September 2020 – time for one last cross-Canada road trip to visit my parents in Manitoba before the winter weather hits, COVID cases climb, and my mom’s health degrades.
Astrid was a great road trip trooper again. We condensed the trip into 3 days this time and stayed in hotels along the way. As long as they had pools with waterslides she was happy.
There was a lot of work to do at the Ponderosa – emptying the septic tank and refilling the cisterns; hooking up a new backup generator to the solar system; and all those vegetables.
We harvested squash, beans, tomatoes, corn, and grapes from the garden.
It was hard, physical labour and most of it had to be done before the frost hit. But it was also rewarding work. And it turns out that shelling beans is a perfect activity to keep my hands occupied while I listen to board meetings.
The ripe tomatoes were canned into tomato sauce.
The grapes were turned into juice (they were amazingly sweet and tasty but with a lot of seeds).
Kerry and Mark came out one weekend and they hauled dead trees out of the bush and chopped them up for winter firewood.
Getting everything ready for the winter was hard work but it was the easy part of the trip. The difficult part was having all the heavy conversations. I definitely avoided them for the first week we were there. It was easier to work all day and then watch Lucifer at night.
But we did talk. I talked to my dad about his efforts to do everything possible to give mom a fighting chance. About being prepared for what comes next. About selling the Ponderosa. About how unfair all of this is. About how lucky we were for all the great times we had together. And about spending as much quality time together as possible. So many hard conversations crammed into a short visit.
I tried to talk with my mom too. It was hard. Not just emotionally but because she wasn’t present or interested in talking most of the time. She had good days and bad days while we were visiting. On good days, she ate breakfast and dinner with us downstairs and maybe went for a walk. On bad days she didn’t leave her room and barely ate. Even on the good days she spent at least 20 hours in bed and her short-term memory was foggy (she rarely remembered what day it was). We had a few good lucid conversations about everything from travelling, karma, health choices, going vegan, and being an environmentalist in the 80s.
Astrid knows that Baba is sick and has cancer. She has a vague understanding that she might die, although I’m not she fully grasps what that means. She did ask at one point if she would get a new Baba if that happens, which made me chuckle and cry. I think having Astrid around was good for Baba. The rest of us were focused on her health and kept nagging her to eat or take her medicine. Astrid just wanted to cuddle and spend time with her.
It was hard to say goodbye but I’m really glad we visited. I love spending time with my parents and it was a beautiful time of year to be at the Ponderosa. We got a lot done and had some really great conversations. No matter what happens next, we’ll always have two more weeks of lovely memories together.
More pictures from our trip.