A good adventure story begins at the beginning and this one should be no different. When Evan called saying, "Dad I don't know what to get you for Christmas." I was kind of shocked. We don't really talk about that in our family. We don't think a lot about what we want. We just do it. Last year he gave me a copy of Ashley's "Book of Knots" Thoughtful. He is pretty good at this gift giving thing.
I mumbled something about just wanting to see him before he headed off to Latvia. So when he suggested that what he would like to do is fly me out I suspected an ulterior motive. You know "Dad radar" going off. And indeed - he had to get out of his apartment and was behind in packing up. Motive or not, experiencing minus forty again was something I could not miss. Who knew if I would get another chance. And besides - family. It would give me a chance to see a bunch of folks that I don't get to see very often. So YES!
Been a few years since I've flown in Canada and most of my flights have been from cold to hot. This one would be from warm to cold. While I wasn't apprehensive about it, I didn't want to miss my flight so I left plenty of time to get to Abbotsford, get checked in, and through security. My goal was to be at the gate by 4:45pm with my plane leaving at 5:30pm. Well I was ready and at the gate by 3:20pm.Things went much more quickly and smoothly than I expected. Then my phone started dinging. The WestJet app was great! Plane delayed by fifteen minutes, then by thirty minutes and then... We finally departed at 7:30pm getting into Calgary at 9:30pm with the one hour time difference. A quick offload and then reload and we were off to Edmonton.
Kind of. We left the ramp and crossed the airport seemingly taxiing forever. Then the plane stopped. A few minutes later the deicing trucks showed up and did their thing. At this point the pilot came on and explained that they were indeed deicing on the far side of the airport. This had all day long every time they visited Calgary and was the reason that the plane was so delayed. Finally we are taxiing again. And the jokes started. The majority of the passengers were coming home from Cancun and were a little lubricated (euphemism for mildly drunk.) "Hey my phone has GPS - does the pilot need help?" "Edmonton is that way." "Are we driving to Edmonton?" It was forty five minutes from the time we left the ramp to wheels up. It is a thirty minute flight. Ironic.
Evan gathered me up at Edmonton airport after the flight and gave me a bed for the night. The next morning we drove to Saskatoon. The weather was less than ideal with snow and just below freezing temperatures. So when the backend of the "Millenium Falcon" Evan's elder Ford Explorer, began to wander on the black ice he slowed down. But not enough. On the next hill, after some fishtailing and a few spins on the glare ice we went into the ditch. Backwards at 50mph. Handled extremely well. Proud of that boy. I accused him of time on the skid pan with a LAV. But he denied it. Tells me he has never done anything like that before. A deep breath and back up onto the road we drove waving thankfully at the traffic that had stopped to see if we needed help.
Christmas Eve saw me with Lavern and my boys at a Christmas Service at her work place, The Bridge, a small inner city church. followed by what has become a tradition in her household of fleisch pereski (Meat buns). Some good conversations. I"m excited about her returning to Panama. But that's her story and I'll let her tell it.
My dear brother, Drew and his wife, Lynne welcomed me to their home, giving me a room and keys to their second car (which for the record I never used.) I spent Christmas with them having the joy of watching their grandchildren do presents and stockings.
A meal in Humboldt on Boxing Day that included venison tenderloin, smoked turkey and all the trimmings let me spend a bit more time with my boys. Hosted by my brother Colin and his wife, more of Drew's boys and Sandra my stepmother (the wicked one and instigator of the whole affair.) and her partner John. More driving but a lovely time. And more baby exposure - Dax is a grinning blast. Every baby should be as happy as that one.
Ah the prairie sunsets. I was awed every night as the sky lit up shading from starfilled dark blues to brilliant oranges. And the joy of seeing what proved to be Venus and Saturn in the sky as we drove back from Humboldt? Truly humbling. That great big Saskatchewan sky. Almost enough to make you believe the flat earthers. Some walks in the snow - that iconic Canadian past time and a round on skates for the first time in at least thirty years. Yes there are pictures and yes the old guy still has it.
I had one pharmaceutical adventure during my time in Saskatoon. I realized about two days into the trip that I didn't have enough blood pressure medication. I headed out to Shopper's Drug Mart with my list of medications expecting that I would be able to obtain an emergency supply for a five days. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that they didn't have access to my records and couldn't give me any without a prescription from a Saskatchewan doctor. My doctor won't do prescriptions over the phone and having just filled my no refills prescription in Surrey, there seemed to be nothing I could do. I tried a number of different ideas but once they said "No" they weren't willing to do anything other than give me directions to a walk-in clinic. As we were leaving Drew suggested we try his pharmacy in Osler. Ten minutes. I showed them my ID, they called the Surrey pharmacy and had the prescription faxed. A few short minutes later (a fifteen dollar dispensing fee for 75 cents of medication) we were on our way. Corporate bureaucracy vs an entrepreneurial rural business. Love it.
From there I went to Calgary. Sharing the drive with Jeff, my nephew and his wife Ashley as they headed off on an elk hunting trip (It was successful.) was a special blessing. Jeff is wrestling with the after effects of chemo for his own round of cancer. Talking about some of our experiences made me realize how blessed I have been for the support I have and the great doctors that I have. I can only hope I was as encouraging to them as they were to me.
And then we come to my sisters. Alison and Sheila. It had been awhile since I had spent time with them and never together. What a trip. We celebrated New Year's Eve with a Chinese meal which promptly sent me running for the Immodium but since that was the only round on the trip I consider myself lucky. I moderated my intake for the second round of leftover Chinese and did much better. There was a puzzle. And the young whippersnappers left me to bring in the New Year alone. Wimps.
I'm still chuckling at my sister's perception of me as a "goodie two shoes." I reminded her that the last ten years had been spent on construction sites and language was going to have to deteriorate a lot more to get to me. While I particularly enjoy the guys that can "Son of sailor's mother you wretched piece of worthless rawhide" for five mintues, you would have to work hard to find something I hadn't heard before. Then there was the coffee row visitor who looking directly at me said, "Cold enough out there to freeze a man's tits off." I laughed, "Already gone."At which he roared. Setup perfectly.
Too soon it was all over and I was headed back to Surrey with a thirst for adventure. This trip went well and I realized how much I had missed travelling.
When I was in seminary I remember my Greek professor taking about the word that we commonly translate "eternal life." He said that abundant life was a better translation because it had both the idea of heaven, life after death but also a full life here on earth. My morning reflections included this passage from John 16:
21-23 “When a woman gives birth, she has a hard time, there’s no getting around it. But when the baby is born, there is joy in the birth. This new life in the world wipes out memory of the pain. The sadness you have right now is similar to that pain, but the coming joy is also similar. When I see you again, you’ll be full of joy, and it will be a joy no one can rob from you. You’ll no longer be so full of questions.
23-24 “This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!
While heaven is certainly in view in this bit, I think there is encouragement for our real life here and now. Imagine that joy-filled river overflowing its banks. That was my Christmas travels in a nutshell. When people asked about them I say "Too short and too long." I could have spent days gabbing with my boys and my family. But it was nice to come back to my lonesome cats, my own bed and my own cooking. Yes I really did miss cooking.
Thanks so much for your prayers. I wouldn't be here without them.
PS I have two more emails in progress that should be finished over the next few days talking about my recent weekend adventures in Toronto and my recent doctor's visit. Yes I'm going to keep you in suspense. No it wasn't bad news. Mostly.