By Patrick La Roque
—Highway 40, heading towards Trois-Rivières—I last visited ten years ago, when my uncle passed away. Jacob wasn't even three at the time and Cynthia had stayed home with her mom—she was due to give birth any day now and we were in total standby mode. I was clutching my phone, ready to bolt at the earliest warning sign.—Exit to road 131, Notre-Dame-Des-Prairies—But my previous and most vivid memory is of my dad at the wheel. I'm sitting next to him, my sister and mother in the backseat. I had a tendency to get car sick you see, and would always sit in front, propped up on a pillow so I could watch the road ahead. It helped, apparently.—Notre-Dame-De-Lourdes...my sister is on the phone, she's lost—We have a car full of kids and I'm the dad now. Same direction, same litany of saintly villages nestled between barren november fields. Every stop a memory, every street light and every sign like a bolt of lightning.—Kiri, St-Félix-De-Valois—Kiri made soft drinks, a local brand my grandparents used to get delivered directly to their house. The building is on the very same corner but I can't tell if it's abandoned or not.
—Turn left, rue Principale, St-Cleophas-De-Brandon—Here we are, decades back and light years ahead; where time has stood still yet devoured all we knew. The urn is heavy and it's hard for me to reach all the way down into the hole without letting go. But I do and we stand in silence and then we leave. We've spoken all the words already. My grandparents' old house is just down the hill, a sad remnant of what it used to be. If someone lives here they do so in squalor. We walk around and I can almost picture the big red tractor, grandpa hitching his wagon as we hop on board: "on va faire un tour au bout de la terre!" he'd say. He meant the property line but my child's mind would hear a more literal, almost mystical phrase: we're taking a ride to the end of the earth.
This is where we are now, I realize, having crossed the threshold and whispered our final goodbyes.
This is where we all stand...at the End of the Earth.