Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hay Bay Family Visit

I love my family.  The problem is I don’t get to see them as much as I’d wish. There’s the issue of distance.  When we get together though it’s like we’ve never been apart.  My sister in law Adell phoned first then I was able to talk with their oldest song Graeme and then my brother Ron and the plan to visit was made. Patient cancellations and air flight bookings and Laura offering to look after Gilbert when I was away. The stop in Toronto after a long flight seemed too much to subject Gilbert to. He’s a great flier but I really think they need some doggie lawn inside airports. Least they can do since they have smoking rooms for smokers.
My nephew Allan met me in Kingston.  We drove out the suburban rural roads to their home. I’m always amazed at how civilized Ontario seems compared to the wild west.  There’s a gentleness to the terrain too.  Rolling hills compared to mountain peaks.  Lakes compared to ocean.  Great seeing my brother’s place.  I noticed the lawn wasn’t cut as it had been last time I’d been there.  I soon learned that Ron had developed pains in his hip so hadn’t completed that task.
I love to be useful. After greetings all round, warm hugs, and lots of laughter I got the tour of the place seeing the garden that Adell helped to plant at the last minute. The albacore sailboats were new. I’m looking forward to one day getting those out on the lake.
Adell and I went into town to get some medications.  I laughed when I walked quickly up to the pharmacist and asked for “Immodium’.  I couldn’t believe the speed at which she dashed around the counter and ran to the shelf showing me where it was located.  “It’s not for me,” I said, laughing.  She was visibly relieved.  I couldn’t help but think she’d had an emergency request in the past which made her move so quickly on this occasion.
I always enjoy talking with my sister in law, a retired school principal, about Canada and culture and the changing world. I also got updated on the activities of her incredible boys, Graeme the oldest, Andrew and his wife Tanya and Allan the youngest.  Graeme had a new girlfriend and I’d never heard about that before.  Allan’s master’s psychology research was doing well. I’d later learn from Andrew himself that he was making robot magnetic explorers at Carlton University.  My nephews are quite amazing people.
Allan and I drove into town so I could get the house a Cuisianart barbecue house gift. It was on sale at Canadian Tire and I could swear I read somewhere a sign saying ‘easy to assemble”.  That afternoon and evening, Allan a masters student, me with my MD FRCPC  and Adell with her PHD spent 2 1/2 hours assembling this piece de resistance.  True to form the mosquitoes attacked most the one with the tools.  So Allan who was doing the biggest lion’s share of screwing nuts and inserting bolts was their prime target. I was supervising with the blue prints while Adell was assembling parts. It was a lot of fun to work as a group assisting Allan hoping he’d be able to complete the task before the mosquitoes drunk on mosquito repellant drained his last drop of blood. Adell and I got a few bites by the time we finished at dusk having found that the electrical wire and harness for the ignition system wasn’t present in the box.  The barbecue looked great though.
When Graeme arrived the next day he barbecued us all pork loin perfectly.
I’d started to complete the lawn mowing only to have the mower mechanism crash.  My suggestion was to buy a new mower for a few thousand dollars. I felt badly for breaking the mower.  Ron would have nothing of that loving his Scotsman and insisting it could be repaired without too much difficulty.  Not wanting Ron to work at this time, he was only officially allowed to be a ‘consultant’ but nonetheless was soon lying on the garage floor looking at what I’d done to his beloved lawnmower.  Allan and Adell and I again as a technical team separated the mowing mechanism from the tractor.  This time Allan did one side of the disassembly while I lying on my back on the garage floor did the other. Adell was best at handing tools and holding bolts.  We’d used the internet to find a you tube video showing how the disassembly of a Scotsman mower was supposed to go..  Ron’s mower unfortunately was an older version than those on film but the video helped us get an idea of the process. We were as surprised to complete the task as we’d been putting together the barbecue. A wonderful feeling. It turned out that a plastic bag I’d not seen in the tall grass had been sucked into the mower and caused one of the blade assemblies to slow throwing the belt which caught on a guiding bar destroying another ‘thingamajig”.
Graeme, who in his work as a plasma chemical engineer deals with more complex assembly issues that lawnmowers would pull out the thingamajig the next day and with hammer and pliers and file restore this dead thing to life.  Then I’d help him reassemble the lawnmower tractor.  He got bit by the machine on his knuckles for putting in the cawder pins which had got my knuckles bitten pulling them out. Anyone who works on machinery knows it’s not inanimate and that it will do everything in it’s capacity to hurt you back for hurting it.  I had a bruised kuckle and Graeme had nicked fingers so we came off lucky.  Astonishingly Graeme drove the lawn mower and it didn’t explode and actually cut grass. Earlier in the process when the monster was in parts the next door neighbour Redge who has a similar machine had come by to watch with Ron and comment on how they apparently went back together. He’d had to take an older machine apart like we were doing but was thankful that he’d not yet had to disassemble his new John Deere.  It was still one of those neighbourly moments with men standing about looking on at a broken mechanical thing and discussing various solutions.  A real country male bonding moment.
I was glad to be apart of the resolution and obviously Graeme and Allan saved me spending a few thousand.  I got back on the restored lawnmower and headed up the hill back to the the front yard.  In the process of lawn mowing I chased up two moles and one very large and fast rabbit. I got a sun burnt, nearly rolled the machine in a ditch and almost took out one little tree. My brother came by to watch me and laugh as I rode about in circles trying to maintain some semblance of straight lines in the very unlevel terrain broken up by trees and shrubs with hidden rocks and logs threatening to hurt the now very precious machine.
I’d been able to buy a fishing license ironically from a man who works weekends as a pastor.  I chatted about Jesus and the bible with his friend who also attends the local church where a dozen people assemble most Sundays.  I missed that Sunday but certainly look forward to attending another visit as I love Christian worship and the welcome any visitors receive especially in smaller rural congregations.
Mornings I awoke early and walked Eva the cockapoo down to the lake where she and a Canada Goose had their well rehearsed confrontation over territory. One morning this brought three swans to visit. It was apparent from Eva's backward glances at me that with the odds now 4 to one she was counting on my back up.
Graeme who is also a movie maker was all over the property taking short clips he planned to incorporate in his films.  I’m amazed at the patience he has in the editing process.  For hours at a time he’d be off holed away with his computer and some dandelion fuzz blowing in the wind shot of a few minutes he was perfecting for later use in a longer film.
Andrew and Tanya had been to Niagara Falls to celebrate their one year anniversary so we’d been following their travel on Facebook. They arrived and Graeme was able to get us all together for a group photo. He left a space for Allan holding Eva the cockapoo to be photoshopped in because Allan had had to return to Ottawa just before Graeme arrived.
We drove into Kingston Hospital where I had a chance to meet with some doctors. I have a couple of colleagues who I worked with in the past and plan to meet them next time around when there will be more time.  The doctor’s I met were most impressive and I loved the whole professional state of the art atmosphere of the facilities and the helpful pleasant attitudes of staff.
As a family we drove out to a restaurant where I had fish and chips while others had liver and onions.  While I like liver and onions as an adult Ron reminded me of how I detested them as a child.  It’s silly fun reminiscing about childish things with one who shared those times.
Leaving Graeme and Adell to shop in town Ron drove me around Kingston on a tour showing me the harbour, the old jail,  the Royal Military College, and  Fort Henry built in the 1800’s to repulse the American attempts at conquering Canada. We drove about Queen’s University where Andrew had attended engineering before switching to geology at Carlton.  My sailing friend Tom is a Queen’s University engineer so it was interesting to see the campus. The whole town of Kingston is a lovely place which I’d love to tourist about on another occasion. I’ve only passed through it previously and appreciated my brother showing me the magic of the place.
At night we watched a couple of NHL Playoff hockey games, Rangers, Chicago, Annaheim, one night both Ron and I falling asleep in front of the tv so neither of us knew who won until the next morning.  I could have been back in our Fort Garry  home watching hockey as a child. All that was missing was my father’s snoring and the old dog we had back then farting.
Adell made an anorak chair staining the cut wood and assembling it when she wasn’t supervising barbecue assemblies or lawnmower disassemblies and making all kinds of snacks and meals for the family.
One afternoon Ron played guitar and I sang along with him dating ourselves with these 70’s Dylan, Eagles and  Beatles songs we sang as much laughed through.
All in all it was a great visit and too soon I was getting up at 4 in the morning to be driven to the airport by Graeme.  On the flight back I watched the amazing Clint Eastwood movie, American Sniper, a true hero. I cried at the sacrifice of family and the selflessness of soldiers defending each other from enemies they might otherwise befriend were it not for war.
Gilbert was ecstatic to see me even though he must have known I’d been with his friend Eva and he’d not been present. Laura spoils him with treats and walks so he hardly misses me when I’m gone but our reunions are no less ecstatic.
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