lac mahon, la peche, qc.

lac mahon, la peche, qc.
photo by graham law.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Here Come Da Judge.

There are certain precious moments in time one remembers forever, moments so dramatic, touching and meaningful that they shape one’s life. The moments I’m about to describe are not like that at all. Not even a bit. These moments were much too normal and banal to be of any consequence. Or were they? They're about my old dad, the judge.

A friend collected me at the airport upon my arrival back in Toronto, thereby saving dad the drive, not to mention any undue stress to other motorists who happened to be out just at that time on that stretch of road. As soon as I entered my parents’ apartment, after hugs, kisses and pinches, we sat down in the den; and they remarked on my nicely shortened hair and beard. My dad launched into his proverbial dissertation on the marvels of the modern electric shaver. In fact, he insisted I at least look at his. He went to bring it out from the bathroom as I peered over at mom. She couldn’t help me. No one could. Dad stood in the middle of the den shaving, telling me that I might not like it at first, but would soon wonder how I’d ever gotten along without it.

"David, he’s not interested," my mom tried to say over the sound of the thing.
"You see this part under the chin?," he called over to me. "This is the trickiest part. You have to pass over it a few extra times."
"David, if you get hairs on the rug I’ll kill you," barked mom.
"Whadya talkin’ bout? This shaver doesn’t drop hairs!"
‘Oh for heavens sake, David, put it away!"
When he came back into the den, dad sat in his chair with the Obus-form backrest and offered the shaver to me free of charge. I didn’t really respond so he started in on my future plans.

"Are you going to ask for a substantial raise from that newspaper of yours? What’s the circulation? Find out the circulation and let me know." Next day, I watched him scour the menu of a local restaurant. It was not a pretty sight. He’d been instructed by his doctor to stay right away from bread, but to eat rice-cakes instead. And that’s like suggesting that a junkie switch to Tylenol. The well-meaning waitress had no way of knowing she shouldn’t have put the bread basket right in front of him. In our haste to clear it from dad’s line of vision, mom and I both grabbed at the basket sending several fresh buns bouncing onto his lap as he just looked at us stoically.

It’s a sign of my father’s age that he’s being allowed less and less of the food and activities he loves. I can so far only imagine what it must feel like. But, during those rain-soaked days in Toronto it was clear to me that soon he’ll have to give up driving as well. I’ve known for some time that to go in the car with dad was to tax my nerves beyond their natural limits. I have no idea when he stopped looking behind for other cars before switching lanes. Many have been the times I’ve witnessed overwrought drivers, having swerved to narrowly miss us cutting in front of them, shaking fists. And he, with an expression of total incomprehension written all over his face, would exclaim, "What the hell’s the matter with them?" Many have been the times when I’ve coaxed him to go when he was wrongly stopped, stop when he was not supposed to go, pleaded with him to stay in his lane, begged him unsuccessfully to give me the wheel.

Returning from the restaurant, as lunch sat uneasily in my stomach after the drive, we pulled up in front of the underground garage to the apartment. Dad stopped on the slope leading down to the door to switch glasses. He pushed the button to activate the garage door and as it swung open he fished around for his clear glasses. "Now where the dickens are they?" he said, becoming more and more frustrated. "Oh for heaven’s sake!" Of course, by the time he finally located his glasses the door had closed again, just as we began rolling down towards it.

"Dad, stop," I yelled
"Dad, stop."
"What are you saying?"
"David, stop the car!!!," mom hollered. That did it, of course, as he somehow, miraculously, came to a sudden halt inches from the closed garage door.
"Oh for pete’s sake," he exclaimed at no one in particular. "You’d think with all the money we pay for the upkeep of this building they could fix this blasted door."
I’m reminded of how my folks had to disallow my old granddad from driving way back when I was barely old enough to sit atop my tricycle. And I know one day it’ll be my turn.

The morning I left for Wakefield was teeming with rain, and mom didn’t want me to go. Dad took my side and even offered to drive me to where my car was sitting at my brother’s place, but I sure didn't want that. I took the bus. In a way, I’m always sorry to leave them. As well, I’ve never been
able to figure out why I always sleep so well there. In spite of our being worlds apart in so many ways, mom’s cigarettes, dad’s shaver, I feel at home wherever they are.

"Phone when you arrive," was the last thing I heard my dad say as I closed the apartment door. And I suppose that’s just about the way it’s supposed to be.

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