The birds they sang At the break of day Start again I heard them say Don’t dwell on what has passed away Or what is yet to be
Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack, a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in
This post is for our friend Uncle Normie and his wife and our dear friend Pauline. “Anthem” was one of Norman’s and Pauline’s favourite songs.
Norman like all of us was a complex individual. Although we were friends for over 25 years he was still a bit of a mystery. Not that Norm didn’t talk to us about his past but it was usually vague references to work here and there and even vaguer references to his family. Norm did like to tell stories of his misadventures with former workmates and friends.
Pauline was Norm’s 2nd wife and he certainly must have learned something from his 1st marriage, as marrying Pauline couldn’t have been a better choice for him. They had been married for a year or two before moving to Vernon in 1996.
Norm was also a very artistic fellow. He played classical guitar. He did stained glass projects and wood scrolling. He was an avid photographer and loved birds and photographing them. Below are a few samples of his work.
Norm was also somewhat of a pioneer in the food nutrition industry. Norm’s preferred diet of KD and hot dogs, to the exclusion of lesser food groups like vegetables, was critically acclaimed by circus carneys everywhere.
Norm loved watching comedy shows and had a wonderful if somewhat eclectic sense of humour. He needed that sense of humour to put up with the Captain for 25 years. More on that later.
Norm unfortunately was afflicted with a number of medical issues in his later years. He was diagnosed with COPD at least 15 years ago and was having difficulty giving up the habit despite ominous warnings from his doctor. Pauline along with the neighbours continuous nagging, threatening and cajoling eventually drove Norm to go to a hypnotist, where after just one session he gave up the evil weed and never fell off the wagon. Had Norm not done this we would have missed out on 15 years of his company.
We had our last visit with Uncle Normie just before our trip to Ontario. We miss having him around and during happy hour the Mayor’s Chair (read more on this in the next section) remains empty in his honour.
CC and DD Meet Norman
DD and CC first met Norm shortly after we moved onto “his” cul de sac in 1996. I say “his” because Norm was sort of like the self appointed Mayor of 47th Ave. As Mayor Norm would hold regular council meetings (aka Happy Hours) at his residence every Friday like clockwork.
The first time CC and DD were summoned to attend a Council meeting turned out to be a bit of a strange affair. While out walking past Pauline’s and Norms on a Friday afternoon the Mayor decided it was time for us to become official Council members and he issued a directive for us to attend forthwith. We returned home for refreshments, as this was required for one to attend. Now for the strange part. Almost immediately after our arrival The Mayor and all the Council members (except one) took their leave without so much as a by your leave. We were then advised that unfortunately everyone had made prior dinner plans which meant an early end to this particular Happy Hour.
CC’s initial hypothesis was once everyone realized that DD was an Oggorfian it may have put them off a bit. None the less we were able to subsequently persuade them that not all Oggorfians are bad aliens and we were accepted as fully fledged Council members.
The cul de sac Council at the time consisted of probably 14 – 15 members. Council meetings were often raucous affairs and continued for over 25 years. It is really difficult to figure out how such a diverse group of individuals could maintain a cohesive relationship for so many years. Norm I suspect probably thought it was due to his engaging personality? and leadership style? and it may have been, but it might also have been that Council members found Norm to be actually be a real nice guy despite his pretense of being a curmudgeon.
Becoming Uncle Normie
It was several years after meeting Norm and Pauline that the Captain adopted Norm as his Uncle Normie. The adoption took place in a very public setting. CC and DD were shopping at one of the local grocery stores. CC spied Norm at the checkout line and in a moment of rather bizarre behavior the Captain raced across the grocery store yelling quite loudly Uncle Normie, Uncle Normie, Uncle Normie help me Uncle Normie. As Normie had nowhere to run to avoid this embarrassment he stoically calmed his distressed nephew and hurried out the door.
Now I mention the above notorious incident to illustrate that Uncle Normie loved comedy and could certainly take a joke. Yes Uncle Normie had a sense of humour although often I could see him cringe sometimes when he knew CC had him in his headlights.
The following is a link to YouTube where the Captain has posted a video he made for Uncle Normie’s 65the Birthday. The video is 10 minutes long and not quite the quality of today’s standards but the message remains the same.
Hang on to your hopes, my friend(s) That’s an easy thing to say But if your hopes should pass away Simply pretend that you can build them again…
Seasons change with the scenery Weavin’ time in a tapestry Won’t you stop and remember me?
Look around Leaves are brown And the sky is a hazy shade of winter
Fresh off their successful maiden voyage in the new RV, and having escaped the expected Murphy’s (bed) Law syndrome, CC and DD settled down (in the basement) to map out their itinerary until the move back home in July 2022. Okay now that we had a place to live until next summer, let’s plan some road trips.
First up on the Agenda would be a trip back to Ontario to visit family and then back to BC and then depending on Covid etc. a trip south might be in the offing. So off we set on September 29th in our new wheels for 7 days on the road in the “Zamboni”. Now driving in a puny little car on twisty mountain roads might seem like a bit of a hoot, it also comes with a realization that you are just about the smallest vehicle on the road. There are a lot of big bad trucks out there. For most travelers this might not be a big concern, and from a safety point it wasn’t. However with the DD seriously overreacting to even the most minor driving transgression of every other driver on the road, it can very quickly have one thinking about the peace and quiet one might enjoy, if one were to decide to walk instead.
Fortunately it never came to that so when DD took over for her shifts behind the wheel, the Captain was able to activate the “cone of silence” and just go along for the ride. With this harmonious truce now achieved we quickly made our way across the prairies and quite enjoyed our overnight stays in “fancy motels”, as opposed to noisy Walmart parking lots , to which we had been accustomed. A bonus was the incredible difference in gas mileage from truck to the car. In addition, the weather was great and we just cruised our way to our first stop in Thunder Bay to visit DD’s cousin Cathy and her husband Joe, who although a Montreal Canadiens fan is still a great guy and wonderful host.
As always, we thoroughly enjoyed our 2 days with Cathy and Joe before heading south east with an ETA at MODDs of October 7th.
Two Crash Test Mummies and One Dummy
In my never ending quest to maintain 60% Canadian content as per CRTC guidelines I have entitled this section as Crash Test Mummies with a nod to the likely little known Canadian band, the Crash Test Dummies, whose most notable hit was Superman’s Song. Definitely worth a listen IMHO.
Crash Test Mummy 1 (Rocky)
We arrived late in the day for our 7 day visit with MODD. Shortly after unloading our bags (mostly DDs) we immediately noticed that MODD appeared to be getting ready for Halloween early in that she was sporting a new Rocky (as in raccoon) look. DD immediately initiated a thorough interrogation of MODD to get to the bottom of the crime. As it turns, out there was no crime in the true sense of the word, although to DD there seemed to be little distinction to be made.
What had transpired was MODD (remember this is a 94 year old woman living on her own) having decided to Swiffer her floors had somehow managed to get the Swiffer caught up under a chair causing her to trip while attempting to extract it. The result was a head first “crash” onto the dining room floor. Inexplicably (and thankfully) MODDs injuries were not too serious, just a couple of black eyes, bruise on her head and arm, and general aches and pains. I suspect the subsequent tongue-lashing MODD received from her daughters was far worse than the crash itself.
Although she had received a bang to the head, MODD showed no signs of slowing down as she continued her furious knitting pace “purling” towards her goal of 100 pairs of mitts and hats for the needy and 24 bonnets for premature babies. What a woman!!!!!!
And speaking of “what a woman” (DD aside) MODD is also known for her voracious appetite and although she has slowed down a little you wouldn’t know it when it comes to pumpkin pie covered with a virtual Mt. Everest of whipped cream. Even CC has a problem keeping up. So our short visit passed too quickly as always. Even the list of chores for CC (window cleaning etc.) seemed shorter than usual. We did also fit in visits with several other of DD’s Oggorfian Clan. Space travel is a wonderful thing.
First a short interlude
The Aud One (after the passing of the Coach) had to look for an assisted living type of accommodation as she would be unable to live in and maintain the Bath House on her own, even with quite a bit of home care services. Thanks to The Don and Sister Barb (who was staying at the Bath House and helping Mom out) we were able to find a beautiful Retirement Residence and the Aud One made the move on August 27th. The next 6 weeks were quite predicatively very emotionally difficult for the Aud One, but as the time got closer to our visit on October 12th she was starting to settle in. Thankfully The Don, now retired, was close by for regular daily support visits and the rest of the kiddies phoned as often as possible.
As we would not be able to stay in the Bath House or the Retirement Residence while visiting Mom we made arrangements with The Don and Sylvie to camp out in their basement bedroom. Gee another basement! No complaints though, even if the family dog Jessie was initially somewhat leery of having us in the house, she soon came around as she could tell that we were doggy people. Well one doggy and one froggy for sure. Now back to the story.
Crash Test Mummy 2 (the Tragically Hip)
DD and CC were on the road and about an hour out of Kingston when The Don rang us up and asked if we were intending to stop and see Mom first before going to his place. HMMMM. Because if that was the plan, then Plan B would have to be activated. Seems the Aud One had a fall when going back into her room and was being transported to hospital for xrays etc. Definitely not the way to start our visit and worse for Mom, because if it was serious it would be a major setback for her.
Within a few hours we received an initial diagnosis, treatment plan and recovery plan. A fractured hip, partial hip replacement and a fairly lengthy rehabilitation but the prognosis for a full recovery was good. This information seemed pretty positive given our collective understanding that fractured hips in elderly people are difficult to recover from. We were all keeping our fingers and toes crossed.
The down side for CC and DD was that we would be leaving to go back to BC on October 22nd and would not be able to have a proper visit with Mom in her new digs. Compounding the situation were the COVID protocols at the hospital. Each patient was only allowed two named visitors, with no exemptions. As The Don was the only kid living in Kingston and had been providing pretty much all of the outside support to Mom, and would continue to do so, he was the obvious #1 choice. The Don also just happens to be the 1st born son so who were we to argue with him. Ha Ha. CC being the 2nd born son and because he always has to try harder was relegated to visitor #2.
The Covid Protocol as written was particularly hard on DD. We had spent the 2020/21 winter living (in the basement –of course) of the Coach’s and Aud One’s Bath House. During our stay there DD stepped in and un-selflishly took on the roles of cooking, doing laundry, barber/hairdresser and nurse. DD and Mom have always had a great relationship and not being able to visit Mom while we were there would be a really painful experience for them both. This was a situation that we would need to rectify if at all possible.
In the interim, on October 15th, the Aud One had her partial hip replacement done. The operation was successful and recovery would take at least a week before she could be transferred to the rehab hospital. That time frame would have Mom leaving Kingston Hospital around the time we were leaving town. CC was able to successfully plead our case to the powers that be at the hospital. DD would be allowed to take CC’s visit on the 21st as a onetime exemption from the protocol. Not the best remedy but for both DD and Mom it meant the world.
It was very difficult to leave at this point however there was not much we could do and Brother Jim could now be promoted from visitor #3 (no visits) to #2. Shortly after we left, Mom was transferred to the rehab hospital. After four weeks of rehab Mom was transferred back to her room at the Waterford on November 23rd. Skipping ahead a bit, we are happy to report that the Aud One has made a full recovery from her fall. Sadly this is Mom’s first Christmas without the Coach. Mom and the kids got together on Christmas via videoconference, and while not quite the same as being there in person, it’s far better than just a phone call. With the new Covid protocols in effect we wouldn’t have been able to be together in person regardless. Brother Jim had the honours of visiting in person.
Before closing off this section we again give our heartfelt thanks to The Don for his and Sylvie’s unwavering support to Mom during this time and also for taking us in off the streets and looking after us as well. Thanks to Brother Jim as well.
Crash Test Dummy – Pucks for Brains
Well it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out who this little snippet is about. CC of course. I also am going out of chronological order here for the sole purpose of relating the Crash Test episodes as a package. This episode actually occurred on November 12th about 2 weeks after our return from Ontario.
Back in Vernon in the winter, for the first time in over 7 years, the Captain hauled out the old hockey bag to once again come out of retirement. Like a little kid still dreaming of Stanley Cups, CC headed to the rink to join the old guys (over 60s) for a good old fashioned game of shinny. And hey, it felt pretty good being out on the blades again and given the lack of recent competition this old guy actually didn’t embarrass himself too badly.
Three days later, with one game under his belt, CC headed back to the rink thinking that as he did so well the first time out maybe this time he might even get to touch the puck. And as it turned out he did get to touch the puck. Several times in fact and hearing the cheers of the non- existent crowd (Covid protocol) CC believed he might actually score a goal. Alas this was not to happen. The next thing CC touched was the boards (with his head and shoulder – no not the shampoo) and the next thing he heard was his groans of pain as he lay splattered on the ice. CC being the dumb ass he is tried to get up and rejoin the game but this was not to be. After crawling off the ice and managing to get home reality set in, or more likely DD came home. In that the Captain could not stand, sit or move because of the pain in his back and shoulder, DD delivered him to the hospital.
It is rare thing indeed for CC to believe he needs medical treatment but hey it never hurts to once in a while get a second opinion. At this point, the problem seemed to be specifically in the back and not the shoulder. Xrays showed nothing broken but the pain was still severe. So while sitting around waiting for the doc to figure out what to do next, the Captain was given some very potent pain killers. Now the Captain does not normally take any medications, of any kind. So perhaps his body overreacts when being drugged up. Needless to say within minutes of being medicated CC broke out into a serious full body sweat, passed out and lost control of some bodily functions. YIKES.
Well this little episode caused the emergency room staff some consternation and they decided to hook the Captain up to every available medical device they had and would keep him overnight for observation plus a few chest xrays. Luckily CC made it safely through the night and was released later the next day with a clean bill of health. Only I suppose, if not being able to walk due to serious back pain and not being able to lift your arm is considered to be a clean bill of health, then the Captain was good to go.
It’s been almost 6 weeks since the crash and the back is good. Shows snow shoveling is good therapy for something. The shoulder may take a little bit longer to get there but I’m a right handed shot so a return to the rink can’t be that far off. I just need to figure out how to get my sweater over my head. (and get out of the house without DD seeing me???????? and causing me further bodily harm)
Back to British Columbia
And back to the chronological order of things. I am going to cut this piece very short as I’m sure reading fatigue has probably set in by now. CC and DD made two pits stops on the way home. A two day visit with MODD and a one day visit with Cathy and Joe in Thunder Bay. We basically raced against the weather (snow storms on the horizon) as we crossed the prairies and Alberta and managed to miss most of the bad weather as we arrived home on October 29th which gave DD a day of rest before going back to work on October 31st.
We also wanted to get home as quickly as possible for another reason. While at MODD’s we received a phone call from our dear friend Pauline letting us know that Norman (Uncle Normie) had passed. While not completely unexpected news the shock and sorrow isn’t lessened and we wanted to get home to be with Pauline. I will be doing a short post later this week for our friend, my Uncle Normie.
“Well I’m not the kind to live in the past The years run too short and the days too fast The things you lean on, are the things that don’t last Well it’s just now and then, my line gets cast Into these time passages”
And I must also make note here that the following snippets are presented somewhat in chronological order as an attempt to; avoid a void that would be devoid of incoherence. Now that I’ve cleared that up, it is early December here in Vernon BC and backtracking a bit to Al Stewart, the first two lines of Time Passages go as follows:
“It was late in December, the sky turned to snow All around the day was goin’ down slow Night like a river beginning to flow I felt the beat of my mind go”
which paints a better picture of my life here in winter.
The Garage Sale
The last time CC and DD held a garage sale was when we moved out of our house and into Eagle 5 seven years ago and began our life on the road. So one could ask, and rightfully so, just what could these kids have left that would warrant another garage sale? Well to be honest garage sale might just be a bit of a misnomer so please continue reading for the full lowdown.
While returning from Ontario in May 2020 (along the Covid Corridor) we were contacted by our Swan Lake Resort neighbours, RR and LL (see previous Blogs – Bikepacking Vancouver Island). The Cookies had just sold their RV lot and were now our ex neighbours. Our devastation (feigned or otherwise) at this news quickly evaporated upon hearing that given the Covid factor, RV lots and the like were selling like proverbial hotcakes at crepe suzette prices. The fact that our RV lot was our home base etc. etc. and selling it would require a major overhaul of our future plans did sort of give us pause, but what the hell, we’ll test the waters and list it for sale and see what happens. So back into Eagle 5 we moved and set the wheels in motion. Well actually Eagle 5’s wheels didn’t move but our planning did.
Our long range plan had always been to move back in to our house (rented out) in July 2022, so the worst case scenario was that we would live in Eagle 5 until then and if we sold the lot, no big problem!! Well like within 3 or 4 days we had several potential buyers ringing us up. One fellow just happened to be another Swan Lake Resort resident who lived just down the road from us. Not only did he want to buy our lot, he wanted to buy Eagle 5 as part of the deal.
Okay so how do we deal with this bit of a conundrum? The offer was very tempting regardless that accepting would leave us homeless as of July 1, 2022. Homeless for a year, sounds like a splendid plan except DD was starting back to work again (3 days per week) and needed a place to house her shoes etc. For some reason living out of the back of the truck didn’t appeal to her. Really!!! It would only be one step down from trailer trash (and cheap too).
Oh yeah DD just reminded me of another little item we sold. The camper. Too small for us old people to do a lot of travelling in especially for those numerous late night sojourns to the potty and without a truck a bit difficult to drag around. We were also able to sell it for what we paid for it two years ago. A no brainer I’d say.
A solution then magically presented itself. Our neighbours (just down the street from our house) Pauline and Uncle Normie just happened to have their basement suite empty and offered to rent it to us for as long as we liked. The stunned look on their faces when we accepted their offer spoke volumes (just kidding). As I have often said in my blogs we have been beyond fortunate to have so many wonderful friends who step up to help us when we need them. We have known Pauline and Uncle Normie since we moved into our house in 1996. They are like family to us and now with us moving in we would be like them having kids in the basement. Also as Pauline and Normie have been storing some of our furniture in their basement suite it is almost like being partially at home.
So this was not really like a garage sale was it. But hey there is more! Okay so we no longer have our RV lot, no longer have Eagle 5, but we still have a massive one ton Ford Super Duty 350. So did we really need this truck? Nope. So let’s get a small car and trade the truck in. Again as luck would have it our local car dealers were offering crazy money for used late model trucks. We are offered more money for the truck than we paid for it 3 years ago and had put on at least 75,000 km. We then bought a new 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid and got some cash back (that DD tried to confiscate for her shoe fund) on the deal. Everybody’s happy except DD who wanted a Toyota Rav 4 Hybrid. In hindsight she may have been right (and believe me she’s not shy about reminding me). The Tucson is a good car but has some quirky issues that had we known??????.
Like many of our recent summers in the Okanagan, the summer of 2021 will be remembered for the heat and fires. The last week of June saw sweltering temperatures in the 35C – 40C (95F – 105F) range arrive for an extended but unwanted visit with a handful of days reaching close to 45C (110F). As uncomfortable as the weather was during this time the result of the heat wave and a very dry spring did not bode well for the fire season. Now normally “fire season” does not start until early August but this year things lit up in late June and some fires continued to burn into September. A summary of the fire season can be seen here: A look back at the 2021 B.C. wildfire season. At one point (August 7th – DD and CCs Anniversary) parts of Vernon were put on evacuation alert. At times the fires could be seen burning around us. Fortunately we remained safe but too many others were not as fortunate.
Life without an RV. This just wasn’t right. After seven years of being happy Italians (no a mads – must be read with an Italian accent kids – get it??) being housebound just wasn’t going to work. We still wanted to travel and living in motels along the way wouldn’t work at all for DD. I want my own bed I can hear her wailing incessantly. So CC in desperate need of peace and quiet went out into the internet to search for a suitable RV for Queen DD. Suitable as defined by DD included: not too big and not too small, bathroom, shower, “queen size” bed of course, fridge stove, generator, solar power and the list went on and on and most importantly copious shoe storage capacity. Given the dearth and prices of RVs this royal command seemed an almost impossible task even for CC the king of shoppers. However when you are retired and living in a basement you find that you have an inordinate amount of free time and CC used his time earnestly and within a few weeks found the Queen her new palace on wheels.
What we found, and ended up buying, was a 2011 (64,000 km) Regency 24 MB (Murphy Bed) Class C motor home in excellent condition. And as a bonus the rig was built right here in the GWN. After doing a few modifications to the solar power setup we were ready to take her out on our maiden voyage.
So on September 14th we loaded up our bikes on the back of the rig and headed out to one of our all time favourite provincial parks at Shuswap Lake. At his time of year the park is sparsely populated and makes for a very peaceful and enjoyable campout. We were in luck as we found a campsite on one of the lanes that was occupied by no one but ourselves and only one or two other campers on the lanes on either side of us. The best part of this isolation is that we didn’t have to worry about angry neighbours paying us a visit to complain about DDs infamous sneezing fits.
The one downside was that fire bans were still in place for the first two nights so no campfires, however the ban was lifted on out last day so we did get to sit around the campfire on our last night in the park. I don’t even have any little calamities to chat about as everything worked fine and we got to enjoy the solitude of the forest, our bike rides and hikes. Although I do believe I thwarted a feeble attempt by DD to fold me up into the murphy bed one morning when she thought I was still asleep. Had I not been awakened by a sneezing fit I would have been rolled up with the fitted sheets. DD denies it and in reality I could have just been dreaming??? Couldn’t have asked for a better experience the first time out in a new rig. Well we possibly could have asked for a visit from a little green leprechaun handing out gold coins, but leprechauns have been restricted from travelling due to Covid so didn’t bother.