Can’t stand the sight of day is a claim I cannot make. At any gas station along the Trans-Canada or highway 3 west of Medicine Hat, “half-decent out there” / “gettin’ there” is conversation anyone can do. Not even the light industrial landscape of southern Alberta, with its canals and irrigation rigs and wires, can take away a day like this, +15 at times, highway dry.
Dry as a bone, I’d thought, pulling into the graveyard in my home town four hours ago. I have a photo from there, three sisters around the grave of a fourth, baby Jennifer Donna, as the headstone says. She’s buried near a pine tree up the south slope. Up on the flat, the newer graves—Jennifer died in 57—spread east as if about to re-occupy the town.
What I remember of the day she was buried is not being allowed to go out to the burial. The kids don’t need to be there, is the kind of thing dad would say. I don’t remember grief, just the pantlegs of the adults back at our house afterwards.
Beyond the graveyard and the CP mainline next to it, the old #1 highway crumbles along east-west, what pavement looks like left for forty years. Readers of that text called “To Be Opened In the Event of My Death” will know that I’ve asked for my ashes to be scattered along that stretch of ex-highway through Herbert forty years ago replaced by the four-lane south of town.
Well I’ve changed my mind. Plant me on the flat above Jennifer Donna. And come on out and say hello some March 15th years from now, there by the tracks and highway, when winter shows signs of letting go.