Friday, November 22, 2013
....... an amazing adventure.....
..as if someone was watching over me.....
I left London early Thursday morning to avoid traffic and to get to my destination at Pearson airport. I have a thing about crowds....I avoid them when I can. The flight to Montreal leaves at 9 am but I am through security by 6. I find a cozy seat and play a game on my iPad to pass the time. A few travel weary passengers lay across the seats but soon the ones around them fill with new passengers....an ebb and flow of coming and going....I am going to Montreal to see my son graduate from boot camp and to meet up with my sister Patricia. Will has been in St. Jean since August - 14 weeks of hard, soul challenging work.
I land 44 minutes later after embarking on WestJet. I would have preferred to fly out of London but the costs were out of my budget and driving through the work week would have been just shy of hell. With only hand carry on, I left the airport to pick up a rental car. The only offerings they could give me were three vans....I don't do vans...I'll wait.....but before I could take a seat in the empty office, a car suddenly appeared. A silver Elantra....perfect!! With my iPhone in hand, I punch in the destination on Google Maps....wish I had used the iPhone App (used it on my way back - voice instructions rock!!), and headed out into a confusing concrete jungle of overpasses and poor road surfaces. There is no comparison to Ontario and I will not complain about our well maintained roads again!! Peering out the window at aging and crumbling structures that have to sustain the constant flow of traffic is scary at best....never mind the drivers trying to pass you from the right when you have already signalled your intentions to merge right well in advance....welcome to Montreal....I veer into the intended lane forcing the other driver to back off. There is no horn beeping or finger flaying out windows....one thing I do not miss about Ontario drivers.
I would finally arrive at my destination after passing the turn off twice....never could find my way out of a wet paper bag...and found a parking spot at the front entrance of the hotel...the clerk smiled up at me and the frazzled, but friendly grin told me she was still playing catch-up with the rush. It is 10:15 am and there are no rooms ready.....oh wait, one just came up!! I head up to my room and text Patricia...they are less than an hour away. I text them my room number and head into the shower where I stay for an extra few minutes to wash the fatigue away. I change into a pantsuit and have enough time to check emails before a knock on the door. OMG hugs all around!!! So good to see Patricia and Alan and so deeply grateful that they have come to celebrate Williams biggest day!!! Their room isn't ready and thankfully are able to use mine to ready themselves for the ceremony. She has brought me a few gifts....a book written by a woman named Melanie Hayden-Sparks, who had been diagnosed with invasive ductile cancer and who recently published a book based on a group she started 'GradUit Journey' . Patricia says Melanie's personality reminded her of me when she spoke to Melanie and so she purchased the book and had Melanie sign it. I will read it this weekend. She also gifted me with an earring and necklace set. I brought her a handmade bag and a thumb drive full of pics!!!
I love practicing my French but the fellow staring at me across the counter at the Burger King next to the hotel has no idea what I have just asked for....his coworker tells him my order...each village, town and city around the world tends to start with all the best of intentions to create a base language that everyone will understand until the local culture gets a hold of it and bastardizes it to no end. I get fries and a cup of water to quell the hunger pangs and we head out in their car towards base.
The complex is massive and is literally one giant building - a city of sorts. We snake around the colossal complex and head towards the drill hall where the ceremony will take place. We have arrived in time but search for a seat in the bleachers. There is a French one and an English one. We find ourselves at the top bench in the English speaking side.....which ironically would be right across William when they align themselves in their platoons!!!! Such a proud moment for each of us.
The ceremony was long...about 15 minutes too long for the soldier three over from Will who dropped his rifle on the floor a second before his face followed it onto the hard concrete surface. Out came the stretcher and the graduate would be hauled away to the infirmary to celebrate his achievement....at least when he finally regains consciousness. Will says he was up most of the night polishing his shoes....
After a reception and photos, the crowd slowly thinned out and Will was able to introduce us to his new friends. In everyone's life, there comes along a person who changes your life by impacting it in a positive way....that person came in the form of Master Seaman Jenkins whose supportive and kind words showed us how much he cared about my son. He pushed Will to achieve his goals and let him know that he has what it takes to go far in his chosen career. I thanked him and expressed my gratitude for his support. He asked Will to keep in touch.
The evening rounded off with a bunch of drinks at the Boston Pizza next door to our hotel. What do you know, we made it for the two-for-one drink deal!!! The restaurant was packed with graduates and their families...some recruits had children, were married to other military personnel or were much older and were seeking a more secure career. We had a lovely dinner with lots of laughs and then, Alan and Patricia presented Will with a gift. A beautiful watch perfect for a graduate going into Artilliary. Will gave hugs and thanks. He is so pleased we were able to make it to be with him....in the hotel room, we called Max on FaceTime so that Will could speak to the rest of the family!!! I am so grateful.
It was hard saying bye...at least until Christmas time when we get to see him for a few weeks....until then son - I love you more than there are birds...more than there are bees....I love you for forever and beyond...I am so deeply proud of you.
This morning I am at the airport....it is 4:20 am and I am lost!!! The iPhone got me to the airport but I cannot find the parking garage where I rented the car. I pull around a corner and there is a security vehicle parked to the side. I pull around him and park. "Where am I going?" He smiles at me and in perfect English asks me if I would like to follow him? Absolutely!!!! This angel, sent to help me led me right to the drop-off zone and with a flash of lights and me madly waving thanks out the window, he was off to his next mission. He would be happy to know that I helped a man with his luggage when I saw him struggling to manage two cases bent on going in opposite directions. I simply smiled at the trailing male as the rest of the group he was with moved ahead. I get him to the top deck of the airport just outside of departures and made my way into the security line-up. I have not taken a shower this morning and my ragged chemo hair is hidden under a hat. The dark rings and almost invisible eyebrows must have looked off to the clerk now staring into my face. She grabs at a wand and 'sniffs' my carry on bag and asks me questions about liquids or other items I might need to declare. The mere mention of the cosmetics in my bag must have sent off alarms in her head. She inserts the wand into the narcotics machine and looked mildly surprised that it cleared. She pointed me over to the X-ray machine and caught the attention of security. Great, I think I should have listened to my inner voice and just put the make-up on anyway!!! I do not want to get into the X-ray machine for obvious reasons but not wanting to cause a commotion (I have a vivid imagination), I step into the machine and follow the instructions. The security guard is suspicious of the yellow patch glowing on the X-ray monitor just over my chest. I look into his eyes and indicate that I have had radiation treatments and that I am a cancer patient. He raises his eyebrows and waves me onward. I can hear a quiet apology. I am perplexed as to why it is showing up almost 4 years after the procedure. I make a mental note to ask my oncologist in a few weeks.......... I have often heard that to save my life with the procedures they use might one day take my life...... good thing I opted out of the last chemo treatment..... I suppose only time will tell.
I am off on my flight back to Toronto.... and the lady sitting next to me is an airline stewardess who is travelling via plane to Esquimault to work. She tells me that she has been a stewardess for 19 years and is looking to change her career. She notes that 1 out of 3 women will have cancer in her career. I look at her and let her know that I have just finished my second round of a continuing journey and perhaps what I am about to tell her about me will inspire her to make the change sooner than later. We part less than an hour later.... changed by a chance meeting.
I will be teaching today a few hours after getting home.
Thank you to everyone for making this journey one to remember.