TBT – Mom and Dad

mom and dad wedding

In a couple of weeks my mom and dad will celebrate their fifty-fifth wedding anniversary.  Fifty five years of wedded bliss.  Okay, so maybe not all the years were completely blissful.  But as with most good relationships they have a lovely story to tell that began in England in 1951.

There is a five hundred year old tradition in Oxford that on the first day of May young people gather at the foot of Magdalen Tower at 6:00am to hear the Magdalen Choir sings hymns from the cloisters.  A friend of my moms had invited her along, with a few others,  to enjoy this tradition from a punt on the River Thames.  A punt, for those unfamiliar, is a wide, flat-bottomed boat that you propel through the water using a long pole.  Way harder than it looks by the way.

So picture it.  Six college students in their early twenties on a boat on the river just after sunrise (probably drinking Pimms) with not a care in the world.  This was how my parents met.  Not in a bar, not online, not even at a party.  In a boat on the River Thames.

But that’s not when they started dating.  Over the next few years the group of them would become great friends.  Living the college life at Oxford.  Apparently my mom once changed from her work clothes into a party dress and heels underneath a table at a college ball she was going to with my dad’s best friend.  Perhaps the coat check was full?  Oh, and my dad accidentally shot himself in the calf trying to sneak a firearm out of his dorm so he could poach rabbits.  Why do you think he would be poaching rabbits?

mom and dad engagement

I’ve heard so many great stories from that time.

Anyway, eight years later my dad moved to Canada and ended up working in the woods of British Columbia as a forester.  My mom remained in England working as an Occupational therapist. Still not dating yet.  They kept in touch though through my dad’s best friend Tony.  (The one she went to the ball with?)

The oldest joke in our family is that my mom followed my dad to Canada.  She will deny it until the cows come home but my dad just laughs every time he hears this story. So we still don’t know if it’s really true or not.  The way she tells it, when she decided to come to Canada she wrote to Tony to let him know that she would be coming to Vancouver.  As it turned out my dad was driving him to the airport on the same day that she was arriving.  The three of them had lunch at White Spot together and my mom was so excited (and distracted) to see my dad, that she ate Tony’s lunch and not hers.  It’s so cute to hear her tell this story now.

That’s  when they finally started dating.  My dad was still working in the woods and my mom found work in the city and moved into a house just off Cornwall Street.  He would drive down on the weekends to visit her and they would do cool things like go to the Cave or The Roof for drinks.  In 1960 they returned to England to get married.  After a picture perfect honeymoon in Austria they made the decision to return to Vancouver and settle down. For that, I am eternally grateful.

Sometimes I wonder how they have stayed married for this long.  They argue.  Actually I wouldn’t really even call it arguing.  It’s more like quibbling.  But at the same time, I have never questioned their love for each other.  At the end of the day they would always come together in the kitchen for a snog  Some how I knew that this was just their way of working things out.  Now at 86 and 83 with three kids and seven grandkids they are still enjoying their life together.

The Best Thing in Life is a great story to tell your grandchildren and having a real marriage as an example of how to make it work.

m&d wedding

Lessons From a Road Trip

liv on a bike

Twenty days, 4,479 miles, 10 hotels, countless restaurants, 49 out of 50 state licence plates, billions of grains of sand and one huge pile of dirty laundry.  Our family road trip to Southern California and back is now complete.

Somehow we managed to do it with relatively few disagreements and no real disasters.  I also learnt a few things along the way.

tommy chair

I have a new appreciation for living life with less “stuff”.  You can only shove so much into an SUV right?.  I pretty much made it through the almost three weeks with two pairs of shorts, a few tops, two bathing suits, flip flops and my running stuff.  Oh, ya and underwear.  I think the one thing that I could not have down without was the two Tommy Bahama beach chairs we bought just before we left.  They’re the kind that you can carry like a backpack.  They have two pouches on the back.  One of which is insulted for your water bottle.  They are comfy and functional.  They made spending six hours a day at the beach tolerable.  Because it was really tough.

I am pretty useless at giving driving directions under pressure.  I can follow directions with no problem. Given enough warning.  I don’t respond well to being told to change into the right hand lane of a five lane highway on the fly.  Thank god for Siri.  She helped us (me) out many times.  With the exception of that one time on Northern California when she took us deep into a rather sketchy residential area and insisted that we had arrived at our destination.  No Siri, that possible crack house is not a Subway.

E surfing

Do not stay in Pacific Beach, San Diego on the weekend unless you are 25 and want to stand in line at a bar for two hours after spending the day at the beach.  Also, if there is a drunk guy outside your condo at midnight remember to lock your door or he may decide to pay you a visit.  Then he may reprimand you (punctuated with many curse words) for not locking your door.  Thank you to the fat ginger guy with one shoe for reminding us to always be safe.  FYI it was the girls next door who called the cops not us.

in n out

In n Out IS all it’s cracked up to be.  I have been hearing for years about In n Out burgers and how incredible they are.  Having not had a burger in close to two years I wasn’t sure if I would remember what a good burger actually tasted like.  It did not disappoint.  No, I did not have it animal style but never the less it was a great burger.  Did I mention that I was starving by the time we got around to finding it just off the I5 south of San Diego.  They have three items on their menu.  Burger, Cheeseburger and Fries.  Proof that simple is better.

No matter how many times you remind your almost adult son to remember to take out the garbage, it may not happen.  And yes, week old garbage is nasty.

Just because a hotel calls itself the Inn by Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey doesn’t mean that it is anywhere near Fisherman’s Wharf.  It may just be up the hill mere feet away from I5 and nowhere near a wharf.  Remember the motels you stayed at when you were a kid?  Rectangular courtyard surrounding a pool.  The registration lobby full of tacky brochures for the Enchanted Forest and Undersea Gardens.  Cute little wrapped up bar of soap by the tiny sink.  Air conditioner that rattles all night and causes your room to alternate between Arctic cold and then Amazon jungle hot.

Would I do it again?  In a heart beat.  Well, maybe after I get all the laundry done and the cat forgives us for leaving him alone for so long.  The Best Thing in Life is being away long enough to appreciate all that you have at home.

laguna

Support Parkinson’s Disease

This September I will join 14,000 Canadians who take part in the Parkinson SuperWalk. It will be my second year participating in this great event.  Want to join me in the 10KM run?  No? How about supporting me with a donation?

Donate Here

I will be running for the third time to support my mom.  This is her story.

As I creep past fifty I’m starting to think a bit more about aging. Frankly, I think I’ve aged pretty well (give or take a few crows feet). When I do think about aging, I tend to look to my parents. My mom and dad are 84 and 87 years old respectively. My dad has never let anything slow him down. Ever. My mom has slowed down a lot. She hasn’t had a choice. She has Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system with the most common symptoms being motor related. Shaking, rigidity, slowness and difficult walking. She is fighting it every step of the way but inevitably the disease progresses and life has to change.

She was diagnosed about 16 years ago, but honestly, it hasn’t been until the last two or three years that it has seriously affected her day to day life. At the beginning, the only noticeable symptom was a slight tremor in her left hand. When she originally told us I didn’t know much about the disease. All I could picture was Michael J. Fox, who I had seen interviewed on TV, who sometimes couldn’t control the tremors in his body, jerked violently and occasionally found it difficult to get a full sentence out. I was a bit freaked out. Fortunately, her symptoms were nothing like that. For a long time, to look at her, you wouldn’t even know she was sick. For many years she has been able to carry on with no noticeable changes to her life.

m&d wedding

Lately, though, I’ve noticed things have changed. A few month ago she was involved in a small car accident. My mom is no stranger to hitting things in her car but it has been mostly light poles and parking lot walls. There wasn’t much damage, nobody was hurt, but it was very obviously her fault. It was raining and there was a lot of traffic around. Her reactions are just not what they used to be. Fortunately, I happened to be driving by at the time and was able to help her with calling a tow truck and dealing with the other driver. She was a bit shaken and I’m pretty sure having me there was a huge help. Her biggest worry? ICBC might force her to take a road test. Losing her license would mean losing her freedom.

In the last three months she has needed to change from using a cane to using a walker. It may not seem like a big change to you and me, but to her it has been a huge adjustment. There have been a few falls leaving her bruised and sore so it really needed to be done. She had been using the cane to stand with both hands in front of her and her feet wide apart. Like a precarious tripod. We have always teased my mom that she was a bit like a weeble. You know, they wobble but they don’t fall down. Yes, it was kind of mean but she knew we were only joking and really she knew it was true. Mom wasn’t the most stable person to start with.

mom skiing

My mom was always active when we were younger. As a family we hiked, camped and skied a lot. Fitness wasn’t really a priority in the 70’s but I remember mom going to a fitness class at the local Y when I was little. Now she has a Life Call necklace that she wears all the time. It alerts a call board of she falls over. I know that she gets scared sometimes. She’s gotten better at asking for help. She’s come to the realization that there are some things she just can’t do. The biggest thing she now knows is that she can’t push herself. She has to make sure she is well rested to avoid the risk of injury.

So here I sit. An active fifty year old, with some extra time on my hands. For too many years I have THOUGHT about getting involved in the Parkinson’s Society. Work, kids, life…….excuses really. No more. My mission again this Fall is to find a way to give some time and energy to help people with Parkinson’s. To try and find a way to help people with Parkinson’s that maybe haven’t been as fortune as my mom. And who knows, maybe they will find a way to ease my mom’s symptoms too. The Best Thing in Life is being able to make a difference in something that matters to you, personally.

I Don’t Camp

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While I love the outdoors and all that it offers, there are three thing I will not do outdoors. I will not get up at 6:00 am to run. (Unless it’s a race). I will not ski in the rain. For obvious reasons. And anybody who knows me well, knows that I don’t camp. Period.

I suppose I could camp for one night. But then I would need at least two nights at a five star hotel with a spa to ease me back into civilization. Some may call me a diva and that’s fine with me. Each to their own. I prefer my wine from a chilled glass and my toilet to flush thank you very much. S’mores are great but the reality is that I can make them just fine on the firepit in my backyard. Mosquitoes. Really? And frankly, hot dogs are for ball parks.

When I was young my family camped. A lot. Sure we did the usual drive to a nice spot, pitch a tent and hang out kind of camping. But we also did the drive to a dirt road, park the truck, hike for four hours to a spot that may or may not be a bear’s home, tie a tarp to a tree and hope for the best kind of camping. The kind of camping that almost always meant dinner was ‘dehydrated’ something. We each carried our (huge) backpacks with our own clothes plus food and supplies. The most coveted being toilet paper. And yes, bears do shit in the woods. Just like we did.

Don’t get me wrong, we went to some amazing places. The alpine meadows in Manning Park in the summer are spectacular. I remember I would lie on my back in the middle of a field of wild flowers and just inhale the scent that the sun brought out of them. Sunscreen was still optional in those days. Hiking Garibaldi Glacier made for a once in a lifetime snow slide for not only me but the two other families we camped with that year. The Mees and the Rules if I remember correctly. My brother and the other boys put up an extra tent and dubbed it the wrestling tent. They spent the evenings trying to kill each other inside of it. No need for iPads here.

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When I mentioned to a friend that we would be driving down to San Diego this summer, he asked if we would be camping.

“There are great camp grounds down the Oregon and California coasts you know”.

I’m sure there are I replied and told him that we would not be camping but would be relying heavily on the Holiday Inn Express to make our way there. I did, however, feel a tiny bit of guilt creeping in. Should I try camping again? To be honest, if I re-read the paragraph I just wrote about the Alpine Meadows and think about the memories I have of camping on the glacier, it sounds pretty cool. It would be neat to give my kids the same type of experiences.

Not going to happen.

If there is one thing I have learnt over the past few years, it is that there are things that others get great enjoyment out of that just aren’t for me. And that’s okay. In my younger years I may have felt like I should do it because, well, that’s what families do. Not any more. Yes, my parents gave me some experiences I will never forget but I am giving my kids experiences that they will never forget. They are just different experiences.

There is no right or wrong there is just different. And sometimes different is just as cool. For me, camping is not one of the Best Things in Life.

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