1955… Southern Ontario
The graceful spruce trees shade the gravel lane leading to the Century farm. A large yellow brick home sits grandly in the middle of a casually cared for garden. The emerald grass, just tall enough for the robins to hide as, they search for worms. The grass blows quietly in the summer breeze. Grandpa’s farm has been my home for a year.
The smells are simple and soothing, tickling my nose, as I curl my toes into the sandy soil of the garden. We sit on the ground, carefree not worrying if we get dirt on our shorts. Grandpa taught us how to pick peas being careful to pick only the fat ones. As we squish each large pod between our thumb and our fingers, we push with our thumb, to make it pop open with a noisy crack, snap sound. It sounds almost the same as when mommy breaks the ends from the green beans. The only thing I like better than green peas is a red currant. Grandpa says they aren’t ready to eat yet.
My sister Nancy is four; I am five, almost six. My birthday is soon. I Love summer at Grandpa’s. I can swing so high on the swing that I can almost touch my toes to the leaves on the branch I am swinging from. My Uncle Johnny pushes best! Higher and higher, I go until my tummy makes a funny flip and I yell. “I’ll jump!”
Then he stops and I feel in charge. I am the oldest and the smartest, so mommy puts me in charge of my sisters. If they fall and scrape a knee I hug them. If Nancy needs to pee, I go with her to the ‘outhouse’. It is near our swing tree and there are two holes to sit on, one for her and one for me.
Grandpa looks after me. He rocks me on his knee in the squeaky wicker rocking chair and he doesn’t say, “Don’t be sucking that thumb”. He just lets me be. I like to sit on Grandpa’s knee in the squeaky rocker. I like the safe feeling of sitting on Grandpa’s lap and how he cuddles me in his arms. I like sucking my thumb when it is only Grandpa and me.
The phone sometimes rings at Grandpa’s house, but it is never for me. It is always someone to talk with Aunt Emma or Uncle Johnny. The phone is on the wall beside the door to the back kitchen. It is a big brown box with a black horn piece sticking out in front. They talk into the horn piece and they hold another piece up to their ear. I like listening to the phone and they always let it ring a few times. Nobody ever answers it on the first ring.
It is Saturday and Nancy and I are playing in the sand box with George and Gerald. They are big boys, in grade eight and they live across the road from Grandpa’s farm. Grandpa says the Tuckers are good neighbours. Nancy and I like playing with them because they have more toys then we do. They have five tractors, plastic animals, horses, cows, chickens and little white plastic fences to poke into the sand. We pull pine boughs off the big trees and shove them into the ground beside our cows in the sand pile. George is 15 and Gerald is 14 years.
George says, “Want to come to the barn and see the big cows?” “We have a baby calf too.”
“Can we come back and play after we see the baby calf?” I ask.
“Sure, we can play some more.”
We walk to the barn, tip toeing carefully with our bare feet on the gravel lane and still kicking up dust on the hard, dry surface as we follow the big boys from the sand box into the dark barn. There are small, dusty windows and the sun is almost shining through. It smells like stinky cow poop in the barn!
“Where is the baby calf? I ask.”
So, we follow the big boys, up the stairs at the end of the barn. It is dusty and I brush spider webs away from my cheeks and out of my hair.
“I don’t like spiders,” I whine.
Gerald leads the way.“I don’t like it here,” I say.
“Look at me, Gerald says as he jumps from a high beam and lands ‘ker-plunk’ onto the bed of straw.
I’ll show you something, George says as he opens his pants in the front and pulls out his boy part.
I stare in bewilderment as he says; “Now, let me see yours.”
“I don’t have that”, I say with innocent honesty.
“So, you can show me what you do have.” “Take down your knickers, let me see, Do it and then we will go back to the sandbox.”
I want to go back to the sand box so, I wiggle my blue shorts down and then my white knickers are at my knees.”
He comes closer and he picks me up.
“You’re a pretty girl.” He says as his boy part pokes at me.
I hear a pigeon cooing from a high beam in the corner of the barn. Dust floats in the suns rays as they stream through the cracks between the barn-boards. I feel something wet running down my leg.
“Ouch!” “It hurts”! “Stop and put me down”. “I don’t like this!”
He puts me down and the straw feels sharp now as it pokes my bare feet.
George speaks, “come with me, I’ll help you wash your knickers so your mommy won’t be mad.”
“Blood!” I have blood on my underpants.
Nancy runs out the door but I can’t because I have no panties on.
George is washing my pants in the water trough and wrings the water out. I put my wet knickers on and I don’t like how I feel. I feel bad as I walk out the dusty lane passing the sandbox on my way home. I don’t want to play anymore.
I am tucked in my bed up the stairs at Grandpa’s house. Mommy sits on the side of the bed. Tears drip down my mommy’s face. I am hurt but my mommy is crying.
“Don’t cry mommy.” “Are you mad at me?”
Georgie Porgie, Puddin and pie, kissed the girls and made them cry
the girls went inside, Georgie Porgie Ran to hide.
I won’t cry.
1992 It is another time … another place, but the same face.
The face is older… now a woman is bolder.
The ringing of the phone brings me running in from the garden.
“Oh Hi mom, how are you?”
“I have some bad news.” “Your Grandpa passed away last night,”
“I’m glad I visited him two weeks ago.”
“Do you think he knew I was there”?
“I think so,” mother replies. “The funeral will be on Tuesday at 11.00 o’clock. George Tucker is to be one of the Pallbearers along with other neighbours.”
She continues to speak; yet I do not hear anything else.
George Tucker, George Tucker, round and around the name goes as a needle stuck on an old scratchy LP. I say good-bye and cry for the little girl that was never heard.
I sit in the rocker that Grandpa gave to me after the birth of my son. I rock and squeak, alone in my rocker. As the sun sparkles through the glass and shines off my crystal swan sitting on the window ledge it reflects a rainbow on the ceiling. I shuffle back into the kitchen to phone my sister.
“Grandpa died Nancy.”
It is not a shock to her, since Grandpa had been sick for the past year.
“George T. is going to be a pallbearer; I utter, sobs cracking my voice. What can I do?” “Grandpa would roll over in his grave if he ever knew what had happened”.
I cannot allow that man to be there.
“Let me talk to W. about it.” Nancy says calmly. “He will know what to do.” Nancy’s husband is a police officer. She tells me that he knows how men think.
“Let me speak with him and I will call you back.”
In a few hours, the phone rings and I sense it is Nancy before I answer.
“Linda, you need to call him and tell him, not to come or, you will take him to court.” “Tell him you will have him charged with the sexual molestation”. “Do you think you can call him and say that?” “Warren said it would scare him senseless and you really could do it”.
It is the eve before the funeral and I find the number in the listings. I begin dialling with my sister’s Connie’s rotary phone. Poking my index finger into each numbered hole and watching the dialler turn back, click, click, click, click, click, click, click. Again, and again I poke my finger in and rip the dialler forcefully around to the silver stopper, each click bringing me closer to the ring, which will allow me to say what I need to say. My finger is sore as I dialled the last number and I change hands and hold the phone to my other ear.
It’s ringing. I suck in my breath. One ring, two rings, three rings.
A woman’s voice answers, “Hello.”
It’s his wife, I had not thought of this.
“May I speak with George please”?
“Just a minute.”
She did not ask, “Who is it?”
“What will he sound like? Take you pants down Linda…
“Hello this is George.”
“This is Linda V. do you remember me?”
“Yes of course, how are you Linda?”
“I just called to tell you not to come to Grandpa’s funeral tomorrow.” I don’t want you there, none of my sisters want you there and he certainly would not want you there had he known what you did to me almost 40 years ago.”
He is quiet. He is not interrupting and he is not hanging up.
My strength surges, “I have been to counselling to deal with the things you did when I was little and if you DARE to show your face at the funeral tomorrow I will take you to court.”
There is a tiny moment of silence… “See you in court he says.”
And he hangs up.
Tears sneak out the corner of my eye. I did not need to say good-bye.Good-bye Grandpa…
The funeral home is crowded with people. Grandpa is in the open casket at the front. I remember how his hand felt only two weeks ago as I stood beside his bed in the nursing home. He never said a word but I know, that he knew by the squeeze of his hand before I let go. I wait to watch the men carry his casket to the Hearst. The last Hymn is my sisters’ duet of the 23rd Psalm. The tears cut rivulets down my cheeks. They are not for me but for what my Grandpa didn’t know. I think he would have done something had he known. But time passes… I’ve taken off my rose-coloured glasses. I’ve found my power. I am not a little girl and my mommy isn’t mad, only sad. Her Daddy is gone.
Porgy nasty guy
Poke a finger in your eye
When the woman had her say,
Georgie Porgy stayed away.