I’ve had some obstacles over the last few years and as I’ve spoken to professionals about it, I would tell them that the grief I once felt acutely about the deaths of many loved ones in a relatively short period of time had mostly dissipated. Times where I had once felt oppressive sadness had been mostly replaced by fond recollections and the odd moment of self-reflection. In short, I was mostly over it. Mostly.
The other day I was walking down a street and I glanced to my left at a closed business on the other side of the road. A business that, as far as I can remember has been closed for more than twenty years. But the sign is still there for anyone who remembers it to recall where and what it had been.
It was called Houle Sports and it was one of the main stores where kids in the east end bought their hockey equipment, got their skates sharpened, where their parents shopped for Christmas for their sons and daughters in the seventies.
When my mom could scrape enough money together for some new stuff, that’s where we went. That’s where I got my Bauer Supremes. My Super Tacks. Top of the line skates in those days for lower middle class kids.
I tried out hockey sticks. Felt their bend. Looked at their curve. We got my new elbow pads and shin pads and suspenders there. It was a place where dreams were created and sometimes destroyed, if the price tag was a little much.
So, as I said, I was walking down the street, not thinking about much of anything and I turned to my left and saw Houle Sports. One time a mecca. Now and for a generation, an abandoned store front.
And I thought of my mom. Gone three and a half years now. I can’t recall the last time I cried about her. I don’t cry at her grave anymore. I can see it from the road where I often drive and most of the time I don’t even remember to look toward it the way I did obsessively for the first year or two.
But on this day, as I stepped down from the curb, onto the first ice of the season, I saw the sign for Houle Sports and I started crying. Not because I needed new skates I couldn’t afford. Or that my favourite stick was in a colour I didn’t like. Or that the baseball glove I wanted didn’t fit quite right.
I cried because some things that were precious to me were gone in a way that I knew would soon be forgotten. The store was just an undesirable retail space in a bad neighbourhood. And the memories and emotions that my mother and I shared alone and together would be gone the moment I let them be gone. So I didn’t want to let them be gone.
I walked home. I wasn’t crying anymore. But I was reminded that if trauma is an earthquake and grief is the aftershocks, the aftershocks may come out of nowhere. And they last years longer than we could have rightly expected.
One day, that space will be bought and the sign will change and no one will remember Houle Sports. And yet at one time it was the most important address on this street for a mile.
The signs always change. The addresses become less and more important. But as long as we remember, there are echos of past times that still remain. Even if there are only a few of us that can hear them.