.
The bus rolled up to the curb, we clambered on board, dropped our coins into the cash slot and took our seats.
“Hold on, Grace,” my mother tipped her head toward the shiny pole. As the bus lurched forward, my fingers held the metal pole, the other hand wrapped around my sister’s small one.
We watched as passengers came and went about the business of life. Near the end of the line, a dapper man stepped aboard. He wore a top hat and wrinkled pin stripe suit.
“Ladies,” he nodded and tipped his hat.
In one hand, he held a scuffed leather briefcase; in the other he held a bouquet of bud roses, white as fallen snow.
A second man stepped aboard; the white whiskers on his chin visible. His threadbare overcoat patched at the elbows. A red scarf scrunched about his neck. As he passed by I caught the acrid, heavy scent of cigarettes. Golden fingertips gripped the metal pole. When he smiled at us, there were dark spaces where teeth should have been. I looked away.
It seemed to take forever to reach our destination. As we rose to exit the bus, the man with the whiskers spoke,
“Merry Christmas,” he said and reached into his deep pocket, pulled out two wrapped candy canes, and grinned a toothless smile. My sister and I hesitated. The man smiled and reached deep into the other pocket and pulled out a plastic angel. Golden wings glinted and gleamed.
“This you must share,” he murmured. He reached out and handed the angel to me.
“Say thank you, girls,” our mother said.
“Thank you,” we whispered.
He nodded, “Merry Christmas, children. Don’t ever forget that once someone did something kind for you”
I gingerly stepped from the bus, a candy cane clutched within one small fist; a sugared angel twinkled in the other. How would I manage to share such a treasure?
Once again my mother took the lead and hustled us along to the Christmas displays. The miniature Winter Town hummed and bustled, alive with visions and sound. Holiday songs punctuated the scene. Candlelight shone through a small window as an elf stationed at a workbench hammered wheels onto a train. Another elf stood alongside and wrapped a gift. He placed it atop the growing pile of presents from Santa.
Bells jingled and lights twinkled, snow blew from a machine and dusted our boots. It was the reindeer I had come to see. They lay upon hay; their thick whitish coats brushed and glossed, their velvet antlers strong and upright. At the peak of the stable hung an angel, a heavenly guardian hovered overhead.
We heard the sleigh bells jangle and the familiar chortle of Santa’s low voice as he boomed,
“Ho, Ho, Ho! Merry Christmas!”
Who wouldn’t believe in wishes that come true, magic, heavenly beings and a hope for snow?
***
That was a beautiful moment so long ago. The wondering child rarely surfaces anymore; the woman is grown. Time is fleeting now; it rushes by her. She remembers the man on the bus; recalls his curious words,
“Don’t ever forget that once someone did something kind for you.”
Grace still doesn’t understand human nature; choosing to believe in goodness. She understands the science behind snow, the necessary ingredients of weather systems. Still, every December she pauses at the window, opens it just a crack. She leans in toward the opening and waits. For what you ask? For the cold wind to kiss her cheek, for those first flakes to fall, for that magical feeling of love to wrap itself around her, for an act of compassion or a kindness shared, for Santa to arrive, and for peace on earth. Believe.
IMG_1907

Strength in Struggle

 

 

Charles grew up working class poor. There wasn’t much money. Emigrating from England with parents and two sisters, settling in a small, bleak town. Land was available and his father saw an opportunity, the chance for more. The land harsh, unforgiving; the family scrapped on.

 

People living off the bleak land didn’t have much in the way of extras; if they did, they shared with another. They tirelessly toiled, hand to mouth, along with sent up prayers. Religion played an important role in their lives; they buried sweet babies in the local cemetery.

 

Charles lived respecting the principles of family, stay loyal and inclusive of one another. In later years, he dutifully went to his sister’s side to help a child she bravely and lovingly sheltered from an institution’s walls.

 

There was military service, an opportunity to travel and fight for freedom in the larger world. Charles believed in worker’s rights and fought to unionize railway workers. He stood alongside the great Tommy Douglas, a Canadian leader, carrying forth the hope and promise of social medicare.

 

My grandfather Charles was the quietest and gentlest of men. Through simple acts of kindness, small actions filled with compassion, I watched him and learned how to treat others. He watched over our mother, checking in on her; he loved us. His eyes could see the words we never expressed; his heartbeat strong when we faltered. We knew.

 

A fleeting presence in life, Charles was one of the first social responsibility role models I knew. Stand up, be brave, be kind, are actions he’d support. Sometimes, I imagine him seated at my table. Charles removes his felt fedora and pushes back a strand of hair; his starched white shirt, sleeves rolled to show just a peek of a mermaid’s tail on a forearm, a tattoo from long ago. I smile at the sight of red suspenders, a signature piece he wears clipped to the waistline of pressed khaki pants. Polished boots, the leather gleaming will rest for a spell.

 

We drink a cup of tea; Charles loved tea time. Sugar biscuits, Alice’s favourite, shine waiting on a floral china saucer. He sips and swallows the steeped brew. After a moment or two, I will update him on the comings and goings of life; he will hang his head. When he looks up, his misty eyes will focus upon mine. We know.

 

“It’s okay,” I say.

In that instant we both look away; we know it isn’t.

 

Charles will leave; time is fleeting. Life unrolls. One day I  open a newspaper to read an article about a brave action, a loyal stance; a union’s notice lending support for worker’s rights. I sit within the loving circle of family and friends, safe and valued. I’ve learned to listen to the pause between heartbeats; it is there in that fleeting space where he stands beside me.

We know.

It Was Love

Lately I awaken, the dream remnants lingering cast like a veil over form. An unanswered question hovers. Pushed aside, betrayed; shame surfaces. The frightened young woman deep within whispers, I must be flawed, something is wrong with me. The adult reasons, Perhaps not. Perhaps it was as simple as you didn’t fit in anymore.

 

I am his daughter, patiently holding silences. Chosen memories safe, I snug the precious moments, choosing to believe magical qualities endure. Perhaps not, perhaps fooled into believing an illusion of love.

 

I want to let him go; there are moments I turn and face the skies, a silent scream of anger for one who betrayed. Believing words that ring hollow. Never an illusion the memories stay, resurfacing at the moment between something to believe in and nothing. The unanswered question remains.

 

It is hard to trust. Pausing to view the world, once I ran to greet it, cautious now. Someone said,

“Find a way to let it go.”

When I find that way, it will be final. The world will darken a shade as I face the truth.

A hardened heart will alter. So you see, I hold on to him, cherish what I knew, all for a belief in love; I loved him so.