Here we are, my Dad and I, in our third hotel in four days. We're in Vancouver, near the airport and ready for a quick get-away.
Today was the final leg of Gran's 100th birthday extravaganza which involved yet more family and old family friends and a considerable amount of cake. Gran held up very well, considering. She even had a quarter inch of sherry in the bottom of a glass which for her is an enormous amount.
I say that, but by the words 'for her' I really mean 'for her these days', because, back in the old days, a quarter inch of sherry would the thrown-away dreg ends of an evening spent
The first time I ever spent any real time alone with my Gran was circa August 1984. My Grandfather had passed on a year previously and I had just quit a truly dreadful summer job. I moved home (as one does) and basically refused to submit to the indignities of applying for work so late in the summer. My parents, in a fit of
Hooray! A visit to Gran! Gran, it must be said, until recently when she moved in with my Uncle and Aunt, has lived in a small house on the shore of a small lake on Vancouver Island. Given that it was August I knew that the lake would be warm, sunny and full of my Gran. I believe I arrived with a full 26-oz gin bottle clutched under my arm. Certainly over the course of that week I documented the demolition of that bottle plus the identical one which Gran had purchased for the same occasion ("I don't really drink gin dear but I know you do. Would you like a gin and tonic? Pour me one too since you're up")
Gran re-taught me Bezique and then proceeded to stomp me flat, every single game, over and over again. Being beaten at cards is a recurring theme in the family memories of my Gran as until she got to an age where she would mistake hearts for diamonds and Jacks for Kings (finally), she was pretty much unbeatable. Or that's what she says. The rest of us figure that we just never worked out her cheating system.
After I'd been there for a couple of days and after, as I recall, a game of gin rummy which she graciously let me win, she confided to me that since a few years prior to my Grandfather's death when she had overheard some local boys in the bushes lying in wait for her, she had not felt comfortable skinny-dipping in the lake and what did I think about the idea?
Now, you do the math. This was August 1984. Today is February 2008 and she has just turned 100. At the time therefore she would have been er... um... (licks fingers and proceeds to count...) 76 years old.
At this age however she had absolutely no qualms about donning nothing but a towel wrap and a pair of old flip-flops, descending the steep, dark and over-grown path to the lake, jumping in for a long swim, pointing out various constellations in the clear summer night and then climbing back up to serve her (now) hero-worshipping grand-daughter hot chocolate laced with kahlua. Or was it Baileys? Or perhaps a little scotch.
The liquor may be lost in time but I tell you, I can remember the spirit of that day distinctly and among my many favourite memories of my Gran, that ranks pretty high. 76 doesn't seem as old now as it did then (funnily enough) and I look back now on my amazement with no little scorn. However, seeing my multitudinous cousins and family it's clear that the verve and joy my Grandmother has always had for life has not been lost. She may be a little more sedate these days but she has 7 grand-children and 8 great-grand-children (to date) carrying the same torch - and for that, we must be thankful. (Unless of course we are living with one of those great-grand-children, in which case the sheer numinousness of their abilities and fiddley-fingered skills puts us all on the 'at risk' register for mental stress.)
Tomorrow I fly home to see my Frog and my little spud. I can't wait. It's been a great visit but I miss my boy, I'm tired and sick of my suitcase and frankly, I could use a snuggle with a certain frog in our own bed.