Six days into my trip to Canada, my father Arnis died. Sad as it was, I consider myself fortunate to have been with him for his last few days. If this had happened while I was in China, there was no way I could have been there with him. As it was, Dad died with all his children and his wife at his side. He was also able to see his daughter-in-law Jenny and his grandson Tony before he passed away
Dad was able to hear Tony call him Grandpa.
Dad told me a story, a few days before he died, of a time when we were in Germany (1964-67) when I was being carried on his shoulders and became entangled in some overhead obstacle -- tree branches. Dad told me he couldn't figure out right away what I was complaining about and kept waling. I told him of a similar episode when I was carrying Tony on my shoulders in Wuxi and walked him into a overhead wire.
Sadly, Dad didn't quite make it to his 80th birthday which would have been in July and to his 50th Wedding anniversary which would have in August.
I wish to thank all those who have sent me and my mother condolences. It is very much appreciated. Thanks to my blog, I have received condolences from some far flung places on this planet.
This trip to Canada, only my second since 2004, has become one of deep reflection for me. Thinking of my relationship with my father and my family and this country of Canada, I am filled with regrets. So many things I wish I could have done differently, and yet I somehow have Jenny and Tony. Life seems to me to be a series of episodes over which we have some choice but not much control. I remember fleeing Brandon and Winnipeg because I didn't accomplish much of anything.
So much I didn't do for my Dad when he was alive; and so much I didn't say about him when I did a eulogy.
The first thing that struck me when I came back to Canada: a large Tim Horton's cup of coffee is the size of a Big Gulp, or at least what I remember a Big Gulp being. The second thing? People in Canada are so fat. And they are fat in ways I didn't think was possible. I saw a fat woman whose body was shaped like a diamond: She was narrow at her head and feet level but in the middle, she had easily a fifty inch waist.
Besides coming to see my Mom and Dad, I came to Canada to eat and shop. I needed shoes and I bought three pairs. I also took two pairs my father won't be using. I bought a Winnipeg Jets cap (bearing their original NHL logo – I hate the new one.) I ate Mozza Burgers from A&W and fries with gravy (not available in China) from KFC. I ate a dozen crusty rolls from Safeway in one evening. I also drank about ten bottles of Sleeman's Honey Lager. I didn't smoke a cigarette – they are too expensive.
I have spent most of my time in Canada in Brandon, Manitoba to be with my Mom.
Jenny has passed her time here by shopping. She doesn't much care for the scenery: it is too flat and there are a lot of trees. I have to admit, I share her boredom. An hour of the flatness seen from the highway between Brandon and Winnipeg can be quite the sight if you haven't seen it in a while. But only for so long. The drive between Brandon and Winnipeg must be the longest two hours one can spend on the planet if you have to do it on a regular basis.
I paid a visit to the Brandon Armories. I hadn't been there since 1987. It seemed a little smaller than I recalled but not that much smaller. I wish to thank Gordon Sims for giving me a tour of the 26 Field Regiment RCA museum in the building. If you are a military buff, I recommend going to it. The museum is compact and yet full of interesting things.
Tony has occupied himself, when not on the computer, with riding his bicycle and playing with his diggers in one of Grandma's flower beds.
The Keystone Centre, the 6,000 seat home of the Brandon Wheat Kings, has a new name thanks to Corporate sponsorship. The locals, I am told, still call it the Keystone.
I have seen Immigrants from Africa, China and India here in Brandon. The makeup of Brandon's population has changed since I left.
I am typing parts of this entry in the backyard of my Mom's house. Tony is playing in the backyard . He refuses to go outside without supervision.
A strong gust of wind forced the garage side-door to flap open. I quickly closed it. Tony was inside the garage and he started bawling – he was terrified. I opened the door and he ran out and didn't calm down for two minutes.
My cousin's husband Pat, the Irishmen, says the world is going to pot. Being a retired bank manager, he has had a field-day discussing the monstrous imbecilities of what has happened in Europe and America.
I watched a live hockey game on television for the first time in eight years. Other than the goalie for the New Jersey Devils, I don't recognize any of the players.
Everyone in Canada dresses horribly. Going through my father's photo albums, I see that people stopped dressing nicely during the 1970s. My father, when he was a young man, dressed far better casually than I did for my wedding.
The weather in Brandon has been sometimes cool (in the tens) and hot (in the thirties). (Temperatures are in Celsius in Canada.)