Apr 182012
 

Looking back of my memories growing up on Rondeau Bay, I can honestly say that it’s the place where I learned some of my best lessons in life. It happened so long ago, yet through the fog of time, I can still see examples of what life was like – shining out, like a lighthouse seen from the sea.

 

They are now in the form of isolated instances, so I’ll have to recall them the best I can from my memories and from those who still remain.

 

One day I was attending a family reunion in nearby Blenheim, when I met what some would call an ‘old codger’. Apparently a distant relative, he was in his early 90s, with a twinkle in his eyes that belied his rumpled red flannel working shirt, undone knitted brown tie and a hand-me-down tweed suit jacket; all of which he was wearing in the intense August heat! Simply said, he looked like one those cast away relatives that no one talks to except for grand get-togethers like this one. He had dressed up the best he could.

 

As he approached me, I also noticed that he hadn’t shaved for a couple of days and he had the look of a recluse – but also the look of one who’d had a hard lifetime of working. He had an aura of wisdom blended with kindness about him, and that made him shine out among the throng. Although it seemed as if we had nothing in common, there was something … ‘family’… about him.

 

“Old man look at my life, / I’m a lot like you were.”

— Old Man by Neil Young

 

“You`re Marg’s boy aren’t you?”

 

“Yes sir, I am.” (I’ve always been taught to respect my elders and from experience, it has always proved to be sound advice.) He then began a general description of years gone by, but was called away by some family well-wishers. He shook my hand, wished me well, and went off to mingle with other relatives. A seemingly nice old man, I wondered why I’d never met him.

 

When I inquired, someone said, “Oh, that’s old Barney. He’s worth a fortune, you know?” It appears that his rural background was a bit hazy … something about farming, an antique business, and … along the way … rich.

 

Just how rich? That’s where the family’s famous ‘Cadillac’ story comes in.

 

It seems one day Barney decided to pursue buying a new car at the local GM Cadillac dealership.  This in itself was curious because he wasn’t an ostentatious man. However, there he was, in the showroom poking his head in through the car windows, checking out the generous interior, when a rather arrogant sounding salesman –after taking one look at his rumpled appearance – came up from behind him and suggested Barney was in the wrong place.

 

“No,” says Barney, “it’s definitely a new Cadillac I want.” Back-in-the-day, what a beauty she was too! The ’59 Caddy was all chrome and fins, and seemed to Barney like something a person could really stretch out and enjoy.

 

With one eye on Barney, to make sure he actually didn’t climb into the cavernous interior with his uncouth clothes, the salesman fetched the Sales Manager – who had just one question – how was Barney planning to pay for it?

 

Stupefied, he looked at the men and simply said, “Cash.” When he realized that they weren’t taking him seriously, he suggested, that maybe they should call “old Charlie” down at the local bank – which they did – to see if he was “good for it.”

 

After explaining the whole Caddy situation, the bank manager sounded perplexed and then concerned.  He asked, “How many does he want?”

 

It was the best example I’ve heard of on how not to judge a book by its cover. It also explains the rumpled condition of his clothes; later that day I watched the rear fin ruby tail lights of his ‘home on wheels’ classic Caddy fade away into the purple glow of a summer’s sunset. Seemed to me, that ‘old Barney’ had stopped worrying about what people thought of him long ago, and he was happy.

 

“I’ve been first and last,

Look at how the time goes past.

But I’m all alone at last,

Rolling home to you.”

 

Still learning from my elders? Yup!

 

Fred Parry

Fred Parry

Fred Parry (2012) www.fredparry.ca

Apr 022012
 

“Fred”, my wife called out, “that pig’s heading for town”!

Sure enough, as I scanned the fallowed farm field, there she was … head down and going as fast as her stubby feet would carry her lumbering body. Well over 100 kilograms worth of determination! ‘Oinkers’, as our kids nicked named her, started life as a cute little piglet – an addition to our hobby farm when we first moved from the city.

We never fenced her in … never had to. Her daily routine was simple. In the mornings we would open up her wee shed to feed her a breakfast of pig ration; but really, anything and everything would do her just fine. And, if our dog wasn’t careful, she would head butt him away from his dog dish and chow down whatever was remaining. Once she was planted, no amount of barking or growling would move her until she was good and ready. After that, she would normally lie out on our farmhouse porch … belching and sunbathing … often leaning against the back door, which meant we had to find an alternative exit.

Obviously, something was different today; and then the thought hit me. We’ve been seeing a slow parade of cars heading to the local church – whose bells were loudly proclaiming a marriage was taking place – complete with a large outside tent to feed the multitudes. And, whatever was on the industrial sized barbeque was filling the country air, and Oinkers’ nostrils. It didn’t take her long to figure it out. So, since we lived on the town’s outskirts, off she went. Now, I didn’t know if pork was on the menu; but I figured the family didn’t want the wedding guests mixing and mingling – with the real thing!

By now, though, she was already halfway across the adjoining field when I went after her with a rope in hand. Fortunately, she had slowed down to nibble some old corn cobs. Since I had always been a good athlete … played some school football … I decided to take her down with a ‘flying tackle’. And flying is exactly what I did as I bounced off of her like an India rubber ball. Next thing I knew I was lying flat on my back and seeing stars in the perfect blue of a sunny day.

I felt Oinkers come and sniff me over and with a snort of disgust she turned and sauntered back to the house. Lying there, I thought at what the local newspaper might print, if they only knew: ‘Oinkers Goes to Town … Owner Doesn’t Make It’.

I also remember, oh so many poignant memories from when our kids were younger. As I recall those now, the words of Barbara Streisand singing ‘The Way We Were’ come to mind.

“Can it be it was all so simple then / Or has time re-written every line / If we had to do it all again / Tell me – would we? Could we?”     — The Way We Were by Barbra Streisand

On a cold winter’s day, our five-year-old daughter stood in the doorway, heartbroken, with the lifeless body of a newborn lamb in her arms. It was as if her life was slipping away. No one can tell her why: life just is. As my wife tries to console her, I cup the motionless little lamb in my hands while sitting by the wood stove’s heat, mulling over life’s many ups and downs.

Suddenly … could it be? The little creature is starting to stir! Frantically, my hands contrive to perform some kind of ‘CPR’, but really, I don’t know what I’m doing. Yet, in another few minutes, its head was up and bleating out loudly for its mother. Our excited children all came running with shouts of joy; I’m an instant hero!

It was the closest I ever came to pulling off a miracle and it reminded me that all life is a miracle – despite the pain, the loss and the heartache … or maybe it’s only our will that makes it so.

“So it’s the laughter / We will remember / Whenever we remember / The way we were”

Fred Parry

Fred Parry

www.fredparry.ca (2012)