I’m waiting for siblings to dress in overalls, boots, and scarves so we can hit the fields with bombardier and toboggan. But he’s waiting for me. I step out, fill the interim with some movement, and he greets me, “What took you so long?” He’s been waiting a while. And I thought he was taking those short spins just for his own pleasure, but really, he was waiting for me.
“I don’t want to drive,” I say as I approach. He’s perched on the back. What girl wants to drive when there is a man with you? So he takes the driver’s seat. I grab the strap with one hand and his waist with the other.
We go: him, the retired Mountie, a man grappling with aging, a man so alive, with ever-increasing constraints and limitations on his life. And me, the girl-woman, coming home for Christmas to a place crammed with memory. Each activity thrusts another ream of “remember when” across my mind’s eye. Old pains, joys, fears, and hopes surface in the simple pleasures of a Christ-tide holiday.
So we travel on, south. The open fields crusted by Chinook winds, the stubble-preserved snow, the mild calm before the storm. “Should we go all the way to those mountains?” he asks, the revving motor matching his rising excitement. No matter that the Sweetgrass Hills are in Montana: soul and mind have space, and can dream fabulous, hilarious ventures.
We swerve and turn and drive over the wind-carved jumps, laughing and whooping our way through the fields. Back into the yard, he asks, “Enough?” and I answer, “Sure.” But he’s not ready to quit. He needs to taste it again, that freedom of wind in your face, cold air freezing your skin, thumb vibrating with throttle’s heartbeat. “How ‘bout over that way?” So we head West, pinking sky ahead.
We swerve and meander to the standing rock, our own “Ebenezer,” where we stop to look. “I’ve never been out to this rock,” he says, and we’ve had it standing more than seven years. So I show him the cultivator indentations on the upper face, where shovels bounced and scraped and jabbed year after year. Flying geese, a flock of jagged “Vs,” travel across Ebenezer’s face, weathering it with their rusty wrinkles. But he stands unashamed, unmoved. The rock towers over our heads, though we can reach the top and brush off the hawk and osprey lime left on his crown. We talk about how Dad drug Ebenezer to this high spot in the field, pulling him with borrowed cable and our strongest tractor, from down in the dip to up on this ridge. People we’ve never met drive by and can see the rock, and we, sitting round our kitchen table, can see it through French door, beyond barn and shed and granaries, there at the swell in the field.
I restart the machine, and we head back, exploring, cheering, laughing, riding the bumpy ridge in the shelterbelt.
We come into the yard the front way, and siblings pour out of the house, ready for their own adventure. He isn’t ready to stop, to concede, to quit. I tell him to go, so he straddles long limb behind the younger man, and they take off, pulling a toboggan of fun-loving adventurers.
We remember, and live truly. We recall the past, and thrive instead of exist in the present. We re-visit, and explore history for the first time, and come away ready to live. Looking back, we see glimpses and glimmers of what makes us fully alive. And our hearts yearn with happy sorrow to be more than we have been, do more than we have done, love better what we have cherished little, and aspire for our true destiny.
He returns a hero, laughing and triumphant. And that’s just how he should come home.