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VANCOUVER, B.C. Jan. 3, 2016/ Troy Media/ – I had no doubt that my 93-year-old mother would like to spend the holidays with us at our West Coast home near Powell River, but I wanted her to make the decision herself. With a walker, a bag of medications and a delicate diet, she had to make the call.
“I’d love to come, but only if I can fly up, because the drive and two ferry rides is more than I can take.”
The next thing I knew, I was at the Pacific Coastal terminal in Powell River watching mom slowly climb down the stairs from the small commuter aircraft. She had on her polar parka, a knitted winter hat (from her recent Pond Inlet Russian ice-breaker trip), and new Sorel snow boots. Always prepared, just like the Girl Guide leader she once was in Williams Lake, almost 80 years ago.
Mom is at heart a country girl. Even though she was a resident of Vancouver all her married life, the first 16 years were spent in Revelstoke, Vernon and Williams Lake where her civil engineer father led the construction of B.C.’s rugged interior road system.
A first-born child, she was named Frances, but her dad called her ‘Frank’ or ‘ [popup url=”https://www.troymedia.com/tag/frankie-robinson/” height=”600″ width=”600″ scrollbars=”0″]Frankie[/popup]’, and the name stuck. She learned her bush skills during summer trips with her dad to construction camps.
“I love driving through the country to your place. I remember every bit of the way,” she said as we drove out of the airport parking lot in my pickup. “I also like driving in a proper truck.”Christened Frances, mom was called Frank by her father but prefers the more casual Frankie.
As we headed south to home, which we call Skelhp, mom looked purposefully at her walker, stowed behind the front seat. “I am going to try to get by without my ‘wheelie’ this entire trip. I already feel 20 years younger.”
As we drove down the gravel road to the house, mom noted that our deer-fenced garden looked sad.
“I much prefer it towards the end of summer when everything is so lush. Winter gardens are a bit depressing don’t you think? Have you cut the Christmas tree yet? I’m looking forward to decorating it.”
As I parked the truck, four 20- and 30-something grandchildren raced out of the house to greet ‘Granny.’ Collectively, they had come from London, Montreal, Kingston and Los Angeles for Christmas in the country. Mostly, they had come to be with our family’s matriarch.
Frankie was given the master bedroom, effectively bumping everyone else into other sleeping arrangements. No one cared as long as Granny was OK. And then began the week-long process of reconnecting, as she asked detailed, interesting questions of each grandchild whilst elder parents cooked a succession of meals for as many as 12 guest and family diners at numerous sittings.
Throughout it all Granny walked erect and confidently about the house, her ‘wheelie’ parked in the bedroom.
Hoots of laughter reverberated about the house as the fully decorated Christmas tree fell over on Boxing Day, rolling and smashing ornaments in all directions. “Can’t be helped!” Mom said. Then, nephew Henry’s antique dining room chair deconstructed during dinner.
“Once again Granny hooted with laughter. “I can’t imagine who would purchase such a poorly built chair,” she quipped, knowing that the dining room suite was a gift from her and dad years ago.
After the compulsory debriefings on the educational and career progress of the grandchildren, the board games began. Granny was in it for multiple games of chess, Scrabble and even a game of Risk that took hours to complete. Throughout each day she could also be seen making meticulous notes in her diary.
“I need to record everything, you see, because I am at the age where you forget things. By the way, you shouldn’t have been credited points for that Greek goddesses name you used in Scrabble last night. I checked the rules.”
Throughout the week the up-coast weather was cold and rainy. Most days the grey ceiling of clouds was just a few hundred feet above the ocean and the house. Granny spent her entire visit indoors without complaint. She left the day before New Year’s to organize her Vancouver apartment party for 20 guests.
“How many bottles of wine should I purchase?” she asked me before she boarded the plane.
Troy Media syndicated columnist Mike Robinson has been CEO of three Canadian NGOs: the Arctic Institute of North America, the Glenbow Museum, and the Bill Reid Gallery. Mike is included in Troy Media’s Unlimited Access subscription plan.
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