Monday, August 16, 2010

Some Things Aren't Meant to be Fixed

I'm pissed off.

I recently went to Ottawa to see the fam and friends. My cousin T, who fits into both categories, came from Toronto to visit for a weekend. And my mom dropped the bomb.

"Your mom and I went to the farm the last time I went for a visit," my mom said to T.

"We went and peeked into the windows. They bricked over a bunch of the windows on the front. I don't know why they would do that, I mean, who would bother to come up and look into them?"

"You mean besides you and Aunt J, you peeping Toms" I said to my mom in an attempt to make light of what she had just told us.

My mom and her siblings grew up on the above-mentioned farm. My grandma was born on the farm. She moved out about a year after my grandpa died. The above picture is of T, me and my sister, M, in front of the house.

When I was a kid, I spent many a hot summer day reading in the house. Though my love of reading had started when I was little, I think it was cemented by all the time I spent reading in that old house. There was a synergy between the house and story-telling in general. Old homes have stories. Old homes know all the family secrets.

My great grandfather, Saville Simpson, enjoyed writing, particularly poetry. I never met him as he died before I was born, but his photos hint at a kind, gentle spirit. My mom's stories of him confirm this.

I have long wanted to write a novel with that house as its inspiration. More than the short stories I put together a while back for grandma - something major. Something with depth that gives that house the respect it deserves.

But now I feel just about as ripped off as I felt when I found out the house had to be sold to strangers. How can I be inspired when I know the windows at the front of the house have been bricked over? I'm fully, painfully aware that the farm no longer belongs to my family. But what reason could there be to cover perfectly good windows that bring light into the house? Who the fuck wants a dark living room? Seriously folks, some things aren't meant to be fixed.

Unless it means they ripped down the wall between the living room and what was later, during my lifetime, grandpa's bedroom. The same room that I cried myself to sleep in, breathing in his scent as he lay dying of cancer in a hospital. It just gets worse, doesn't it?

I certainly don't think I had the closest relationship with my grandparents and I haven't deluded myself into thinking my mom, aunt and uncles had a perfect life on the farm. Far from it, in fact - it was a tough life.

The funny thing is, many of my memories of being there are of the house itself. I can hear the sound of the gravel road under the wheels of my parents' car as we drove up to the house. I can feel the wood of the sturdy kitchen table under my palms. I can hear the water splashing in the basin as grandpa washed up before lunch, back in the days before they installed plumbing. And any time I read a book that takes place on a farm? I picture at least parts of it looking like the home on RR1, Glencoe, Ontario.

Someday I will write my own book. I'm just going to have to do it before my memory starts to fail me.

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