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A Grandchild Odyssey

Part 1: To the cottage... with or without Markus

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Our oldest grandchild, Markus Harwood-Jones, is twenty-six, and graduates from Ryerson University in Toronto on June 6.  Graduates summa cum laude, I might add, with an “A+” in all subjects, as well as an “A+” on an undergraduate thesis, about which the professor has said, “...this thesis is an accomplishment that far exceeds expectations for someone at your level in formal education....”

Long ago, knowing that Markus’ graduation was coming up, and well before those astonishing grades were revealed, Heather and I laid plans to go to Toronto to celebrate the big day of mortarboard and parchment.

Then it occurred to us, “Since we’ll be in Eastern Canada anyway, why not go up to the cottage?  Markus loves the cottage, so we’ll make the trip a “graduation gift” and take our graduate with us, for the week prior to the ceremony.

Cementing this plan was correspondence from an official from the Québec Department of the Environment.  Our primitive forest cabin must needs be inspected for water system issues, apparently – someone in the bureaucracy having sensed that we are not in compliance with environmental regulations.  So it was arranged that we would meet an inspector on May 31.  With or without Markus, we were now committed to being at the cottage this week.

But, out of the blue, Markus was invited to present a paper at Congress2017 – an enormous learned conference of some kind.  What a coup, especially for a young scholar who is, for a few more days, still an undergraduate!  But the date on which Markus must present that paper is this coming Friday, June 2!  Smack in the middle of our planned week at the lake!

This news came too late for us to change our plans, having committed ourselves to be here for that inspector!  We therefore flew to Ottawa on Monday (it’s much closer to our cottage than is Toronto), rented a car at the airport, and are now ensconced in our forest cabin.

Today, the environment inspector came, and officially declared our primitive grey-water handling system to be contrary to regulation.  According to the rules, we would have to install a complex upgrade – no matter that the necessary digging and concrete and machinery would cause more environmental damage than we could make in a hundred years!  And, even more foolish, the upgrade would be required, despite the fact that repeated tests of the lake water directly in front of our cabin consistently show the lowest level of contaminants for the entire shoreline!  The inspector herself seems kindly, and she may even be inclined to plead our case to the bureaucratic mandarins above her, but I am not optimistic, and definitely not happy.  It doesn’t take the gift of prophecy to predict that there will be either expense, or inconvenience, or both, in our future.

My disposition is not helped, either, by the fact that it has been consistently cold and rainy since we arrived here.

The one bright light is that Markus, not to be cheated out of some time at the cottage, will come here with a friend on Friday, after that academic paper has been presented, and then we all will go to Toronto in time for the graduation exercises.

And, because Heather and I are here – albeit with a black mark on our water system – we will be able to attend a 50th wedding anniversary celebration.  The Rev’d Peter Asbil and I are both “honorary assistants” at a nearby Anglican parish – leading worship when the full-time priest is away – and he and his wife, Doreen, have become good friends of ours, so it will be a treat to join them as they mark their marital milestone.

But this blog entry is “A Grandchild Odyssey” – not a water lament, or a wedding hallelujah – and it is so named for good reason.  Our daughter, Rachael – who, as you most likely know, lives in California – is due to give birth on June 10.  Thus, a brand-new grandchild is expected to come into the world, and claim a spot in our hearts, a mere twenty-six years after Markus, her oldest cousin, did!

So, somehow we have to visit Markus at our Québec cabin, attend Markus’ graduation in Toronto, and be in California for the arrival of the baby.

If Rachael heads to the labour room before we’re done with Markus’ grad, then Heather will high-tail it down to California, alone; I will follow, once oldest grandkid has been properly honoured.

Winnipeg, to Ottawa, to the lake, to Toronto, then to California!  Yes, that certainly qualifies as an “odyssey.”

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