There was a unique beauty about this cemetery. Lawrence’s intimate experiences with graveyards provided him with something of an expert status on their attributes, and Thompson Cemetery had forlorn beauty to it. Most particularly, the striking colour contrasts, from pure white trunks of birch clumps, to the red and crimson maple leaves, many having fallen already, spoke of the stark break between the living and the dead. The shiny black of the newer monuments, the rich green of the close-cropped grass, the charcoal tint of asphalt pathways, even the paling blue of the autumn sky provided a lush range of contrasts, while the heavy cottonwood and elm trees reached comforting, muscular arms out to shelter visitors. September 22 was almost perfect timing. Lawrence appreciated extremes, and understood the discord between colour and bleak, dying and clinging to life. Life remained, yet death threatened.
Mom had always enjoyed visiting here, pausing for moments on various benches as she moved from her father’s, to mother’s, to brother’s gravesites. A seventy-one year personal history in the area, and a one hundred and two year family connection meant that there was an abundance of sites at which to pause, reflect, and move on. It had been one of her few tranquil places. Particularly at her brother’s gravesite. He had died forty-four years earlier, but of all nine siblings, he and she had enjoyed the closest bonds. She had missed him greatly, even those many years after.
The beauty, today, though, was lost in the pools of tears that Lawrence willfully restrained.
All of the mourners had departed, some of them more than thirty minutes ago, some lingering a little longer to offer condolences to him. They were mostly extended family, of whom he truly knew but five or ten. Most were from south of the Canadian/USA border, in neighbouring North Dakota. Few people beyond these relatives claimed friendship with Emily Mason. Few had been allowed to penetrate her fortified exterior. So, few friends existed, and few neighbours dared attend. It was all meaningless....
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Milestones and Key Events
To judge his life based on the end result would be akin to judging the value of the Mars rover once its function has concluded. The rover may be destined for the Mars scrapheap, but its value has been significant.
Three rooms for 6 of us. Not three bedrooms; 3 rooms and one of the rooms had no floor. Kitchen, dining room and living room were one, twelve feet by twelve feet. Our one bedroom was split into 2 units, each six feet wide, each with bunk beds. The remaining room had only half a floor, but the remainder of the room acted as our parents’ bedroom, 8 feet wide and 24 feet long, with a potbelly railroad stove in the center. The house had no insulation and no washroom. The windows were single pane, the door a barn-style slab of old lumber. Romantically, it was rustic. Actually, it was exceptionally primitive.
In that home, the four of us – my 3 siblings and me – were shaped and formed into what we became, each of us completely divergent from the other in character, values, intellect and ambition.
I believe that each of us made subconscious choices at every phase and touchstone in our lives, and only two of us made conscious choices as we matured. With the same clay to shape us, we became unique, different vessels. Poverty was the dirt from which we grew and poverty ruled most of us as we grew older. It was neither our parents’ fault nor our parent’s credit and blame for how we developed. It was how we saw and reacted to the world around us that made us who we were and are.
Over time, incident and experience upon incident and experience changed us. By early adulthood, we were unrecognizable as siblings.
I was a quiet, respectful nerd, even though nerds did not yet exist when I was in high school. At least, that is how I saw myself at that phase in my life. Reflecting back to that period fifty years ago, I acknowledge that I was far from a model teenager. Rather, I was a somewhat typical teenager with a quirky approach to the things that happened in those four years.
Usual and normal? I had my run-ins with the local police. I had my conflicts with my teachers. Both were normal events in the 1960s. It was the beginning of hippies and the end of beatniks, the heyday of rock and roll and the birth of acid rock and acid. It was an era of revolution, so I must have been mainstream, with my rebellious actions. However, where some were breaking in to establishments, I was arrested for breaking out of one: my high school. Where others were being expelled – kicked out – of school, I was kicked back in. Normal activities with an abnormal spin.
While others made their way to university, mostly at their parents’ expense, my best friend and I each married within two years of leaving school. He has remained married for fifty years, I have been married four times, had three live-in relationships. My university degree was earned in my late twenties.
My life has been a collage of pivotal moments, none ever dull. ...
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