The Spirit that Guides Us
Episode 6 Finale
The Spirit that Guides Us
It has been many years that have passed since I have had any long conversations with Papa. Your brother is now at the age of understanding and will soon be told what you now understand. I have for many years written many things but nothing that gave me the inspiration needed to complete Papa’s story. I have kept this story in its unfinished state not knowing with certainty as to why. For the longest of time I did think its in-completion was a result of my fear of bringing closure to that most important part of my life. Frankly I would have been satisfied with it as told to you. I can now say that having had a most wonderful series of short and joyful visits with Papa, his words have given me the insight required to have written the final story.
Not only have Papa and I shared in my long awaited clarity, he has also shown me the reason why I had chosen the title under which to have record these writings for the family. I will now share closure of that life with you. Please know that unlike the very straight forward stories of prior retelling this most valuable closure will come to you in a form of a parable.
I want you to know I believe you when you say you did not know what those two boys were going to do. Still when the police came to the door it was a frightening experience for your mother, sister, brother and I. Please understand at a time like this the families of the victim do not wish to be reasonable. When something like this happens they want someone to be held accountable. They want to extract their pound of flesh. Those two boys knew it would be easy to get you to drive them. You were always the first one to trust folks and they choose you for that very reason. I do not expect them to take responsibility in court. They are most likely busy trying to see who can get the best deal for themselves and you will be hung out to dry.
We have worked very hard to ensure we do the things that would keep you and your brother and sister safe in this community. Now with this one act we could lose it all. We do not have the money for any extended legal defense. Even if we could have afforded the best lawyers it is unclear as to the benefit of going in that direction. I do not think that our efforts would ensure you receiving a fair trial. I love you too much to see you destroyed by any blood thirsty mob no matter how civilized the disguise of their approach. You have been good all through this. You never once showed weakness or lied about your responsibility even when you knew those boys had done you wrong.
My Papa would say that if we do not act quickly on these things they quickly become wars. He believed that a single moment of weakness on the part of the accused will be viewed by the victim as disrespectful and or cowardly. Soon the victim will feel the need to retaliate. At that moment of retaliation it signifies how most wars get started. Our quick actions will allay any perception of weakness on our part. Further our quick actions will preserve the sanctity of our family. Swift actions will make it most difficult for any form of retaliation against our family.
On one of my trips back to Jamaica while Papa was alive, I had ventured down to the market. There I met Papa and Auntie’s old neighbor; she had been sitting at her usual spot, selling green vegetables. Not having seen her for such a long time we took the time to catch up on each other’s life. I asked her “How is Pongha Man?” the nick name for her husband.
To my surprise our previously jovial cheery conversation suddenly took an extremely burdensome, teary-eyed and sad tone. Trying as hard as she could, she was unable to stop the tears from flowing. This was a woman of slightly over six feet in height and approximately two hundred plus pounds. In all my years of being her neighbor I have never known her to have had a single weepy bone in her body. Her husband was a taxi driver in Port Antonio.
A couple of his friends hired him to drive them to Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. He had been very excited about the trip because this was worth more than a weeks pay. He took the pair to a specified address in Kingston and as instructed he awaited their return. Returning with some haste they instructed him to get going. Suspicious, that something was wrong he did not allow his curiosity to hinder his responsibility.
Several weeks later when the police came to his door, he was informed that he was being charged with the murder of the occupants of the house to which he had driven his two associates. Without the resources to afford a proper defense he was tried found guilty and hanged. And so she continued to cry long after the story had ended. I just sat there and kept her company for as long as I could. She said to me in parting; “Do not come back to this place to live. Come to visit but stay where you are.” So you see I will not allow you to be hung like a stray dog without a family or home.
Rest now my son, the night will be short and with the coming of morning so will you likely see the closure of all these things. The nurse has told me that I can sleep next door if I wish and I am going to do that. In the morning your mother will be here. We will talk again at that time and determine what will be our next step. Your mom is just like my Auntie was; she understands. She will not agree but she understands.
Mr. Luther! Mrs. Delia was calling my Papa. However even though Papa was sitting on the verandah he did not answer. Mr. Luther! Again, Mrs. Delia called but without any response from Papa. He just continued to sharpen his butcher’s knife never once looking up to see who was at the gate. It is not as if Mrs. Delia could not see my Papa from where she stood at our gate, making her frustration even more obvious. Auntie called out from inside the house to my Papa. “Mr. Luther! Did you not hear someone calling you at the gate?” Suddenly, I felt Mrs. Delia’s hand on my shoulders, shaking me.
As she shook me she again called out but this time she called to me, “Hello Sir!” I looked up to the verandah at my Papa but he was gone! I turned to tell Mrs. Delia my Papa was not going to speak to her however her face was now that of the nurse. Still with her hand on my shoulder she continued, to gently shake me, “Sir!” she said, “Could you please come with us; something has happened.” Slowly the nurse’s voice combined with the hand on my shoulder awoke me from my dream.
Realizing that I had been sleeping the nurse again repeated her earlier statement. “You need to come right away.” Fully awake and more aware of my surroundings my thoughts were again on my son. More importantly I was prepared for what was awaiting me. Last night my son had begun his travels. The toxins in his system were already in control of his thoughts while rendering his limbs inactive. Having slept in my clothes of yesterday I quickly stumbled into my shoes then moving to the small bathroom sink I filled my mouth with warm water gargled quickly and prepared myself.
As the nurse hurried me to the room next door, I remembered my dream. Papa had been sitting on the verandah sharpening his butchering knifes as he has always done in preparation for the market. I was sitting at the bottom of the stairs just off to his left under the shade of the small lime tree. The lime tree had struggled with its growth, not because it was unhealthy but because it was competing with the same air space as Auntie’s clothes line.
The clothes line was strung across the front yard from the corner of Mr. Tom’s property to the Ackee tree at the very front of our yard. The lime tree stood just behind the line forming a part of our fence that separated our front yard from the roadway. Constantly being pruned in order to control its growth the lime tree had struggled to fully stretch its limbs.
Many midweek evenings were spent with me sitting under the lime tree, Papa on the verandah sharpening his knives while we talked. In my dream we spoke of Papa having been visited by his dad yet again in his own dream. Papa told me that at first he failed to understand why his dad had told him that he was not yet ready to be the Guide he would need to be. Without me fully understanding why that was, Papa made it clear to me he was now with the knowledge required to accept the role of being a Guide.
For the very first time since my having immigrated to Canada we spoke about Bruna. Papa had just began to explain to me why it was that I too should now begin the preparations in order to become the guide that I would need to be when Mrs. Delia interrupted our conversation. With her calling, Papa had stopped his conversation with me and was soon gone from site.
The nurse opened the door to the room. What awaited me was as much a surprise to me as it was to the nursing staff and physician in attendance. My wife was already in the room, as it turned out she arrived a few moments prior to me. Sitting on the bed with a full wide smile, showing no sign of illness was my son. “So!” He said as he saw me. “What’s for breakfast?” His question was met with stunned silence.
“Well!” the silence being finally broken with the nurse’s response, “if it is ok with the doctor, you could have what I am going to have, bacon, eggs, toast, mash potatoes and some juice.” “Could I have extra eggs if I skipped the bacon?” he asked.
The doctor moved closer to him and began a series of simple examinations. He held my son’s wrist in order to check his blood pressure. Next he moved to his side and motioned my son to lift his night shirt slightly in order to place his stethoscope on his back and listened attentively to whatever it was that doctors listen for. Completing the small series of test the doctor was again standing beside the nurse exhibiting a somewhat puzzled yet pleasant smile. “No temperature!” the doctor said in a muddled voice more meant for his own benefit than ours. “Ok!” the doctor said as he addressed my wife and I. “We will have to do some blood work” he continued, “Before he is released but I have a distinct feeling the results will only confirm what we are seeing. He is fine!”
“Of course I am fine!” my son responded. But before he could continue, the officer assigned to his room came in with another gentlemen dressed in a businesslike suit. The officer identified the visitor as a senior member within the office of the prosecuting attorney’s office. He spoke to my son but was really addressing my wife and I. “You will be please to know the other two gentlemen have walked into the station early this morning with similar stories. Something about having had a conversation with some doctor last night. Whatever that conversation was it seemed to have put them is a most talkative mood.
They have completely taken responsibility for the incident and have both placed your son completely in the clear.” With that he shook our hands and said, “Please pass by the office when you are able and we will clean up the paper work.” That having been said both he and the officer were off. As they exited the officer turned and said, “Good luck son!” My son smiled and responded “Thanks!”
After they exited my son began to explain “The older doctor came in late last night with his thermos and gave me some of his tea to drink. He told me that I would be fine.” The doctor looked at the nurse and without speaking the nurse responded with a hand gesture accompanied by a facial expression that both said the same thing. “I do not know who he would be speaking of!” So the doctor asked him, “What was the name of the older Doctor?” But my son, still very excited and determine to finish his story did not answer the question. Instead he turned and pointed to the chair over the far side of the room and said, “Oh! Dad look! The doctor said to tell you he was sorry it took so long but he removed the stone.” “What stone?” the nurse asked. Sitting on the chair in the corner was a small metal cage with a cap lying atop the cage. Inside the cage was a small puppy.
“How did that get there?” asked the doctor. But more to the point what he was really asking is, “how did the doctor get that dog into this room unnoticed?” Trying to not spoil the unexplained miracle of the moment, the nurse deflected the concerns of the dog’s cage with the question, “So what will you name the puppy?” “He already has a name,” replied my son. The older doctor said his name is Bruna!
“Bruna! That is a most unusual name for a puppy.” replied the nurse. “Yes it is but the doctor said my dad can probably explain all that.” Though I was confused and filled with years of buried emotions, I knew that I could accept my explanation but was unsure if anyone else would have understood the events that unfolded over the last several hours. I would take my son home and continue there with the explanation. In time he would come to understand the significance of the many, many changes that had just transpired. I would tell him about that fateful day that Mrs. Delia walked out of our gate and left me and Bruna to deal with the consequences of her complaint.
Papa looked at me and made a simple statement. “I am sorry but you know what has to be done!” I knew something had to be done but was not quite prepared for the finality of what was about to transpire. Papa went to the back yard and gathered some rope that we used for transportation of the pigs we purchased. He had selected one of the ropes that was lighter in weight and removed about a six foot section from it.
Next he called to me and told me that I could stay if I wished. The choice given was not meant as the choice to be taken. So I responded to his offer to remain behind with a nod of refusal. He called Bruna! Auntie called out to him! He looked at her and everything was said. What had to be done would not be undone. Any chance of clemency had passed with Mrs. Delia’s departure. One more time Papa called, Bruna! It is as if she too knew what was to come. On the third calling, never before has it ever taken Papa more than one at most two calling for her to respond, she came from under the house.
Surprisingly all the other dogs stayed quite still as Papa and I accompanied by my Bruna walked out the gate. The three of us crossed the street and walked the passage way in front of Mrs. Lou’s home. This passage would take us to the river. The short walk from our front gate to the river was more painful than the seven stitches I had received to mend my arm even more painful than having my foot lanced and glass dug out by the doctor.
Bruna was not her usual frisky self. She walked not more than a foot or two behind Papa with a melancholy almost human depressed expression. I walked behind them both. When we got to the river we were greeted by some of my friends and other local boys swimming in the deepest part of the river. My Papa called to them and told them they would have to move down the river a distance. They complied but not before one of the older boys called out to my Papa.
“Mr. Luther!” he said. Being older it would seem that he had more of a sense of what was about to take place. “What did his dog do?” But Papa was not in the mood to be social and so he did not comment. Instead he calmly moved to the river’s edge and collected a large stone. It was not until my Papa tied one end of the rope to the stone that I finally grasped the gravity of what was about to take place. I did not have much time to reflect on my state of mind.
Papa called, “Bruna!” She sheepishly, very slowly moved towards Papa but she came obediently. Papa tied the other end of the rope around her neck.
Papa then lifted her up with his left hand and the large rock with his right. Securing both the large rock and Bruna in each hand he walked into the water. He walked into the river to a depth of his waist then abruptly tossed both Bruna and the stone into the water a distance of about four feet further away from where he stood. I could see Bruna swimming in an upwards motion however sinking deeper into the water with each stroke of her front feet. There were some bubbles, more bubbles and then she disappeared into the darkness of the deepest part of the river.
The job was done, he watched for a brief moment longer as the rock clearly took Bruna to the bottom of the river. We then headed back up the pathway. We both walked in silence. Although we walked the exact same path, the distance we traveled going to the river seemed to have more than doubled on our return trip home.
Auntie was at the gate to greet me but I was not in need of being greeted. She looked at me, I at her but no one spoke. We did not even close the gate. I sat down under the breadfruit tree for what seemed like an eternity but it could not have been.
I know it could not have been long because Bruna was back in the yard. Her belly was extended from all the water she had engulfed. It would seem as soon as Papa was out of sight the boys at the river droved in and rescued her. What they did was done with good intent. However it was the last moment of real pain I would have experience for the next thirty years. I know this because that moment would come at the news of my best friend being murdered in his taxi many years later in Toronto, Canada.
Again Papa took Bruna in hand and headed for the river. This time he did not give me the option of coming. He told me to stay. Auntie would not have allowed me to go. I could not have found the strength to go. So it was unanimous, I stayed. Papa was gone for a very long time. What he had wanted to do in the later evening to avoid me being too involved, this time he did all at once. On this second trip, he took Bruno in one hand, a rope and a shovel in the other. He waited by the river’s edge until Bruna had expired and removed the body from the water burying her in the woods by the river.
It had taken many years for that stone to be removed from my soul. The Spirit that now guides me, has made me understand that, what was necessary in my Papa’s world should now serve to guide my actions not control them. Our family along with our newest member went home.
END~of life One~
The Spirit that Guides Us
Auntie and Papa
Mother, Father, Step-Father, Wife,
My Friend Robert (May he rest in peace)
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