The following story is part of a new feature, the serialization of our columnist Wayne Weedon’s fictional work, Vectors. Wayne is a brilliant writer whose style consists of simple declarative statements that stick in your mind as he leads you through an intricate web of circumstances to reach the lesson he set out to teach.
Chapter 6: Family Revisited
When I was trying to tell Mr. Graham that I would be moving out as soon as I could find another place to live, he acted as if he never heard me. He just kept blabbing on and on like a broken record.
Finally, he paused, and then asked me, “Do you know the difference between dialogue and argument?”
“Well of course I know.”
“I don’t think so. All your life you have heard only argument. You don’t know that two people could sit down, give their opinion, and listen to the other person’s opinion without commenting.”
I tried my best to ignore him, but he continued, “When I was younger, I did not know the difference between intelligent conversation and argument. As a child I heard only argument. I heard adults arguing and arguing often. Sometimes, especially if fueled by alcohol, the argument would turn to shouting and the shouting would often turn to violence. Each person had their opinion which was mostly not based on facts. Rather than sharing opinions and information, each person had an entrenched position which, if challenged, made the person with a different opinion, their enemy.”
I was thinking, there he goes, off on another diatribe.
He asked, “Tell me now if what I just described does not pertain to your family … as well as to yourself?”
I sat silently stewing. How dare he ridicule my family? He doesn’t even know them.
He said nothing for a long time, and I thought he was finished. I was wrong, after a deep sigh, he continued in a new vein, “Next Saturday, Maurice is coming to dinner. I’d like to do something special. I know Maurice doesn’t cook for himself. I was thinking, maybe a traditional roast chicken dinner with potatoes, carrots … maybe parsnips… and gravy of course.”
I wanted to tell him to leave me out of it, I would no longer be living with him, but I just kept my mouth shut.
“Maurice and his wife were very special to me; despite the fact I’ve seen little of him since his wife died nine years ago. They had a child who died in infancy. Maurice has been alone since his wife died. Maurice’s wife was my very best friend. Maurice was somewhat jealous of our relationship, even though it was more like a mother-son intimacy. We were intimate, you know, very intimate.”
After a brief pause, he continued, “And, to the question you want to ask, we did not have sex. It wasn’t that kind of relationship. She was my mother, my mentor, my confidant. I told her all my secrets. Eventually, Maurice came to understand that our relationship was platonic.”
I didn’t know what to think. I wondered why he was telling me all this. It was none of my business.
He continued, “After his little girl died in infancy, the doctor told them they couldn’t have another baby. It broke my heart seeing how they both yearned for a child. Maurice buried his wife’s ashes under a purple lilac bush in the garden where he found you shivering in the cold. It’s a memorial garden you know. A memorial garden not for his wife, but for a wealthy lady. That is why Maurice looks after it. He had to bury his wife’s ashes in secret. If he was allowed to, he would place a little stone or plaque where his wife’s urn is. His baby is buried in Montréal. But, in Maurice’s mind, the garden is in memory of both his wife and his child.”
He stepped out of the room. I thought that was the end of it, but he came back, handing me a picture. “She gave me this photo of herself as a young girl on the farm, eating dinner with her family. She often invited me to stay for dinner with her and Maurice. She learned her cooking skills on the farm. She cooked as if everyday was Christmas. I would like to re-create that atmosphere when Maurice comes. I want friendly conversation, along with good, home-cooked food. A little nostalgia, that’s what I want.”
As Mr. Graham turned away, I could see tears in his eyes. He went to the stove and banged a few pots around before turning back. Looking at me, he quietly suggested, “We may as well finish the last book of the trilogy; before you move out.”
Mr. Graham continued reading about Ma and Pa Gall, the evil Mrs. Bridgetower, and others. I thought about what he said about my family. He had us pegged, right to a tee. He knew how I had been brought up, and he knew that I had indeed picked up my family’s habits.
I thought about my father’s new 60-inch television and how he and my brothers would be guzzling beer and wolfing down junk food while screaming over some stupid football or hockey game. Did it make any difference to their lives if their team won or lost? But, for them, their team was always the best team, even when their team was losing. And if anyone dared to disagree about their opinions, they would be in for an argument, and, possibly a physical confrontation, especially after they had several beers.
My mother is always yapping and hollering at her television, telling all her soap opera characters how they should be living their lives, pointing out where they were going wrong. How ridiculous is that? She has never been able to run her own life, what makes her think she could give good advice to other people? She is always telling me what not to do, but, whenever I try to have a serious talk with her, to tell her my problems, she never listens to my story. She tells me I’m just going through a phase, or it is all part of growing up, and it will all work out in the end. When I tried to talk to her about my brother smoking pot, she completely ignored my comments, and started telling me about a woman she knew who smokes two packs of cigarettes a day. Several times I insisted we discuss my brother and his pot habit. It was only after much pestering, she finally acknowledged my comments, but she just sloughed them off as if they were of no importance, telling me my brother is just going through a phase and it will soon pass. However, she made it obvious that I was annoying her by jumping up and telling me she was late for an appointment and had to go.
I can’t remember my mother ever having the kindness to just listen to me. Sometimes, I just need a sounding board, but, in my family, there never is one. It seems that my parents really do not care about me and the insecurities and anguishes I’m going through. They just make light of everything and pass it all off, pretending there’s no problem.
The next morning, with a charged battery, I started checking my texts. I didn’t realize it; Mr. Graham was looking over my shoulder. He asked me what all the gobbledygook was. This made me feel good. I could finally teach him something for a change. I began translating the texts for him. Sheila had been constipated for several days and she just had a good poop. Mavis’ mom made pizza and she tried to hide Niblets under the cheese. Tony got wasted and threw up on his girlfriend’s new bedspread.
Mr. Graham interrupted and asked if there was anything important because I needed to work on vectors. I was about to tell him it was all important; but somehow, just then, all these texts seemed quite stupid. Why was I wasting my time reading such crap? I shut the phone off and started working with Mr. Graham on forces which have direction.
(Continued next month: Chapter 7, All's Well that Ends Well)