I wrote this post originally as an email letter one evening not so long ago. My intention was to simply send a link to an article I had just read, but what came out was a story wrapped in many memories of my Grandmother, Mabel. In return, I received the story encapsulated in a piece of word art designed my emerald friend, Pip. SO COOL to see many of the key words pulled together! It caught me by smiling surprise. I decided to post the story with a few tweaks and a few updates along with the Pipdesign tonight as I take time to remember Mabel. This week is the 6th anniversary of her death. Everyday she continues to travel with me.
Good evening friends....hope it is warm and toasty where you are as it is here in my little writing den. I have some my music on.....and am tucked under a dark purple duvet ...my reading lamp is the only light on.....it feels like a little cave with books and pictures and photos..... outside the weather is drizzly fog. Indoors, I'm surrounded by stillness.....comfort.....in my den which I named after my Grandmother, Mabel Darby. This is the "Darby" room. We had it built after we received some money from her that she had inherited. She shared this late life wealth with all of us, making sure every grandchild and great grandchild would benefit. So, when I'm in here, I think of her and wish, she was still alive to share this part of my journey with me.
I know, I know... she IS...but I'd sure like to talk with her about it all. There is a framed picture up on the bookshelf of just Mabel and I on my wedding day. Its in a frame she made at a woodworking class she took in her 70's.
There's another one on that shelf too...of my Dad, Jamie, his Dad, George and his brother...on a summer day at my parent's cottage before George's Alzeimers kicked in. I think it was the summer my little sister was married and we were all home to celebrate.
There's another of my two nephews who are young adults now standing in a hay field behind the old house Jamie's mother grew up in Spencer's Island, Nova Scotia with my beautiful Max when he was only 3. It was the first time they had met!!! My nephews live out west and we rarely see them...the three of them, despite the age difference took to one another....the big boys never leaving Max out of whatever beachcombing adventure they set out to enjoy. It's a bittersweet photo now, because it looks like we have lost our access to that old house and the property.....but that's another story I will write when the estate is finally settled. Lets hope thats soon. It may be. But, the result of the estate settling is just going to be sad.....
Maybe i should keep in mind the lesson of the woodcutter..."Whether it's a blessing or a curse, I do not know....."
There are lots of photos in my Darby room. Ancestral, generations of tugging and huggin belonging. Our roots. My roots. My little family's roots. I love writing in here.... :)
Over on my desk, there is a hilarious photo I took of Martha and Max acting up together Hmmm how old were they there?? 5 and 9 years old maybe? That one silly shot strums a whole story song which jumps right out of the frame!
We were on our way from Fredericton to Burlington, Ontario (a 14 hour drive when the weather is good....) to celebrate Mabel's 90th birthday. She was born on the same day the Titanic sunk...April 14th, 1912.... So it was April 2002. The van we owned at that time had been a lemon from the moment we drove the damn thing off the car lot. One thing after another had gone wrong with it, like it was possessed by demons. It was so bad that financially we were being hit like we had two car payments a month. But you know what happens with a car like that? You think.....ah.....just get this one thing fixed and then everything will be alright...NOT!!!
So, there we were, car tuned up, everything checked over before we hit the road. Our plan was to make the trip in one full swoop...no overnight stop. With all the amenities in the car to do just that, and then some........we piled into the van along with our trusty chocolate Lab, Lucy. 14 hours of being in the driving ZONE!
6 hours into it, we pull off the highway just outside of Quebec City for lunch and the van goes.....kachunk, kachunk..... oh no!! It was the kind of KaCHUNK that is never good news. The mechanic who couldn't speak any English, motioned to us that it was what we feared...transmission problems. He suggested we take it to the transmission place located on the highway a couple of miles back.... kachunk, kachunk off we go to Mr. Transmission in the land of french speaking Canada....no anglais...!!
As Jamie went in to the greasy little office that smelled to the heavens of transmission fuel and gasoline and oil slicks....I sat on the curb in the parking lot and lost my composure completely. I knew it was going to be expensive and I didn't know what was going to happen.... whether we would be able to continue on or not. However, I knew my grandmother was aging and beginning to weaken so being at her birthday party was very important to me. But, it was a Friday afternoon in Quebec City and we had another 8 hours to travel without a vehicle...the party was on the Sunday.
Tears came in frustration and anger over this damn van. My brain wasn't working well. It was tired and I lost it. My two children right then and there took it upon themselves to make me laugh. They jumped out of the van, pulled the "head hole" of their t-shirts up to frame their heads, which made their arms and shoulders hunch up. They looked like little goofballs. Then they sang me a song or some such thing. What was the funniest was to see how they cracked each other up! I laugh now remembering how beautiful it felt to experience their ability to be in charge of dishing out the empathy.
My tears dried up, replaced by recognizing the absurdity of the situaton. My kids had made me realize how silly life can be....how one has to lighten up and just go with the punches. I took the photo which sits framed in the Darby room right then because i knew that whenever i looked at that photo in the future i would promptly remember this lesson. Tonight, I remember this lesson. Go with the punches....go with the flow.
The van ended up having to stay there...they didn't have the right transmission. We somehow managed to find a rental...a much smaller car to continue on with the trip. Two kids and a fat chocolate Lab shared the back seat. After a few hours sitting and absorbing the reality we were back on the road but ended up stopping on the way overnight. The day had been way too long to push through the night. So, we arrived at my parent's place on the Saturday, still wired and frustrated over our consistently pain in the arse van problems and aching over the amount of money it was going to cost us in the longrun.
The trip ended up costing us close to $3000.00 dollars when it should've been GAS money and some eats! But i wouldnt have missed Mabel's birthday party for the world. I got to give the toast to the Birthday gal......surrounded by family of all ages.
Wow! You know, I was just going to write to you about this link to this AMAZINGLY achingly beautiful correspondance between journalist Ian Brown and Jean Vanier....I got going...my fingers tripping over the keys so quickly that I couldn't stop myself! Vanier's response to Brown's questions about aging and dying are so eloquent....so touching. It truly hit a good place in me.
I know you will like this article about accepting our own mortality. I wonder who will come to mind for you as you read it? For me it was Mabel Darby, my grandmother who died just after her 91rst birthday. She is the person in my life who in her own dying helped me be less afraid of it. I don't know how that happened. I just know it shifted me enough not to be so full of anxiety over my own death. You know what else? It was Mabel who in her ability to embrace the adventure helped me learn how to go for the gusto.
What I'm thinking now??? If Mabel were alive today? There is no way on God's green earth that i would be considering a trip to Greenbelt without her! Never wanting to miss a good good thing, especially if it involved travel and meeting like minds, she'd be demanding that i take her along.
Of all the people in the whole world and beyond, she is the one I think I take after the most in many ways. I was given the honour to stand up at her funeral to toast her, and I spoke of the road less travelled because it made a difference for her as she lived her life and it certainly makes a difference as I live mine.
Enjoy this correspondance between Brown and Vanier as i did and spend a little time with the person who comes to mind for you.