The last night before her sister arrived to drive off with her into the west, we decided to "do something Toronto to remember together." I jokingly suggested a walk on the beach - our few good times in Toronto were mostly beach experiences over the 04 summer. Much of the humour in our marriage was taking ludicrous jokes seriously. We jumped into the 4x4, drove off to the nearest beach access and went for our walk. The creek was mostly frozen over, but still running healthily underneath. Where the creek met the wave action of the lake, that surface ice was fractured into floes. One floe, about a foot across and probably two inches thick, was spinning in the current. Both the floe and the edges of the hole it was sitting in were ground into perfect circles. When we got to the actual lakefront, wave action had shoved an amazing "icedrift" at least fifteen feet high along the beach. Out from there, the water was perhaps fifty feet wide before the lake froze over again.
Wendy waited at the icedrift while I struggled to the end of the ice-covered pier to get a night-shot picture of the beach and Wendy. That picture didn't turn out. The mounds of ice and the frozen surface of the creek was a sign of how Wendy had found Toronto. I keep saying can live anywhere, but she had found Toronto to be a cold and unfriendly place. Our marriage barely survived Toronto - she hated everything in Toronto and I was in Toronto. The layoff was traumatic but the move back to the west fixed everything in the marriage.
This was not an anniversary of the walk on the beach. That was ealier in January than this. But it was a winter memory to celebrate her birthday. This year has been much warmer than that winter. But a cold wave swept in to provide the ice floes for the memorial.
Everything and anything done for Wendy is a story. And I have come to think
that involving a car is also an integral part of each yarn woven.
Here’s the latest story. The winds of winter arrived in southern Ontario
this past week. Ice, snow, and freezing rain – a whole host of nasty winter
conditions moved in all at once. Being stalwart Torontonians, not much can
stop us in our tracks. By Wednesday January 19th, my friend Wendy’s
birthday, the roads were clear and the -20C with a wind chill actually had a
refreshing quality to it.
Arrangements had been made for an afternoon meeting at Long Branch GO.
This is the train station across the road from Marie Curtis Park. With
leaving Burlington just after 4pm for Barb, and the GO train for Rick
departing being past 430 pm, Long Branch was an ideal meeting point.
Travelling east from Burlington on the highway was good until Oakville and
then an accident closer in to the QEW/427 junction was backing up traffic,
so a leisurely trip along the Lakeshore was in order. Arriving at Long
Branch with 15 minutes to spare before the train arrived allowed for the
eastward journey on the Lakeshore to continue in search of a florist’s shop.
A bustling little neighbourhood flower shop called Joanne’s, owned and
manned by a Chinese family, was the ideal place to find red carnations. The
shop clerks were puzzled with the request for two bouquets of three
carnations each tied with a ribbon and a little greenery. Why three in two
bouquets? Well, two of us were visiting Mimico Creek to float flowers out
to the lake – so two bouquets. Why three flowers? Well, the 3 can be
symbolic in many ways. This time it was one flower for the holder of the
flowers, one flower for Greg and one flower for Wendy. We were all in this
together. None of this explanation was offered to the shop clerks.
With flowers in hand, there was just enough time to boot it back to the
station as the train was seen leaving on its westward journey. As Rick is
always the last person out of the station, timing was right on. As I pulled
up through the kiss’n’run Rick exited from the station.
Now the western entrance to Marie Curtis Park is closed due to the icy road
conditions and the road not being maintained during the winter months. So,
we headed down 42nd street to the parking lot ¾ of the way down the street,
pulled into the snowy lot and parked the car. As it was some cold, we left
the car running, and locked it with Rick’s keys. Flowers in hand we
approached a railing along the edge of the rocks keeping us back about 5
feet from the water’s edge and a 4’ drop to the water. Standing there we
could watch the pieces of ice floating down the creek towards the lake with
many mallards and Canada Geese darting out of the path of mini icebergs.
The water was flowing strongly downstream moving quite quickly, so we tossed
our flowers out across the rocks to the waters edge. The westerly breeze
blew the flowers back into the face of the rocks so our bouquets were no
longer visible on the surface of the water. Standing there waiting, the
water moving very quickly, the flowers appeared for a short moment a little
downstream right up against the rocks. Suddenly, the direction of the water
reversed and as quickly as the water had been running out to sea, it now
reversed upstream, with the large ice chunks now being shoved back to their
beginnings and the ducks and geese following quickly, some of them even
venturing to ride on top of the ice chunks. We watched in amazement at this
process until we realized cold was now setting in to our shoulders, hands
and feet. So with a few words between us, we knew we had completed our
requested task and it was time to head home for dinner.
But, not so quickly. We were about to find out that Wendy was with us!
Returning to the car, there was the evidence, the driver’s side front tire
was flat as a pancake. Now, you wonder how we know Wendy was there? We
chuckle when we think of the stories of a Uhaul coming across the country
and stopping outside Thunder Bay in a truckstop for Christmas dinner, and
dragging a poor little Geo on its sparks shooting hub across the TransCanada
Hwy east of Sault Ste Marie.
Further along in the parking lot at Marie Curtis Park was a trusty CAA tow
truck, and not carrying a cell phone, we decided to make an inperson call
for service. But, alas, noone in the truck and noone to be seen who
remotely looked like the operator. So, back to the running van, and inside
where it was lovely and warm. What a good idea it had been to leave the
vehicle running. Off we limped up 42nd Street to the Lakeshore and one
short block to the Canadian Tire filling station. Deciding that a fill up
of gas as well as air would be a good idea, Rick found the air pump while
Barb filled the gas tank. On pulling around to the air pump, Barb found
Rick visiting with two young lads who were driving a rather nondescript
junkman’s truck. Turns out they were carrying on the business of the
recently deceased father of one of these young lads. They were picking up
scrap metal and delivering it to a reclaiming depot for cash. Well, these
two young fellows kindly assisted in filling our flat tire, checked the tire
for a source of a leak and offered advice on where could find a Canadian
Tire to get the tire fixed.
So, now I’m thinking, not only is Wendy in attendance at this quiet memorial
but James must be here too. These young lads weren’t much older than he
would be, and they had on the coveralls Jim loved to wear when working on
his motorcycle. This was turning into a family affair!
With air in the deflated tire, we begin our limp home along the Lakeshore.
At a stoplight, a look to the right revealed a Firestone Tire store – and
with a quick right turn we were in there in a flash. Sure, the fellow could
check our tire, and a second fellow was quick out the door and into the van
to drive it into a bay. In less than 5 minutes we had a diagnosis on the
flat tire and were offered several remedial options. The outcome was two
new tires on the front of the van and in 20 minutes we were on our way home.
If we had pulled into that Firestone Tire 4 minutes later they would have
been closed. Someone was looking out for us.
This chain of events led to sharing stories, chuckles, thoughts and ‘do you
think’ statements all the way home.
Greg, we were pleased to do this little memorial for you and feel we were
the beneficiaries of a memorable evening.
Attached are pictures, although somewhat dark, you can see the sun was
setting in the first picture where Rick is holding our bouquets of flowers.
The second picture is when the flowers started to float downstream towards
the lake. In the third picture you can see the red flowers just off the
edge of the rocks along the shore of the creek where the flowers had floated
upstream. There weren’t any boats on the lake to form waves or cause such a
quick change in water direction, so we couldn’t be certain what made the
‘tide’ turn, however, there must have been a tremendous tug from the moon’s
gravity to make the water reverse so quickly. That and the presence of so
many visitors attending with us!
Take care, keep in touch, we think of you often.
The flat tire is now better explained after I filed your email this morning……white…..white…..white carnations were Wendy’s favourite. Where did I come up with red? I don’t know – but she was definitely aware they weren’t white carnations on Wednesday evening. For certain, I will never forget that Wendy’s favourite carnation colour was white.
Clear very cold weather here – bright beautiful sunshine – and off we go to Paris for a train show.
Keep well – stay warm in your hibernation – talk to you soon.