Shhh, now. Hide upstairs with me. The power’s been out for a good long while, maybe ninety minutes. Oh, those black fluffy clouds rolled in while I was finishing up the golden beets and feta, and just as we settled down at the table the lights went out and stayed out. Fortunately, there’s enough charge left on this laptop for me to scrawl you a note, to tell you about everything around me right now.
After dinner, after a bowl of yellow cherries and little glasses of unoaked Ontario chardonnay, after I loaded the dishwasher and left the skillet to soak in hot water, I tiptoed upstairs and let Myron and his dad have some time together. My father-in-law is a senior, and his hearing is going. He can decipher Ukrainian better than English, so the conversation isn’t one I can understand. The register of Myron’s voice drops when he speaks Ukrainian, becomes richer and darker like flourless chocolate cake. Sometimes I ask him to show me how to pronounce a particular Ukrainian word, but my attempts are so bad that it pains his ears, and I stop before I get it right. And it doesn’t really matter; this is something no one else can join. It’s a club for two.
What else he inherited from Papá: A passion for gizmos and reading history for pleasure. A facility for languages (Papá taught himself Spanish in his eighties). A taste for buckwheat cabbage rolls and sauerkraut. A mind for intricacies and a lack of patience for bullshit. A respect for clever humor. The collector gene, made manifest in the shelves of books both here at our house and back home in the house where Myron grew up. And oh they can be stubborn, joyfully, delightfully stubborn. These two know how to get their way. They’re buddies, two peas, a chip and an old block.
I can’t eavesdrop when I don’t understand the language. I’m the third wheel right now, upstairs with the laptop, without the air conditioning on this sticky summer night. The rain blew away the power (and the Bluesfest concert stage) but not the humidity. The last threads of light are leaving the sky as I type. Downstairs, illuminated by one of my homemade candles, they’re hatching plans for the rest of the visit and occasionally laughing, wise and worldly laughs. Papá has already chopped down two trees and hung a little house for a weather station and read The No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. I hear their voices echo. I hear Papá’s slower cadence and Myron’s responses, and all I can make out from this far away, with only my English to help me, is the raised tone at the end of a question. Everything else is a mystery to me.