Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Written three years ago. Published in some family history book. Part One:

“I want you to write my story,” dad announces after supper.
“OK. Tell me what you want me to say,” I said. “I’ll type it out.”
“No. I want you to write about me… your thoughts. Your memories. Your stories that have me in them. You tell it, from your words”
“I’m not so sure that’s what they had in mind when they asked for your biography.”
“I don’t care what they want. I want you to write about me and send that in.”
“You were born in 1936. I was born in 1961. I can’t write about your journey from Russia to Canada, or your years farming with the Heppners, or your relocation to BC, or when you got baptized, or met mom, or got married, or any of that stuff. I’ll only be able to write about events that I remember…”
“That’s what I want. The other stuff doesn’t matter.”
“Are we on the same wave length here? You understand what I want, don’t you?” His voice gets higher with emotion as he paces in my kitchen.

Oh yeah. I get it. A friend of my dad and mom’s passed away at Christmas time, and I attended the funeral with them. Mr. Krahn’s eulogy was a group effort, written by his children, read by his son. It was witty, poignant and packed with love. Those of us listening laughed and cried and got a glimpse of who George really was.
That’s what my dad wants - me to write his eulogy. He doesn’t want to miss out his funeral speeches by being dead…

“You can write that I’m a praying man.” he said.
“You can say that even thought I don’t pray out loud, I pray all the time.”
“I say, “Lord, I’m a simple man. No education. I need help with this…” Stuff like that.”
“We’re on the same wavelength, right?”
“Uh huh.”

My dad goes outside to wash his truck. (The one that I’ve been borrowing. It’s his “baby” – a 2000 Chevy Silverado pickup dressed up with running boards, flares, a visor, special paint job, as well as a VCR and a Nintendo gaming system.) It’s filthy. My sons and I drove it on the Coquihalla last weekend for our snowboarding weekend at SunPeaks. “My truck has never been so dirty” he mumbles to himself as he leaves the kitchen.

I open a blank page on my computer. I might as well make a few notes.
My mom says to me, “You can put down that I love him. And that I love the way he always comes into the house cheerful. He’s usually happy. Content with his lot in life.”
“OK.” I said.
“Are you going to write about the cabin?” she asks while looking through my photo albums.
“You might want to mention that. How he loves working with wood. And how he bought this place at Cultus for you kids. This is a good picture of your boys in the tree fort. Maybe you should write about that and then I’ll send these pictures in too.” She’s removed a number of pictures from my albums and taken down an assortment of framed photos from around my house. “I’ll get copies of these to send in as well.”
“OK.” I said.

The truck sparkles and dad comes back into the house with a few more thoughts.
“You can write about that time that we were coming back from Palm Springs and they took apart our car and I was telling that woman (the customs agent) that she needed to get laid and you sat on the curb and prayed.”

The following day, I’m in bed when the phone rings.
“Uh… you might want to put down that I loved my mom.”
“And that I loved the way she got things done.”
“Uh huh.”
“And that she used to call me all the time with the list of things she wanted done.”
“And that I would always listen and say “Yah, mama.”
“OK.” Yah papa.
“And then when she would ask me when I was going to do it, I’d always say, “Sometime before Christmas.”
I’m quiet. I remember hearing his side of the almost daily conversations he had with his mom.
“I always said that. And then she would laugh… sometime before Christmas …it was sort of a thing between us.”
“OK.” I say as we hang up.

My dad was a good son.
Omi, my grandma, was a single mom. Her husband was pulled from their home in the middle of the night in the late 1930’s…and was executed by firing squad.
She left Russia and fled to Canada with her young family, eventually settling in BC in the late 50’s in a little house off Fraser Street in the Mennonite district of Vancouver.
My dad stopped in to see Omi at least once a week; to cut her lawn, enjoy her potato pancakes, steal some cukes from her garden, listen to her talk about her neighbours… Plus, they would talk on the phone a couple of times a week. Well, she would talk, dad would listen.
And say, “Nah, vie geihts? Uh huh. Yah mama. Uh huh. Nah Yo. Uh huh. Uh huh. Sometime before Christmas. Ok, Bye mama…”

When I was a teen listening to his side of the conversation, I didn’t appreciate his tenderness toward his mom. But now, as a single mom myself, I’m hoping my sons will talk to me a couple times a week on the phone and will drop in for a visit and cut my lawn. Maybe I too will have a ‘sometime before Christmas’ “thing” with one of my boys.

(Oh my goodness. How hard is this? I’ve been writing for 10 minutes and I’m crying my eyes out, imagining myself at 85 having a phone conversation with Drew.)

Right. This isn’t about me.
It’s about my dad…Might as well go back to the beginning, to the “unimportant” stuff:

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