My widowed 88 year old father had survived the trip from his now-empty house in the Maritimes to his splendid new retirement residence in Niagara. There had been a flu quarantine (always a concern in a retirement home – a real room clearer) but it had lifted, and now it was time to see him in his new digs.
Friday morning I picked up youngest brother at 10:30 and we headed off for Niagara. I scared youngest brother out of his knickers driving down there. I like 130 km/hr in the fast lane, he likes about 110 in the middle lane
Dad had spiffed up his apartment and done his laundry, with a crisp new J Crew shirt and an Irish sweater. But oh, he was SO thin. And short now, barely my height. He says he weighs 140 (which is about 5 more pounds than I weigh).
The apartment is really nice, 3 small rooms all interconnected and full of his stuff. The children’s oil portraits are on the wall over the table where he eats and drinks his martini, so it looks just like all his houses. Youngest brother’s going to get him a new keyboard (the one he’s playing is 20 years old) and I’m going to get him a nice big boomy FM radio he can hear.
We took him to Murphy’s on the water for lunch. He bitched at youngest brother for trying to help him out of the car, so he’s more spry than he seems. As younger sister says, the longer you keep him walking, the better he gets at it. He doesn’t really lean on his cane, just holds it like a lucky charm. If he’d just eat, he probably has 10 more years in him.
He and we decided he should have pasta to keep his weight up, so he and youngest brother had fettuccine alfredo that was swimming in a lake of butter. Too much for him to finish, but he made a good try. He had a beer, his first in years, and declared he liked it. We decided beer was good for his weight, so after lunch, we went hunting for the liquor store, which he hadn’t been to yet. It’s a bit of a drive, but there’s lots of parking close by, so he should be fine. We bought him Guinness and Heineken to fatten him up and keep him off the martinis.
When we got back, I fiddled with his computer, trying to install Skype for face-to-face conversations (which I’m still going to do, then the family all have to get Skype) and youngest brother fiddled with the keyboard and blew a fuse. So much fun. I gave Dad some fluffy thick Turkish towels, and then asked where General Wolfe’s decanter was.
It had come down through my mother’s family, a heavy, old fashioned crystal wine decanter. Her family had been army for generations, and it was said this was the decanter from Wolfe’s sergeants’ mess at Quebec. I had always coveted it, and mother had always promised it to me, knowing I was the only one of her children with an interest in military antiques.
Dad finally told me he had sold it, along with a bunch of other, no doubt priceless and irreplaceable heirlooms, to a dealer from his town in the Maritimes. He had been given $40 for it. Dad insisted that he didn’t intend the decanter to be in the sale, and youngest brother and I figured out later the dealer probably pulled a sharp one on Dad.
I was inwardly aghast, and outwardly still. It’s the only family heirloom I ever wanted, and the only one I’d ever asked for. I told Dad it was ok, it was just a thing, people were more important, as he tried to apologize.
Dad was overjoyed to see us, and just as glad when we said we’d be coming every month at least. He said he liked Murphy’s and would be happy to continue escaping there with us for lunch. We asked him what he needed, what we could bring, and he said “just my fine boys, that’s enough!”. That felt so good.
He told us the piano in the lobby, for all it’s polish, was a clunker, and he didn’t want to play it. He had met another lady who had been an organist, and they made a pact that neither of them would play the piano, because once it got around that they could, they’d be down there playing “Roll Out The Barrel” every Saturday night.
We took our leave at 3, and told him we’d be back soon. It’s funny, when we got back from lunch, he was so happy to be back in his little home, you could see him fit into like a well-worn bathrobe.
I let youngest brother drive home. He nearly tore our heads off getting out of the parking lot, as he’s not used to 2.3 litres of fuel injected power and 17 inch wheels. It was the same turning out on to the street, he snapped us both back into the seats until he figured out it wasn’t a station wagon like his Volvo. Then he said “I want one”
Despite the snappiness of the ride, he took us back to Toronto in the centre lane at 110 (with a brief foray to 140 in the fast lane, just for a taste).
Later that night, Dad called me to thank me for the towels, and to apologize (quite anguishedly) for selling the decanter. I told him once again it was ok, then asked him for the name of the dealer. I got his phone number from information in the Maritimes and called him. He remembered Dad, yes the decanter was still there, and he’d be glad to ship it to me for $120 plus UPS charges. At that point I didn’t care, because this a good end to a potentially sad episode.
Dad is better than younger sister lets on, though woefully thin, and needs to be told to eat. Youngest brother and I will see him regularly and younger sister sees him all the time, so he’s safe finally.
He told me on the phone this morning another old fellow he knows asked him how his lunch at Murphy’s was. Dad said “It was fine, but my sons soaked me”. I told him we’d pay next time, and he will hold me to that. But he also said he’s send me a cheque for $100 towards the decanter. Oh well, I’m glad he’s back.
That afternoon, the decanter arrived by UPS. It now sits on my sideboard, where I always wanted it. I hope General Wolfe is happy.