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A Foreign Language Now Familiar
by Terry Carroll

The day my father threatened to kill himself, gales from Alberta and the mountains further west were transforming Elrose, Saskatchewan into a whirling white danger zone. I could occasionally glimpse the stucco house next door but only in short lulls between violent blasts. According to CBC Radio"s weather forecast for December 23, 1967, we could expect gusts up to 70 m.p.h. A drift was peaking two feet above the new Pontiac Parisienne stuck in our driveway.

My father, the fierce and energetic Dr. Martin Fair, had tried the car that morning but had ended up walking to work. He had closed his downtown office at two-thirty. "Nobody came, Becky," he told my mother upon his return, stomping his galoshes, knocking off strips of white, creating rivulets on the rope mat inside the front door. He thrust his thick black bag into the front closet. "On a day like this, not even the gopher peeks out. Where's the snow shovel?"

"Leave it, Marty. The snow will be there in the morning." My mother's plump, pleasant face was rendered less than pretty by a hooked nose and a receding chin. The doctor had caught her wearing her afternoon work clothes: wool socks, flowered skirt, white blouse and patterned apron.

"What, are you insane? When the crazy snowplough driver comes by, that cowboy, and smashes the back fender of my beauty, what are you going to say then, you and your leave-it-till-tomorrow?" My father's voice retained traces of a European accent. He"d told his children, often, that he'd acquired this intonation as a child in the States. His mother's people were Pennsylvania Dutch, his father's, Mennonite. He'd been orphaned at a young age and had moved to Canada as a teenager where he'd worked his way through high school and later university to earn his medical degree. He never went back to the States, nor did he care to. "What for?" I had heard him say after several martinis at a Christmas house party the year before. "We have everything here. Home, family, my beautiful wife, my practice, good neighbours. We are safe, here, aren't we, Becky? Safe and we belong."

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