Saturday, February 18, 2006

triple crown


It was the night Smarty Jones was expected to win the Triple Crown and the weekend Ronald Reagan died. We came from every direction. We made our way to a small fishing town on the southern tip of Nova Scotia. It was as happy as a sad occasion could be. There were moments when we forgot what it was we were doing there, all together for the first time in years.

When I spoke to my father on my way to the airport he sounded no different than he had the night before, when I had called him for advice on a skin v. krazy glue mishap.

"How'd you manage that", he had asked.

"Don't ask - just tell me what to do".

And he did.

He picked me up at the airport the next morning. The weather was unseasonably warm and the spring sun beat down through the fog. We pulled up to the familiar yellow-shuttered cape cod.

It seemed smaller than I remembered. At first, laughter wafted through the house, but soon tension began to mount. My grandmother’s patience was clearly being tested. Her kitchen was taken hostage by the women of the family and transformed into an impromptu system of feeding and cleaning. Feeling overpowered, she exerted herself the only way she could. She insisted on hosting an elaborate lunch following my Grandfather’s funeral, complete with her granddaughters serving tea to the guests from her silver tea service and her best china.

"We need pink candles to go with the napkins", she asserted. We only had white.

"We'll get them in the morning," one of us promised her. People traded glances. There were muffled exchanges.

"She's not coping well."

"She can't stand all of the hovering."

I fell asleep that night thinking about candles and napkins.

The next day the procession was led by flashing lights. Men stopped on the sidewalk and removed their hats.

We had lunch, served tea, and on the table there were pink candles that were never lit.

Later I sat in the airport in my funeral clothes, sipping coffee from a cardboard cup. I thought of my grandmother at the cemetery with her red nose, watching her husband of 61 years being lowered into the ground, and my father’s face finally crumpling to the sound of dirt against wood. I pictured all of us gathered around the television - cousins, aunts, uncles, and my grandmother, in the wood paneled study hung with art and lined with books. My Grandfather would have been thrilled. The room was bursting with life as we waited in anticipation. Smarty Jones finished in second place, upset in a late charge by a long shot.

4 comments:

momentofchoice said...

is this fiction or non-fiction? you are such a great writer! my grandfather passed away a few weeks ago, my grandmother is not coping well but how can she really?... 63 years together...she's not sure who she is without him.

...and ballet is ok thanks. i didn't go last week because i just didn't feel up to it but will give it another go tomorrow. where do you take your classes?

Rachel said...

Somewhere in the middle of fiction and non-fiction really - let's call it a "james frey". Thanks for saying that. I am sorry to hear about your grandfather.

I took classes at a few different places. Mostly at U of T, but then there was Danceteq and the National Ballet School... I find you may not be in the mood but if you can get your ass to class, you feel amazing. After awhile you are lost without it.

Anonymous said...

i fucking love ballet class.
wanna see my demi-plie in fifth position?
here it go

Rachel said...

Yes amp, yes I would.