Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Man from Swift Current Chapter Nine - Georgia

Chapter Nine - Georgia
My grandparents convinced my parents to let me go spend the summer with them before heading off to college.   I think in some ways, my dad was relieved to have me gone because he seemed to be more relaxed around me now that I was leaving for the summer and possibly for longer than that.
I couldn’t help remembering the conversation I overheard between mom and dad about it.  We had returned home to the farm after graduation and I came down the stairs from my room and heard raised voices in the living room.
“You know how I hate having your parents think they have to treat us as a charity case!   I don’t want their money and I don’t want our children thinking that they can just put out their hand to their grandparents for everything!” Dad’s voice was full of anger.   I have only heard him use that tone of voice one other time in my life and that was when he told Randy and Shawn to leave his house.
“It’s not charity to provide your family with an education that will help them improve themselves and enable them to earn their living!   You have refused to let my parents help our children with their education.   We have struggled to make ends meet all these years because of your pride and arrogance.   Yes, you are a self-made man and you have been fiercely independent almost to a fault.   But sometimes you have to look at the bigger picture.   You have become so closed to any ideas of reconciling with my dad.   I have put up with it long enough.  If you don’t allow my dad to help Glenn, I will move back home with Glenn and Nancy and we will see who has the best interests of the children at heart!   I will not stand by and let you squander the opportunities a good education will give our children.   Randy has managed to make something of himself in the RCMP and Gary loves farming and will be a farmer the rest of his life.   Eric has yet to decide on his path in this life, but I doubt it will be farming.  Glenn and Nancy don’t have the same aspirations as their older brothers.   We need to allow them to grow and reach their full potential.   They will never realize that potential on a farm in the middle of the Canadian prairie!   I love you so much I gave up my family for you and moved here leaving behind everything I knew and loved.   We have had a good life and it’s a life we chose together.   That is why it has worked for us.   We can’t expect our children to continue living our dream.   They need to live their own dreams and make their own way in the world.   Stop trying to remake Glenn into something he’s not.   He’s not YOU!!”
“Would you really leave me?” Dad asked.    There was a very pregnant silence as I held my breath to hear what my mom’s response would be.
“Yes, this time I will not stand for it.   It’s time to change.   I nearly lost Randy because of your stubbornness.   I won’t lose Glenn or Nancy because this unreasonableness you insist has to be part of your life!”
That was the all I heard of their conversation since I decided I’d better retrace my steps back to my room.   I knew of Dad’s feelings towards my grandparents and had heard similar arguments before but Mom had always given into to Dad’s desires to keep us independent of any outside influences or financial ties especially those that would lead to closer ties with Mom’s family. 
At dinner that night, Mom and Dad announced their decision about me going to live with my grandparents for the summer.   I was ecstatic.   Not everyone was as happy as I was about it though.   Both Eric and Nancy expressed their displeasure about being excluded from the invitation.   My grandparents had asked to have Nancy come spend the summer as well but Dad wouldn’t even entertain the idea, especially since we had just spent the last school year in Swift Current.   Dad insisted he needed Eric's help to keep the farm running so Eric stopped grumbling about it.  Eric had other reasons to stick around home (namely a girlfriend!).  
So that is how I ended sitting on this airplane next to my grandparents, waiting to take off from Calgary International Airport.   My grandparents had chosen Calgary instead of Regina as their destination because grandpa wanted to drive up to Banff to see the mountains.   After spending a couple of days being tourists in Banff, we headed back to Calgary to fly to Atlanta, Georgia.   During the long hours waiting at airports to catch connecting flights and on the planes flying, I had a lot of time to think about where I wanted to go to college and how much I missed Ian.   At each of the layovers, I sent text messages to Ian letting him know where we were.   He did the same.  
Landing in Atlanta, after nearly all day travelling, I couldn’t wait to get to my grandparents home and crash.   I know my grandparents felt the same way.   The ride to their home from the airport went quickly and soon I was being ushered into their mini-mansion of a home and escorted to my room for the summer.   After unpacking my things, I sat on the bed and sent a text message to Ian letting him know I was in my room at my grandparents’ home.  Grandma knocked on my door.
“Come in,” I said.
“Honey, why don’t you rest up a bit before coming down to have a bite to eat?” Grandma said in her soft Southern accent.  I just loved listening to her talk.  “I will send someone up to get you when it’s time to eat.   Is that okay, dear?”
“Sure, Grandma, I think that’s a great idea,” I said.
“If you need anything, just push the button on the intercom right here by the door and ask Marcy to bring it to you.”
I woke up a few hours later.   The first thing I did was check for a text message from Ian.   I flipped open my cell and found Ian had sent a message while he was waiting for his connecting flight to London.  Just as I finished reading Ian’s text message, Marcy tapped on the door to inform me it was time to come down for dinner.  I followed her down the spiral staircase and into the formal dining room.  
“I’m glad to see that you have recovered from the flight, Glenn,” my grandpa said.  “Do you remember your cousin, Keith?”
I looked across the table and looked at the handsome young man who sat there.   He had sandy blond hair and deep blue eyes that sparkled with merriment and a generous smile.   It was like I was looking at a mirror image of myself.  He stood up and came around the table and grabbed my hand. 

“Glad to get re-acquainted cousin.   Grandpa has asked me to show you around the place and make you feel at home.”   He grinned at me and released my hand.  I noticed he was the exact same height as me as he stood next to me.
“Thanks, Keith.   I’m glad to have someone close to my age to hang out with while I’m here.” I said.
“Those were our thoughts as well,” said Grandpa.   “Now that introductions have been completed, let’s begin our meal.  Keith, would you say grace?” 
Keith returned to stand behind his chair and said, “Let us pray.”   He said grace and we began our meal.
“I'm attending Georgia Tech.   I'll be a sophomore next year.   I'm majoring in mechanical engineering,” Keith said.   “I was hoping you’d be interested in going down to Atlanta and staying with me in our apartment for a few days.   That way, we can take in the sights and sounds of Atlanta and I can show you around campus.   Have you decided where you'll be going to school, yet?” Keith asked.
“No, I’m still trying to make up my mind.   My best friend, Ian is going to the University of Texas El Paso (UTEP) and I thought I might go there as well,” I said.
“Well, cuz, I’m going to try my best to convince you to join me at Georgia Tech.   I think you will love the campus once you’ve seen it.   Plus, our apartment is so awesome!”  Keith said.
“Glenn, you know we would love to have you go to school here in Georgia.   We haven’t seen much of you over the years and that would give us the opportunity to get to know you better,” Grandma said.  “Of course, we will be happy with whatever your decision might be.   We just hope you will at least keep an open mind to the idea of attending one the universities near here.   There are several others you could choose from besides Georgia Tech.”
“Yeah, there are but the best one is Georgia Tech,” said Keith, winking at me.
As Marcy served us desert, Keith asked, “Why don’t we take a spin around the orchards so you can see the place?”
“Sure,” I said.
Keith guided me out the back door to the garage.   My eyes popped open at the sight of the beautiful sports cars parked inside.
“Grandpa collects sports cars,” Keith said.   “The Lamborghini is his favorite.   You wouldn’t think he was into such things, but he loves car racing and these cars are his pride and joy.   That little black Porsche is Grandma’s.   She races it sometimes down at the track.”
“What did you say?   Grandma races cars?!!”  I said, totally surprised by the information.
“Yeah, you wouldn’t think it since she is so prim and proper about everything else.  She’s a better driver than Grandpa.   She’s also more aggressive on the track then he is.  His racing car is the white Porsche next to hers.”
“Wow!!   I never would have dreamed they were into racing!” I exclaimed.
Keith just laughed and said, “There’s quite a few things you don’t know about our grandparents that will surprise you.   Racing is just one of those things!”  Keith walked over to an old Land Rover and jumped in, motioning for me to do the same.
Keith started the vehicle which roared to life and backed it out of the garage.   As he drove down the dirt road between rows and rows of peach trees, he explained that the Scarborough family had settled the area during colonial times and had been growing peaches ever since.
“Glenn, do you know much about the Civil War?” Keith asked.
“No, we don’t study much of American history other than a brief overview in our world history class.”  I said.
“You will need to brush up a little on our family history then.   Grandpa is very proud of his Southern roots and the family’s participation in that war.”  Keith said.  “All of Grandpa’s family fought for the South in one or another of the Georgia units.   Our great grandpa was in the Georgia 3rd Infantry as a quartermaster.  His brothers were all at Appomattox when General Lee surrendered to the Union Army.  Our family’s farm was destroyed by General Sherman’s army.   Great-grandpa managed to repair some of the damage and continue operating this farm.   The house there was burned by the Union troops and was rebuilt by Grandpa after he inherited the farm.   If you look really close, some of the brick on the outside still shows the scorch marks from that fire.”
“I didn’t know any of this.   Mom has never really talked to us much about her family history.  The only thing I knew was Grandpa and Grandma don’t like my dad for taking her away from them to live on a farm in Canada,” I said.
“I thought I should let you know since Grandpa will no doubt spend a great deal of time “educating” you about your Southern heritage.   He likes to tell stories and gets really energetic about it.   Just remember not to interrupt him if you know what’s good for you.   It will result in an hour long lecture about respecting your elders!!   You definitely don’t want to get Grandpa started on that subject!”  Keith said, rolling his eyes.
“How big is this farm?” I asked.
“Grandpa has 200 acres here, most of it in peach orchards,” said Keith.
“That’s a lot of acreage!” I exclaimed.
“Yeah, it’s big, but Grandpa has a lot of help running it.   Both Uncle Corey and Uncle Bob work on the farm.  Uncle Corey runs the business end of things such as handling the money, marketing, etc., while Uncle Bob tends to the farming end of things.   Grandpa still likes working out on the farm and joins the workers tending to the trees.   He really knows peach trees and how to get the best fruit off of them.  My Mom and Dad’s farm is quite a bit smaller.   Dad decided he wanted to do farming as a hobby after he retired from his software engineering firm so they bought a small farm in Selma, North Carolina, a couple of years ago.  Grandpa mentioned to me that we’ll be heading up to see the folks next week.  I haven’t seen them since Christmas,” Keith said.  “What do you like to do for exercise?”
“I am into swimming, a little running and I love mountain biking,” I said.
“Cool, how about joining me for a run in the morning?” Keith asked.
“That sounds great to me!” I said.
As we reached the end of the dirt road, Keith parked the Land Rover next to the barn where all of the farming equipment was housed.  “This is the northern end of the farm.  Grandpa keeps all of his machinery in here,” Keith said, as he pointed to the barn.   “He treats every piece of equipment like one of his babies.  He knows a lot about mechanics and loves working on his cars and farm machinery.”
“Cool,” I said.   “So is that why you're studying mechanical engineering?”
“Yeah, I am a lot like Grandpa in that respect.   I love working on cars and making things with my hands.”
“I am just about as far from being mechanically inclined as a person can be!   I’m not very coordinated either!   That’s why I try to do sports that don’t require a lot of hand-eye coordination,” I said.
“Well, you can’t everything!   At least you got the family’s good looks!”
“Oh, I’m not so sure about that!”
“I’m sure since you look just like me except for the eyes!   We could be twins you know.  The two best looking guys in the family,” Keith said with a big grin.
Returning the grin, I said, “Okay, I do admit we look a lot alike.   I felt like I was looking in the mirror when Grandpa introduced us at the dinner table tonight.  I shouldn’t have been surprise since our moms are identical twins.”
Keith nodded his head in agreement, “Yeah, but my twin brother, Roger, doesn’t look like me at all.   He looks like my dad.   We are fraternal twins instead of identical twins.  He and I are complete opposites.  He hates sports. He hates getting dirty.  He’s good at music and art and I’m not.  I guess we each wanted to shine in different areas since we have to share so much as twins.”
“So where does Roger go to school?” I asked.
“He’s working right now but plans to go to school next year,” Keith said as he started the engine.  “Let’s get back to the house before they send someone out to find us.”
We drove back to the house in a companionable silence.   As we parked the Land Rover, I couldn’t help looking at the sports cars parked in the garage.   Okay, I was drooling over them!   I wanted to jump into any one of them and take a test drive!   Maybe, I could convince Grandpa to take me out for a spin tomorrow.
Keith saw me salivating over the sports cars and broke into a big smile, “I know what you’re thinking!   And I wish you luck!   Grandpa has never let anyone drive his sports cars except Grandma!”
“Do you think he’d take us out for spin in one of them?”  I asked.
“I don’t know.   You can always ask,” Keith responded, as we locked up the garage and headed back into the house.
As I reached the door to my room, Keith dapped fists with me and pointed across the hall, “This is my room when I’m here visiting.  If you want to talk, just come on across the hall.   See you at 6 AM sharp for our morning run!”
“6 AM!   You’ve got to be kidding!” I exclaimed.
“Nope, we have to get our run in before the heat sets in.   You’re not in Canada no more Dorothy!  It gets sticky, humid and hot by 10 AM, so be prepared to sweat!”  Keith said as he entered his room and closed the door.
I closed my door and threw myself on the bed.   I fished out my cell and flipped it open to see if Ian had texted me.   Much to my disappointment there was only a text from my sister, Nancy.   I sent her a quick text back and snapped the cell closed.   I miss Ian so much and it’s been less than 24 hours.  It really hurt that there wasn’t a text waiting for me.   By my calculations, Ian should have landed in London and certainly would have had time to text me.  I just rolled myself into a ball and cried myself to sleep.

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