Tuesday, January 19, 2016

X-Files…part 2 of 4

I was raised in the modest 2 story house (where Life at 139 takes place) from the time I was just 3 years  old until I left home, for the final time in '86. Unlike most of my generation, I was a rebound boarder periodically returning to live in my parental home, for a year or so, every now and again.
Yes, I really did this to my poor parents.
 I hope they enjoyed my company as much as I did theirs - not being sarcastic either. 
Mom remained in the home for four more years after our Dad's death. An incident one cold and bitter night in 2006 convinced us that, short of having one of her five children with her 24/7 (which she absolutely did not want) it was no longer safe for her to stay there. But, that is a story for another time.

I should add that, not only was the stairway (mentioned in the story that follows) dark; the stairs leading to the upper floor were slippery as ice. A few non-Thackers who butt-slid from the top of the landing to the bottom of the flight in one fell swoop.…more than once, can attest to that. A bi-weekly ritual of Mom's was to wax the wood floors until they shone with a blinding light. Only when the landing became too crowded with boxes, full of their fledged childrens' items, did the stairway get omitted, yet the treads still retained their smooth, slick surface.

Mom was old school. Rubbing polish into the wood on hands and knees was the way it was done followed by a once or twice over with the floor polisher. When it came time to clear out the family home no fewer than 3 floor polishers were unearthed; all in various stages of disrepair. By the time the first one finally died new flooring material had made such appliances obsolete. Dad, ever the proud hunter/gatherer that he was, scoured the neighbourhoods on dump days for replacements. Most lasted for a few months before kicking off. When he finally gave up the hunt, Mom just dragged the lightest (still about 20 pound) relic back and forth over the dining room floor and hallway.

Back to X-Files part 2 of a 4 part story…

*        *        *

So begrudgingly, twenty bass driven minutes later, and paradoxically calmer I arrive unannounced on a cold and dark night. There I am on Mom and Dad’s doorstep, standing in the rain, waiting for them to respond to the sound of my fist banging on the aluminum base of their screen door. I fear this noise will wake up the neighbours gently tucked into their beds, but not my folks probably dozing in front of the T.V. in “theatre number one” a.k.a. the family room. Except for the blue haze that emanates from the front window it is pitch black inside.
Just last year my husband installed an overhead light above the stair well leading up to the second floor bedrooms. He comes from good lighting stock. His father, also a contractor, instilled in Rod from a tender age, the appreciation of abundant illumination.
“How did you manage to go up the stairs without light all those years?” he asks.
I think, what an odd question. “We counted the stairs and the steps to our beds.” Duh, didn’t everyone. In hearing myself I begin to think, maybe this was a little odd. My mother didn’t like overhead lighting of any kind - though I don’t know why, so all the wiring was capped and tiny bedside table lamps complete with cellophane wrapped shades were placed in the farthest corners of each room. God forbid anything got moved in the space in between the two locations. I think it was her way of forcing us to keep our bedrooms neat - put your things away or else break your necks.

The pride Rod felt in solving what he had deemed the “lighting problem”was obvious as we all stood at the base of the stair watching him demonstrate with a flourish how with the flick of a switch the light fourteen feet above us would be activated. And their reactions! Well, you would have thought he had invented light itself, they were so in awe. Of course we all knew that he would be the only person who would ever use it, but we didn’t tell him this. Didn’t want to spoil his moment.
                 I bang out again our family code  - knock   knock …knock-knock,  knock … knock   knock then shout, “Mom, Dad, it’s me Nance” then peer through the scalloped window, the kind that allows you to see only ghostly images on the brightest of days, and I see a scene straight out of the X-Files. The beam of a flash light jumps and stumbles along the walls of the living room.
“I’m coming, I’m coming. Chris’ sake. Give me a chance will ya. Keep your pants on”  The beam cuts wildly out of control through the darkness. “Shit! Goddam it all to hell. Who put that there?” 
I’m shivering pretty uncontrollably by now as he the clicks and jiggles the handle wrestling  with the door he’s confronted on a daily basis for nearly 50 years. “Jesus Murphy ...” a choppy stream of swear words accompanies his efforts. When he finally succeeds, I’m met with a piercing beam of light aimed straight at my eyeballs. We’re stalemated there for a some seconds, silence coming from his end of the beam as I bob and weave my head out of the line of fire.
“Dad. Hi its me, Nance.” I put my hand in front of my face averting my eyes, but it is no use so I give up, drop my arms down by my sides and just stand there squinting.
With beam still fixed on my face, he peers closer; shivering I wait. “Nance?... it’s you ... Hi. Hi. What are you doing standing out in the rain? You’re drenched. Come in. Come in.” He waves me inside, beam gesturing wildly, creating a strobe effect in my brain.
Once my eyes adjust to the dark I ask, “Dad, why is it so dark in here?”
“It is?”

“Um,” gesturing to the flashlight in his hands, “yeah.” and then to the cloak of darkness around us.
“Oh ... OH” my question goes unanswered as he flicks some switches with slight distraction. And there is light - outside. The light over the front porch and then the lamppost at the end of the walkway now proudly shine. Without asking why I’m on his doorstep at 11:30 at night, it somehow seems perfectly normal to him, he motions me in to the living room after I’ve taken off my jacket and boots with the assistance of his somewhat shaky beam.
“Come on in” he says throwing his arms open with a warm expansiveness. “We’re just about to put your mother’s eye drops in.” With light still in hand he begins to sweep me in the direction of the living room.
I wince at the thought, “Dad, I can’t ...”
He stops in his tracks, “What? You don’t have time to visit your old Dad?”
I heave a sigh, “O.K. but only for a minute. I’ve got to put together your docette.”
“Nance you don’t have to do that.”
“If I don’t, who will?”
He pauses. His arms drop. Deflated he shakes his head, his lips purse and tears threaten as, I realize, inadvertently we’re caught short by the memory of the day the torch of this task passed into my hands.
“Look, Dad,” I say as I place my hand on his arm. “It’s O.K. Let’s go in and see Mom.” We nod in  silent conspiracy to proceed as if this conversation had never taken place…(TO BE CONTINUED)

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