By: Wayne Miles-Underhill
Jess felt his heart lurch as he watched the 727 roll down the runway on its way to Calgary with his beloved Theresa on board. She was finally leaving him. They had talked about the day that inevitably would arrive when they would say their final goodbyes and it had come at last.
Neither of them thought it would be so soon even though all signs pointed in that direction with increased clarity lately.
“I should have a going away party, she had said, one morning while she husked some strawberries to put on his cereal. We can announce it at bridge tonight and we can call up our other friends and set a date for it. How about it, don’t you think that would be a great idea?”
Jess remembered that along with so many other things he and Theresa had had to consider it would probably be a good idea to get that done with. There didn’t seem to be any time frame for her trip other than a feeling on Theresa’s part that autumn would be a good time to head east. Theresa had some important things to do before she left and one thing in particular which rested solely with her before she was gone.
“Based on everything, Sweets, how do you think things will roll out going forward, he had asked?”
This morning, although his eyes were full of tears, he could see her clearly as he peered past the box that lay upon the table
Jess looked up and waited for her reply, watching her always sure handed use of the small coring knife.
Theresa tossed the berries into a colander and ran them under the tap.
“My gut feeling tells me that I may wait until after the harvest, he heard her say. You know Alberta autumns can be so beautiful then and the work will be done and that’s when in the past, we always sort of took a big breath and exhaled the summer and drew in the flavor of the freshening fall winds.”
“Have you talked to your sister and brother about anything?”
She swirled the berries around and put the colander down on a towel to drain and got two bowls out of the cupboard for the cereal.
“Come on Jess, we’ve talked about this before. I’m not going to say anything to them and when it is time that is your job, you promised.”
As he did every day, Jess waited until Theresa sat down and he tucked into his Cheerios and strawberries. Theresa joined him with a protein drink and a small bowl of the fruit.
“I’ll make up a list and you can help me with the calls OK?” she said.
He got his thin fall coat and picked up her box and got the pickup out of the lean-to and took the hour-long drive to the airport. All had been said, and he rode along in silence.
Jess couldn’t stop the lump forming in his throat as he waited then watched as the jet lifted its way into the heavens. They had shed tears together on many occasions through the summer months and Jess had wiped his eyes many times in the past few days when he was forced to finally face this day, the stark reality of her voyage was no longer a shock. All he was left with was a mind-numbing loneliness that he wasn’t sure he would ever lose.
She had insisted that this was something that she had to do all by herself. She wanted nothing less than to visit her birthplace and rest near her favorite spot.
Jess remembered Theresa telling him over and over again through the years, how she had always found herself walking along the piles of stones that lined the field on the south side of the farm. Her father had watched her as she had lain on the grass that verged the fence line and he asked her when she came into the house to help her mom with preparations for dinner, what did you dream about today?”
Inevitably she told him that she was visiting wondrous lands where strange people dressed in multicolored clothes, danced, and cavorted with their children and everyone had a pet perched on their shoulder and laughter and love was everywhere.
“This world is not such an easy place,” her father told her. I used to dream like you my love, but now I have learned to be content with you and your brother and your lovely Mom and this farm that gives us life. Maybe you will find your magical place and someone to cherish for real someday, but you can always come back to your favorite place and visit your dreams anytime you wish.”
One day when she returned she saw that her father had built a little stone cairn. In the leeward side he had fashioned a small nook and in it he had placed a book. It was a copy of Gulliver’s Travels.
Over the years he left her many such books and her favorite was the Little Prince, by St. Exupery.
As her departure date neared, Theresa told Jess to make absolutely sure that her sister and brother would take her to her cairn as soon as she arrived.
“I am determined to stay there for a long while,” she said.
After she arrived in Calgary her siblings drove her to the family farm and once out of the city rush they took her on a trip down familiar country roads across the softly rolling countryside westward toward the looming foothills.
The farmhouse looked much the same except for a new porch and veranda. The barn was in good repair although its aged boards would fetch a fortune to den decorators in the big city.
What must have been a great grand pup of her beloved lab bobbed and weaved his way to greet the car.
Her sister led the procession down past the buildings and along the path to the rock wall and Theresa found her way into the niche. No one could see her dream, only she could. She thought to herself, my dad was right, I could come here anytime I wished and here I will stay and be content.
Jess hadn’t been home long before the telephone rang.
“She is home, her sister’s voice said, and she is at peace.
“I know, replied Jess. Perhaps one day soon we will join her.