Friday, May 08, 2009

memorable trips...

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.


9 comments:

Romany Angel said...

Such a lovely tribute to Mabel and I so enjoyed reading your memories that your photos brought to life....especially the story about Martha and Max and their attempt to bring a smile back to your face. Who doesn't love a moment of pure joy?

Awareness said...

Gypsy...I should really scan the photo of the kids and post it. Mabel was such an integral part of my life, especially my childhood. There are many stories of her in my head that's for sure.

I recommend you follow the link to the article as well. It is a very moving. I think you'd enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Ah Dana, I love you
I remeber when my Grammie was dying I was with her all the time wanting to spend every last minute with her. I was lying on the hospital bed with her and as she wa slipping into a coma she kept saying it's dark it's dark, wishing to reassure her I said into her ear Gram remember Jesus is with you even in the dark, to which she replied yeah well it's still G--D-- dark!
Treasure the memories
Mavis

Scarlet said...

Dana! I have a massive puddle here at my fingertips!
How moving, and such a lovely tribute .... especially for Mother's Day.

Enjoy your memories!

Awareness said...

Mavis....that is such a bittersweet story....your Grandma has the ability to lighten the moment eh?
Unfortunately, I wasn't near Mabel when she passed away but my parents and my uncle were there with her. She died in the middle of the SARS scare in Ontario which complicated things. I was here in NB when she died.
Her health had been failing tremendously over the last couple of months of her life, to a point where her care was more intense. She was going to be moved from the retirement living area where she has a small apt with her cat to a nursing care section. The most traumatic aspect of this for her was the fact that she wasn't allowed to take her cat with her. She really struggled with this for a few days until the woman who ran the front desk who Mabel had become friends with told her she would take the cat and bring her in anytime Mabel wanted to see her. The next morning, Mabel went into cardiac arrest and died within a couple of hours after being rushed to the hospital. I've always thought she felt comfortable enough after her cat was cared for to let go. :)

Scarletina...glad you enjoyed the story. :) Happy Mothers Day to you.

Walker said...

Great post.
Mabel was quite the woman and a free spirit.
Sounds like she livd her life and inspired others to do the same.

She reminds me of my mother's mother.
I remember her at the age of 80 chairching down the road on a tall white stallion that sput fire and crapped thunder and either tried to bite or kick anyones head off within reach but not her and she was never afraid of the beast.
A bottle of wine a day until she was 99 because someone had to drink it.

Happy Mother's Day

Liara Covert said...

Timeless experiences you share with loved ones are priceless. You can spend time, but you cannot get it back once it seems to be gone. Every being is soul energy. As you say, your grandma just is. Energy is love in the heart that never dies.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

I love the collage of words...I use to do things like that--Sort Of--With pictures, too.... love the story of getting to your Grandmother's Birthday....I'm so glad you actually got there! And she sounds like she was one very special and important person in your life....A treasured person!

I'm having a little trouble with "death" this week---two people I was very close to, died within five days of each other....So, my feelinfs about death at the moment are tenuous, at best.....! Somehow each time someone else I know dies, I feel the "grim reaper" closer and closer....not the best feeling, I'm afraid....

Awareness said...

Walker....you make me laugh! When Mabel was close to 80, she took her last solo trip to the UK and bought a rail pass! She was determined to see some of the "old country" she hadn't had a chance to see. She wasn't one to sit still though she was very creative too and made many clothes, crafts and pictures she gave to her family.

Liara...I do believe in that energy.

Naomi....It must be very difficult for you too not to be able to get out and see your friends like you used to as well. Knowing how social you are and how much your friends mean to you.