I pulled up to the Canadian border with a giant knot in my stomach. I had jumped through all the hoops, and was there on time for my designated appointment but I was still worried I might be denied entry. The border patrol guy was very official and I showed him my information, including my negative covid test and told him where I was going. When he told me to proceed, I was overcome with emotion and started to cry. He just looked at me and said, ”Whoa, what’s happening here?” I explained that I hadn’t been home to Canada since February of 2020. He leaned on his booth and asked who I was going to see. I told him I was going to see my mom, my mother in law and my grandmother for her 100th birthday. “100?” I nodded through my tears, “Yup!” He was genuinely happy that I was “home” and told me to hug all the ladies and have a great time.
I WAS IN CANADA!
I had been very conflicted about going to see Nana for her birthday. We had talked about it and she downplayed the importance of her birthday. With covid still rearing its ugly head, I was hesitant, BUT, I had to go! I mean, come on, turning 100 is a huge deal! I sat in bed one night and bought my tickets, rented a car and found a hotel. Done deal! I didn’t tell her, that way she couldn’t talk me out of it. I told myself even if I only got to see her once from her balcony, it would be worth it.
START THE CLOCK
Thursday Sep 16th 6 PM
Finally done with work, I gassed up the car and packed. I checked and triple checked all m my documents. Stop! I had to tell myself to put them in one place and try with all my might to remember that place!!!
Friday Sep 17th
4 AM, up and at’em. I told Dan to take a good look at me in case I can’t get back into the US. I hit the road at 6 and crossed the border at 830. I got to my mom’s place in Niagara Falls and toured her beautiful garden. Then we hit my favorite chip wagon (always time for fries), and headed to the airport in Hamilton for my 330 flight.
I was double masked and on my way to Calgary. I arrived, got the rental car and headed to my brother Mike’s to pick him up. Inside Nana’s apartment, she said hello to Mike and turned to me and asked who I was. I pulled down my mask and just grinned at the shocked look on her face.
“Yup, it’s me, Nana Banana!”
After 2 long years I got to hug my tiny grandmother and see her beautiful face in person. Of course, the tears started. It was wonderful to see her apartment with its infamous collection of blue glass and the needlework on her walls done by the various women in our family, including me.
“Make some tea!”
Have some cookies!”
She always has cookies. We visited until about 10 and then I drove my brother home and checked into the hotel about 11. It was 1 AM in NY so I was pretty pooped. I had hugged my Nana, the trip was already worth it!!!
Saturday Sep 18th
I was awake before dawn! Jet lag is tough stuff when you’re old! I got to Nana’s about 11 and she was not very perky. We visited and she napped off an on. I went and got us some A & W. I ordered the impossible burger and she could not believe how good it tasted, and we had fries too because we both love fries. At 7 pm on the button, we watched The Lawrence Welk Show. When I’m at home, I always wait until after Lawrence Welk to call and she always tells me how good the singing and dancing was. She insists that I would love it if I just gave it a try. Well folks, we watched the “Down on the Farm” episode and one of us enjoyed it way more than the other! That’s ok, we were together doing something she loved.
Sunday Sep 19th
HAPPY BIRTHDAY NANA!! Today is the big day. It was a beautiful day for the parade that my aunt had arranged. I went to her apartment and decorated her balcony. She was wearing one of the birthday skirts I sent her, a tiara and the 100 glasses. She looked adorable. I went and bought a big bunch of balloons for the car and then took my place in line to go around the block. THREE fire trucks, a gazillion cars, the mayor and a Mountie! Hell yeah, turning 100 is a huge deal! Nana stood on her balcony and waved and smiled. What an amazing experience! She is so beloved by so many and it truly warmed my heart to see the turnout for her. I went around the block 4 times and honked my horn to the point of obnoxiousness! Cause, you know, that’s what I do.
Although Sunday was a day of celebration, it was also a day of sadness for me because I was going home early the next morning. I saw her that evening and we talked about how we’d had each other and been friends for my whole life. I held her hands and marveled at how my hands were aging like hers did at my age. Reality is hard. I may never see those hands again. They have done so much in 100 years: baked, farmed, made beautiful music on numerous instruments, hugged her family, and answered the phone every Saturday night right after Lawrence Welk to tell me how good it was. I told her how much I love her and hugged her maybe a little too hard.
Monday Sep 20th
4 AM wake up, 6 am departure for the airport, 930 flight. Hmmm, this all felt vaguely familiar! I arrived back in Hamilton and there was my Mom in her trusty popemobile to pick me up. I went for a quick visit with my mother-in-law and headed to the border with the same knot in my stomach that I had 3 days ago.
The border patrol guy asked me why I was in Canada. When I told him I had been there to celebrate my grandmother’s 100th birthday, he said, “Jeez, what do you buy someone who’s 100?
I told him I bought her sparkly 100 glasses and he responded with, “Yeah that….or booze!” And with that, he waved me through and I was back in the US and heading home.
I arrived home around 9 pm and called Nana to tell her I had made it safely. We had a good laugh about what the border patrol agent had said.
Just like that, the 100 hours were over. The celebration was over. The trip was over. But, tucked away is the sweet memory of me holding her hands, a memory that I can visit at any time or I can just look down at my own hands and see hers in mine
I love you forever Nana, even if you did make me watch Lawrence Welk.