This week’s post was supposed to be about The Hollows, our favourite restaurant in Saskatoon where summer is celebrated on the patio with bite-sized dandelion fritters and rhubarb-pink margaritas. But our camera didn’t make it to dinner. Should we write a story on Magellan’s 50th high school reunion instead we wondered on the drive home to Vancouver early this week? Then, on a rainy stretch of the TransCanada, I was excited to see an email to firstname.lastname@example.org from our prairie friends Greg and Gale. I began reading it aloud to Magellan, becoming incoherent at the first sentence: “I am slowly getting around to notifying people that Greg passed away on June 29.” So instead, this post is about the hollow reality for jubilados. The summer of our lives is casting its long shadow. Friends we’ve loved for years won’t make it for dinner ever again.
When the shock subsides, reflection and regret surfaces.
When last did we see him? Was it really dinner at La Quercia when the four of us drank three bottles of wine? Remember when we were in St. John’s together when Greg was representing Ranchmen’s? Remember how he negotiated a full payout on a cancelled contract for me at Perspectives? He was our lawyer when we bought our Vancouver townhome, shockingly priced (and he knew it) back in 1997! Wasn’t he a graceful skier—sailing through the powder on the backside of Paradise at Lake Louise? He lived his life the way he skied: with a quiet strength, competence and fluidity. Remember the story of how he met Gale when he was still flying gliders and how much they loved each other?
Why didn’t we call more often? Why didn’t we take them up on that invitation to come see the new home Gale designed in the Okanagan? Which reminds me: remember the Japanese bed she designed for us? Hearing they’d bought a snazzy motorhome, why didn’t we rent one ourselves and join them on a trip?
Then comes the paradox, feeling grateful but also guilty that we’ve been dealt a luckier hand in this solitary game of life.
I am reminded of the wistful tone in my mother’s voice when she tells me, quite often now that she’s 86 and living alone in the winter of her life, about the death of another of her friends. Gravid with unease, when a close friend dies I confess to a wash of loneliness and its egocentric partner, self-pity. Inevitably, that leads to imagining a future hollowed by the death of one’s partner. Then I know it’s time to twist the telescope to the present.
Jan, I’ll be calling you. Liz, let’s get planning for Cabot Cliffs. Neil, when are you moving to Coquitlam? Peggy, we have to do lunch. Slipper, where are you? Marg, you must visit us the next time you leave Halfmoon Bay for the “big smoke.” Big Lynn, come west. Arlene, it’s been too long. See you in a few weeks, Myrna.
Gone is our car—traded this week for an old Land Rover with a roof rack that accommodates a pop-up tent. In the autumn of our lives when leaves fall and rivers freeze, Magellan and I plan to blaze the trails, contented by wilderness sunsets and long views of the horizon.
When in the city of bridges, do try The Hollows for both dinner and weekend brunch. Glynn’s favourite dish may have been the trout. Or was it the the gnocchi? Colleen especially liked the salted butterscotch pot de crème. When Lynn and Ward were there with us last summer, we coveted the pannekoeken they ordered for brunch.