"Cowardice asks the question...is it safe? Expediency asks the question...is it politic? Vanity asks the question...is it popular? But conscience asks the question...is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but one must take it because it is right." ~Dr. Martin Luther King

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Friend

A small envelope is propped against the monitor. A band of red encloses a space sufficient to hold my name and address written in beautiful copperplate writing .Thick and thin upright lines could only be enscribed with pen and ink.

The letters are exactly how I remember being taught though mine were never so even or precise or so beautifully shaped. The card arrived two weeks before Christmas with a note updating me on their lives.

Ethel had hip-surgery in the summer. A week after she left hospital, she was back in with pneumonia but has been well since. Johnny had to cook. It was fine as long as all he had to do was put things in and out of the microwave.

They moved from where they lived all of their lives together in the Village of Symington where Ethel was active and involved . Troon would be more convenient. The car had to go when Johnny had quadruple heart surgery. They needed to be handy for shops and buses.

Ethel was looking forward to coming back to Canada to see Frank and Lorna's new house . She hoped to see me again soon and wished my family well.

The handwriting tells so much about her. An incredibly tidy little woman; fastidious and meticulous. Her eyes dance and flash with wit and curiosity and the laughter is never far from her lips.

On the day of our family gathering, there was a phone call from Scotland. Ethel was back in hospital in a breathing machine. By the time Lorna arrived there, the news was better. She had improved, was out of the machine but still in hospital.

My friend was eighty-eight years old. I don't believe I ever told her how much I admired her handwriting. The Christmas card will be the last .

Ethel died two days after Christmas.

Just slipped away quietly and tidily in her sleep.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Christmas Gathering

On Sunday we had our Christmas Gathering at Heather and Andy's house.

Lizzie didn't get there. She's at University in Peterborough and has a job and a cat and a dog. She will be home for five days at Christmas. Not all of us will see her then and she will not see all of us.

Vanessa and the twins were expected home from Tacoma Washington. But after sitting on a plane for one and a half hours waiting for take-off, they didn't. Stephen, Vanessa's Dad. left the Gathering to drive home to Kitchener and then to Detroit and collect the little family. They are home now. Tired but safe It's a lot of hours for wriggly little ones to be strapped into chairs. But Vanessa said they would come home. And home is where they're at.

Patrick came from Ottawa and Myles and Melissa from Mississauga.

There were forty-eight people in Heather and Andy's house.

Heather has become involved in competitive swimming. She was "discovered" in the water with the Special Olympic swimmers. Adam is a member of the team. Heather never had a swimming lesson but she swam five kilometers on Sunday morning without a rest. That was before The Gathering.

My young ones learned to swim at Bruce's Mill , Seneca Pond and Preston Lake before they were old enough to know you had to learn. The first challenge for each of them was swimming under water. They looked like beavers when their heads emerged.

Andy leaves the house every morning at five-thirty for work at this time of the year. He manages
an Ontario Liquor Store. He likes to compete with himself.

Fifteen year old Robyn took care of things at the house. She made the rub for the beef ,got it going and kept it basted.

By special request of everybody. I made meat balls and sauce. There must have been twenty pounds of the juicy little morsels. I had to tie on the lid of the crock pot, they were packed so tight. But the boys got into them before dinner was served and the pot was empty before the last diners reached it. That's the first time that happened.

Roast beef was on the menu . It is always well received and easier than turkey when preparing a feast for a multitude.

Rory was there. He is six feet five inches tall now. His special friend Devin came too. Mark's friend Mindy and her little sister Laurie lost their mother recently after a year long battle with a brain tumour.They came along with the Keswick Satellite Clan.

Eric's mother Betty came with Eric's cousin from Windsor who was visiting for Christmas.

Doug and Margaret, Andy's Mum and Dad were there.

Great-grand-daughters, Cheyenne and Abigail were together. They are no longer traumatised by numbers. They enjoy the excitement more than anyone.

Lorna didn't make it. News came that morning from Scotland about Ethel, Lorna's mother. Lorna has to take the first available flight home. But Frank was with us.

Aaron took the Young Bucks downstairs to show pictures of their recent fifty-six day tour of great places in Europe. But as soon as the show was over they all trooped back up into the kitchen.

Marnie's Mum, May was there. She didn't make it to the last Gathering. But she got good news recently about her eyesight. Treatment has been amazingly successful so she needed to celebrate.

Everybody who could squeeze into the kitchen was in the kitchen.

Andrew, Rhonda, Meghan and Hayley were merrily present.

Not being responsible for the roast beef and the gravy, I took leisurely pride of place in the corner. May joined me and Margaret too when space opened up.

Eric always has to make reference to insanity in my family. Eric lives with my first-born grand-daughter Stephanie.They have been friends since high school. I told him again I take full responsibility for all of it. I think he just says it to hear me lay vigorous claim to all present.

Some of us will gather again at Martin and Marnie's house in Barrie on Christmas Day. Lizzie will
be there with her dog and cat.

Martin and Marnie have a dog and a cat as well.

There will be joy and laughter there too.