Followers

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

HEART and STROKE SAGA IV



Ron and I decided to leave for the Ottawa airport around 3pm on Friday, December 15. This proved to be a wise decision, for the taxi ride, which normally takes 20 minutes from the hotel, took an hour and 20 minutes. Snow fell thick and fast in the dark afternoon. Traffic moved forward at a jerky snail’s pace. When we finally arrived at the airport, it felt as if we had truly arrived at a port in a storm. Our flight was up on the board and listed as “On Time.” We were early for check-in and the gentleman at the desk happily agreed to fetch us a wheel chair and someone to push it.
            An attractive young woman in a smart black and teal dress and a black sweater soon arrived with the wheel chair for Ron. She did not need the white robotic assist and the three of us chatted cheerfully as we proceeded to airport security. Once in line I admitted to her that I usually had trouble going through security.
“At least half the time I get singled out for the extra body search and a “pat” down. I think I must fit the profile of a dangerous Russian spy, or a nefarious Nordic secret agent.”
I took off my boots and belt and stowed them in a plastic basket but as soon as I walked through the security portal a beep went off. I was pulled aside and “patted” down YET AGAIN.
            When I rejoined Ron and the WestJet lady, she shook her head.
            “You called it,” she said. “But that was the beep for a random search.”
            I shrugged. I had heard the same “random” beep when we left Edmonton and had undergone another “pat” down there.
Flying just isn’t as much fun as it used to be. I can remember a time when there were no security checks on domestic flights. And Ron can remember a time when regular seats were actually comfortable.
            Once we were settled in the departure lounge at Gate 18 (?) (the lounge at the farthest end of the departure gates) we learned that our flight, due to leave at 6:30pm, was delayed by half an hour. This was good news as many flights had been cancelled. Ours was merely overbooked and a number of disgruntled people paced about making angry calls on their cell phones. Fortunately our seats were safe.
I even remained calm when our plane had to stop out on the tarmac for de-icing. Since Ron and I were seated in the front of the plane, and it was dark outside, I couldn’t see the putrid green spray saturating the wings. Instead I relaxed and let visions of prosecco dance in my head. (Normally I order the Granville Island pale ale.)
Once we were safely in the air and the seat belt sign went off, I ordered my prosecco and the mango chicken with rice dinner while Ron opted for a glass of orange juice and a bag of pretzels. Later, when he shut his eyes and attempted to rest, I settled back with a second prosecco to enjoy “The Trip to Spain” with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. When it was over I flipped to “The War for the Planet of the Apes” which I re-joined just before I had left Caesar on his X-shaped cross. I won’t tell you how the film ends. I don’t want to spoil it for you. Let me simply suggest that Caesar might have better been dubbed Moses. And I will leave you with the one question that still bothers me: Why weren’t there any human females (other than silent little Nova) in the film? Did I miss a crucial story element under the hum of the jet engines?
The highlight of the flight was a spectacular natural wonder. My window seat was on the right side of the plane. Whenever I wished, I could turn my head to see the Big Dipper just over my shoulder and I could track its slow counter-clockwise-spiral in the northern night sky.
When we landed in Calgary we were greeted by a WestJet attendant who wheeled Ron to the luggage carousel and outside, across the street, to the lobby of the Delta Hotel. We awoke early the next morning to a stunning sunrise as we breakfasted in the terminal. After a short flight to Comox we were soon in our car, driving down the Island Highway, secure in familiar surroundings: the blue Salish Sea to our left, tall purple mountains, green forest and grey, cloudy skies. Little did we suspect that the Ottawa snowstorm would follow us home to Nanoose Bay and give us a White Christmas.


The End

Friday, 29 December 2017

HEART and STROKE SAGA III


On Wednesday, December 13th at approximately 7:45am EST or 4:45am PST (the time zone Ron’s and my biological clocks are attuned to) we entered the Salle de bal Victoria Ballroom on the second floor of the downtown Ottawa Marriott Hotel. The buffet breakfast was in full swing, but we were still in time for food and the opening remarks of the new head of the Scientific Review Committee of the Heart and Stroke Foundation. At 8:30 EST the large gathering dispersed and headed for their appropriate committee rooms—Ron to the Salon Albert and me across the hall from him, to the Salon Laurier. Both rooms were located on the Lower Level or Niveau inférieur. (I think the French appellation here is a bit insulting, n’est-ce pas?)

This year Ron was assigned to the Basic science stroke/neurophysiology/neuroregulation Committee while I was assigned to one of two committees devoted to Clinical cardiovascular and cerebrovascular research. Each committee had a Chair and a Deputy Chair and the members came from all parts of the country. On my committee both the Chair and the Deputy Chair were female as were the majority of the committee members. On Ron’s committee the opposite gender distribution was the case.

My committee had 39 applications to consider within a day and a half. Each application was summarized and judged on its merits by two committee members who had been assigned beforehand to do so. After their presentations, the debate began, with each application ultimately being awarded a numerical score from 1 – 5, with marks of 3.5 or better deemed to fall in the fundable range. There was little time for chitchat. Everyone got right down to the business at hand. I was impressed by the quality of the discussion and the energy and conscientiousness of my committee. We broke twice for coffee and once for lunch. However, by 6 pm everyone was ready to call it quits for the night.

The next morning the committees regrouped at 8 am, starting with a working continental breakfast served in their committee rooms. I cannot remember exactly when my group wrapped up. I think it was around 12:30 pm. Most of the members had their luggage with them, ready to go, to catch their flights home. Fortunately the weather, although frigid, was sunny, and there were no problems at the airport. Ron’s committee continued working until 2pm, at which time he and I met and chatted with the HSF staff. Our return flight was not scheduled to leave until the following day at 6:30 pm EST.  

Our room at the hotel was #722, one of the rooms which the Ottawa Marriott has refurbished to accommodate disabled patrons. Essentially this means that the bathroom has a roll-in shower and a tilting mirror to accommodate guests who use wheelchairs. When Ron and I first arrived at the Marriott three years ago, #722 was one of two rooms we ended up occupying. We had one room for showering, #722, and another room diagonally across the hall for sleeping and using the toilet. In the intervening years the hotel had addressed a number of Ron’s earlier criticisms.
1. #722’s bathroom room now had handle grips on both sides of the toilet, and
2. It now had two double beds for sleeping instead of a single double.
Nonetheless, the hotel still does not stock bed bars but Ron was able to improvise with one of the dining room chairs from the salle de bal Victoria which had a handle grip on the top of the chair’s back.

As Ron continually points out to hotel management in the establishments we have patronised since his stroke five years ago, a bed bar is a simple, inexpensive device which is indispensable for handicapped people, especially when they, like him, do not have the proper use of one side of their body. Ron’s right arm and leg still suffer from the after effects of his brain attack. He has to wear a brace in his right foot which slips into his shoe permitting him to walk short distances with the use of a cane; he is still only able to type with the thumb and index finger of his left hand; and he needs a bed bar so that he can pull himself upright in bed.

I doubt if there is a hotel or motel in Canada which does not have a crib or a high chair, but we have yet to find one with a bed bar.

In half-hearted defence of hotel management, most of whom belong to the class of people Linda Ferron terms “the temporarily ENabled”, I will say that, prior to Ron’s stroke, I had never heard of a bed bar either. Nor would I have been able to pick one out at a Red Cross Medical Equipment Rental Store. For those of you who have never seen one a bed bar is constructed out of aluminum for easy manipulation; it is sort of U-shaped with two long ends which attach to a handle bar and slip between a box spring and a mattress.

However, there was another problem with room #722, one which we only became cognizant of on the last night of our current stay. While I was freezing my ears and the tip of my nose, walking the three long blocks to the Parliament Buildings in minus 29 degrees (wind chill included) to check out the skating rink on the hill established to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, and, while Ron was conferring with Jean Woo, the seventh floor filled up with the parents and siblings of nine-year-old boys. The lads and their families were in Ottawa to take part in hockey games to be played on the outdoor rink on Parliament Hill over the weekend.

Ron and I remained innocent of their presence until approximately 8pm when the whole gang arrived on the floor after dinner, with much whooping and hollering. We figured the kids would probably settle down around nine and peace would reign. By 9:30 pm the rectangular hallway which accesses all the rooms on the floor was still being used as a race track for shrieking children. By this time I decided it was time to play the Grinch and dampen spirits. I donned a T-shirt over my night dress and stepped into the hall where I was greeted by a gaggle of parents who were drinking straight vodka from hotel glasses. When I voiced my complaint one of the moms said:
            “Wow. We didn’t know there was anyone else here. They told us at the desk that this was the team floor.”
            “Well, try to keep it down,” I grumbled. “Some of us need to sleep.”
            By 10 pm, after a couple of calls to the front desk and a couple of subsequent visits to the floor by the manager, I nodded off to dreamland. (I always use ear plugs.) I believe that Ron was not so lucky. Ironically, this, too, was a repeat performance from 2015 when the floor had filled up with a team of 20-something male hockey players who seemed more intent on partying than they did on preparing themselves for their games the next day. After my repeatedly calling the desk to complain about the noise, the hubbub eventually died down around 2 am.

            The next morning management couldn’t have been nicer to us, offering us a complimentary breakfast, a complimentary lunch and permission to check out at 4 in the afternoon. At some point in these discussions, amidst the constant jolly holiday celebrations and staff parties that noisily over crowd the lounges and dining areas of the hotel at this time of the year, I did manage to glean the reason for housing teams on the 7th floor: It is the only floor in the hotel which is completely furnished with double beds.


(To be con’t.) 

Friday, 22 December 2017

HEART and STROKE SAGA II



The sun was rising as our WestJet flight to Ottawa took off from the Edmonton International Airport. Despite murmurings amongst the flight crew about a blizzard in Toronto which was creating havoc and diverting planes, the stewardesses greeted their passengers with confidant smiles and assurances of a pleasant flight. These did little to allay my concerns about an unscheduled overnight stop in Flinflon, e.g., which would cause Ron and I to miss the Heart and Stroke meetings. However, after a leisurely breakfast and a cup of heavily creamed coffee, my attention was quickly diverted by the tablet which our attendant gave me. I pulled a pair of ear phones out of my purse and immediately began playing with the touch screen. As some of you blog followers might recall, I am a technopeasant when it comes to up to date technology. This was my first time at the controls of the wondrous device. To my surprise the tablet was amazingly easy to navigate, with touch actually proving faster and easier than type. Nonetheless at length I grew bored. After winning back to back games of Free Cell and Spider Solitaire, I flipped through my options and settled on a movie: War for the Planet of the Apes.
            I will not attempt to justify my selection by suggesting that I was familiar with the critical acclaim the film has received. Nor will I argue that I know first-hand how impaired one’s emotions and judgment can become at 37,000 feet. (Hadn’t I been moved to tears by Demi’s Moore’s portrayal of G.I. Jane on a trans-Atlantic flight Ron and I had made a couple of decades ago?) Let me simply say that I have been fascinated by chimpanzees for much of my adult life. I love Jane Goodall and admire her tireless work on the chimps’ behalf.  Any movie which shows how compassionate and intelligent apes can be compared to humans immediately draws me in. However, just at the point in the film, (the point at the bottom of the plot W where the hero’s fortunes look the bleakest; in this case where Caesar, the head ape, is splayed out on an X- shaped cross), the Captain came on the air to announce that we were beginning our descent into Ottawa, where the temperature was minus three degrees and a snowstorm was blowing.
            We landed safely but were forced to wait out on the tarmac for a gate to be freed up so we could disembark. All the flight cancellations in Toronto had caused a ripple effect. Gates in Ottawa were at a premium. Thus it was here, stalled on a runway, where I beheld a wonder, the like of which I had never before witnessed. Seven huge snowplows sped nose to tail up and down the runways clearing snow. Each individual snow plow was a marvel in its own right. A large cab sat atop pairs of huge tires. A giant blade was affixed to the front of each machine while two more sets of monster tires backed two more giant scrapers down the body of the beast. A mixture of sand and salt fell from its bowels. Completing the spectacle, at the rear of the cavalcade, was a smaller snow plow which threw a plume of snow high into the dark sky. All the plows’ headlights were on full. It was only mid-afternoon EST but the snow was falling in thick clumps. Vision was blurry at best. Yet here were seven snowplows racing, circling and cavorting in unison in a stunning exhibition which might best be described as SYNCHRONISED SNOWPLOWING. In time a gate came free and our aged 737 moved into the freed up space.
            Being disabled Ron was able to enrol in WestJet’s One Person One Fare program which allows a personal attendant to accompany him for free (except for taxes). Ron and his attendant get to sit in the premium seats at the front of the plane, close to the wash room. We are also able to take advantage of the perks afforded the occupants of these seats: free snacks, free meals, free drinks, free movies. Needless to say I take full advantage of these special treats while Ron mostly sits with his eyes closed, sipping from an occasional glass of orange juice, stoically enduring the ordeal of the flight from his aisle seat. A couple of things have surprised me on these flights:
1. How early in the day some people start to consume alcohol, and
2. How much alcohol they can consume.
While the disabled are allowed to pre-board, they are the last to disembark. The gangplanks have to be cleared before the wheelchairs arrive. This year there was a new addition for some of the wheelchairs: a white motorized device that affixes to the chair and takes the load off the pushers. We saw only a few of these small machines but I do understand their value. Most of the people pushing the passengers who need wheelchairs are women. Pushing Ron up a long ramp to a departure lounge, down long corridors and up and down elevators to the luggage carousels is no mean feat. I have enough trouble bringing up the rear and navigating with two sets of carry-on baggage. Needless to say we are learning to travel lighter and lighter.
One footnote might be appropriate here: Over the three years in which Ron has been enrolled in OPOF, it seems that WestJet is refining this program. In a couple of airports some of the staff suggested that it was my job, as Ron’s personal attendant, to push his wheelchair. Fortunately, although I was called on to perform, I never actually had to do the pushing. I think it was obvious that, realistically, I couldn’t handle the baggage and push Ron, too.

Saga to be con’t.


Wednesday, 20 December 2017

HEART and STROKE SAGA


For the past three years Ron and I have served as lay reviewers for research grant applications submitted to the Heart and Stroke Foundation for funding. Each year clinicians, physicians, academics, cardiologists, neurologists, and therapists etc. meet in mid-December in Ottawa. They convene in different committees to review and debate the scientific merits and feasibility of the annual grant proposals submitted to the Heart and Stroke Foundation. The grant applications are made by researchers ranging from individual neophytes all the way up to teams of senior researchers well-established as world leaders in their fields. Each grant application is reviewed in committee by the applicants’ peers who then submit a report to the Heart and Stroke Foundation stating the strengths and weaknesses of each application along with the committee’s recommendation whether or not the application merits funding. Any committee member who might, for various reasons clearly spelled out by HSF, be deemed to have a Conflict of Interest when a particular grant comes up for review, has to leave the room and cannot be privy to the debate or to the committee’s decision.

An additional requirement which the Heart and Stroke Foundation makes of its grant applicants is that they also submit a summary of their proposed research written in a language which members of the general public can understand. And here is where Ron and I and other lay reviewers step in. Prior to the Ottawa meetings we have received, read and commented on each lay summary made by the applicants to the committees to which we have been assigned. Each committee considers around forty submissions. After each application has been debated in committee the lay reviewer is asked to give his or her assessment of the project. If a lay reviewer finds a project unacceptable, their report also goes forward to HSF and no research funds will be awarded until the lay summary is rewritten and satisfies the reviewer’s expectations.

The tricky part of the annual gathering is getting everyone to Ottawa in mid-December around the solstice and the beginning of winter, when temperatures are wont to plunge and snow is likely to blow.

Let this year’s saga begin.


LEG ONE

One of the problems with flying to Ottawa is that, outside of the big Canadian cities, there are very few direct flights to our nation’s capital. Any flight to Ottawa from Comox, for example, our preferred point of departure, involves changing planes en route. That is the given. Add to this a new wrinkle. The disabled, the large and the tall can encounter problems fitting into the tiny washrooms on the new Bombardier turbo jets that have become the normal aircraft for travelling to and from secondary sites. Scheduling a route to Ottawa can get complex. The comparatively comfortable 737’s now make few flights into Comox. However, with the assistance of a flight advisor from WestJet Ron came up with an itinerary that fit his bill:

            Comox to Edmonton via 737. (Overnight at the airport hotel)
            Edmonton to Ottawa via 737 the next morning.

But they had not factored in fog.

Fortunately our afternoon flight to Edmonton was only delayed and not cancelled as many subsequently were. After a wait of thirty minutes our plane appeared out of the grey bank and we were good to go. After takeoff we were immediately above the fog, and suffused in brilliant sunshine. This was the third time Ron and I had taken the late afternoon flight from Comox to Edmonton. On a clear day, with the sunset painting the tips of the snow-capped mountains pink, I am convinced this is one of the most beautiful flights in the world.

It was dark when our plane landed in Edmonton. A half moon hung in the clear, cold sky as a WestJet attendant wheeled Ron all the way to the Renaissance Edmonton Airport Hotel. As she rolled Ron through the grand, circular corridor which curves upward in a semi-spiral to the expansive lobby, I felt like we had landed in a galaxy “far, far away.”  In this ultra modern hotel all the furniture looks to have been designed by Pablo Picasso or Salvador Dali—all form and dubious function—and The Library has no books. However, the Halo had plenty of food. After eating our meal in the company of a large party of Christmas revellers, who feasted on the far side of the chain mail curtain which separated us, we retired early and staggered to the departure gate, the next morning, at dawn.

To be con’t.



Wednesday, 15 November 2017

HOUSE OF READING



I am writing this post in November, 2017. Ron’s epic reading tour five months ago, and our travels from Nanoose Bay through the Okanagan, the Kootenays and the Rockies to Calgary, and back to Nanoose via Kamloops, the Cariboo, Prince George and the Hazeltons, seem, like the Skeena, the river of mists, to have receded into the shape shifting world of memory. Yet a journey, once begun, seeks an ending . . .

The evening of Tuesday, June 20, found Ron seated at a table in the multi-purpose room in the Prince Rupert Library. The group assembled around him was small. It numbered the librarian, Kathleen, one sprightly senior from the general public, me, and Richard Wilson and his wife, Sharlene. Richard is a stroke survivor and he and Sharlene are the facilitators for the Living with Stroke program in Prince Rupert. Like Ron, Richard’s stroke has left him easily fatigued and reluctant to drive. Fortunately, he is still able to sing and play the guitar and his music has become the central focus of his life. He plays in a band which was to perform the next day at the Aboriginal Day celebrations taking place in Prince Rupert. As we were leaving Kathleen presented Ron with one of the library’s book bags which are decorated with Henry Green’s beautiful black and red stylized drawing of a halibut. The bottom of the bag reads:  Wap Liitsx   House of Reading

Prince Rupert is located in the traditional territory of the Tsimshian First Nation and has been a trading centre for thousands of years. More recently the trade was in sea otter pelts and then salmon. Historic canneries abound here. Today Prince Rupert is a thriving container port, in large part because it is the closest Pacific port for rail traffic going to and coming from Chicago and environs.

Ron gave his final presentation of the tour at a Lunch and Learn session at the Prince Rupert Hospital on Wednesday. It was a lively affair, attended by many student therapists in residence. One student was from New Brunswick, others from Ontario, while the majority were from BC. All had lots of questions and the session lasted long after the lunch hour.

In addition to his “official” duties Ron had a personal reason for visiting Prince Rupert. When he was eighteen he had spent a summer there working at various jobs. (When the rain lets up and the sun comes out it is common practice for people in Prince Rupert to take a “Sun Day” and quit their jobs.) At the end of the summer Ron was hired to work on a drum seiner. His memories of Prince Rupert and his voyage on the fishing boat down the coast to Vancouver have haunted him ever since. So, between and after Ron’s “official venues”, we drove around the town and spent time in the local archives while he reoriented himself and revitalized his recollections. His goal: to write a novel based on his “coming of age” experience.

Our own journey ended with a voyage down the Inside Passage. We had booked a travel package with BC Ferries and had to be at the terminal to board the Northern Expedition at 5 am on Thursday, June 22. We spent the first four hours of the trip sleeping in the cabin we had reserved and the rest of the day soaking up the scenery. As the vessel approached the southernmost tip of Haida Gwaii and Queen Charlotte Sound, we made our way to the back of the boat to enjoy the summer solstice sun set over the Pacific Ocean. Fortunately the sea was calm and the drama of fire into water long. The only distraction was the smell of smoke and the curious sight of vapers. (Why does BC Ferries let smokers have the best viewing area on this run?) The sunset coincided with our arrival at Cape Scott on the northernmost tip of Vancouver Island. The darkening island sent an unspoken promise: HOME. SOON.


Thursday, 14 September 2017

THE PEOPLE of the RIVER OF MISTS



On the morning of June 13, Ron and I left Prince George, excited at the prospect of spending a week with our son, Owen; daughter-in-law, Jen; and little grandson, Lochlan, who live in New Hazelton. Instead of driving non-stop to get to Prince Rupert, or driving non-stop from Prince Rupert to get to Prince George, or heading north on the Cassiar Highway en route to the Yukon and Alaska, as we had done in the past, on this visit we were going to have the time to relax and visit with our family and to explore the area around the Hazeltons, both new and old.
            Our first taste of the exceptional treats in store for us came in Burns Lake where we stopped at the Overwaitea Mall, conveniently located just off the Highway of Tears. We were hungry. In search of nourishment in the mall, we chanced upon the Woodland Bakery where a tray of sausage rolls had just been pulled from the oven by a man with long black hair partially held in place by a pony tail and a hair net. Trusting what our noses were telling us, Ron and I promptly went to the counter of the bakery and ordered four of these rolls. Then we took our snacks out into the corridor of the mall and sat down to enjoy our late lunch.
            “These are the best sausage rolls I’ve ever eaten,” we announced to each other in unison.
            Returning to the Woodland Bakery for a bag of pastries to tide me over for the rest of our journey, I told the owner, a tall woman who, given her grey curls and glasses, looked to be in her early sixties: “These are the best sausage rolls we’ve ever eaten.”
            “I know, I know” she said. “People tell us that all the time.”
            “Well, it’s true,” I said. “And could I please have a chocolate éclair, a cream puff and a sugared doughnut?” I asked. (NB These were for me and NOT for Ron who is careful about what he eats.)
            The most outstanding geological feature of New Hazelton is, without doubt, Mt. Hagwilget, the northernmost peak in the Rocher Déboulé range. This mountain ascends, seemingly vertically, up its 6811 feet to crest in a spectacular arête, or sharp mountain ridge. Owen and Jen’s house sits near the base of this mountain which completely blocks them from the sun for two months during the winter. New Hazelton is surrounded by numerous mountain ranges—e.g. the Nass, the Kispiox, and the Bulkley, with its summit in the Seven Sisters Peaks.
            The area is also famous as the Totem Pole Capital of the World. It is the traditional territory of the Gitxsan peoples who have lived in the area for thousands of years and whose name means “the people of the river of mists.” The ancient village of Ksan is situated at the confluence of the Bulkley and Skeena Rivers in Old Hazelton. The houses which make up the historical village and museum form a single line, with the buildings facing the Bulkley River, and whose large decorated house fronts and poles are visible to anyone approaching from the river.
(Hint: To view this special site you could cut and paste the following link in your browser:  ksan.org  NB I didn’t have any film in my 35mm Minolta. In fact, I didn’t even have my camera with me on the trip. Perhaps I thought I would have enough to pack with all the books and our bags? However, I did kick myself for forgetting to pack binoculars.)
            Famous is a relative term. As the Ksan Museum brochure makes clear, the survival of the Skeena area’s precious artifacts and buildings is due, in part, to the region’s escaping the effects of colonization. Thanks to their isolation for much of their history, the Gitxsan were allowed to continue their traditional life style. Even today the area remains pretty much “off the beaten track.”
Fortunately for Ron and me, Owen and Jen know most of the local sites. They took us on numerous outings, the most memorable of which was our trip up the Cassiar Highway to the village of Gitwangak with its totem poles still in situ; to the National Park site of Battle Hill where a legendary Gitxsan chief held off all invaders, including the Haida; and to 37 Grille for lunch where Ron and I soon remarked in unison, “This is the best potato leek soup I’ve ever eaten.” Owen, Jen and Lochlan were too busy with their own meals to reply. However, upon leaving the diner, we did take home sample slices of the Black Forest Cake, the Chocolate/Caramel Explosion, the Cheesecake and the Maple Walnut Cake. (fyi Please cut and paste:  37 Grille, Kitwanga )
Our favourite outing was Anderson Flats, near the confluence of the Skeena and the Bulkley, on the opposite shore from Ksan. Here we could sit by the rivers, revel in the scenery, or stroll along the road, while Owen’s dog, Gus, ran free. A place to seek and find!



Ron, Lochlan, Pat and the Skeena
&
Lochlan and a misty mountain



Tuesday, 5 September 2017

NO ROOM at the INNS



Rain pounded our windshield as Ron and I drove through the June monsoon out of Calgary, all the way to the centre of Canmore. Here we were met at the side of the main street by Ron Deans who was wearing a yellow rain slicker over his shorts and T-shirt and standing under the protection of a golf umbrella. He guided us to his and Dianne’s nearby townhouse. We gratefully took shelter in their living room where a welcoming fire blazed in the fireplace. After the ‘busyness’ of the public events in Calgary we sat back and relaxed, feeling immediately at home. We helped ourselves to the generous array of buns, cheeses, meats, fruit and condiments spread out on the dining table, and washed down the delicious late afternoon meal with a glass of local craft beer.
Dianne was the first person to write to Ron after the publication of The Defiant Mind. She had found his book helpful and inspirational and she wanted to talk to him about her stroke. She first proposed they meet on Vancouver Island last fall, but her trip west had not worked out as planned, so Ron had put a visit to the Deans on his Stroke Month itinerary.
            Our conversation soon turned to the reservations Ron and I had NOT made for accommodations for the night. Apparently Albertans head for the Rockies in droves every weekend, monsoon or no monsoon. Dianne’s phone calls soon confirmed that all the hotels, motels and B&B’s in the surrounding area were full. Canmore, being just outside Banff Jasper National Park, is a favourite recreational destination. Given that there were no rooms to be had at any of the inns, the Deans graciously invited us to spend the night with them. We spent the rest of the evening enjoying a lively conversation and went to bed grateful for their generous hospitality.
            Ron and I awoke the next morning to discover the rain had stopped and that we were in the midst of towering mountains draped in white, fresh-fallen snow. A message from Noreen Kamaal arrived announcing that the two-day closure of the Trans-Canada Highway, caused by flooding just west of Revelstoke, had been lifted and the road to Kamloops was now open. After breakfast, and after promising to renew a budding friendship with Dianne and Ron, we resumed our travels, heading west through the Rockies. We were soon past Banff, Lake Louise, Golden and the summit of the Rogers Pass. We stopped briefly at Tim Horton’s in Revelstoke for a mandatory coffee and doughnut. Back on the Trans-Canada we were surprised not to encounter any single lane traffic for road repairs caused by the flooding. In fact, there was no sign of the road closure at all. The debris had been cleared away and there was no obvious damage to the road or to a bridge.
            When we reached Salmon Arm the sun was hot. The temperature on the dashboard of our car read 31 degrees. The water level in Shuswap Lake was exceptionally high from the deep winter snowpack, and it was still cresting from the heavy spring run-off. The last hour of our journey to Kamloops passed quickly. As soon as I smell sagebrush I immediately feel at home. I graduated from Kam High in 1965 and played basketball for the Red Angels. The Red Angels’ rivalry with the Salmon Arm Jewels was legendary in the sixties as the two teams duelled their way to league and district titles, competing all the way to the finals of the provincial championships which, way back then, were held in the old Women’s Gym at UBC. Being on my “home court” I calmly drove us to the main hotel in the centre of town where there was still room for us at the inn.
            The next morning we awoke refreshed. Ron had another Lunch and Learn Session booked for the Royal Inland Hospital at noon. At this gathering Deb Rusch did her “Living with Stroke” presentation “remotely” via teleconference. Ron followed by speaking about his stroke experience and his suggestions for treatment and therapy in answer to questions posed by the thirty plus therapists. The session was concluded by host Jeff Frison at 1 PM precisely. After chatting with a number of therapists in the hall outside the lecture room, Ron and I were able to resume our travels a little earlier than expected. This time, however, I was able to drive this leg of our journey north, through Clinton, One Hundred Mile House, Lac La Hache, Williams Lake and Quesnel, through moose country, secure in the knowledge that we had already booked a reservation at an inn in Prince George.