In a couple of weeks the house was set in place, a new attic and roof added thanks to retired church members in the area. Retired from farming, not church, that is.
Grandma Trudy joined every church committee and refused to consider going back to the country to tend to whatever remained of her old garden.
I won’t give you any excuse, she said, pointing a Safeway carrot at Grandpa’s head one evening just before supper. Especially after cutting off the top of my precious house. Look at this place, it’s never going to be the same. The bottom half doesn’t match the top no matter what we do. We’re the laughing stock of the whole neighbourhood. The whole neighbourhood!
This happened after Grandma found out about what was wrong with Grandpa’s head. I thought she would be nicer to him but things seemed to go even worse. She even started to call him names. Grandpa stopped smiling.
The two of us went onto the porch in the back, but he didn’t feel like talking much. The neighbour’s house was forty feet away and he said the young married couple living there had big ears for Catholics.
But Grandpa did say he was dying to get back to the country so he could clear his mind a little. Grandma wouldn’t let him. Mainly he was supposed to sit on the couch and pop aspirin. But then he started getting pains up and down his arms and he went into the hospital for observation.
He wants to see you, Grandma told me later that afternoon. (more…)
The hospital TV room soon became our second home. Day after day, prayer after prayer. People came from all over, some even as far away as Saskatoon and Regina.
In the meantime, Grandpa Albert couldn’t get much time with Frank alone. So he took me home and we walked out along the coulee looking for coyote tracks or wild strawberries, not saying much because Grandpa said, Hey, there’s not much we can say.
But I didn’t mind. The strawberries were sweet and the dog was fun to watch bouncing along on its three legs, pissing in gopher holes.
A week later the hospital phoned and said it finally, finally happened.
Grandpa Albert came into the living room and said, Well, that’s that.
After the funeral, which was held at Temple Baptist Church in town three days later, the preacher took Trudy aside and said, I think you’d benefit being closer to God.
Trudy looked at Grandpa trying to catch his breath walking up the stairs of the church and knew that moving to town, moving closer to the church, to the support of church-going people, might be the only thing that could save them. After all, she wanted Grandpa around in the afterlife too.
This brings us to the night of the fight, complete with the Bible throwing incident. You see, it started off innocently enough. Grandma made a great meal of venison, stewed with potatoes and sweet apples.
A lovely meal fit for a king, she said sweetly to Grandpa. (more…)
I can still see Grandma Trudy in the kitchen, praying and reading from her special Bible the size of a turkey. She prayed so loud most bugs were coming out of the house, not going in.
Good for us, said Grandpa, bad for us too. I mean, we gotta go in there some time too. Plus we’re getting eaten alive with all these goddamn bugs.
This was the night of their big fight. The night Grandma Trudy threw the Bible at her husband for daring to suggest God could be found in the emptiness around the farm. Grandpa rubbed his head where he got whacked by the King James version. Just above his left or right ear. I saw some of this from the crack of the bedroom door. It was around midnight and the wind had picked up. A howling owl, I thought and now rethink.
This was the night after Great-Uncle Frank’s funeral, five weeks after my grandpa’s beloved brother fell over from who-knows-what while throwing bales onto the John Deere’s front-end loader. Within two weeks he was flat on his ass in a coma. The doctor said, Something popped in his brain and he’s probably not coming back, so don’t hold your breath. A stroke, probably.
I went to the hospital and watched my Great-Uncle Frank struggling to breathe. Behind us in the hall, Grandma Trudy prayed with Edith and Murray. Not praying for Frank’s health or a miracle, but for God to have mercy, pity on his poor soul.
Come now, come now in our time of need, take this soul, take our offering, come now, come now, please, Jesus, she whispers, we just honour you … Jesus, we just love you….
Wejus Jesus prayers, Grandpa said. They’re always the worst. (more…)
As I grow older, my sisters question this bit of inside information. How I know this man knew about his condition. How I know he made this trip down Road 231 with blood vessels about to spread hell through his mind, spilling doubt into his wild imagination. But Grandpa Albert was the kind of man who understood time. And perspective. This is what happens when you live out in the middle of nowhere and the only things that spoil it are lines, roads and fences. Also, and this is important to the story, I was the third person sitting in the red truck. I am that child, now thirty-five years past seven. And what did I know sitting there, looking up at the wires hanging over the road, cutting the blue sky into halves, what did I know about time?
Grandma Trudy always told me I needed to find my faith before I ran out of time. She told me this while kneeling beside my bed praying for my eyes to open, so that I will go into Grade One a believer. And this was before TV evangelists got to me. Before camps of teenagers forced me to recant my grandfather’s mantras, his great pronouncements that the heat turns everyone into pedestrians; that when the crickets are quiet, the earth gets cold; that snow knows when you’re ready to harvest; that sooner or later, we learn to love the people we hate. No, Grandma Trudy, all five feet of her, was an expert in guilty prayers and dirty looks. She couldn’t understand how men mistook her brittle, short-tempered personality for brittle short-temperedness or how little boys like me found her hugs as comforting as giant bugs.
I tried to avoid the kitchen. Her kingdom of pots and pans.
At night, though, she would creep up to my room holding a giant, black Bible, reading me something from Revelations before tucking me in. (more…)
One of those days where the sky is heaven. A blaze of deep blue. Blinding even. No wind to speak of. And if you did, a person could hear you from way over there, across the wheat. Fields of it. Fields and fields. Fields and fields and fields. A conspiracy of squares. And in the middle of all this endless gold, a white house sits precariously on wheels behind a giant truck, crawling down the road toward a town: a row of tidy houses, waiting just beyond a solitary thicket of trees, coolly sitting on their shadows.
Birds are close to the ground. Crows mainly. They pace alongside the ditch. Magpies shuffle sideways across telephone wires. Gulls stick to the open fields.
The heat turns everybody into pedestrians. Ha! Who’s going to fly in this heat? My grandpa’s sayings. Bullshit. Endless, perfect bullshit. One after another. This is how I remember him. Being full of life, he said, for example, means avoiding death — which he did for seventy-two years, and then didn’t.
For now, though, he is very much alive, sitting in the red International truck straining to pull his house across the county. Murray, his brother’s son, bald and over-anxious at thirty-five and constantly red-faced, no matter the conditions inside or out, gears down the engine and stops the truck. They get out and look up. Study the telephone wires that cross in front of them.
A big problem, said Murray, who looked over his shoulder at the house being towed by the red truck. A problem of at least six or seven feet. The house is too tall. Jesus, we’re stuck. (more…)