Saturday, July 30, 2022

Bring out your Ed!

Charlene, Norma, Bertholde, Me. I should have phoned them each
to ask if I could use this photo but to heck with that life's too short. (Besides, it
was Alex himself who told me once "if a family's got a writer in it, it's screwed.")
A guy on my street Wednesday asked if I think the universe, or God, or a deceased relative, ever sends messages. 

I said "You mean like one of my dead brothers? I have three, you know. Or our sister Mary Leona who died shortly after she was born?  Might she send me the occasional text from the other side?"

It was pretty clear he did not expect that  exact answer. (To tell the truth, I kinda took me by surprise, too.)

But it's true. Pat, Tom and Ed. Dead. And a sister, Mary Leona. My mom had 10 kids and only six of us are still, as one of my co-workers so artfully put it, "on the right side of the sod." The half-dozen live ones are in this great photo, taken in the cemetery where Mary Leona is buried.

Either my wife Helena or Alex's wife Brenda shot it, a few months ago. We were having a memorial service for Ed which really turned into a memorial service for everybody. And a fine time was had by all--dead and alive. We wouldn't have been laughing otherwise.

And something just occurred to me.

FOR HUENA'S SAKE: A quarter of a century later, I just realized whose
 words I stole to use for the opening of that story!
If I sound sort of casual about dead people, it's not a sign of, whatchamacallit, disrespect. I don't like them any less just because they're gone. So why not have fun with them? They'd certainly want us to.  

We miss the dead ones, but beyond that? 

Here's why this attitude comes so easily to me: I--and the rest of the Carters-- were raised with strong beliefs. 

Our mom, Huena, was a fountain of beliefs of all sorts and we (I don't think it was just me) drank them in like baby formula.  

In some homes, people grew up knowing which golf club to use  to hit a ball out of a sand trap, or which banks had the best mortgage rates. In my house, we knew that if you wanted to perform well in choir practice you prayed to St. Cecelia. Also, mom knew (don't ask me how) that if you sang your prayers they counted for twice the spoken versions.

If you lost your wallet, check with St. Anthony.

She had religious icons and assorted statues in every room in the house and she also instilled in me and at least two of my siblings and I could name names almost every superstition known to humans. In Huena Carter's house, beliefs were not beliefs, they were facts. Brick solid facts.

Think about what that does to a person.

I once interviewed, for Chatelaine magazine, the super-talented songwriter Rufus Wainright, whose mother was the songwriter Kate McGarrigle and whose father was the songwriter Loudon Wainwright III and HIS father, Loudon Wainwright II, was one of the best-read columnists in the world who wrote about his family for LIFE magazine. (P.S. I think I took Rufus by surprise when--instead of asking about him--I enquired about his granddad who was one of my role models.) 

But given his upbringing and genetic inheritance, is it any wonder Rufus can string phrases together? 

The Carters had as much supernatural stuff in our house as the Wainwrights had musical stuff in theirs.  

It should come as no surprise that one of the first features I wrote for Chatelaine--one of Canada's most respected sources of indepth journalism--was called "A ghost in your bedroom." I just remembered that among the expenses incurred in investigating that story were the ghost-busting services of a Feng Shui expert! The feature also mentioned my sisters' haunted apartment back in Sudbury.

So, the guy asked, do I think the universe, or God, or our deceased relatives sometimes send us messages? 

I think one of them sometimes write this blog.