Friday, 11 December 2009

Scotty is gone but not forgotten.

The fact that parents must be constantly vigilant these days breaks my heart. Children once wandered where they pleased without fear of paedophile predation. It did happen occasionally but at nowhere near the rate it seems to now. In my Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I recount the death of an elderly friend at Christmas as well as how he treated my sister and me as his own grandchildren.
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"I've got some bad news for you," Mom announced. "Your friend Scotty froze to death in his sleep. His door blew open during a storm one night and the fire in the stove went out." My heart broke as I struggled to hold back the tears. The man who became the grandfather I never had was gone.

When Diane and I were both attending Park Elementary School, she introduced me to a senior citizen who everybody called Scotty. This man, whose real name was Frank, lived in a one-room tar-paper shack on an undeveloped lot in the town. On our weekend wanderings and trips home from classes, we often visited this amiable gentleman. He was generally pleased to see us, although we did occasionally try his patience. In spite of that, we grew fond of him and he became our surrogate grandfather.

Diane and I thought it was "really neat" that Scotty owned such a unique dwelling. It made our two-bedroom middle-class home appear humdrum in comparison.

While everybody else used natural gas, our friend cooked on a coal stove which also served as his furnace. I loved to warm my hands by it on cold winter afternoons and watch the glowing embers. As Scotty had no electricity, he burned candles and lit kerosene lamps. We wished we could have such exotic lighting in our house.

Many aspects of Scotty's home and life captivated us. His hand-operated water pump, for example, fascinated us. He used a real outhouse instead of an ordinary flush toilet. Scotty burned his own garbage as well. I envied him since Mom reprimanded me regularly for burning paper in the basement. He had his own rain barrel too. I felt astonished that the water ran down a stick, hanging from the roof, and how it flowed without needing a downspout into the barrel.

Since our elderly friend was somewhat feeble, we gladly helped him with his chores. Carrying in buckets of coal from his rickety storage shed, pumping water, and hauling it to the house made us feel virtuous. Working for Scotty seemed like such a fun way to pass the time until supper. Diane and I would frequently debate regarding who would do which chore, believing that the other was having more fun.

Mom claimed she received a premonition that she should visit Scotty on the evening he passed away but Dad vetoed the suggestion. Whether Mom was right or not, Scotty died the way he wanted to live, surrounded by his few possessions in his own one- room home.
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Deliverance from Jericho contains many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. This 196-page paperback sells for $25.00 through the PayPal-equipped Inscribe writers group website. It also contains 6 black and white photographs.