Correction to my surmise on the Harrises. This is from Isabel Gray, who comes from Scotland and goes back there pretty much every year: “I don’t believe there is a Harris tartan – but I can assure you that Harris tweed is still made on the island of Harris – a small island off the North coast of Scotland and the islanders are still doing a good job!!”
My old agency manager, Scott, had a lot more to say on the subject: “I’ve been wanting to respond, as a Scot Scott, to your attempt to spirit away the Harris Clan from their rightful home in the Outer Hebrides (I.e. Scotland) to the land of your own ancestors. Lassie, that just won’t do! And no, I did not just call you a dog to get even! I have thought in the past that Elvon’s facial characteristics would fit in nicely with my paternal Grandmother’s family, especially when I learned Elvon’s father was a Presbyterian minister. The clues add up–and indeed, there is a Scottish tartan for the Harris clan: https://www.scotweb.co.uk/tartan/Harris/28141 “ Thanks, Scott. I didn’t want to buy a kilt, but it’s nice to know.
I last left you on a plane from Amsterdam and we are now on a plane coming home from Montreal. We got to Montreal in the evening of August 20, and picked up our rental car. This year’s deal got us a Jeep Grand Cherokee for the price of a compact. It’s a great upgrade, but the thing is enormous. I loaded it up, called Chalet BBQ and drove straight there to pick up one of our favorite dinners.
I had been warned that Montreal was a construction site. It hasn’t been this bad since Expo ’67, when they built the Decarie Expressway, the Champlain Bridge, the Turcotte Interchange and the Metro (subway). Of course, except for a flurry of activity around the Olympics in 1976, they haven’t done much maintenance on any of it. The past few years, you were taking your life into your hands driving around the city.
Montreal is turning 375 next year, and planning a big bash. So, in true Montreal fashion, they are doing a “grand ménage”. There are cones and barrels everywhere, excavators and earth movers, “acces au chantiers”, and no access to the street you want to drive on. Somehow, I reached my destination and picked up our fragrant bag of chicken and fries.
We were staying at Ternis’ condo on Sherbrooke, because it was an apartment in an elevator building, and beautifully central. Andrea and Paul don’t us it much in the summer, as they are mostly in their main house in Magog, in the Eastern townships.
Marc Edéry, a kind neighbor, had the key for us, and was waiting, when we arrived a little after nine. Luckily, he’s substantial, or we would never have got in. There are only two small steps into the building, but there’s no railing. Elvon just can’t handle that any more. It’s as much a brain thing as a physical thing. But, he placed his confidence in, and a good bit of his weight on, Marc, and made it into the apartment, while I parked the car under the building.
That was an adventure, too, and also required Marc’s help. When they built that garage, there were no such things as Grand Cherokees. It literally covered its parking spot. We got the luggage out, and up to the apartment, just in time for Marc to join his friends at the cinema at 9:45 pm and Elvon and I tucked in to the wonderful offering from the Chalet BBQ.
That was it for the night. We were exhausted. I unpacked the bare necessities and we crawled into bed. When we got up, in the morning, we were both in sore need of basic cleanliness. But the apartment had only a tub, not a walk-in shower. Elvon can’t get in and out of a tub. So I gave him a sponge bath on the toilet seat. When I was done, he couldn’t get off the toilet. It was too low. With a lot of effort, building up the level with towels on every attempt, he finally stood up, clutching the sink vanity. He moved himself over to the door jam and glommed on to that. I moved Winnie Walker into position and steadied her.
His hands were eight inches above the walker, and he would not let go of the door jam. I spoke softly, and loudly, I pleaded, and swore. I explained that he had no choice, he had to transfer to the walker or he would eventually fall down from exhaustion. That was the path he took.
He managed to bum his way into the bedroom, but he could not get up on to the bed. Over an hour had passed and I was at my wits end. I took a shower to clear my head, and because I need one after a full day of travel and all that activity. The shower did clear my head and I realized I needed help of the strong male variety. If I called the cops, they would get him up, but they would also likely take us to the hospital for diagnosis. I didn’t need a day there to know what’s wrong.
I called the Mapps, where we were scheduled to go to dinner. My plan was to get Elvon up and take him straight there, while I moved us into a hotel with an accessible room and a gym. God bless good old friends. Chris came, with a lovely friend. While they were on the way, I started packing. They got him up, I got him dressed, stripped the bed, and we took everything, including the Ternis’ sheets and towels, to the Mapps’. Marge gave us breakfast, while the clock struck noon. It had been a four and a half hour exercise.
I put a load into their washing machine and found us a Holiday Inn Express near the airport. While the Mapps finished our laundry, I went to the hotel, checked in, unpacked and managed 15 minutes of quiet meditation. Then I went back to Mapps’, as dinner had been called for six. I stopped by the liquor store on the way, but it closes early on Sunday, so I would have to deliver our wine next week.
Ginger Petty, and Andre and Jo Ann Dery, were the other guests, more dear old friends. They were just what I needed. It was the perfect evening.
To complicate matters further, my phone is dying. Amazon agreed to replace it, but they can’t ship to Canada, so the plan was to pick it up in Newport on Monday, and have lunch with the Ternis and Fairchilds.
Monday, we slept a lot, showered, and used the hotel gym, which is a godsend. We were going over to Linda and Bev’s for cocktails and consultation, and on to the Dump for dinner with Theresa Benedek, Kathie Keefer and their main squeezes, George and Peter. Linda and Bev’s house presented problems, too, just a few steps up, but no railings for Elvon. Luckily, the two of them are sturdy. The Hong Kong Restaurant was easier, six steps with a nice serviceable railing. The lobster and duck were as delicious as ever they have been. The place has gone up and down in the forty years we have been frequenting it, but it’s at its peak now.
Tuesday, we went to Cornwall, where my cousin, John Sidorchuk, takes care of our teeth. Usually, we sleep over at Rosemary and Nick’s in Long Sault, but tonight we had an event to attend back in Montreal. Ellen and J.P. Morneau were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, and we wouldn’t miss it for the world.
It took an hour and a half to get there from the Holiday Inn. Without traffic and construction delays, it would have taken fifteen minutes. Getting around Montreal is totally ridiculous. The party was lovely, and it gave us a chance to connect with the Ternis. Everything was delicious and the cake was unbelievable. It was decorated with roses from their original wedding cake. Ellen had kept them in her freezer all these years. You would never have known they weren’t new.
Wednesday, August 24, we went back to Cornwall, for dinner with the family there. We stopped at the Gascogne in Pointe Claire for Mille-feuilles, and other fine patisseries, chocolatines for breakfast, etc. We enjoyed wine and appies on their lovely waterfront deck, and got to see John and Johanne’s lovely daughters, Sara and Lily, who are growing into fine specimens, indeed. Best of all, we got to catch up with my closest relatives, and getting in to their lovely flat house wasn’t too hard. Even there, we needed Nick’s strength and ingenuity to get over the two steps in, with no railing. We also carry around a toilet raiser, so Elvon can get off the pot, when necessary. We used it.
Thursday, we stayed in Cornwall until mid-afternoon, then drove to Montreal for dinner with Wendy Sissons. We didn’t even bother to go back to the hotel, but just went straight to pick her up in Westmount. It was another interesting construction avoidance exercise, but we had plenty of time. We had settled on Elvon’s favorite Montreal restaurant, Bonaparte, in Old Montreal. Wouldn’t you know it? They had dug up the street in front of the restaurant and replaced it with plywood slabs, with eight inches of gravel between each one. There were about 80 feet of this to get to the door of the place. I went in and made my apologies, but I wasn’t even going to attempt this one with Elvon. The Garde Manger, just down the street, had room, and it is usually a two month booking window. Of course it did, no one could get there. Our parking attendant drove Elvon right up to the door, where there was just one step, but, alas, nothing to hang on to. Elvon wasn’t having any of it.
I remembered Le Bourlingeur, just at the corner and ran down to suss it out. It’s just a modest bistro, in a very old building, six steps up from the curb, but it was fine. The six steps were accompanied by a stout railing. I went in and checked the location of the washroom, and it was on the flat, so we were good. It was a few stars down from Bonaparte and Garde Manger, but my calf’s liver was excellent, as were Elvon’s fish and Wendy’s three kinds of sausage. Profiteroles come in groups of three in Montreal, and they made a delicious dessert. No French fries, though. The city of Montreal won’t let them have a deep fryer in a heritage building. We had a lovely time in spite of that. Wendy is always fun.
Friday, we went to Ginger’s on Ile Bizard. There, too, there are steps without railings to get in on the main floor. So we came in through the garage under the house, on the lake side, where there’s a railing. The place looks better than ever. Both house and grounds are fabulous. Ginger has a nice new three-tiered fountain, now. It was a gift from Fox movies. They filmed X-Men – The Apocalypse, on her property across the street. They recreated their school there, with the fountain and a lot of special effects and moved the fountain to Ginger’s property when they were done. There are glimpses of her grounds in the movie, and of her son, Mike. Ginger’s personal assistant is Debbie Brousseau, who bought my 425 Victoria in 2000. She had been in the Event Planning business for seven years, not so long ago, and still had all the contacts Fox would need to facilitate production in Montreal.
Debbie was there that afternoon, and it was great to reconnect with her, too. Even Scruffy looked great. Ginger has taken over his grooming and she’s doing the best job, ever. We had fabulous butter and rosemary potatoes, filet mignon, and desserts from about three pastry shops. When it came time to go, we reversed the process and all was well, until we got to the bottom of the stairs, when Elvon refused to transfer from railing to walker, again. The three of us had to wrestle him off the railing, keeping him upright in the process. That was the last straw. Ginger called it. We had to go home.
Cat and Matt were coming on Wednesday, though, and I didn’t see how I could take him away from a rare meeting with his East Coast daughter. Ginger, however, just went into action. Before we were even back at the hotel, she had called Cathryn and told her she had better get to Montreal in a hurry, because we could not go on as we were. By the time I called Cat around nine-thirty in Saturday, she had rearranged her schedule and they would be in Montreal by Monday night.
I was still exhausted from the previous week, and took advantage of that by asking her to stop off in Newport, VT, and pick up my phone replacement. Then I called United Airlines and brought our flights forward from September 10 to August 31. I made sad phone calls to Ternis and Fairchilds, too, but was much relieved that all this was settled. I don’t think it would have been all that safe for me to put in six hours of driving on Monday. I wasn’t feeling that strong, and my heart was very heavy.
I finally caught up with my email on Saturday, and found out that the Simons had to get Sylly P out of their house, as Pati had developed a pretty severe allergy to her. Luckily there was a contingency plan in place with The Lodge, and now she wouldn’t even have to wait long for us to come home. Pat Gustafson met the Simons when they dropped her off, and visits her every day, so she doesn’t get too lonely.
We had Dim Sum at Kam Fung in Brossard with Roslyn and Real and stayed at the hotel on Saturday night. We didn’t need much food after that. We shared a bottle of wine and some cheese and duck liver paté from Gascogne, and were perfectly content.
Sunday we didn’t do much during the day. I find I need a lot of sleep these days and I am indulging myself. Elvon can sleep any time, anywhere, so it’s something we can enjoy together. We have also been able to keep up our exercise program, thanks to the hotel gym. Jo Ann Dery came over for a visit, around four-thirty and we met Rod and Claude for dinner at Le Petit Four Manago, on St. Charles Blvd., after checking that it was very flat. They would have had us to their house, but we aren’t doing any more private homes.
We love Rod and Claude, and we had a wonderful meal at Manago. I, for one, ate way too much, but the veal scaloppini with fettuccine Alfredo on the side was just too good. Never mind the profiteroles. Oh, my. Oink.
Monday morning, I went out and replaced the cheap suitcase, which had broken, with another one. I was ready to buy something better, but nothing I really wanted presented itself, so I went for another temporary solution. Then I came back and emailed vcom that we wouldn’t be hosting around South America on the Prinsendam, in January and February. We are going to stay home, and get help setting our lives up better. Elvon will need a wheelchair, and I’ll need training in how to push it. We’ll be welcoming visitors to our cruise ship that doesn’t leave the dock.
I spoke to Cathryn, as they were driving up, and suggested I go to Chalet BBQ and get us a meal that we could eat at the hotel, when she brought the phone by. Matt was under the weather, so this turned out to be a good suggestion. It’s nothing fancy, but very good, and a few pastries form Gascogne would make it special.
Tuesday, I packed, we exercised, and Cathryn came over to the hotel. We went to Le Méac for dinner, and ate foie gras, rilettes, steak tartare, scallops, moules et frites, oh, yes, and crème brulée and profiteroles. It’s time we get out of Montreal. I can’t seem to do a fast day here.
Huge thanks to all our family and friends in Canada and California, for physical assistance, wonderful meals, moral support, and wise counsel. Apologies and sincere regrets to those we missed. We love you all. I am going to have a nap now.
Footnote, September 3. After a couple of days back at The Lodge, things are looking a lot better for us. We are resting and picking up all our old activities, and then some. Yesterday, we joined a discussion group on presidential elections, led by a resident named Terry Regan, and he’s a Reagan relative, too. My grandfather Larry Megan, married a Mary Meehan, so I get that. Today, we did a balance and movement class, that Elvon could follow from a chair. He couldn’t do everything, but he followed along when he could and pronounced both classes of interesting. He’ll come to anything, as long as I come, too, and seems to enjoy. His favorite time remains dinner. Mine, too. It’s fabulous here. Call me and we’ll buy you one.