Tuesday, November 26, 2019

My late brother Ed

This Saturday past, my older brother Alex and I spent a few hours visiting another of the Carter boys,
TOM'S KNEE: That's me sitting on it. It would also be
a great name for a bar. 
Tom, in the northern Ontario village of Elliot Lake where he lives with his patient, loving and very witty spouse Judy.

I love Tom a lot. Alex and Judy, too, but this is about Tom, because I'm very old fashioned and think it's good to love the person you sleep with and God knows I spent a lot of years in bed with Tom.

Historical fact? We grew up in a three-bedroom house. My parents had a room to themselves; one of the others was for the girls and Tom, Alex, Ed and I slept in the boys' room. (My eldest brother Pat had moved out of the family home by the time I was old enough to remember anything.)

And in that boys' room was a set of bunks and a twin bed. Alex and Eddie got the bunkbeds so I, the smallest, shared the twin with Tom who was the biggest.

And this is just eerie:  For some reason, I will never forget a poem I learned back then and it went like this: 

When my brother Tommy
Sleeps in bed with me.
He curls up
and makes

Interesting thing about sharing a bed with Tom was, by the time I started grade one at St. Albert's Separate School, Tom had put formal education on hiatus and was out in the working world and didn't keep the same hours as the three youngest boys. He was gone when I awoke each morning and seldom home when I went to sleep.

Which brings me to my late brother Ed.

He's not dead, btw; Ed's  just more comfortable than I am with being, like, you know, not precisely on time for some stuff.

For that, I blame my mom. Here's why:

When we were little, on every school morning that I can remember, my mother Huena would get us three Carter boys out of bed with a variation of the following.

From the bottom of the stairs that went up to our bedroom on the second floor, Huena called, "Alex Eddie and Peter get up for school!"

If it were a special saint's feast day, she had more ammunition. "It's the feast of St. Blaise. You have to go to Mass to get your throats blessed! Get up!"


Five minutes later. "Alex Eddie and Peter get up for school! Don't make me call your father!"

By this time of day our dad Tom Sr. had put in a few hours' work at the bus garage down the street from our house. No way was he was going to traipse home to scare us into getting up, but if you think  reality was going to stop her, you've never met Huena.

Every so often she'd go so far as to loudly dial the telephone and be like, "Tom? It's never been this bad. The boys won't listen to me. Would you please come home from the garage?"

More crickets.

In fact Huena never phoned, and EVEN IF SHE HAD, my dad wasn't scary. My parents didn't believe in corporal or for that matter any kind of punishment, another reality ignored at that moment by Huena. Believe it or not, she even on occasion faked the front door slamming as if Dad had arrived. I'm not making up a word of this.

Here's the thing.

What happened next always always always unfolded in the same fashion.

Me being the youngest and suckiest would eventually roll out of bed and into the bathroom (we only had one) first, allowing Alex and Eddie a few more precious moments under the covers. And then, as if we'd rehearsed, after I'd come out of the bathroom, Alex would relent, allowing Eddie to log more mattress time. I'm quite certain we always arose in the same order.

I think Ed owes me and Alex something. I'm not sure what.

I'm also not sure why I started telling you this story. Or if my sisters gave Mom a hard time in the mornings but probably not.  All my sisters are as flawless as the Blessed Virgin.

Wait now I remember.

Ed was so good at staying in bed longest that he  sometimes showed up at St. Albert's after the bell had rung.

My late brother Ed.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

How to not park your car

Photo by Peter Parker.

The late comedian George Carlin had a shtick about how confusing things should be when a judge instructs a witness to describe what happened “using your own words.”


Who besides tiny babies use their own words?  

What good would answering “in your own words” be if nobody else understands?”

Friday past, it occurred to me I know somebody who used her own words a lot. 

My mom. 

The late Huena Carter went through life employing a wholly invented purpose-built vocabulary.

Take, for example, “peeyohseeohdee.”

Peeohseeohdee is how Huena — a registered nurse — referred to private parts.  Funny though I’ve never written the word before and I think in our heads she was saying the letters P.O.C.O.D. Why we thought that, nobody will ever know.

She also sometimes called those parts “your doins’” which she frequently made plural so it came out “doins’s.”

Huena gave birth to 10 kids so she knew a thing about what doins’s did.

So why you ask, did I take time out of my otherwise busy day Friday to recollect Huena’s “own words?”

The answer is, because Friday evening I did a real non-bang-up job of parallel parking my 2011 Chevy Malibu.

As regular readers (as if ) of Pete’s Blog&Grille know, I  think parallel parking should be an Olympic event as long as they keep the technology out of it. Back-up cameras are to competitive parkers what steroids are to real sports.
And while I’ll concede that my next-door neighbor Delanie is the Kawhi Leonard of parallel parking, I am fairly certain I am the second-best parallel parker on our mid-town Toronto street.  

If you’d been here Friday night, you’d have watched me slip my aging Malibu into a slot tighter than where the money comes out at the ATM. But nobody was on hand, so I documented the event myself, and it was while doing that that I laughed out loud (really did! Standing there on the street!) because I thought of Huena’s “own words” again. 

For some reason Huena — and I’m warning you, this next part is pretty graphic — called having a bowel movement — “parking.”

True fact.

If  I — at five years old — was with my mom in, say,  the A&P store and announced that I had to “go to the bathroom,” Huena might ask “do you have to go number one” or “do you have to park?”

Ask any of my siblings. They know what parking means. 

I Googled “parking as a synonym for b-m’s” and Google was like, “the hell you say!”

A few years ago, I went and got scoped as men over 50 ought to do every once in a while. Everything was fine but for reason that I won’t go into here, the affects of the anesthetic weren’t quite as strong as I might have liked.

After I got home I was a little sore.

My brother Alex asked me how I felt.

I answered: “Like I just parked dad's Buick.”

I’ve changed my mind. 

You know what's a really bad idea for the next Olympics? Parallel parking.