Through The Tall Grass

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Hard to believe,
these things usually are,
and if you’ve never experienced anything like this,
you won’t believe it, but I do.

forrest_through_the_tall_grass_ink_on_paper_12x9_2017_wMy father told me one evening over dinner,
he’d never told a soul before, not even mother when she was alive.

It happened years ago, I was very young and mother had taken me to visit my cousins in Canada.
Dad was on his way to meet us but decided to take a detourhe decided to drive north, cross the border near Vancouver, then drive east to meet us in the Okanogan.

He traveled by freeway until he got to Canada, then highway, then came the reason for going this way,
the detour.

My father knew something of his father, very distant memories, a story his mother, my grandmother, related to him when he was just a boy, a boy my age, say 8 or 9.

One of the neighbors reported the same story to him.
There had been a disagreement between my father’s mother and her husband, the grandfather I never knew.

The disagreement became very heated, she never said what it was about, my dad never knew, but soon enough my grandfather was chasing my grandmother with a carving knife around the yard.

Some neighbors came to the rescue, stopped him.
They were about to call the police, but grandmother made a deal with grandfather, if he would admit he was mentally disturbed, instead of going to jail for attempted murder, he would be committed to a sanatorium.

He said he would rather have that, be committed.
Papers were signed and he was sent away.
When my dad came home that night, he was told by his mother, “No more daddy, no more.”

My dad was just a little boy and he didn’t understand but had to accept the story, accept the loss of his father.
The memories of his dad were good. His dad always helped him with his schoolwork, especially mathematics.
He would help him every night at the dinner table.

But now no more daddy to help him with his schoolwork.
Dad said he cried himself to sleep many times.
He missed his dad something terrible.
His school grades went down.

Dad had crossed the border and was driving east of Vancouver now,
going in the direction of the sanitarium, of which his father had been committed.
On the front seat beside him was his father’s old shaving tackle, he was bringing it to him, his razor, mug and shaving brush, kinda like a gift, or maybe to help prove his connection.

Then he had seconds thoughts.
Maybe he wouldn’t want to see his father again.
He’d grown up without him, he’d had to.
Why should he disturb him and himself by digging up the past?

Should he go and inquire about him at the main office?
He kept driving, east, towards the location of the sanatorium.
He’d heard very little about what had happened to his father.
Only, for the last 30 years, he’d stayed there in the institution.

They let him work in the fields. They had a kind of a farm where they grew some crops and he liked to work the land.
So the medical staff let him work the land.

Dad was so close now, he could see a large institution just to the left ahead of him.
He came to an intersection and stopped at a red light.
It was a very warm day, both front windows were rolled down.
There was a sound, like rustling.

Through the tall grass came a man, an old man, walking up from the fields, he was coming out of the tall grass right by dad’s car.
They saw each other.

Dad asked, “Could you use a lift?”
The old man said he could and thanked him as he got in.
The light changed and dad drove toward the sanatorium.
The old man looked down at the shaving tackle.

My dad said, “Are these yours?”
The old man picked them up.
A faint smile came to his lips, “Yes. Where did you get these?”
“I’m one of your sons.”
“Which?”
“The younger.”

They drove quietly. They didn’t speak.
They looked at one another.
There was only curiosity, a gentle quiet curiosity between them.
They arrived in front of the sanatorium.
My dad stopped the car.

My grandfather, thanked his son for the lift and returning his shaving tackle.
They said goodbye and my grandfather got out of the car.
My father drove slowly away.

He looked in the rearview mirror and saw his father go inside the sanitarium.
He didn’t try to contact him again.
He never inquired in later years if he was still alive.

It is strange to me to act in this way, but to my father, he couldn’t do anything else.
Maybe he was afraid of knowing too much.
Maybe he was afraid some sort of mental disturbance ran in the family.
He doesn’t like to talk about it, but one night over dinner he told me the story.

He asked me about God, was he watching us all the time?
How could he just happen to be at the same place and time, after all those years,
and run right into his father.

Indeed, how could such a thing happen?
But it did.

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