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32 Years of Guilt

October 2, 2007

 32 years ago, on a nice summer day I was walking through the pasture of my uncle’s farm in Abitibi. (Yes, walking, this was before any of my surgeries.) My father held my hand and my cousin was with us too, skipping along ahead of us as we all walked and talked, avoiding what cows do in the pasture.  I was 7, and I don’t remember why we were going out there.  I think my uncle must have wanted to show us something, or perhaps we were just out for a walk. At one point, something went wrong with my shoelace, or maybe it was my shoe, I don’t remember that either, but the rest is very clear to me. My uncle had my cousin run up to a little shack that stood in the middle of the field and fetch a pocket knife.  She got it, and he fixed whatever needed fixing. When we got to the shack moments later, he hung it back on a nail on the wall.

Well, for a city kid, this little shack was irresistible. My cousin and I played there for the rest of the day. We pretended it was fort and we played house and we cleaned and had all sorts of wonderful plans and ideas for our little cabin. Imaginative and fun things. Things kids did before X-Box and Playstation.  

But that little knife stared at me from it’s perch on the wall. A single blade little metal pocket knife. I didn’t have a pocket knife. I sure would like one. And in a moment that I would regret for 32 years, I decided to take it.  My cousin went outside or turned her back, and while she wasn’t looking, I slipped it into my pocket.

It’s been with me in some way ever since. Not on me, but I always know where it is. It has spent the last 17 years or so in my toolbox. And every time I see it, it reminds me of my uncle, of that little cabin. But it gives me a little tinge of guilt as well. How could I steal from family?

So when I went to visit a few years ago I brought it with me. I would make things right. I would tell him and give it back, or I would just get to the little shack and hang it up on the hook. Well, the moment never seemed right to give it back, and after 30 years, the little shack was long gone. Besides, negotiating a cow pasture in a power wheelchair is a plan I’m glad I didn’t try.

Well, inspired by the show “My Name is Earl“, I guess I was convinced that I needed to make things right this time. Karma and all that. So what better way to get the little extra push I needed, than by telling Kelly about it.

So I told her the whole story. And then asked “So what do you think I should do?”

She just smiled. “You know what I’m going to say” she said. “You don’t need me to say it.”

Right. I knew that. And that is exactly the little nudge I needed.

So while the Smoked Maple Salmon skewers were grilling on the BBQ, and my uncle and I were sitting and chatting in the sun on the deck, I pulled out the little knife and told him what I had done.

He took it, looked it over, and smiled at me. “I don’t remember at all” he told me in French. “I don’t think this was mine”. I assured him it was. He looked at it again, and thought for a moment. “Might have belonged to one of my little brothers” he said, “they used to play in there all the time”. “Regardless” he said, “you keep it, looks like you’ve taken good care of it, and besides, it will always remind you of me.” He smiled again.

So there you have it. I have finally righted a wrong that I committed 32 years ago. And I even got to keep the knife.


5 Comments leave one →
  1. October 3, 2007 5:56 am

    Nice knife. Old fashioned. Sharp too (cutting through those thick cords of guilty years).

  2. October 3, 2007 11:59 am

    Sylvain, this gives me hope on a somewhat hopeless day–faith that people are good and thoughtful and kind–both you, and your uncle.


  3. October 3, 2007 3:28 pm

    The carnation a stranger handed me at the mall over a week ago is in full bloom in a little crystal vase on my desk still. People are good and thoughtful.

  4. October 4, 2007 11:46 am

    Sylvain, you made me cry with your story of the stolen knife. You were seven, my friend, seven years young. I can just imagine that little boy you playing in that shack, such imagination and fun at full tilt. How the lure of that knife drew you in. I feel sad that you had to carry that guilt around all these years. How sweet to be able to sit with the uncle whom you felt you had wronged and tell him your story. How wonderful of him to obsolve you. I wish we could all unburned ourselves of our guilts this way. Thanks for sharing. Now I need to get another tissue. Hugs.

  5. October 4, 2007 11:47 am

    absolve, unburden (sorry for the spellings)

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