Well. today I go home. Last night I was digging around in a box in the closet in the spare room. I found photo albums and scrap books. it was late so I only got through one scrap book and one album. But what a journey that was…oh my. The scrap book was, and I think it’s not accurate to call it “scrap”, it was a collection of cards celebrating my older brothers’ birth, and then offering condolences at his death 14 months later. There’s a card from my maternal Grandma and Grandpa, and favourite Uncle, Tom–he would have been 15 at the time of Scott’s birth, and in the note in the card, Grandma had written, “Tom just smiles all the time thinking of Scott”.
with that book, there is also a broken paper bag full of cards and letters, nearly all of them letters written to my grandparents or from aunts and uncles, friends and relatives. They are all about Scott. His short life, his death, his good nature, his sunny disposition. One of them, written by my dad the day before Scott died, was to my mom’s parents and Tom. It began: “Our little boy is dangerously ill again.” Dad wrote in his cramped neat script, “we had Rev. Bechal up last night at midnight. Scott’s condition was so bad that I broke down and Edith suggested we call him and he came over. he made me feel a lot better I can now face this trouble knowing that if he is taken from us he will be taken care of better than if he hadbeen able to stay with us.”
Later on, a letter from my mom’s sister, Auntie Mick, said, “Edith I hope you don’t mind, I showed your letter to Reverend Ash, and he said it was the most wonderful letter he’d ever read–he asked to use a sentence of it for his sermon…” The sentence said that God must have seen what a happy good natured boy Scott was, and had a selfish moment and took him up to be with Him.
Mom was mad. She stayed mad at god, and I think she still is. Takes it personal. Well, you know what, she was so protective, and worked so hard to keep that boy alive and healthy and for all that, there was in the end nothing she could do.
There was lots of talk about god and his will and heaven and better places and so on in the letters of condolence. And after the expressions of grief and sympathy the writers talked of the weather: “we had a few days rain, it came at just the right time this year. Looks like we’ll have a good crop” or ; “the garden hasn’t done so well, had a few potatoes but that’s about it, a few beans and carrots but only enough for us” and then, almost all, “Edith, come for a visit for a few days if you want to, we’d love to have you.” That last invitation extended only to Mom because it was assumed that Dad would have to be right back to work. Which he was. He went back to work a week later.
I don’t know if Mom went away, but I do know she was back to work within a few weeks. I don’t know what she did for paid work then, but from a letter dated in early October of that year, she detailed some of the things she’d been up to: Washing and waxing the floors, hanging out laundry, canning choke cherries and beans and making jam, baking and writing letters, hundreds of letters (She sent a thank you to everyone who wrote and sent cards; she did the same when my dad died 45 years later) and “I went through Scott’s toys to give away, but I got them all together and couldn’t manage to give any of them up quite yet”.
These are all things that women do. That people do. The men go out in the public world and churn away making money, the women make the beds and wash the dishes and wax the floors and mutter under their breaths about the selfishness of god and stew tomatoes and keep the connections between old friends and family alive and make community and mark the lives of the dead and soothe the illnesses of the sick and … Dad worked for the department of highways in Saskatchewan at the time and he handed over the money to Mom so she could buy the floor wax and the dish soap and the canning supplies and the fabric for curtains and the final swaddling for their small son.
I’m going back to Vancouver today. I’ll hit the ground running–no canning for me, i’m preparing for a workshop this weekend, and plotting with some radical women action against men who buy women’s bodies for sex (what shall we call them, these guys? ‘johns’ is too benign, for what they do), and writing a paper for a conference and stepping back into relief work and … you know how it goes. My world is not the world i’ve been in the last few days–every day go to the gym and talk about the past and remember the farm and tease Mom and make lunch and … Life was simpler then.
Next post, i want to write about how my Aunt Lorna (not really related, but one of Mom’s oldest friends, and my godmother, too) and my Mom talk about sons. I had a few “huh” moments yesterday as we visited over waffles and raspberry sauce. but now i have to go play one more game of crib with my Sainted Mother. Oh! and i want to tell you about the other photo album, too–the one from the mid-late 40s and 50s–pictures of my mom as a girl with my aunt and uncles and some of my dad as a young man. my big handsome Grandpa and my shy sparkling Grandma.
I love Mom so much. I know how lucky I am, believe me. she protected me and my younger brother with the same ferociousness that she did Scott. Never gave up.