Fridays with Susan...
The husband of someone I know - not well, but they live in our town, and their children went to the same school as some of ours - died suddenly this week. He was younger than both Ron and I, still in his mid-fifties. He wasn't feeling well, headed to the hospital and passed away in the waiting room of the emergency room. It was completely unexpected.
As I drove to work this morning I thought, "What if that had been Ron?" I tried to put myself in the place of having suddenly lost my life's partner with no warning and no goodbyes. I wondered if there would be any regrets, and suddenly, accompanied by a dark cloud of sadness, I knew there would... I would be thinking, "Why didn't we spend more time together? Why didn't we take that trip? Why didn't we talk about this or that, or the other thing? Why didn't I say, "I love you" just one more time - and say it well enough to stick and to count - for all eternity?
My friend Anne stopped by my office with homemade soup in a Mason jar last week and two bowls. We've been having lunch together on a regular basis ever since our son David was in Grade 2, which would have been some 15 years ago now. For many years I would fix something simple to bring to her, but now the tables have turned. Newly retired from teaching, she is the one who cooks for me, and I'm just loving it. She is a vegetarian because her heart of compassion won't allow her to eat anything "with eyes".
Anne, for many, many years, has spent a part of every summer in the mountains in B.C. She climbs them. I'm serious. She is Mrs. Enthusiasm personified, which is one of the things about her that caused me to fall for her back when I was a stay-at-home mom and the most exciting thing that happened to me from week to week was that one of our chickens laid an egg with two yolks, the dog got into the neighbour's garbage, or the vacuum cleaner finally got fixed. She was someone who I admired greatly, and still do. She and her husband Bob raised a crew of world adventurers in their own right. Holly, who spent many nights sleeping over at our house during her teens as a close friend of two of my daughters, lives in England right now with her husband Chris. who happens to be the oldest son of another set of old and dear friends, Scott and Kathy McCleary, who are the grandparents of Nick (the little boy we are praying for on WHS and whose progress we are following down at Sick Kids Hospital right now.)
Anne's eyes shone over the soup we shared as she talked about her upcoming plans to fly to Scotland for a mid-fall off-season vacation with Holly and Chris on the Isle of Skye. She was clearly very excited about biking and hiking in the midst of such raw and unspoiled beauty. "We're staying in the laundry cottage at Dunvegan Castle," she enthused (rollling her eyes in mock snobbery). "There's three bedrooms and we'll only be using two of them. Why don't you and Ron come? It won't cost you anything for accommodations..."
For all of the 38 years we've been married we have talked about going to Scotland Ron's grandparents were Highlanders who came over to Canada at the turn of the last century. His grandfather, James, was orphaned in Scotland when a carriage accident caused the death of both of his parents. He courted and fell in love with the feisty little Mary King, and promised in 1908 to return for her when he settled in Canada and his ability to provide for her and their future family was well established. Two years later she got tired of waiting for him, booked passage, and sailed over here after him. He had found work at the Hiram Walker distillery on the bank of the Detroit River. They were married in the parsonage of Chalmers Methodist Church in Windsor, in a double ceremony along with Ron's great Uncle George Stewart and his wife. There were lots of family stories about how she rode her bike out of the city all the way to a farm outside of town to buy milk for Ron's father Archie, who rode along with her in a basket on the handlebars.
I loved Ron's grandma. She was one of the few people who could ever get away with calling me Susie.. I think it had something to do with the way she clipped the end of the second syllable off sharp in the delightful brogue which she kept finely preserved, even after sixty years in Canada. There are two photos hanging in our hallway today. One is James and Mary on their wedding day, and just below it is a photo of them sixty years later to the day, having grown old together, their arms still entwined and eyes twinkling merrily at the same shared joy.
I am quite accustomed to brushing off far too many of Anne's wonderful, but completely impractical ideas.
But this time I almost entertained the idea. I went so far as to take it home to Ron. We allowed ourselves to think seriously about it, but there were far too many reasons to dampen our enthusiasm. We put our longed-for trip on the shelf. Again.
But the next week (yesterday), Anne showed up at my office once more, this time with turkey stew and rice pudding. She threw out the invitation again as we talked, and again I brushed her off. But it stuck under my skin a little harder this time, and just wouldn't let me go. Let me suffice it to say, that somehow in the last 24 hours we threw all caution to the wind, were able to overcome a huge number of obstacles (some of them quite miraculously), and with the blessing of our kids (those who we've had a chance to talk to!), booked our flights on the Internet just a few hours. We're going to Scotland!
We'll be boarding a British Airways flight to Heathrow tomorrow evening where we will change planes for a domestic flight to Edinburgh. There our little rental car will be waiting to take us over and through the Highlands to the Isle of Skye, ending up in Portree late on Sunday afternoon. We'll be taking the high road, I promise you that.
I am so excited that it's going to be hard to sleep between now and when we finally land in Edinburgh. God knew what he was doing when he held the news to the last minute. Any more anticipation would have killed me for sure! Life sure can be exciting when you set your heart on doing whatever he says...