Second Excerpt from short story – The Coffin

Photo by Fabio Traina on Unsplash


‘The prize I want for my children is for them to experience generating their own vision.’  Gord nodded towards Cedar.   ‘So that they don’t forget to teach their children to have a life vision.  You are included in this, obviously.   It’s like an inoculation against conformity so you can be loyal to your weirdness without having to feel alone.’  Gord was applying his visionary skills he had used to grow his business now to generating some sort of family vision.  The word alone resonated too long in the air.

‘Once my wife died, I made the monetary aspect of my will known to my family about 2 years ago now.  That way everyone knows the percentage of my wealth they would receive.  Basically enough to buy a small house in a small town.  As long as I don’t live another 20 years.  If I tack on another 2 decades to this life that house purchasing power might diminish into more of a healthy deposit on a house, or a university education for the children, your generation.  But without saddling anyone with that demoralizing debt of a student loan.’  Gord explained as much to Cedar as to himself.  

‘I realized that something was missing.  I don’t know if I felt it was missing in me or in them to some degree, but for some reason I wasn’t able to provoke some sense of vision in life in my 3 children when I was …,  in my role as their father.’

He didn’t want there to be unclarity for them to get their medium-sized inheritance.  His children’s inheritance for Gord validated all the time he spent making money and not making connections with them.  But he did have one condition that he hoped would be fulfilling for everyone involved.  At this point he really couldn’t see them falling into a fight over his money.  At the same time something told him they wouldn’t follow through with his wish if he wasn’t proactive.  That’s why Cedar was sitting in front of him now.  

According to Gord, he didn’t think what he wanted wasn’t complicated or demanding.  Boiled down to what in essence Gord’s wish is, it’s to live in a real relationship with his family up to, during and after his death.

Probably not that unusual of a wish (except for the part after death).   It was just unusual to articulate it, have a plan of action and make it happen before he died.  The challenge for Gord at this point was connecting the moment with his emotions and the words they petitioned.  And he needed help.  

The silence was brief but rotund.  If earlier things felt a little awkward then now they had become almost adversarial.  

‘Wait. So then you want me to learn your,...your life vision and explain it to your adult children, because it didn’t take the first time round?  Sorry GG but is that my role here?’  Cedar was confused, hated bullshit and hadn’t signed up to be anybody’s therapist.

‘Ok, okay.  Listen.  Let me explain.  I have arrived, over the years, at a motto for what a father’s role is.  What I believe.  Basically it’s this:  to give his family things they couldn’t buy.  And that is exactly what I did.  I gave my family a solid upbringing.  A life with respect and reliability.  A home with encouragement and acceptance.  All with the stalwart work of their mother, my wife, your grandmother.’  His voice resonated with the assumption that it was understood that the father, or a man, was the sole source of these qualities.

‘So then.  GG.  What is a mother’s role?  What Is your motto for that?’  Cedar injected quickly before Gord kept rolling.  

‘Well, she um … She does the same thing.’  Surprised, Gord responds. ‘ It’s the same but somehow different.’   More than Gord’s definition of a mother’s role Cedar was really curious about her own motto for what a mother should be.  And how it would apply to her mother.  

None of his children; Phil, Sue or Martha had wanted to continue the family plumbing supply business.  It wasn’t glamorous but it made him what he was.   

The fact that no one wanted to continue with the business hurt his feelings.  It took the wind out of his sails for a while.  Of course he didn’t learn this until his children were well into their 20’s.  He figured they would try working elsewhere and learn they prefer to be a business owner rather than an employee.

In the case of his oldest son Phil that was true. But instead of taking on the family business he started his own tire business.  He had learned a lot from growing up in his dad’s business.  He especially learned from watching his dad that he didn’t want to run after people who hadn’t paid their invoices.  He figured that if he had the key to his customer’s car, they would pay him or they weren’t going anywhere.

Martha pursued a career in marketing where she could apply her creativity on a scale much broader than a small plumbing parts distributor.   Sue pursued her husband which turned out not to be a good strategy because he ended up pursuing someone else and left Sue and their two boys.   All this to say the company that Gord built from the ground up was converted from a family business into a plumbing parts supply business.  

‘The fact they didn’t want to take over my established business and the fact that I am now retired and widowed created a lot of space in my life.  Space and time in me.  So now, I have ended up reflecting a lot on life.’

‘I think that’s a good thing.  I have my introverted side too.’  Accompanied Cedar

Of course’  He said with a chuckle

‘We all recoil, and you know – repair and recharge.  It should be normal’  Insisted Cedar

‘You’re …, you make a lot of sense.’  Another chuckle from Gord.  ‘Getting through those teenage years is a real journey, if I remember correctly.’

‘Ya definitely.   It’s like every moment, every word you say, everything you do, every outfit you wear, every person you associate with creates this watershed that either includes you with or separates you from someone else’s definition of cool.  It’s exhausting.’  Cedar took her turn at using the conversation as therapy. 

They sat in an empty, scratchy moment and took a sip of their tea that had been cooled in the late autumn air.  Cedar brought her feet up onto the chair and hugged her knees.  She had kept her scarf on as she knew GG’s house was going to feel friendly to an arctic fox.

‘Oh sorry did you want a blanket.  Let me get you one.’  Gord got up and Cedar didn’t say no.

‘I just can’t  justify heating this whole house when my daily routine uses up such a small part of it.’

There had been no family conversations of downsizing.  Yet.  Without needing conversation, it was known that it would be Martha’s task to stickhandle that conversation with dad come the day.  But the children knew and respected that time had not yet come.  And it may never arrive.  

Martha, in conversation with Phil after their mother’s death had commented effortlessly, 

‘The only downsizing he’s going to do is from the house to his casket.’  She had no idea 

how right she already was.

The pain of leaving would be just as much about leaving the house as leaving his garage.  The garage was his man cave, his power pack, his church, his cocoon, his therapist, his studio, his laboratory.  He felt it is where he could be himself and not make a mistake and be in the flow of his thoughts and projects.  He hadn’t felt he had that freedom outside his garage.   No doubt this urban retreat would also have functioned as a prison.

‘I am telling you all this now in case, at some point, my health deteriorates quickly and I, I don’t know, I forget or simply lose the courage to follow through with it all.  I am telling you as a way to take the path of least resistance.  And because I trust you.  I trust my children too but, how do I say?’  Gord scanned internally a moment for the words to hang on his sentiment.  ‘I trust my children will do as they have taught me they want to do.  Which isn’t bad but it isn’t naive.’  Gord liked how he felt as if he was a functioning elder, sharing wisdom with the following generations.  

‘It’s so edgy …, new agey of you GG.  So what you are offering is a Vision Quest?’  Cedar looked for clarity.  She hadn’t quite grasped GG’s request for what he called an anchored vision.  He said it was a written intention that is associated with a physical object. 

‘It sounds intriguing but how does it work?  This anchored vision thing?.’  Cedar made air quotes around anchored vision   Cedar was getting pulled into his idea.   ‘I have never heard of that before.’

‘I know. I made the term up.   I want it to mean you write out a phrase and you associate it with an object.  You repeat the phrase and mentally send your intention encased in the phrase to the object.  To come true.’

This was the first time Gord had said his plan out loud so he was a little surprised how coherent it sounded.  He and Cedar had always had a good relationship but there was no guarantee she wouldn’t think this was the stupid rumblings of an old fart and a sure sign of onsetting senility.

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