Thursday, June 30, 2011

Grandma's Trust

Note: this post is also appearing on ... please visit and comment there if you have a mind to. As it is up there now, I'm posting right away ... this IS however my post for Canada Day (July 1st, for those who don't know.) Belinda Burston, who you will know from her comments and her blog also has a post on, so drop by and check out her post on how she came to be a Canadian.

Grandma's Trust

I was having a pee.

Thinking about my grandmother.

Thinking about my country.

We'd driven almost 300 kilometres through the wilderness of Northern British Columbia. That is to say, it was a long pee.

My grandmother was born in Canada in the late 1800's. In all ways she was a remarkable woman. She made the hard life of poverty and subsistence farming into a warm life of laughter, card games and home fried doughnuts. She was a woman that I was always close to. I think I actually trusted her love of me.

One summer I was staying with her in the old homestead. A barnboard shack on a gravel road. The family dreams lay like rusted dinosaurs round the property. Threshing machines that never threshed and tractors that never left a track. Big, hulks, that frightened and fascinated all the grandchildren. But inside those oddly clean sparkling windows, the light was warm. Inside the doors, the spirit welcoming. That summer, I asked her a question. We had been studying in school the history of Canada. I had learned, with a shock, that at one time in Canada, in CANADA, women were not legally persons, that women could not vote. I had been stunned by this information.

I asked her to tell me about those days. She did. In stark detail. She said, 'If you are old enough to ask the question, you are old enough to hear the answer.'

She had married lucky, she said. A comment that might have seemed at odds with the surroundings of a life without riches. Water was pumped into the sink with an old hand pump, towels were stuffed around doors for insulation. But her husband, she told me, was never a violent man. He had loved her gently and respected her unceasingly. Other woman, many women, were not lucky. Their men, abetted by the society in which they lived, treated their women with less care than the cattle in their barns.

Women of her class, she said, never thought about the vote. They thought about survival. I asked her, hushed by her tone and battered by her honesty, how she coped.

She gave an odd answer: "Canada."

I asked her what she meant. She said that she always trusted that her country would get it right. That a young country would grow up. That one day a woman would be protected by law, not luck.

"Trust this country," she said, "it wills to grow and change."

It will not surprise you to know that my grandmother was the first to know of my sexuality. A woman of deep faith, she felt that the call to love me was stronger than the call to damn me. So she did. I was her gay grandson, that was that.

Once when telling her that I feared for my job, for my safety if others found out about who, and what, i was. After listening to me and consoling me, she said, "Trust Canada. Give your country time to grow. It will. It will because it wants to."

And it did.

Years later, I am driving long distances along a highway I had travelled in my youth. In those days the rest stops were barely more than 'intensely rustic'. I suddenly had to pee. We watched for a rest stop. Being a wheelchair user now, rushing into the bushes is out of the question. I was terrified of what I'd find. Those rest stops in my memory were forbidding for those who walked. But we pulled into the stop and saw, proudly displayed, the blue wheelchair guy. I rolled easily to the door, and had the dignity of travelling in dry pants.


I trust this country.

It grows.

Even when you aren't looking.


Kristin said...

An unusual but beautiful post Dave. Happy Canada Day.

Jan said...

Great post Dave. You Grandmother sounded like an very special woman. It is people like that that caused the deep respect for elders in many cultures. Canada's first nations being only one. It is astounding to think that only a few generations ago women were not people and many of the rights and much of the lifestyle we take for granted were not even part of the landscape then. My Grandmother was born in a covered wagon just outside of Kenora, and it took my Great Grandparents over two years to travel from Montreal to Northern Saskatchewan.

Joyfulgirl said...

wow what a wonderful post and story. I really love it and it made me feel very emotional - especially ''one day a woman would be protected by law, not luck''. What a wonderful summary of so much. I hope other countries, where women's fate is also often determined by 'luck', or lack of it, will also see their own day soon. Happy Canada day.

Tamara said...

Beautiful post. Happy Canada Day to you! How blessed you were to have such a wonderful grandmother. When people yearn for the "good old days", I always think of women like my gggg-grandmother who was abused by my gggg-grandfather all her life - until she killed him in self-defense when she was 70 and he was 77 - and I think of people with disabilities living in institutions and people in slavery. Thankful that there are people who are forward thinking and work for change. People like you. Thanks, Dave!

kitten said...

i remember the bad old days of my first marriage, when (in the aftermath of a suicide attempt, while on the psych ward getting counselling) i was told that if i would only "submit to your husband and not argue, then the marriage would last forever". that glass-crashing down sound was the sound of my belief in that particular "counselor" crashing to the ground, and i then invited him to do something anatomically impossible with his desk. *ahem*

brava for your grandmother, and her belief in the country waking up and getting things right. and bravo for canada...for living up to her trust. happy canada day, dave.

bebas said...

Bertha said:

I feel very close connected with that woman. As a inmigrant woman, I chose Canada to be my country, precisely because I trusted this country. From the moment I landed here, I felt empowered and free. Canada is a very special place with wonderful values. Altghough, things are never perfect; this country is always moving forward and fighting for human's rights.

Belinda said...

Dave, The post is wonderful. I "liked" it on Facebook, so it is now posted on my page there too!

Thank you for the mention of my story too. That was kind!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like such a wonderfully wise woman!!! Cheers to many more years of an ever growning/ learning country....

CJ said...

Love this post. Although I am an American, I have traveled to Canada multiple times. I just love it.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post - one of your best! Love the linking of ideas, language and hearing about your grandma... what a wise woman! All countries need time to glow and reflect to make lives better for their citizens. Politicans would be wise to read your post! take care day, happy (belated!) canada day!