Some Whole Wheat Words

And Other Up-Lift

Connors Road Bridge, Family Day 2008

with one comment

A week after I visit the School, my father calls me and invites me out to Edmonton, where he’s acting in a show. He has practiced and advocated Homeopathy for about nineteen years now.

I haven’t told him that I’m writing an article. I take the ticket.

His hotel room at the Coast Edmonton House has a particular ‘temporary’ vibe which gives it more the impression of a container than a living space. It’s nice, though. Clean. The view is excellent; at night with my jet-lagged mind begging for sleep I pull back the curtains from the window—which takes up an entire wall—and look out through the peeling white rails of the balcony at the city spread before me like a golden circuitboard. Seven tall buildings have pulled themselves from the darkly bioluminescent sea of streetlamps and headlights, and they watch me unblinking with twinned pairs of red air-traffic warning beacons. I find them unsettling. I point them out to my father the next evening and I think they unsettle him a little, too.

We talk about nothing. Things are calm for two days.

On the morning of Family Day he broaches the topic and we start arguing. I’ve attacked him, he says. I’ve attacked him. He doesn’t understand why people won’t leave him alone to read his books. He just wants to be left alone. We start arguing about Miasms.

“So, fine,” I say. “Does the Miasm Theory really have a better rate of prediction than Germ Theory? Does the Miasm Theory—”

“It’s not a theory,” he says.

“What is it, then?” I yell, and we are silent for a minute.

We argue to a standstill and go for a walk. The river valley where I spent the majority of my childhood has changed. A large field which formed the centre of the community I remember has been bulldozed. We talk around the subject as we stroll up the newly-paved roads and pass by houses in which I used to live. They’ve changed, too. There is garbage on the lawns and the stucco is stained and satellite dishes have been bolted to the roof or propped against a wall. The lights are off but inside I see glaucous ferns growing from the white carcass of an old barrel-shaped washing machine. A little girl in a pink vinyl raincoat is playing in the rough woodchips that make up a lawn.

The argument begins again as my father and I take a frozen bikepath up the lip of the valley back to the hotel, and with no other family members around to mediate between us it starts to become the worst fight we’ve ever had. I don’t remember the exact order of the conversation; I didn’t take notes.

“I can’t believe you chose to write about Homeopathy,” says my dad as we crest the ridge of he hill. I assume that he’s joking and start to laugh.

“It’s not funny,” he says, suddenly very angry. “Why did you choose it?”

“It… it was on my mind,” I say, looking at him and then away.

“Oh really. Then it has nothing to do with me? Why didn’t you tell me you were writing it?” He says.

“No, it was just—I thought it would be interesting. It was just on my mind,” I say, but of course it does. “I didn’t want it to be about you. It— I wrote it for me. Myself,” I say. But this isn’t true, either; when I first thought of doing the article I was in the Dominion close to campus and I was walking slowly past the eggs and cheese and thinking about just how I would form the best argument to change his mind.

“You wouldn’t know about Homeopathy without me,” he says. “You never would have heard about it.”

“So? This is about, it’s a personal thing. A personal investigation. You weren’t even supposed to be in it.”

Ten seconds of angry silence.

“I think you need to change your article. I think you need to choose another topic,” he says.

“No, It’s too late now. It’s too late to stop, and I wouldn’t anyway,” I say. “It’s twice as written now.”

“If you keep writing it the way that you’re writing it,” he says, “then I think that our relationship is going to be damaged. Seriously damaged.”

Don’t you fucking tell me what to write,” I say. My voice is shaking. We pass a group of three people in ski suits and they try hard not to look at us. My stomach clenches and my legs fill with lactic acid and start to burn.

“God. God,” he says. “I don’t know what— I don’t know why this happens. Your mother does it, all the women in my life have done it. Now you’re doing it, too.”

“I’m not ‘doing’ anything,” I say, my voice still uneven. “You aren’t seeing the article. You aren’t seeing anything I write, or my marks, from now on.”

“Well, I want my goddamn ticket back, then,” he says.

I pull the yellow-paper comp for his show out of my pocket. “Take it,” I say and give it to him. He begins to cry.

I wish you had told me what you were writing.” He’s choked up. “If I knew what you were writing I never would have brought you out here.” I say nothing. He walks behind me for a bit and composes himself and I watch the artificial-looking evening sun ricochet off of the frozen surface of the river.

Some time passes silently and then he draws up on my left. “Both your mother and I have argued and argued and argued about this,” he says. “Constantly. And we always, at the end we always come to the same conclusion: it’s not about Homeopathy. It’s not about Homeopathy. It’s some weird… thing that we get into. It’s different. It’s like, all my life I get attacked by the women I know. But it’s not about Homeopathy.”

“It is,” I say. “This is. That’s you and mom. That’s you and— this is about Homeopathy.”

“It’s not,” he says. “It’s never about Homeopathy. Your mother and I always come to the same conclusion and to say that it is is ludicr—”

No,” I say. “You’re wrong. It’s about Homeopathy. It’s about Velikovsky. It’s about Plasma Cosmology.” His three pet topics. One of them is guaranteed to come up in all but the most vapid and meaningless of our conversations.

He turns around without a word and walks away down the trail and I continue forwards, my boots crunching over the beige ice. They sand in Edmonton instead of salting and gritty berms of brown snow are a common sight after a thaw. I pass a green metal bridge which I crossed often in the summer when I was a kid, but it’s winter now and still ferns of frost cover the rivets and icicles hang from the railings. It’s always summer in my memories; the Saskatchewan river is smooth and glossy, barely disturbed by small motorised pleasure-craft and rowers like water-striders. The only boat visible today is the Edmonton Queen. Its paddles are motionless and it is frozen into the river alongside a snowy dock.

Lots of people get estranged from their fathers, I think. Plenty of people.

I climb the wooden stairs that lead up the slopes of the river valley toward Jasper Avenue and stop on the second landing and take out my pad and pen. I scan the path leading away from the base of the steps for my father but don’t see him and take down a few descriptions in my notebook, my hands seizing up in the dry Alberta cold. The buildings, which are typical of Edmonton’s dark grey Brutalist concrete slabs, catch sunset on their sharp edges like a coat of orange watercolour and I note the clouds moving in sheets across the wide prairie sky and then stop because I can’t see through the tears. The sun sets. I close the notebook and put it away and leave.

Two and a half years later he dies of cancer.


Hahnemann’s Theory rests immovably on eternal laws of nature. It will be as immortal as nature herself and with its creator, Samuel Hahnemann, it will remain for ever immortal. With imperishable lettering his name will be inscribed in the history of therapy. The brilliance of his name will cast a light not unequal to that of the greatest intellectual figures of all times. As time passes by, the world will realize more potently what, in his justifiable pride and yet noble modesty, he desired to be the inscription for his final resting place on earth:

Non inutilis vixi! [I have not lived in vain!]

–Richard Haehl,
“Samuel Hahnemann,
His life and work”,
Vol 1 p. 436


Written by wholewheatwords

August 12, 2010 at 1:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. I had almost forgotten how excellent your writing is. Your ability to set the scene and emotions makes me feel as if I’m there.

    My thoughts go out to you and I hope you are doing well.


    August 15, 2010 at 12:05 pm

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