Down and out

Ed Smith
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I am saddled with an inconsolable sadness. That’s probably the worst first line I have ever written. It is probably the worst line I have ever written. Period.

Now that’s sad, brother! If you have just won Lotto 649 and could afford to buy an island in the Caribbean and a private jet to take you there, and you had all the amenities the rich and famous take for granted, that line would still make you want to “Take Pop’s gun and go out behind the shed and commit adultery.” (That’s a direct quote from a long ago neighbour who used to get slightly mixed up in her ranting when she got excited.)

It reminds me of an old hymn we used to sing back in the days when crackies would wander in through the open church door on a Sunday morning, lift their legs against the nearest pew and wander out again satisfied with the world as they knew it.

Come you disconsolate, where e'er you languish

Come to the Mercy Seat ...

The words of that hymn have saved more souls than Oral Roberts and Jimmy Swaggart combined. Chances are they used those words on occasion when the collection plate wasn’t quite full. Yes, that’s cynical. Where those characters are concerned, cynical is my middle name.

Confession time: this column is not being written in real time! That remarkable first line was written three days ago after which my computer — or rather my Naturally Speaking program through which I communicate with the computer — up and died. After two days of frustration, fussing and cussing, this morning several technological angels guarded me along the right paths and, lo and behold, up she comes! Don’t ask me how or why.

There’s just this one little problem. I haven’t the slightest idea what my inconsolable sadness was all about! Cast back in my mind as I will, for the life of me I haven’t a clue as to what was wrong. I’ll ask you to bear with me whilst I explore various possibilities.

First, there was the happy forecast from the environmentalist people that August in Newfoundland and Labrador would be colder than usual.

The environmentalists are always good for a laugh, especially in their long-term prognostications. There’s more chance that Stephen Harper will keep his greedy hands off this province than that they’ll be right. Earlier this spring they said we would have less rainfall than normal.

We used to have a dog that was better at determining wet weather than Ryan Snoddon. We’d simply let him out for a while and then call him in again. If he was wet, we knew it was raining. Nevertheless, hearing the so-called experts give their opinion on what’s going to happen in an already cold and miserable summer is a bit hard to take. Unless, of course, you lived in God’s country where the weather hasn’t been too bad.

Then our oldest granddaughter announced out of the blue that in a month she’ll be heading off to New Brunswick to university. We knew it was coming, but to have herself pronounce it offhand sort of hit you where you live. I had a sudden flashback to those September days when I’d be doing the same thing and my mother in tears days before the departure. Didn’t appreciate her feelings until there was our own little flock to fly off.

The whole world situation makes me sad when I allow myself to think about it. Whichever way you turn you find the rich and powerful taking advantage of the poor and weak.

Tens of thousands of people are dying of hunger but there’s enough food in the world to feed us all.

Homeless children all over the world are crying out for homes and caring families but the road to finding these children is a minefield of rules and regulations and bureaucratic red tape.

Jerry Springer, for all the trash material on his programs, always signs off with this admonition: “Take care of yourselves — and each other.” (Somebody told me.) It’s not altogether a bad thought. The source is immaterial.

I’ll tell you what really made me disconsolate this week and practically made me languish. This was Come Home Year week in Springdale. I know, we were the only town in Newfoundland to have come home year celebrations this summer. Most of it was great fun, but then there were these traumatic moments that you spend your life trying to avoid.

A middle-aged man with a grey beard and a head almost totally bald comes toward you with hand  outstretched and a beaming smile.

“Hello Mr. Smith! (It’s always Mr. Smith) Remember me? You taught me English in Grade 10!”

For a brief second you have the option of staring him in the face and saying, “I’m sorry, sir, but you have me confused with someone else.” There is no way you taught someone in secondary school who is now that old!

Then the moment passes and you are trapped. You search your memory banks for the thousands of students who have passed through your life in the last 30 years, especially the really old ones, to find a match. But nothing comes.

“You haven’t changed one little bit!” There’s only one response to that lovely lie, in case you ever have need of it. “You mean to tell me I looked like this 30 years ago?”

I know that’s no way to treat students of yesterday, but you have to understand. It’s a very difficult situation for me. And if that doesn’t leave you languishing at the Mercy Seat, nothing will!

Ed Smith is an author who lives in Springdale. His email address is

Geographic location: Caribbean, Newfoundland and Labrador, Springdale New Brunswick

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Recent comments

  • Bob Kieley
    August 06, 2011 - 10:40

    Ed, when someone tells us "you look great, havn't changed one bit", be sure and respond with "thank you, but I think you need your eyesight checked". As for being in the doldrums, perhaps it's the lack of sunshine. Try taking a healthy dose of Vitamin C.