I've gone and returned since my last post. Flying home to Saskatchewan, renting a car and proceeding to drive all over the province. My main reason for the trip was to check in on my dad, who is in long term care in Moose Jaw, but I also wanted to visit as many people as I could during the week.
And boy, did I ever visit. I was up with the sun (in June, in an east-facing bedroom without curtains, that means 6AM at the latest), in the car and on the road before the first schoolbell rang. Either over to Magpies Kitchen for a coffee and visit with Sharron and Shannon, or a quick stop at Tim's for some poor but cheap coffee then on the highway.
I put over 1500km on the car in 6 days, but the most excitement came within two hours of picking it up. I had just arrived at my mother-in-law's house, sat down on the back patio to watch the Blue Jay's game with her and a man came around the corner asking whether I owned the blue Nissan parked in front of the house. His son was riding his bike down Campbell Street, lost control, and ran into the back of the rental car. The taillight cover was broken, lots of scratches down the side of the car, but the biggest damage was to the kid's self esteem (he was scared much more than physically injured) and my wallet (the car company dinged me over $2200 while we wait for the insurance claim to get figured out. ) Argh. But I called in the accident and proceeded to drive all over anyway.
Dad's looking good. Really good. Remarkably good. Living independently on the farm was too much for him, everyone but Dad knew it, but there was no convincing him to change until a heart attack last August put him in the hospital. He's still not convinced, but the proof is in his eyes and his face. He's getting three meals a day, has nurses and roommates and neighbours to talk to and a professional sorting out his medication. Dad turned 85 in March and looks better than he has in several years. I went to see him nearly every day, meeting his lunchtime table-mate Don, meeting the nurses, and sitting with Dad in the courtyard for some long visits. He helped me remember some of my family tree and I helped him fix his razor. We haven't been able to just sit and visit for so long; I cherished every minute we were together.
On Sunday, after visiting with Dad I drove south of Moose Jaw to where my grandparents are from, over the Spring Valley hills to Crane Valley (the Dyck side of the family) and Kayville (the Silverson side.) Neither village really exists anymore. Crane Valley school closed in 2007 and it's slowly being destroyed by vandals, and the main street buildings have been demolished one by one. I put the population of Crane Valley at three houses and Kayville at one house. Maybe a dozen people, tops. And those two places are 30km apart! It's real farm country down there.
The area had some huge rains just before I arrived, so the countryside was greener than I've ever seen it. All around me, the land was bursting with new growth. I drove slowly, with my windows down, so I could listen to the songbirds singing in the tall grass around the full sloughs and dugouts. There was far, far more wildlife than people. Red-wing blackbirds, meadowlarks, prairie dogs, a few massive hawks, and countless ducks. I even saw a few groups of deer and a coyote too. All the cattle had healthy looking calves and the few horses I saw had healthy looking colts. This part of the world may not have many people, but it's bursting with life.
We drove these roads often when I was a kid. The family church outside Kayville (Holy Trinity Orthodox Church) held services in the summer months and we'd drive down to hear Father Sam do the service in Romanian and then have a huge pot-luck lunch in with Grandpa and Grandma Silverson and all my cousins. I remember how we'd have to wait for Father Sam to have a smoke, use the outhouse and visit with the men before making his way across the churchyard to the hall (aka 'the house') to bless the meal. When you're 10 years old, it seemed like he took hours!Sometimes, after lunch, we'd drive west to Crane Valley to visit with Grandpa and Grandma Dyck as well. Those were fun visits. I was scared of Grandpa Dyck but Grandma was the best. We called her 'Grandma Tease' because she would always play with us and get us laughing, while Dad and Grandpa played cribbage at the table. Then she'd give our Auntie Ellen some money and Ellen would take my sister and I to Mrs. Moriden's store on Main Street for candy.
But all that's changed now. All that really remains (and is still maintained) are the cemetaries. So on this trip, I found them both. Grandpa and Grandma Dyck and my Uncle Peter in the Crane Valley cemetary and my mom, grandparents and great-grandparents in the Holy Trinity cemetary. I'm not religious but I am spiritual, and I spent some time at both places reconnecting with my relatives.On Wednesday I headed north to Saskatoon to visit with Tracey at Christie's Mayfair Bakery, my best bud Kirby and his fiance Grace, and then drove on to Prince Albert to visit my sister and her husband. Great visiting all around.
The land in Saskatchewan changes as you drive north and I love the transition from bald prairie to slightly rolling hills to the start of the northern forests by the time you get to Prince Albert. PA isn't even the midpoint of the province, but it's the gateway to the parklands that go on and on, all the way to Lake Athabasca. We only went as far as Little Red Park after supper, across the Saskatchewan River from downtown Prince Albert, but I already felt like I was on the edge of a great forest. And a massive mosquito bog. We didn't stay long.
I loved this trip. Yes, it was a lot of driving. Yes, it was a lot of very bad food, often eaten in the driver's seat. Yes, I am relying on my credit card insurance coming through with this rental car. And yes, I am very, very glad to be home again. But I can't deny that my roots are in Saskatchewan, on those vast, wide open prairies, where there aren't a lot of people but they are my family and my friends. Part of me is still in Saskatchewan and always will be.