SWORDFERN
Rooted, I used to think.

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Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2012 @ 4:46 pm
Uncle Mike



Going north again, to be with family.

My uncle. Died.

In the cab of a truck beside a lake, he was out hunting with his son, my cousin. Autumn colours and the crisp northern air, leaves floating momentarily on the surface of the lake before descending to darker depths.

Suddenly, he puts his hands to his head and emits a surprised Oh!

My cousin rhythmically compresses his chest until the paramedics arrive, a futile measure as his brain drowned in its own livegiving blood.

They stand in the garage, my cousin and aunt. His wife of 46 years, his son of 32. The years he devoted to the pulp mill. The boat he was going to use in his retirement. The freezer full of wild game he hunted. The roast in the oven for dinner. She unknowingly spins her wedding ring around and around: the loss, the broken life, the unkown beyond.

Meanwhile, my other cousin spins out of control in a manic-depressive stupor. He noiselessly comes and goes through the basement, self medicating on whatever he can obtain. An equally unstable girlfriend in a slum house on the other side of the small town.

They confront him to kick him out. Change the locks. Call the RCMP.

He was adopted. This is his greatest fear - a primal fear - to be abandoned yet again. A mother's agony.

In November, we will return north for the offical service. Enough time will have passed so that we will be able to talk about him and still breathe.

Back in the city, I ride the Skytrain home. Across from me sits an old man wearing a nylon jacket embroidered with the word Groom. He studies the track listings in the back pages of the newspaper. His face is calm, his brow unfurrowed. Is that it? Does he have it all sorted out? Pick the hooves, saddle up, attempt to beat the odds?

If only I found life so simple.


Roots | Shoots