Saturday, 31 December 2011

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

Oh..hey Internet....I wasn't expecting you....but don't get me wrong, it's great to see you!  Come on in! In fact I was just sitting here reminiscing about my trip to the 'Peg this summer.  Let me tell you, Inty, it was quite a trip.  Take a load off, ease back, and let ole JJ tell you all about it. 2,500 word-style!

The Plan:

The wife, boys and I would drive from TO to the 'Peg, stopping and camping (yes, camping! like in a tent and everything!) for three nights along the way.  

Once in Winnipeg, we would stay at the wife' mom's for a week or so, then head to Grindstone Provincial Park, where the better half's Aunt has a cottage and spend a week there.  Then, come back to Winnipeg, where I would fly back to TO and the fam would spend another week before driving home.

The Execution:

1. The camping
First night - Make it past Sudbury* towards Sault Ste. Marie.  Camp at a park called "Chutes Provincial Park".  Used to be a an old log run.**

* My dad's dad, at the time my dad was born, was the doctor for the nickel mine in Sudbury. It was before socialized medicine so he was hired by the mine to care for the miners.  He ended up leaving and moving to a small town outside of Toronto (The historic town of Port Credit!), since subsumed by the bustling metropolis of Mississauga, to become the town doctor.

I have often wondered whether his decision to leave the mine arose as the result of conflict between his Hippocratic oath and being remunerated by the very entity that probably (undoubtedly?) caused the health problems in a lot of his patients (Miner: "So Doc, how do you think I came to acquire this emphysema?" Grandfather: "Uhhhh, I 'unno, probably hereditary").  But I never got a chance to ask my dad.  I did actually pose the question to my dad's sister. She just looked at me quizzically (but politely!).  The fact that her and her U.S. doctor husband lean significantly further to the right of the political spectrum than my pa did may have been a factor..

** My father actually worked at a log run camp for a couple of summers while in university.  He used his earnings to buy, in succession, an Austin Healey, and then a Corvette.  Of course I never got to see anything but pictures of these as by the time I rolled around, he was driving a massive white 1970's Pontiac. Although it was a convertible.  And he did later buy a Datsun 280ZX which I clandestinely took up to 200 KPH once (sorry dad, but that thing cooked!), and an RX7 whose reliability allowed him to become well acquainted with Winnipeg transit.

Chutes is beautiful. Except that a small leech did attempt to attach itself between our eldest's toes while standing in the shallows. We flicked it away and told him (convincingly enough?) that it was just mud.***

***Our eldest briefly had a fascination with leeches where he would ask questions about them all the time.  We were happy he was taking an interest in nature! It was all good.  Except that the next time we went to the local public pool we got to the edge before he said "I'm not going in there..." Yup, scared of leeches. 

Next is Rabbit Lake, off of Lake Superior, all good as well.  Stay in a hotel in T-Bay, as wife is feeling sick.  Then at a friend's cottage in lake of the woods for two awesome nights.  Lake of the woods is perfect, no bugs, warm water, looks like this:

So far, could not be better “what a great idea!” we say to ourselves.  Then, on to Winnipeg.

Of course this sign wasn’t there anymore, they are all gone now, victim of its own irony and the Weakerthans.  But it’s the sign I will always think of when I drive in.
First night, we stay with the mother in law.  She has moved into an assisted living place.  One bedroom.  But we are easy going.  We can deal with it.  A little more problematic is the wife's schizophrenic/addict sister, Jackie****, who has been intermittently staying with the mother in law.  But the mother in law has arranged for her to stay at a place owned by the wife's aunt.  So its all good.

Until about 10 pm.  When the phone starts ringing.  The sister.  Over and over and over again.  Around 2 am I answer and ask her to stop calling.  Problem solved!  Well done JJ.  Until 5 am, a vigorous knocking on the door.  Guess who.  She had buzzed all the oldsters in the building and one had buzzed her in.  (At 5 am.  A stranger buzzes you…at 5 am…in your assisted living apartment…and and you let them in...but whatevs!) The wife opens the door intending to tell her sister she has to go.  New plan, sister pushes past wife and sits down, refusing to leave.  Cops are called.  She leaves.  Later that day, they pick her up and take her to HSC Psych Ward. Good times!

**** Look, I know this is a lot of footnotes, and I considered putting this in a different post, but what the fuck, right? The wife’s sister.  Henry David Thoreau’s (JJ be so educated!) quote: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  Well, I gotta tell you, I don’t think most of our lives come anywhere near this one on the desperation scale.  Constantly changing addresses.   No possessions of any permanence.  When I think of Jackie, I think “on the move”.  Like she has to be on the move, man.  Never comfortable wherever she is. (At least that’s my impression from the times I have met her.)  Mind racing.  Drop in, have a cup of coffee, and then move on.  Except maybe with her mom? Maybe?

Two stories about Jackie?

Story number 1. The wife and I were visiting the Peg from Ottawa and staying with the mother-in-law.  I am sitting with Jackie in living room and she says to me “yeah, I found your Gravol and I took five of them.  That should be ok, right?  I should be ok, right?”  JJ, being his cool self, replies “…uhhhhhhh,….Wife! MIL! Jackie has a question!!!”  (She was ok.)

Story number 2: the wife and I gave Jackie a ride downtown while we were living back in Winnipeg.  During the ride a Springsteen song comes on the radio.  Jackie is like “Ohhhh, I like this song.”  After we drop her off, the wife tells me about how, when she was young, Jackie loved Bruce Springsteen.  Such a fucking simple thing, you know?  Sitting and listening to a song you like.   Jackie? She doesn’t have that.  Not anymore.  She’s on the move, man. She’s on the move. 

Four days of (relative) peace, see my brother and his kids, including new niece.  My boys play with his boys.  Awesome.  Then off to Grindstone Provincial Park!

Now let me set the scene, for those that have never been to Grindstone.  It is part cottage area and part nature preserve.  The nature preserve part is…how do I put it?…well…basically…swamp. According to my calculations (Scientician!), this is, for being bitten by insect purposes, not great.  Screened in porches are plentiful.  The cottage area is accessible only through a 30 minute drive down a gravel road.

This year, the water on Lake Winnipeg was unusually high, so I think the swamp was swampier than usual. Which meant, as bad as it normally is, skeeto and deer fly wise, this time, it was even more buggier than usual.

We head out there with our friend CB and his 11 year old boy, soon to be joined by CB wife, CD.  Not JJ’s story to tell, but they were a bit stressed the entire time because their son had been bitten by a spider and the effects of the bite were definitely not to give him superpowers. 

And the park has a store.  The same couple has run the store for at least 15 years.  Very nice folks. Would typically take turns manning the store. This time when we go, the husband is behind the counter and the wife is sitting in a chair in front of counter.  I guess they work it together now.  I can’t find something and ask the wife.  She looks at me confused and points to husband indicating I should talk to him.  Sigh.  So shitty.   Guess stroke or dementia has worked their awesomeness and now he brings her to work to keep an eye on her.  Depressing.

So CB/CD & kid leave.  Ahhh, just the immediate fam.  No stresses.  Just relaxing.  But notice we have a flat tire! (Gravel Road!)  No worries, we’ll fix it tomorrow! Let’s just relax this evening!  Sit down with the wife with a glass of wine and a beer, respectively.  Kids in bed!  Ahhhhhh……so relaxing….

Eldest comes running out to the porch (the screened-in porch, of course!).  Crying! “Mommy, Daddy, I swallowed….a quarter!” Kid was playing around with money in the bed and somehow, some bloody how, he swallowed a quarter.  Not a dime, or a nickel.  A quarter.  I just sit there and stare at him, as I process what he has just said.  “What? What did he do?…swallowed a what…?”  

It sinks in.  Like, how serious is that? I honestly have no bloody idea.  So what to do?  Hop in the car and drive to the nearest hospital? Wherever the nearest hospital is? Ohhh, right! We have a flat tire!  The wife calls an ambulance.  Should be there in no time at all!  So anyhoo…an hour (and one changed tire (donut!)) later…the ambulance shows up.  They speed off to the bustling metropolis of Arborg (for which they later only charged me $650. Insurance!).  But of course how are they going to get back to the cabin?  Wake up E-man and away we go.  About 10:30 pm. now.  Driving down the highway at 80 kph, thanks to the donut.  Pitch black.  Deserted highway.   Daddy is tired, concerned for kid and worried about donut highway driving.  E-man thinks it’s the best time ever. 

Find Arborg.  Get there in time for results of x-ray of eldest.  Are the doctor and nurses concerned?  Not exactly.  By which I mean they think it’s hilarious.  “Yep, there it is, ha ha!” they say, while we look at the x-ray of my son’s digestive tract.

Treatment: don’t worry about it, wait for him to poop it out.  Just check his stool for it.  Discharged!
About 1 am now.  We’re all pretty tired.  Plus, the Kia’s fuel gauge is just above E.  So what the heck, let’s stay at one of the fine Arborg hotels for the evening.  Here’s a good one! Helloooo?  Door’s locked.  Lobby lights off.  But there’s a sign with a phone number for “after hours” access! Ring ring..answering machine. Call again…answering machine!

Ok, I guess we will go back to the cabin.  Except that we either do not have enough gas to get there or do not have enough gas to get back down the gravel road.  The two gas stations in town? Closed.  2 a.m.  Where the fuck  are we going to get gas?

Gimli! Let’s try Gimli! Away we go!  25 km away from destination...fuel light comes on. Are we going to make it? Tension rising!  Gahhh!  Then, like an oasis…Chudd’s! open at 3 am!  Gas.  And there’s no fucking way I am driving all the way back to the cabin, so we stay in Gimli for the evening (the hotel is open!).
Gimli-20110718-00091 Proof! Pic of Gimli at 3 am!
The next day…we go to Subway.  The eldest hasn’t eaten anything in a long time so wolfs down his sub.  Too fast I guess. Throws up all over the restaurant.  (“Can we get a couple of extra napkins? Thanks".”)   We drive back to the cabin.  JJ is ready to go.  So fuckin’ ready.  But it’s a sunny day, so let’s go to the beach!  We get there and see a perfect shaded spot close to the brush! Why hasn’t anybody taken this primo spot!?
We lay out our blanket and are immediately besieged (besieged!) by the massivest swarm of skeeters. While the other beach-goers just stare at us, knowingly (“Look at those idiots! They must be from Toronto!”).  New spot!  Less skeeters.  But then the deer flies and the horse flies.  Ridiculous.  And the poor boys.  Is it just JJ or do kid’s skin seems to react way worse to insect bites than adult skin? They look like they wandered into a bee’s nest.
A couple of hours of this…fuck it.  Let’s go back to Winnipeg.    

Here’s a picture of us shortly after we got back. Diddly.

We get back.  Janelle’s mom is a retired nurse. She watches the boys the next day.   In the evening she says to me (yes, I am paraphrasing), “oh, I have been listening to his stomach all day.  It’s clear the quarter has obstructed his colon and he’s going to die. When I worked in the geriatric ward, this happened all the time.”  Right in front of poor G-man, who tells me right away “I am going to go poo and try and poo it out!” Sheesh.

So what do I do? I know what the pros told me, but if something were to happen….? Fuck me.  Off to the Children’s Hospital!  Where we wait.  And wait.  And…”dad, I have to go poo!” “Really? Are you sure?”  He is sure.  So we use the emergency room toilet.  And he poops. And says to me “oh Dad, I think it came out!”

And I say, “really? Are you sure?”

Him:“Yes, I think so.”

Me, looking at bowl full of turds, then son, then bowl full of turds: “Are you sure you’re sure?”

Him: “I think so…”

Me (to self): “Sheeeeiittt….”

So what do I do?  Yes. I take brown paper towel and slowly reach down into the bowl. Of the toilet.  Of the public toilet.  In an emergency room.  Where sick people go. My hand goes into the water, then I squish the poop searching for the quarter.  So. Fucking Gross.  Unbelievably gross.  When I think about it, I can’t believe I did it.  And the worst part: I can’t find the stupid quarter.  10 minutes of hand washing later we’re back to the waiting room!

We get called and more x-rays!  Guess what?  Quarter’s gone.  Nothing in there.  Did not have to go.  Did not have to put my hand around a turd.

Wife comes to pick us up.  We stay in hotel that night.  I fly back to TO the next day and, although she was supposed to stay another week and half, wife packs up kids and drives back to TO the next day. 

Wife didn’t take this, but she coulda!
Other than that, it was pretty good.

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