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Oh Mother...! Radio Les Real Life The Father Chronicles

There Were Moments of Stupidity…

Image: Peekin' Over...
Peekin’ Over…Taken March 2, 2008 with Canon PowerShot A550

 

RadioLes Returns!!

 

 

There Were Moments of Stupidity… – © Les Becker, 2010
Click the link to hear me tell the story..

(Oh, come on! Ya know ya want to!)Holy shit – 21 days into 2009, and this is my first blog post of the New Year. I should be ashamed.

I’m not.

I’m busy. It’s a good busy, that I am, and I’m happy not to have too much idle time on my hands. I’m not so happy that it’s my blog that has to suffer first, but I’m hoping to alleviate that over the rest of the month.

Hope springs eternal. Sigh…*

I’m off the night-shift – that move was not my idea, and it pissed me off, at first, but holy ol’ shit, Blogosphere, did you know there’s a great ball of fire in the sky for a short period of time every day?! I KNOW!!! I’d forgotten all about that! Good to know it’s still there.

Now that I’m actually dancing in the parking lot* in the daylight for eight hours at a time again, I seem to have more energy left over for other stuff… like cleaning house. The Idiot Child (AKA The Evil Hypnotist) was tiring of being the housekeeper all the time, so she prefers me on the day shift, too.

I’m still not cooking, though. Methinks, that will never change. The kid turns out to be a not-too-shabby chef, anyhow. Granted, she hates it as much as I do, but prefers eating to starving, and so continues to make my meals. Life is good. 😀

Sault Ste. Marie has, for the first time in possibly a decade, NOT had a January thaw. There are no complaints about the lack of snowmobiling/skiing/snowshoeing snow among the 5-Minute-Conversationalists in the parking lot – just fears of frostbite.

My father speaks to me in the middle of my head at some point during every shift: “Stamp your feet so your toes don’t fall off!” – his mantra during the winter Cockburn Island treks of my youth. I’ve taken to saying that to “my boys” – the young fellas with whom I dance every day – some of whom The Conversationalists mistake for my children, which I’m trying to find funny. I’m failing at that, but the boys think it’s right hilarious. If they were my kids, they’d be grounded for laughing at their mother.

Back to the snow, though…

The photo above was taken in March of last year, but that snowbank was even higher the other night – I know because I took a photo on my way home from Ruby’s, having forgotten I’d already done so last year. Thankfully, I don’t have to shovel (except that J.O.B. parking lot, but getting paid for something makes it less of a chore, doesn’t it) – my wonderful landlord has the Prissy-Van’s security parking area plowed every day, and Prissy has no trouble getting over the build-up the plow leaves around her, so I see no need to do much of anything about it other than gun through it in reverse and try not to hit the fence behind me.

Nine times out of ten, I hit the fence. Hitting fences in reverse at high speed is nothing for Prissy – another plus to having purchased an “All Plastic Vehicle” circa 1992, which, I understand, they don’t make anymore. I did see a similar mini-van marked “MPV” the other day… what’s that stand for, do you think? “Mostly Plastic Vehicle”?!

But, I’m spending too much of this post talking about snow, when I wanted to create my own January Thaw with a story from a late summer event that I wasn’t even in existence to witness. So on with it…

In 1962, my father tried to kill the entire family.How’s that grab ya?

The only reason I’m here to write about it is because everybody lived, and nobody called the cops.

No, he wasn’t trying to kill them all on purpose – it was one of those moments of brilliance-turned-stupid. He tried to asphyxiate the family, himself included, at the family cottage.

This was the Before I Was Born Camp – I wasn’t around, then. My parents bought a camp on Basswood Lake down the line, right next door to my dad’s nephew’s lot. Dad’s nephew, Lorne, was a good buddy – his dad, Marvin (yes, that Marvin), was a lot of years older than my dad, so Lorne and Dad were good pals. Their closeness in age confused many people into thinking they were brothers – and there’s a whole ‘nother story about a town-wide misunderstanding that had my father dead before his time, and my mother labeled as a nutcase because of that confusion. I shall have to tell it here, sometime.

Anyway.

Late one summer, probably in ’62, based on the age of My Brother the Trespasser, who was about two, Dad took the brood to the camp for the weekend, and Lorne took his, as well. As was the routine, the two families ate most meals together, supper being cooked by the men on the barbecue.

Now, this wasn’t the Hibachi of my experience, but one of those round, tri-legged thingies – state-of-the-art in the early 60’s, fueled with charcoal.

Also routine, was the marshmallow roast on the BBQ embers after supper, just before the kids went to bed. Apparently, juicing the kids up on pure sugar and sending them to “sleep” actually worked in 1962.

This marshmallow roast, though, was more exciting than usual.

The evening was cold. It was late August, and my dad said there was a cold snap – frost in the mornings and everything, which isn’t uncommon in Northern Ontario, but it sure can put a damper on a marshmallow roast. The kids’ hands were warm enough, holding their sticks over the barbecue, but their little feet were freezing (“Stamp your feet so your toes don’t fall off!”).

My father was a problem-solver extraordinaire, though, and of course he had himself a bright idea.

Which is how he and Lorne came to drag the the barbecue inside the camp.

Yeah.

The kids thought that was right cool. They had their marshmallow roast, and the only dark spot on the occasion was when Big Sis, who would have been around six at the time, started to feel a little, ummmm, unwell.

My mother tucked her into bed, wondering what bug was about to flit from one kid to another until she had four sick children to sit up with all night.

Thankfully, Mom always said, when she and my dad told this story in tandem (oh, the duets between those two, when they told a story – it’s a shame those days are over, now), the rest of the kids seemed more sleepy than usual, so she was able to get them all into bed and sleeping with none of the usual arguments or cajoling to stay up later. Un-Brother Ken, the oldest, was surprisingly willing to go to sleep without a fight, so my mom was pretty sure he was already nursing that nasty bug, whatever it was…

Kids tucked in, the grown-ups sat around the barbecue with a beer each, set to enjoy the rest of the evening. Lorne’s wife, Kay, was the one exception, having gone over to her own camp to put her kids to bed. My parents and Lorne began to chat about the day, and one after another, they started to yawn…

By the time Kay came back, my mother had decided she was going to turn in early. Kay noticed Lorne was a little loopy, which aggravated her somewhat, and she told him they’d better get themselves home. He reluctantly agreed.

Left alone, my dad checked the barbecue and decided it would be okay for the night, and yawningly got himself ready for bed.

He wasn’t sure why he decided to check on the kids – it’s not something he normally would have done, that being my mother’s habit. He checked on them, though, and all were sleeping deeply. He checked on The Trespasser – “The Baby”, as he was called until I came along four years later to usurp his position – last of all.

This is when he noticed something odd…

There was something… ucky… on The Baby’s pillow… on closer inspection he realized he’d been sick in his sleep. Dad couldn’t see leaving him like that all night, so he gently removed the pillow from under The Baby’s head and set it on a chair where my mother would be sure to see it in the morning and take care of it.

Yeah. It was 1962…

And then Un-Brother woke up, complaining of thirst. Dad brought him water to find he’d gone back to sleep already. He rechecked Big Sis and Tootie, to find that they had an odd tinge to their complexions…

Hmmm… whatever was ailing these kids, it wasn’t something he’d ever seen before… He thought he’d have to make sure to mention it to Maude in the morning.

And then My Brother the Trespasser upchucked all over his bed.

That did it for my dad. When the baby starts barfing up BBQ, it’s time to wake up my mother.

Except my mother wouldn’t wake up.

And that scared hell out of my dad.

He flew out the door and over to Lorne and Kay’s camp. They were still awake, having mysteriously become less loopy shortly after they left my parents’ place, and Kay went over to see what was what. Lorne got into the car to go fetch the doctor.

Dad went back to wring his hands and nervously wait for the doctor to arrive with Lorne, and in a fit of “keep busy-ness”, he decided he’d better put the barbecue back outside so the doctor wouldn’t accidentally bump it over…

Done.

The doctor arrived. Slapped my mom around a little in an attempt to wake her, and finally frowned and asked my dad how she’d been feeling before bed. Dad told him about the Mysterious Bug that seemed to be traveling among the kids, and the doctor went into their room.

Checked The Baby. Fine, if a little vomity.

Woke up the rest of them, one by one. Sleepy, they were, but that was kind of to be expected. No sign of a strange pallor with either of the girls, either.

The doctor was a little pissed at being called out into the middle of nowhere for nothing, and told my dad so. And then, as he was going grumpily out the door, he heard my dad tell Lorne he thought he’d bring that barbecue back inside, since it was still so chilly….

Whereupon, my father got a loud lesson in charcoal fumes, asphyxiation, poisoning, smothering one’s family, and how-can-you-possibly-not-know-that-are-you-stupid?!

My father conceded that he just might be. About charcoal fumes, anyhow.

After Lorne left with the doctor, Dad opened all the windows, and threw more blankets on the beds. My mother slept the night through, waking up to a slight headache and a good story, thankful that the kids were bug-free.

Thankful that she woke up at all.

– – –

* I say “dancing in the parking lot” because it sounds way fancier than “pumping gas for a living”. So, uh, no: I’m not a stripper.

Random Song-for-the-Day: “Your Cash Ain’t Nothin’ But Trash” – Huey Louis & The News

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Oh Mother...!

Jimmy Prentice & the Radio

Philco_Radio_1941
Philco Radio, 1941

Jimmy Prentice was somewhat of a local oddball, to hear my parents talk. I don’t know if he actually had a home, or not. My mother talks about how sometimes, just before dinner was set to be “lifted”, Gramma would be looking out the kitchen window, and say, “Better put another plate on,” and they knew Jimmy was walking across the field.

He’d come in and have dinner with the family, and afterward, off he’d go with the men to do the afternoon chores. They had a farm of dairy cows – help with the chores was welcomed, and well worth a meal or two, even during the Depression. More than likely, Jimmy would be in for supper that night, too. And then for breakfast in the morning…

He’d stay on a few days (or weeks), help with the farm, eat with the family, sleep wherever there was room. Then he’d mosey off across the field; to the next farm, maybe, or into town.

One winter evening, during the War, Grampa opened the door to a very, very sick Jimmy Prentice. Flu was a pretty serious thing to come down with back then, and Grampa put him right to bed. He was sick for a long time.

Gramma and Grampa fed him up, cleaned him up, generally took care of him for the duration. No way would Grampa turn Jimmy out. Not because it was winter on the Manitoulin. Not because Jimmy had the flu. Nope. Jimmy Prentice had a radio.

Now, Grampa wasn’t necessarily against technology, but in the early ’40s, with farmhands and livestock to feed, not to mention 8 kids (minus Bill, who was overseas fighting a War), purchasing a radio was not high up on his list of priorities, to say the least. They got “The Family Herald” once a week for the War news; what did they need a radio for?

Family_Herald
The Family Herald

The Family Herald would be read cover-to-cover by Grampa, the day it came. Then Gramma got her turn, and then it was passed around the household until everyone had had a chance to read it through. Sometimes, clippings would be mailed out to a sister or an Aunt. By the time the next issue came to the farm, the last would be in tatters, most likely relegated to the outhouse, where it was read again, and reread, and then “recycled”.

Letters from Bill (and he wrote to everybody from overseas) would also be passed around. Sometimes the letters were delayed, or lost altogether. News was shared. As worried as they were, the family knew that last month, at least, Bill was alive.

And then… Grampa discovered that the War News could come every supper-time, if somebody turned Jimmy Prentice’s radio on. Meals became sombre affairs, quiet, other than the static-y voice coming out of that little box on the sideboard. No one dared make a peep, for fear Grampa would shout them back to silence. World War II got closer to home.

Of course, over the next several weeks, Jimmy Prentice got better. Pretty soon, he was taking supper at the table, listening to the radio, and then, slowly, out helping with the chores again. Eventually, he decided it was time to mosey over the field to wherever it was he would go; the next farm, maybe, or into town. And, of course, he took his radio with him when he went.

Supper was eerily silent for the next few days. Grampa was out of sorts without the static-y voice on the sideboard. Withdrawal. They all missed Jimmy Prentice’s radio. The Family Herald was days away yet, and the news in it would be “old” news. Bill seemed farther away than ever, and World War II might never end…

And so, one day, Grampa came home with a radio of his own, and everything seemed that much better. The world was smaller again, and if it – the world or the War – should finally come to an end, he would be among the first to know.
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“There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow
Just you wait and see.

There’ll be joy and laughter
And peace ever after,
Tomorrow
When the world is free.

The shepherd will tend his sheep
The valley will bloom again,
And Jimmy will go to sleep
In his own little room again.

There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover,
Tomorrow
Just you wait and see.”

Not-So-Random Song for the Day: “The White Cliffs of Dover” – Vera Lynn