Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sweeping the Fog Away

Grandpa had shell shock
From World War One
Yet his heart was
The size of London
He did a little soft shoe
Like a raggedy rogue
One last time made
Pistons of his brogues

A gentle wind
Could shake up
Your world
When dandelions
Turn to grey
Just think of Grandpa
Sweeping the fog away

He gave me a model
Of Buckingham Palace
Cardboard guardsmen
Assembled in a row
He was undaunted
With an,"about face"
Dandelion regiments
Lost their yellow

A gentle wind
Could shake up
Your world
When dandelions
Turn to grey
Just think of Grandpa
Sweeping the fog away

I was just a child
Dandling on his knees
As dandelion paratroopers
Floated on the breeze
I didn't get to see him
Those days were too grey
Grandpa said "Here's the broom
Go sweep the fog away."

© 1996 Stefan des Lauriers


To find a silver lining in London, sometimes you have to create it yourself. That's why my Granddad used to say: "Here's the broom go sweep the fog away."

In the early Sixties, Nanny and Granddad left London's East End and settled in Timmins, a mining town in Northern Ontario. Granddad had been a mover by day; by night a tap dancer, performing vaudeville. They came to Milton for a visit one summer; one of the few times I saw them. I dandled on Granddad's knee on the veranda as he joked around. Some dandelion seeds floated by and he called them, "Paratroopers."
The war had left a deep impression on Granddad, but he tried not to let it show. I asked my mother why his eyes looked away. She said it was 'shell shock' from the trenches.

Nanny and Granddad gave me a cardboard cutout of Buckingham Palace. I lined up the miniature guardsmen in the car's rear window as we headed to the beach. Granddad struck the pose of a sailor and Mom took the shot with her Brownie camera.
Before they left we put a thick plank in the backyard for Granddad to do his train dance. The dance mimicked a locomotive, starting slowly; picking up speed as he roared down the track with his heavy brogues a blur.
I heard my mother say, "He has a heart the size of London. Whenever I was sad he'd hand me a broom and say..." My mother had learned how to cut through clouds herself; she kept a stiff upper lip.
We made the long trip to North Bay and parked by the red brick hospital. Except for my brother, Kim and I, everyone went in. They had told us that Granddad was dying of cancer. "It's better if you remember him the way he was."

When we returned I moved the plank and saw that the grass beneath had turned white. No one had touched the plank since hearing the bad news. In the silence Dandelions stood like the Queens guardsmen with their fur hats. The spheres were like another world. A breeze blew the mane off a dandelion. I thought of what Granddad had said: "Here's the broom, go sweep away the fog."


When I was so young

Around thirty two
The times were so tough
And we had to make do
I always pulled through
With a little soft shoe

A bench for a bed
All drenched in dew
My only cover
Was yesterday's news
I always woke up
With a little soft shoe

When silver falls
Through the lining
And you've lost your only
Patch of blue
Then you can be sure
That something shining
Is bound to make
A breakthrough

I was a bum
But a gentleman too
I always managed
To pay for my stew
The best way to make it is
With a little soft shoe

© 1996 Stefan des Lauriers 

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