Okay, so let’s see. I left off at the Vauxhall Legion. We sat around for a bit, talked to some of the ‘old folks’ who knew Wilf and Gerry from when they lived in Retlaw and then headed out to the homestead.
Not that there’s any homestead left. The land was sold off long ago and all that remains of the old place is a small shed where they used to pump the water. We found some bits of chain and remnants of old farm equipment, but really nothing left to tell that this is where my husband’s family originated.
It is hauntingly beautiful country, though. As far as you can see: gold prairie grasses sighing beneath a sky of palest blue that’s been brushed ever so lightly with gossamer clouds. Then, look out across to the south and you can see the Union United Church of Retlaw. It’s just a plain, white church surrounded by more prairie and a few dilapidated houses. Barb wire fence runs along the western edge and there’s a big rock sitting just north of the entrance that someone sandblasted with the name and date of establishment. The rock looks strange, out-of-place. But it shows that people care.
Enough people cared to renovate and rebuild the old church. Tim’s, Rick’s and Rob’s parents were two of them. The inside of the church is quaint. Very plain. But beautiful, just the same. Like the prairies. I’m not a religious person, though I would say that I am spiritual. I like going in the church at Retlaw. It’s comfortable, and I can easily imagine the sense of welcome and comfort that many of the pioneer families must have received when they gathered inside its rough country walls.
The ‘boys’ wandered about a bit, went out to the old graveyard where their great-grandmother is buried. The graveyard is a couple of miles from the church in the middle of a bald patch of prairie. There’s a gate to mark the entrance, but no road — you simply drive in across the field and stop an appropriate distance from the first weather-beaten headstone.
Once the tour was complete we headed back to Lethbridge. We had another wreath to lay at the cemetary where Wilf and Gerry are buried. By the time we got back to town, everyone was tired. And hungry. We decided a snack was in order. So back to the house we go, where we gobble up a couple of buns, then it’s find some warmer coats because the ever-lovin’ wind has picked up. The sun is going down and Connie is beginning to fret that we’ll be laying the wreath in the dark.
However. . .
. . . it is determined that we must make a beer run before we can go to the cemetary. I’m no longer driving, so I don’t care. Although, I’m with Connie as for laying a wreath in the dark in a cemetary with gale-force winds and the threat of snow in the air. Eventually, we arrive at the gravesite and we all pile out and head over to where Wilf and Gerry lie. It’s freezing, our teeth are chattering. We apologize to Wilf for being so late and in such a hurry. We know he’ll understand, though, because these are his boys, after all, and he grew up here in the south, where the wind never seems to stop.
Back at the house we make plans for dinner, but Connie and I decide we need a nap first. We leave the boys to have a beer and play with Rick’s blood pressure machine.
Yes, you read that right. Blood pressure machine. They’d started playing with it the night before, right after Tim and I arrived. They’d tell a joke, then check their blood pressure. Have a beer, check the pressure. Watch TV for ten minutes, check again. Kids. Connie said that come Saturday night, when there was a party for Rick and 3 of his friends who had all turned 60 that year, the blood pressure machine would have to be hidden away. We could just imagine it becoming the most interesting ‘game’ of the night.
All that checking of blood pressure’s, however, bore some fruit. Rick became so alarmed at how high my husband’s blood pressure was (I’ve been trying to get him to see a doctor about it for a couple of years) that he dragged him to his doctor on Friday morning and Tim got some medication. Now the trick is for Tim to actually take it and get to his own doctor for a check-up.
They don’t like to admit that they’re not 20 or even 30 anymore. Tim and Rob are in their 50’s while Rick is now 60. Watching them goof around and play their silly tricks on one another, listening to them laugh I couldn’t help feeling a little wistful. Where has the time gone? My God, it seems like only yesterday when our kids were all small. We were piling them into vehicles and taking them up to Beauvais to go fishing and spend a day at Connie’s parent’s cabin. We, meaning Connie, Kelly and myself would be annoyed as hell with the guys for drinking too much, making too much noise and taking off for hours without letting us know where they were going or what they were doing. They’d pile into the boat and take off and you could hear their laughter clear across the lake.
Through all the dramas over the years, the heartbreak, the joys, the arguments, all the little moments that have made and joined our lives — the sound of Larson boys laughing is one sound that binds us all.