Next excerpt of the short story – The Coffin

Photo by Ramazan Tokay on Unsplash

‘Or’  Gord, trying to ease the blow of any rejection coming his way said ‘Maybe I have too much time on my hands’.  Being retired and widowed it wasn’t exactly untrue.

‘Wow GG!  That is cool.  I like that.  And I get to choose my own phrase?’

‘Yes!  Of course you write it’

‘And my object’

‘Yes that too.  But.’  Gord put up his right index finger to emphasize his point.  ‘Preferably it is not your phone.  You know something organic.  I suggest a crystal.

‘So the process I go through is write down on a piece of paper the name of one of my children, get out their crystal, then I list some of their good qualities and dwell in them’

Normally he leaves his washed dinner plate in the sink, and puts the electric kettle on. While the water was boiling he would put on his pyjamas and get out his crystal set.  He kept it in a shoe box in the drawer in the cabinet in the dining room. 

Sitting at the dining room table with his cup of chamomile tea, cozy pj’s and comfy socks he would choose one of the three crystals.   Today was: Sue – Rose Quartz.  It isn’t everyday that he does his crystal ritual but the last time he did, it was Phil’s turn: Phil – Amethyst.  After today the next one would be: Martha – Larimar.  

‘Sue got the rose quartz because apparently it helps to enhance self-love.  And Sue needs that.  She has always needed that.  She kind of fell in the space between your grandmother and me.  She didn’t want to impose on anyone but she got so good at it you forgot she was there.  The one time that Phil and I go out for a beer to watch the hockey playoffs at the pub is the night Sue was going to prom so I wasn’t home to see her in prom her dress and meet the guy and do all that dad protecting his daughter stuff.  This was in the era before cell phones but I still don’t know how I missed that.  So when I got home my wife didn’t know what to do with me.  I had finally gone to spend time with my only son and I missed a once in a lifetime event for my daughter.  My point is I am aware that I was not the steel to Phil’s flint.  He wanted to light up life, get stuff done.’

Gord felt cleansed having explained his reasons and ritual to Cedar so she could see the importance of her role and be strong in case anyone tried to minimize the activity (Phil), take ownership of it (Martha) or just take the crystal and put on her windowsill and call it a keepsake of dad.’  As Gord mentioned each of his children’s names his body would contort in such a small, unconscious reaction to how they lived in his mind.  Thinking of Phil, his back would straighten.  When talking about Martha his head would tilt upwards and with Sue his shoulders would drop.  With Phil Gord felt a challenge between men more than a sense of being a guiding elder.  Martha she had always had big ideas that could make you wonder.  Sue wasn’t fat but Gord’s body gave way to the weight of her lack of initiative.

‘Intense – there is a lot going on.’ Then came another pause.  Gord was relieved to see Cedar processing the idea.  He might have been surprised by the dichotomy of her feelings in the moment. She was amazed by her grandfather’s creativity.  Yet at the same time Cedar was confused about why he was making such an intricate ritual instead of just talking directly to his children.’ 

Gord was happy with himself because he felt he was right in explaining his anchored vision to Cedar first before approaching his children.  She could be his marketing department.  Her mother was in the marketing business so Cedar would have it in her blood.  By skipping to the next generation there would be less rejection than with his own children – Gord had figured.  At this point he seemed right.  He assumed his children would listen to Cedar.   And Cedar loved being chosen.   

‘Where in the world did you come up with this idea GG?’

‘Well at my stage in life and … with your grandmother passed away I just started reading about, you know, life.  Death, what have you.  It’s not fair, that if someone wants clarity and preparation about death they come across as a cold funeral director.   When my time comes I want things to be ready and clear so all the emotions like sadness and grief, disbelief and regret, love and appreciation, admiration and forgiveness and acceptance don’t get absorbed by funeral arrangements.  That’s not fair to the person or the process.’

‘Hmmph’  Cedar was getting overloaded with new info, powerful concepts and the emotion they were connecting to.   

‘So’  Gord continued,  ‘So my idea is really not that new.  In the past, I have discovered,  people have used the mind to heal and travel and see things in other parts of the world.  And I came across this whole idea of epigenetics from a guy named Bruce Lipton talking about genes, DNA and belief.’  Gord’s hands were carving the air as a means to capture the impact of what he wanted to transmit.  

‘It was really, really amazing to hear and challenging to read.  Did you know what the word generation says? It says gene – ration.’

What?  

Yes, the word generation can be split into two words – gene and ration.  So …’

Cedar had reached her maximum of what she could take in.  She pulled up the blanket and didn’t hear a thing Gord was saying.  

Her mind quickly wondered what her inheritance would be, just hypothesizing it was in the next 2 years or so, she could go travelling before going to university.  Her mom had studied marketing and it seemed cool.  But stressful.  Marketing and all that was super important in the moment but rendered meaningless days or weeks later by the same market that had made it vital..  But Cedar liked the psychology part of trying to figure out why people do what they do and seeing if you can be in the future of their own decisions before they are.

‘I can see your mind has gone elsewhere, Cedar.’  Gord observed

‘Oh sorry, so sorry GG.   Cedar sipped her tea and looked Gord in the eye to show her sincerity.    ‘I am just…  Well I am really surprised by all this and it’s a lot to process.’

‘I agree.  Death is a funny topic.’  The cool air of Gord’s house turned cold as the afternoon aged. ‘ It’s an even funnier experience.’

‘Wait, how is death funny GG?’  Cedar says not really ready for more information but a little insulted.

‘Well death itself isn’t funny.  I agree with you.   You are right.’  Cedar hadn’t said anything about death not being funny but Gord was using his sales techniques to put himself, and his goal, on the same page as Cedar.

‘What I mean is how we react to death, the passing of the person, the emotions of the past and next steps.  It is a process that we all go through – so in that there is no freedom of choice.  But.’  The right index finger appeared again.  ‘There is a complete freedom in how we think about it.  And this is what led me to this idea of an anchored vision thing. Gord threw on the ‘thing’ word at the end as a kind of hook to make the concept less heavy.  More portable. Gord still hadn’t explained why he said death was funny but Cedar didn’t want to get into it.

‘I need to go to the bathroom.’  Cedar announced as she put down her mug of tea, grabbed her phone from the kitchen table, stretched her arms and neck and walked down the hall from Gord’s kitchen. She loved this house where they had spent years of Thanksgiving Sundays and Christmas dinners.  

Linda and Gord never renovated their home like lots of people in the neighbourhood did.  By the time they had the money Linda didn’t see the point with their children on their way out.  It would be just the two of them living in the house in a few years.  The one thing Gord insisted on was putting in a door from their bedroom to the bathroom so now it was an ensuite washroom that continued to have access from the hallway.  

And for a guy who had his own freakin’ plumbing supply company, why did he still have one of those antique porcelain sinks?  Gord figured Linda wasn’t into modern bathroom fixtures.  So he simply took the best sinks and bathtubs when other people renovated their bathroom.  Linda saw the satisfaction in her husband when he salvaged (with the help of a few of his plumber friends/clients) the best old school taps and faucets and towel racks and tiles.  So the taps in his bathroom had the black letters H for hot and C for cold on the little white porcelain cap. In between them was the cast iron fawcett.  It was white tile with a black tile border throughout.  Elegant but sturdy, just the way Gord liked it.  

To the right of the fawcett was a short tumbler with a single bamboo toothbrush.  Another gift from a grandchild.  To the left of the fawcett was the small yellow box of baking soda Gord used as toothpaste.

In Cedar’s absence Gord thought how he saw the anchored vision was an expression of the Art of War.  The Art of War, for him, was to secure peace and harvest the opportunity that peace provided.  Which is exactly what Gord wanted.  Some peace.  It wasn’t like his life was hectic.  On the contrary.  He woke up every morning without an alarm and made coffee.  When it was light enough out he would go for his walk around the neighbourhood.  He had two routes.  The short loop which he would do if it was raining or cold or that was the energy he had that morning.  The second loop meant he had to cross at the traffic lights so he could get to the park and see people with their dogs and smell the earth and leaves.

Back at home he would make breakfast and read and follow up on emails.  The afternoon included a nap and some kind of outdoor chore around the house for the fresh air and as a strategy to see one of his neighbours for a chat.  He spaced out his day with activities so he could never get too lonely or get caught spiralling down into a funk of missing Linda.   It has been almost 3 years since she died.  An x-ray of his sadness would have revealed that he was not missing Linda that much anymore as a person but of having the role of her husband.  Of being of service to her well being as his wife.   What didn’t let him live in peace was some feeling that he should have or could’ve done more in their marriage.  Should have taken the time, could have filled out the moments. 

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