Brooding in the Rain
June 15, 1998
"Ellen." Phil's sibilant whisper disturbed the cozy little encounter I was having with my favourite fantasy. "Just remember where we were, Mel," I murmured. "I'll see what he wants and get right back to you."
"Ellen!" Mel Gibson's dreamy blue eyes grew hazy and indistinct as the summons came again, sharper this time. Reluctantly, I opened my own baby blues, bleary with sleep and regret. "Whazzat?" I husked, peering through the gloom to the other side of the bed where my husband had raised himself on an elbow, his body tense. "Timezzit, enaways?"
"I dunno. Shhh, listen! What's that noise?"
Obediently, I shushed and harkened to an unfamiliar liquid pattering. "Sounds as if you left the garden hose on again. And yet...it doesn't." A dim memory stirred in the recesses of my mind. "Phil," I gasped. "Call me crazy, but I think it's...whaddya call it when water comes from the sky? Rain? Yes, RAIN! Phil, I think it's RAINING!"
Well, maybe I exaggerate the inanity of our early morning conversation just a tad, but we did awaken the other morning to the spattering din of rain on the roof. And it had been a long time, long enough that we could be excused for having forgotten - misplaced, anyway - the significance of the noise.
I leaped from the bed and ran through the house, going from window to window, gazing in wonder at the unfamiliar spectacle of a water-logged neighbourhood. "Keeley!" I commanded, tapping at the door of our son's bedroom. "Lookit outside." I heard the creak of bedsprings and a moment later, he joined me at a kitchen casement, grumpy and unshaven, bulky in his green terrycloth bathrobe. So like his father, I thought fondly and a little sadly. I wonder when that happened?
Keel is our youngest son, tagging along several years after I'd thought I was too old for such foolishness. And much too busy to be having another child, up to my eyebrows, as I was, in Lodge busy-ness. The other kids were a relatively well-grown 16, 13, 10, and 7, able to survive on their own during tour bus season, but my hands were ready full. What would I do with a baby?
I needn't have worried. We came home from the hospital when Keeley was a week old and I never saw him again for four years.
Lise changed his diapers and rocked him to sleep. Jo prepared his formula and lovingly mashed and shopped and pureed as he got more particular about his food. Toby taught him the correct method of building Leggo cars and Jordan clued him in on the finer art of skimming delinquency's razor edge. Phil and I were allowed visitor's right and observer status.
As a result of being raised by four such professionals, Keel turned out to be a delightful little boy, spoiled just a smidge, but witty and sharp, lovable and loving and terribly earnest behind the thick glasses that sat on the end of his freckled nose.
That earnestness provided us with many enjoyable moments. I remember one in particular. He was in his theological stage, having attended his first few Sunday Schools and was well on his way to becoming a three-year-old version of a born-again Christian. Most of his conversations revolved around God and His son.
I had taken Keel and a young friend for a short drive up the Canol Road, and as we were starting into one of the many short, sharp curves, Keeley turned to his friend and asked, apropos of absolutely nothing at all, "Do you know who lives up in the sky?" Just then, a pick-up pulling a utility trailer burst upon us right in the worst part of a corner and I had to do some tricky maneuvering to avoid a collision.
Releasing my pent-up breathe in a gasp, I invoked the name of our Lord in a reverent and prayerful tone. Turning to me with pleased surprise on his face and approbation in his voice, Keel exclaimed, "Yep... you got that right!"
Later, the advent of TV brought new maturity to Keel's commentary. His grade one teacher, Donna Jones, took her class home for a visit. After checking out the rest of the apartment, some of the kids found their way to the bedroom where her waterbed soon became the playground equipment of choice. "Boy, it was really neat, Mom," he confided later. "For several minutes after we all got off, it looked like it was still breathing deeply."
By the time Keel was twelve, his family status had changed to that of only child, not just within our home but also within the community of Johnson's Crossing. Of course, he had his choice of several rooms and beds, a large voice in the day's menu, and was the beneficiary of a definite lavishness at birthdays and Christmas.
But there was also a minus side.
I no longer had to go through a list of names when I yelled. No more "Jo...Lise.. Jor...KEEL, get in here and hang up your coat!" I could nail him right off the bat. He, and he alone, bore the blame for Phil's missing hammer, fishing rod, TV guide, whatever, Phil having too much respect for the flat side of my tongue to even consider laying the loss at my door.
And no matter how cool you might think your mother is, there is a certain stigma in having to admit that she is your closest companion and best friend, especially to older brothers who tend to forget that she used to play cards and ball with them as well.
Like his teacher's waterbed, however, Keel had great resilience and with a little patience and a lot of deep breathing, he survived the yelling and the teasing. And tomorrow he turns 21.
I watched him as he stood beside me, looking out at the rain. He's a big man - over six feet, over 200 pounds - still sweet and loving, but on that morning he looked mean: whiskery and squinty-eyed, broody at the possibility that he might be working all day in a downpour.
"Bummer," I commiserated.
He turned his head, grinned, and in his smiling hazel eyes, I saw the little boy who thought I was the greatest thing since soup crackers and butter. "Yep," he said. "You got that right!"
Happy birthday, Babe.