gatineau morning.

gatineau morning.
photo by douglas mcarthur.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

the cadillac.

apparently, there was nothing grampa sam wanted more than a new cadillac. he wasn't interested in cruises or other exotic travel. he didn't crave a cottage or a bigger bungalow. he had always thought that, upon retirement, he would buy a caddy, with all the bells and whistles.

sam came from poland in 1904, grew up in toronto, worked as a tailor and opened up the first movie theatre in the city, 'the popular' on bloor street, below his tailor shop. it was essentially just a rented large unheated room where he and his partner placed several rows of chairs, tacked up a bedsheet and played short films of mary pickford or mack sennett. the cost was five cents, except for saturday matinees when it'd be five cents for two kids. eventually sam opened a proper movie house, called 'the doric,' also on bloor, at gladstone avenue. he raised his family, lived a decent life, had no complaints. a cadillac was a significant sign of success in his mind, something that would be an exclamation mark on his existence.

on the day grampa sam decided it was time to buy his new car, he got himself all suited and booted up, smiled down at me proudly before heading off to the dealership. a few hours later, he returned driving a small crappy little car, just like he'd always had, and i asked why. "well, my boy, i'll tell ya," he began as he sat down on the sofa. "i looked those big beautiful caddys over, shiny and with all their chrome and leather. i took one out for a spin and it was amazing. it drove like a dream. but eventually, while i sat in it back at the showroom, i realized something very important. i realized money's not for things. money's so i can tell the world to buzz off and let me live in peace."

i remember grampa sam as a kind old man who became almost entirely silent following the death of his wife. he lost his money trying to save her and came to live with us. he'd sit in the living room with his wife's photo on his lap and tears in his eyes. he gave me my first puppy and, sometime in the late 1950s, he went back to work, as a school crossing guard.

in the end, as he languished in a hospital room, i'd visit when i could. we'd usually walk slowly up and down the hallway. it was around easter time and there were little rabbit heads stencilled onto the windows of the hall doors. old grampa sam stopped in front of one of those windows staring at the little rabbit head for a long time. then he spoke for the first time in ages. turning to me, he sorta smiled and said: "i bet you didn't know we had a playboy club here."

"manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires. that is the secret to a good life." lao tzu.

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