This unseasonably mild winter that we've been experiencing here in Calgary has resulted in a number of people being able to still enjoy the outdoors even though we are now into January, normally a month known for its snow and cold. Unfortunately, it has not been entirely pleasant for everyone.
As I sat in my parents kitchen after having lunch this past Sunday, I heard Mom in no uncertain terms, order Dad outside to greet the new neighbours who had just moved in 2 weeks earlier and renting the Kennedy house next door to them.
"Simon" Mom ordered, "You always have some foolish, odd & strange reason to hate all of our neighbours and you are the most anti-social person on the block. Today you are going to put on a good impression and go out and make an effort to welcome these new neighbours. They look to be an older couple like us and it is a perfect opportunity to meet them since they are out in their back yard working. I will join you shortly once I finish tidying up inside.
Dad knowing that he would be continuously brow-beaten for the next few hours if he ignored Mom's demand, unenthusiastically closed his newspaper, sighed and looked over at her.
"Okay" he responded reluctantly, clearly in a defeated tone. "I'll go introduce myself but I'm telling you right off the bat that I won't like them. I am not looking for any bloody new friends, I'm far too old for that. But if it will get me a moment of peace and quiet, I'll agree to it. Just to be safe though, I'm taking the boy here with me in case I start to doze off talking to them."
"Well thank you very much, Simon. " Mom responded enthusiastically to Dad's statement. "I'm sure it will be very good for you to meet some new people, it will be a very nice change indeed."
Mom then looked at me and jokingly added "Now go with your father and please make sure he stays out of trouble."
I don't know how the Hell I always seem to get myself involved in these kind of situations, but there I was obediently following my parents directives like a little five year old kid.
We went into the back yard and headed over to the fence where a white haired couple were standing just feet away, putting dead plants and garbage into a large orange trash bag.
My father introduced himself and then me to this seemingly harmless retired couple who were named Donald and Donna Bright. After the introductions and some boring small talk, the three of them began discussing the recent enjoyable weather spell we've been experiencing for an unbearable long and boring time.
I have always found it amazing how the elderly seem to enjoy talking about the weather for hours, seemingly intrigued at every repetitious and monotonous comment each of them happens to say about it. Finally with the topic of the weather being totally exhausted and everyone now at their ease, the conversation really got going.
I was a little startled at the first topic that the old woman casually jumped into after that.
"I am so relieved to finally have some 'white neighbours' for a change. The last place we rented was like living in downtown Calcutta with all the damn foreigners running around like rats. And their stench was dreadful." Donna Bright advised, speaking her venomous hateful words.
Her aged and racist face contorted wildly as she recalled this seemingly unpleasant experience and the apparent foul odour.
Dad stared at both of them intently, without blinking. He seemed to have no expression, nor response to Mrs. Bright's rather odd statement.
Then her husband Donald Bright finally broke the silence and piped in with his own insane bigoted two cents.
"I just saw a bunch of negroes in that blue house down the street on the corner. That's always trouble in my experience. Probably just waiting for nightfall before the break-ins begin."
"Well it ain't going to happen to me & Donna, I'll be puttin' on the best damn deadbolts money can buy on all them doors & getting a good security system. Those damn people can look elsewheres' if they want to rip off someone. They'll learn....Let 'em go after their own kind. We need a good Neighbourhood Watch or something around here to discourage them people."
The 'negroes' that Mr. Bright was so callously referring to is the black family of Joe and Mary Barnes and their daughter & little grand-daughter. They have lived in this neighbourhood probably as long as Mom and Dad have and are also retired. Joe is an ex-RCMP officer and Mary is very active in the church Mom attends. Their son-in-law is currently in the military fighting over in Afghanistan and as a result their daughter and grand-daughter have moved in with them.
Dad considers Joe Barnes as one of his good long-time friends and since Dad has very few friends at all in general, he is fiercely loyal to the ones he actually does have.
This was going to be entertaining, I thought to myself, smiling. Dad would surely be enraged by these statements and would be yelling at these offensive new neighbours within seconds.
I braced myself for the verbal assault that I knew for certain would be unleashed on this moronic Donald Bright from my father.
The response from my Dad was nothing that I could have expected.
"Well Mr. Bright" Dad spoke quietly. "You certainly should talk with my wife about all these matters. She is very involved in our community activities as well as the Neighbourhood Watch. Let me just run in and get her out here and you tell her exactly what you told me. With that, Dad turned on his heel and quickly headed back towards the house.
"Dad" I asked, attempting to catch up to him. "Why the Hell did you let him get away with those statements for or didn't you hear them?"
"I'm not deaf yet, boy. I heard every ignorant & asinine words that those two spoke quite clearly." he responded to me angrily.
In actuality he was rather deaf, quite so in fact. Dad even has a hearing aid now to prove it, although he still is not in the habit of usually wearing it. Before I could challenge his statement though, Dad continued.
"You see boy, there are many ways to 'skin a cat' and I need to make sure your old mother learns a lesson here today as well."
"She is continually demanding that I be nice and meet new people, even when I know there is no need to. She forced me to go out and meet these bigoted new neighbours against my better judgement so she probably wouldn't believe me if I told her what they said. Figure I was making it all up just to avoid talking to them."
"No, she needs to hear all this first hand and perhaps she will stop forcing me to meet every damn new neighbour that happens to move in around here."
I found Dad's plan to be awfully convoluted, however he seemed very sure of himself. All I said was "Are you sure Mom will react as you expect?"
"Of course I'm sure." Dad snapped back quickly. "I've been married to your mother for 52 years, I think I know her pretty well by now."
"53 years, Dad" I corrected, reminding him of their anniversary only just a couple months back.
"Stop rambling, boy. Nobody likes a wise-ass." Dad responded, beginning to get agitated. "The point of the matter is she will be taught a valuable lesson and my life will be much more peaceful as a result."
We went inside and Dad casually informed Mom that the new neighbours had a couple of questions he was not to sure of, and asked her to go talk with them.
As the door closed behind her, Dad grabbed us two cans of Guinness and we both sat down at the kitchen table in front of the half opened window with a full view of the back yard.
"Ring side seats, boy" Dad cackled evilly. "By my estimations, your Mother should be back in here in about ten minutes in a sour mood, but definitely much the wiser.
We could only observe the conversation between Mom and the terrible Bright family as they were not speaking loud enough for us to overhear. Thankfully you don't always need to hear things to be able to gauge the mood and temperament of a conversation, the body language says it all and if Mom's was any indication, she was furious.
Almost exactly ten minutes from the time Mom went out to speak with them, she marched back in the house slamming the door behind her. Even though both Dad and I watched the entire spectacle, we still jumped in our seats at the loud bang the back door made when she closed it.
"Simon!" She yelled as she entered the kitchen red-faced & shaking with anger. "I have never met such horrible racist people in all my born days. You wouldn't believe what they just said about poor old Mary and Joe Barnes. It was just shocking. Filthy small minded racists is all they are and I certainly told them just as much. I am surprised you didn't notice it.
Dad thinking fast and clearly trying to buy some time, stood up and went over to Mom and gave her a little hug to calm her down.
"Well Dear, perhaps they may have." he responded slowly. "But you know my hearing is not as good as it once was, so I really miss a lot of what people are saying. I better wear that hearing aid a bit more often. I was actually just telling the boy that earlier today, believe it or not."
"Well Simon" Mom replied, slowly regaining her composure. "You are very fortunate indeed if you missed what these terrible bigots were saying today. Let us have nothing more to do with them ever again."
"Whatever you say, dear. You know best." Dad responded softly. He turned to me and gave me a quick wink.