Today on The Corner Tapes I want to share a personal family story about my father. It’s about my grandmother’s unconditional love for him and her determination to find a cure for his paralysis after a childhood accident.
I’ve ridden the dragons and the butterflies of my imagination only to discover, I am forever between words, humbled by the truth. Inspiration reveals worlds of luminance and levity but also the wounds that lay dormant in the shadows of misery. Our stories, manifested by memory, adapted by time and imagination can alter the iterations of our being across generations. It’s a choice; how to see it.
Thoughts flutter above the promise of early morning dew. I hold the benevolent blaze on the horizon in my thoughts, owing my breath, my being. I count in a single thread, the many ways I am beholden for the gifts granted by my neighbours.
The easy amble of the elder woman who inspires a promise of well-being should I choose and accept. The young girl who makes it her duty to bring the morning words of the world to my doorstep. The trees that shelter the morning song of our feathered brethren. The glowing embers the logger provides to maintain my comfort.
For this I am thankful.
I am thankful for the farmer, who gambles his future to deliver his leafy heart to my table. The selfless men and women who protect the rivers and fight for water that is palatable. The trucker who delivers the fuel of our common mobility. And the hardships I carry, scattered among the remnants of my father’s misery.
For this too, I am thankful.
My father’s misery.
My attention does an about face and dives into the serpentine darkness of the monster mind, rattled by the memory of his passing. Ghost before me, I pilot my attention back to the defining tale of his childhood. A young boy, crippled by a fascination for the cookie jar beyond the limits of his reach. Balance interrupted, he tumbled to the floor.
“I’m sorry, but the young boy will walk no more.” the doctor said.
I sat across from my father as he reminisced. I could taste the venom his inner child had reserved deep in the blazing hole of his lost innocence, a fury born of his misfortune. A juvenile outrage trapped by a stagnant uncooperative corpse. A boy diminished by the impossible prospect of chasing a ball or tying his shoe. What does a boy do, except wait.
Wait for the moon. Wait for the sun.
Wait for the moon. Wait for the sun.
As I remember it, father looked past me. The ash of his cigarette drooped between his fingers like the hunch of his shoulders. Years of steady toil, evidenced by a run down body.
“Mémère insisted that a miracle awaited us halfway between home and the eastern tides. Oratoire St. Joseph, in Montreal.” he said. “‘Abandoned crutches line the walls. It’s the healing magic of Brother André’,” his mother told him.
They travelled by train, the only way to get there. The long journey concluded, she bowed before the shrine.
She prayed, he waited for the moon.
She prayed, he waited for the sun.
“She prayed for days,” father continued. “Nothing happened. Eventually, we had to return home.”
Back home, they regrouped.
Back home, she prayed.
Back home, he cried.
“Years went by,” he said, “nothing happened.”
Father looked at me as a surge of smoke lit up in the sunlight as he exhausted it from his body. I waited for the air to clear as he crushed the burning glow under his fingertip.
“Then one day, her prayers were answered,” he said as he extinguished the smoldering tobacco. “News came from out of nowhere about a new kind of doctor in Winnipeg. They called him a ‘chiropractor’.”
They boarded the train another time.
“Mémère focussed on the horizon with intense tranquility,” he said.
“We arrived in the city and found the healer. It’s all a bit distant in my memory though,” he confessed.
To my dismay, he didn’t recall much of how he was freed from his bodily torpor, except to say it was a gradual awakening over several trips to see the miracle man. Nor did he take special note of his recovery. “It was what it was,” is the way he put it. I asked about mémère’s reaction. Mostly, he drew blanks. The conversation trickled away.
Then suddenly he startled me, “But I was a busy boy again!” he exclaimed.
He laughed from deep inside, and our talk ended with levity and a mental picture of a young boy who played ball; who ran again; who climbed again; who remembered how to smile.
I sometimes daydream about the devotion behind mémère’s determination to heal her son. A glowing faith that may have dismantled the cage within him, the one that held captive all belief beyond the rudiments of his own flesh and bone. Through it all, her unfailing love lulled his turbulent inner world. I think he believed it was a miracle, though he said nothing to persuade me of it.
Distant but benevolent to the core, his hard life affected my stride and hid in the penumbra of my own struggles. Hedged by pain and silence, the wounds persisted across time and space and lived forth in the way he negotiated the world around him. His devices, the favourable and the imperfect, permeated my own identity. Daily, the whole of his presence, appeared in the mirror opposite me.
I conjure up his story of hope in my mind whenever I relive his unforeseen departure— now almost twenty years ago. An evening where I rushed to find him without breath, without being. He was vacant and inert, but had new wings. I imagined that his newest journey started with the question, “Where do I find mémère now?”
This is only my experience, but I am thankful for the lessons imparted by my father’s misery.
Thankful because serenity eclipses anger once sorrow is befriended.
Thankful because sadness cuts short, banal rumination.
Thankful because hardship yields resilience.
Thankful because equanimity reveals what love can be.
He waited for the moon. He waited for the sun.
He lived his life, forever, now begun.
Thoughts flutter above the promise of early morning dew. I hold the benevolent blaze on the horizon in my thoughts, owing my breath, my being, to a boy who could still tie his shoe.
I wait for the moon. I wait for the sun.
I live my life, forever, the grateful one.
The only way to find out if a new episode is published is by signing up to my mailing list. I’m not distributed by Apple Podcasts or Spotify.