mercredi 25 juin 2008

London, Ontario

Well, I'm carrying on with the stories promised in La Centaine, but somewhat out of order....

When I was 18, I was working as a travel agent and got offered - as travel agents did in those days - a free ticket on a new service to Toronto.

My father, possibly keen to get me out of the house for a few days, called up his distant 'cousin' in Toronto (who he hadn't seen for 20 years, might I point out) and arranged for me to stay with them for a week. This wasn't what I had in mind, but it was generous and it pleased my parents to think I was out of harms way. And it was cheap, too.

As the plane started the descent into Pearson airport, I started to panic. Who were these people, what would they think of me, why was I stopping at their house?

I came through customs and spotted them instantly. It was the homemade sign (enormous and covered in tissue paper flowers) with my name on it that caught my attention. My 'relative', Chris, looked like Shaggy from Scooby Doo and he was there with his Mexican wife and two kids.

We did the sights, we ate shocking food (no-one in the family could cook) and smoked some wicked dope in the basement when the kids had gone to bed. It was fun and funny.

A few days in and Chris drove me down to London, Ontario to meet his parents. His father was my grandmother's cousin. I told you they weren't close relatives.

Anyway, the trip to London was a sad one because his Mother was in the hospital, recovering from a heart attack. We went to visit her and she was very weak, but so welcoming to me and a truly charming old girl. Her husband - Uncle Arthur - took us back to the house and made us welcome with beers and sandwiches. He seemed exhausted and overwhelmed. Apparently his wife had been ill for a long time.

He asked me lots of questions about the 'old country' and I'd taken some photo's with me to show him what had changed since he was last there 20 years ago. He told me how much he wanted to see the old place one last time.

I flew home to the UK a couple of days later, having been charmed by my new found family. I missed them and wrote lots.

A couple of months later, Uncle Arthur called to say his wife had died and that he was planning a visit to England.

He came over and we had a blast. My Dad really took care of him and we drove round the old haunts - he was a Smethwick lad, like most of my family, and wanted one last pint 'on the Cape' as the shopping area was known.

He was a great sport and loved meeting all of the new family, as well as sharing stories with the older generation.

At the end of his trip, I drove him to the airport with my Father and we waved him off.

A day later, we got a call from Chris. He was at home in Toronto and had been trying to reach his father in London. Had he got on the plane? He wasn't able to get hold of him.

We called Ward Air (now, that dates this somewhat) and found out that Arthur had boarded the plane and had flown to Canada. Chris called the shuttle bus company and they had dropped him off at his house, as organised.

There was nothing more to do, Chris got in his car and drove to London, to his Dad's house.

A few hours later, we got a call. It was Chris. He had found his father.

He was sat at the kitchen table, his suitcase at his feet, his house keys in his hand.

He had died within minutes of walking in the door.

But he had achieved his goal.

Uncle Arthur had seen his relatives, old and new.

He had had his pint on 'the Cape'.

He had touched his beloved Smethwick soil.

He had been 'home'.

29 commentaires:

Daryl a dit…

Oh TBNIL, that is so sad and yet somehow not unexpected... many times people who lose their life partners pass within months of one another ... the survivor just gives up ... its wonderful that your Uncle was able to go 'home' and connect one last time .. it sounds as if he passed peacefully ...

And I am tickled that David over at http://david-mcmahon.blogspot.com/ who found his way here initially because I c/p your URL mistakenly into a comment I left him .. anyway, he's picked your post to highlight .. go see ...

AND thank you for the comments you left for me .. trust me I am not patient at all ...

:-Daryl

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Daryl, it taught me an early lesson in the power of true love.

And thanks for your cut and paste mistake! It's got me some new friends and a couple of mentions on David's blog...A perfect error if you ask me!

wontletlifedefineme a dit…

... I'm a bit speechless now. It's a sad story, but then again - it was quite a good moment to go, after making his wish come true.

Medbh a dit…

Think how many old folks are physically or mentally unable to get to do their last wishes and take a trip.
Good for Arthur.

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Marjolein, it was exactly the right moment to go. He'd done what he wanted to do, and that was it for him.

Medbh, I agree. Good for him.

I'd be happy to go just like that...

Tina a dit…

Oh that's so beautifully written. Now I'm sorry I left a facetious comment on your previous blog. Another note to self...

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Tina, it wasn't facetious - it was friendly and funny!

Anyway, worry not, this all happened 20 years ago. Although it did make me think a lot of happy and sad thoughts as I wrote it....

Swearing Mother a dit…

Ah bless him, so glad he made it.

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Sweary, he did.

It was so funny, driving round Cape Hill with him - you can imagine how, even in 1987 - it was not the same as when he left just after WWII.

His reaction was priceless....

david mcmahon a dit…

I had no idea it would end this way, but you touched all our emotions in this post.

And as Daryl says, I found my way here `accidentally'....

softinthehead a dit…

Ah that was sad and lovely at the same time. He had done eveything he wanted to do, but tough on your cousin Chris.

aims a dit…

Oh TBNIL - you know how I feel. You know what my reaction was.

I agree with everyone and with David that you have touched all our emotions with what you have written.

Memories - they make us happy and they make us sad.

Valleys Mam a dit…

hope he had a good send off and you raised a glass of good beer to him. Nice tale TBNIL like your writing style

travelling, but not in love a dit…

David, I'm pleased you did find your way here, even if it was by accident! It was emotional writing it too - which surprised me!

Softy, it is a lovely story of true love, if you ask me. It taught me very early on that soul mates are important to us. Once his wife had died, he really only wanted to visit relatives in UK and then go and join her.

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Aims, you certainly know the power of a memory well-told....and how they can be happy and sad at the same time.

I love your blog so much - positive feedback from you means a lot to me.

x

travelling, but not in love a dit…

VM - we raised many a glass of Banks's 'mild' for him...!

Lane a dit…

So sad ... but also rather wonderful.
Fantastically written story.

conortje a dit…

What an incredible story. Wow! Thank you.

Leatherdykeuk a dit…

That's a really touching story :)

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Lane, I find it sad, but also beautiful that he just wanted to do this and then go join his wife...

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Conortje, welcome back! Pleased you're with us again.

Leatherdyke, glad you liked it. Nice to see you here. Come back again soon.

Maggie May a dit…

That was a really great story. I was so interested to read it. I hope I have such a peaceful death after doing all the things I wanted to do in life.

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Thanks Maggie. He timed it to perfection!

So great to have you drop by, too.

Louise a dit…

Beautifully written and touching. Sad, yet fulfilling. Excellent "post of the day" mention.

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Hi Louise, thanks for dropping by. glad you enjoyed the post...

tornwordo a dit…

Wow, that was so uplifting in a way.

travelling, but not in love a dit…

hey Torny, you know, it is actually supposed to be an uplifting story....

amy a dit…

Oh I love your stories - they always take me somewhere I wasn't expecting to go.

travelling, but not in love a dit…

Hey Miss Rigby. Thanks for that comment - I like it.....!