Thursday, 29 January 2015

Sometimes Homesick

Sometimes I step outside in the morning and the sun is shining a certain way or there is a certain breeze in the air or the earth warming in the sun throws off a particular smell and suddenly I will hear the cries of gulls in air and smell a whiff of salt and for a moment I am transported three thousand miles away and forty years back in time.

It is said that when we are born we bond as surely to the land as we do to our mothers and I think that is surely the case. The boy has been removed from the State of Maine but Maine has never been removed from the boy. Forty years later the Boothbay Harbor I remember no longer exists anywhere but in the Kingdom of Memory and as the years go by sometimes that is obscured with fog as thick as that which often blankets the Maine coast.

In my dreams I am in what had been my father's bed in what had been his bedroom at my grandmother's house. It is late and night and the fog is so thick that looking out the window I cannot see the house next door. Up and down the coast the fog horns are playing their mournful dirge and as each one plays his part in the symphony my grandmother calls out from her bedroom down stairs, "That was Burnt Island, Kenny. That one was Cuckolds. Right now you hear Seguin." Soon I knew each horn as well as she did.

In summer I would often wake early and lie in the dark listening to the make or break engines of the small boats starting up and taking the fishermen out to where their larger boats were moored in the harbor. Then the big diesels started, rumbled for a while warming up, and then moved off into the distance as they headed out to sea.

When my father was younger he might be sent down to the docks by his mother to meet the boats as they returned. "You got a fish for me, Cappie?" he would ask and a fish nearly as large as he but in those days still too small to be marketable would be tossed to him gratis to take home to his family.

Those days were gone when I was young but a lot of days would see me tresspassing through Reid's Shipyard to the dock where I would jig for mackeral and when I had enough head home with my stomach grumbling and thoughts of the feast to come in my head.

Forty years here and British Columbia still isn't home. I am not sure the Boothbay Harbor of today is either but I need to think of getting there again before I die. If I can sit on the shore, look ot to sea, and smell the wild roses, sea weed, and salt one more time I may find the part of me I've lost.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Reading Obituaries

Opening today's newspaper I saw Angelo's obituary. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. He passed this week from cancer. I hadn't even known he was sick.

Death may be every bit as much a part of life as birth but we mourn the former and celebrate the later and no amount of self deception allows us to find any joy in the death of those we care about.

Angelo would be in his 80s, I guess. The obit didn't say. He was an Italian from the old country who worked on the track crew at the company I worked for. Sometimes he was a laborer and worked for my father. Angelo and Dad became friends as soon as they met when they both came here in the early 70's. Angelo with his broken English and Dad with his deep Maine accent, it was a wonder they ever understood each other.

Every year Angelo made wine and every year when it as ready he and Dad would get tanked together. Angelo's wine was peasant wine, high octane.

Angelo retired twenty years or so ago and about the only time I ever saw him was in the super market or the doctor's office. He always greeted me with a huge smile, a big hug, and a "How's Dad?" Asking about my father. Late in life I had taken to calling him Dad when I would see him. A previous illness had taken Angelo's voice away. He spoke in whispers the last of his life.

If you saw Angelo you saw his wife. They were always together. Theirs was an odd story. Fern had been married to Angelo's brother and bore his son. After his brother died Fern and Angelo got married and Angelo adopted the boy, Romeo. Fern and Angelo were deeply in love and in what must have been difficult circumstances at the time.

A couple of years back Romeo dropped dead with a sudden heart attack. I saw Angelo in the market a few days later. I had no idea what to say. He hadn't seen me. I stood for a moment and then walked up to him, took his arm, and said, "I'm sorry, Dad." He turned around and hugged me tight and began to cry. Then his wife saw us, joined the hug and she cried too. I didn't know Romeo that well but because they cried I did too. The three of us in the middle of the supermarket.

I didn't know he was sick. I didn't know he had cancer. I realized the other day that I hadn't seen him in a while. I found myself thinking I should stop by his house, say hello. The last time I had seen him he looked old and frail. I thought I should also see if he needed anything done. Around the house, you know?

But then I didn't. And today, the obit in the newspaper. I felt like I had been hit in the stomach.

I know. I said that already. I don't know what else to say.

See the USA in Your Chevrolet

Yesterday as I was meeting Tess for coffee on her break she jumped in her car and it wouldn't start. Not even a whimper. Nothing. Dead battery. I wasn't surprised. The battery had only tested at 60% before winter. It was 5-1/2 years old. It was finished.

Off we went to get a new battery. I stopped at the Chev garage and asked them how much for a new battery and then broke up laughing when they told me. "No, you can save that one until you get a sucker walking in."

We rushed up the hill to Lordco Auto Parts where I got an AC Delco at a reasonable price. Well, it was reasonable until we paid taxes and eco levy fees. But still cheaper than the Chev garage where batteries are now, apparently, made from gold instead of lead.

I made a quick stop at my parents next door to grab a handful of wrenches (because I keep none in the truck) and headed back down the hill where a very pleasant surprise awaited.

The battery compartment was right out front, easily accessable, and the same wrench fit the battery hold down bolts and both battery terminals. Old battery out and new battery back in in under ten minutes.

Thank you Chevrolet! When a mechanical klutz like me can change a battery in under ten minutes you built it right!