As one ages one has opportunities for extraordinary experiences, and I’ve had a few. It has always been a sense of wonder to me how often these experiences come as a result of some heartbreak, and the extraordinary adventure of the past few weeks was no exception.
My brother Irv lost his wife Heather to cancer in November. At the service he mentioned he was going to wait 100 days to take care of business and then go on a golf vacation. Around Christmas he called and said our brother Don, a scratch golfer, would accompany him on the first part of the trip, which included what some have called the best golf course in the USA at the Bandon Dunes golf & resort complex. Don would then head back home and Irv would continue on south along the Oregon and California coasts to San Fran, veer off mid California to Las Vegas, and head south before returning back home.
A couple of days later he called and said Don couldn’t make it after all, the Bandon resort and golf had been prepaid and would I like to take Don’s place. It has been almost five years since I gave up my car and moved into the heart of the city to embrace a pedestrian life, and I had seldom had a chance to golf. I took the time to think carefully for, oh, about 2 seconds, wondering if I could even swing a club anymore or keep up the pace Irv had set out, before shouting a resounding, “I’m in!” After all, my brother is 6 years older than me and outside of the Boomer demographic by a couple of years, surely I could keep up.
Through a comedy of subsequent discussions over the next few weeks, my accompaniment extended further and further into the trip until at last it was determined he would drive me home to Vancouver BC before going home to Edmonton.
We departed Vancouver on March 1 and found everything from horrendous weather to hot and dry, from pretty bad golf to pretty good (often on opposite days to one another), but there was not one experience we would have traded. Irv had laid out the itinerary and I was the travel planner, booking the accommodations and tee times.
We visited the Napa Valley where we had a fabulous lunch at a rural diner; Fresno, Tehachapi and Needles where we golfed; Laughlin where we made a bit of money; Lake City Havasu where we walked the old London Bridge; Yuma Arizona where we visited our sis-in-law at her and my younger brother Wayne’s pride and joy winter home and slipped over into Mexico to buy vanilla and brandy; the Sedona area, the only destination request yours truly made, where we golfed and toured a little (Flagstaff at 6500+ft, the old mining town of Jerome at a similar altitude); and Vegas where we threw away a bit of money. After that we headed north through Salt Lake City and cooler weather. On the way home we travelled through four states in one day (Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington) and were still able to take an hour or so in Baker City Oregon, a genteel historical city formed during the gold rush. We took the opportunity for one last round of golf in Kennewick Wa, then there was no delaying and we deadheaded home.
Along the way we discovered a few things about each other. I learned numbers were significant for Irv – I hadn’t known that about him and it was quite cute to watch him. When Heather was failing, I despaired about my brother – I didn’t think he had ever so much as boiled water before. But being a very curious sort, he surprised us by embracing the process of cooking. His daughter came out to help her dad take care of her mom and together they cooked many meals. He has always been a quick study and watched in wonder the process involved. In those 100 days of early grief he called a few times to say he had made a meat loaf with 12 ingredients, banana loaf with 7, orange loaf with 13. In all he was successful and I now know he will do just fine in that department. He has maintained a beautiful singing voice and has a mature enough attitude about death that on St Patrick’s day he sang ‘When Irish Eyes are Smiling’ to Heather, who was Irish through and through on both sides.
We shared meals and memories... and oddly, a few cross words. I have always been the mediator in the family. I could never stand fighting, perhaps because I was the sixth of seven children and the baby sis to all but one and saw plenty of sibling rivalry. I would do anything to make the shouting stop. Sometimes I hid away. I did the same thing in my marriages, but our couple of little tiffs showed a measure of maturity in the matter which pleased me.
Heather was an artist and we scattered some of her ashes on a surreal day at Cape Sebastian, Ore, at the point at which one of her paintings was inspired. There is an amazing story behind this that shall be saved for another day.
I did manage to keep up the pace. 7000 km (4350 miles) in 19 days, 8 rounds of golf, most often travelling another 5 to 7 hours to the next destination. These old Baby Boomers + have still got it and we are well pleased with our adventure...
Though I know I have matured with age, and even though I have a great faith in God and our everlasting soul, I am always affected profoundly by the loss of a loved one and always regret not having more time to spend with them. We started with seven siblings, lost my only sister at 41 and my next-up bro a few years ago. My baby brother Wayne, who was my best friend as a child and had only two winters in his beloved Yuma, left us a year ago last summer. There are now me, Irv and two yet older brothers left, none closer than a seven hour drive. We don’t get together as often as we used to, but I know we will make the attempt. And I know it will never be enough...
Causes Sharon Tillotson Supports
Leukemia Research Foundation of Canada
Kidney Foundation of Canada