We went to the mainland to see Doris Irene, currently enjoying her ninety-fourth year in this imperfect vale of tears. The dear old thing, my beloved mother and friend, had been through a bad patch, a fall having resulted in broken bones, ankle and foot, both starboard and port. For a while during her two and a half months in hospital I wondered from far-off Victoria whether I’d laid eyes on my dear old Mum for the last time. Such premonitions were confounded by what I saw last week at Truro. Back in her own digs at Edinburgh Hall, Doris is further shrunken, now down to 89 pounds, but she gets about handily – if a little too fast – with the aid of a walker.
We spent parts of three days with mi madre. For many years my mother has been an assassin at the cribbage board. I thought it a good idea to employ crib as a check for any erosion of skill and cognitive ability that might have occurred in recent months. Over the course of our visits we played five games. Me Mum won four; she skunked me twice. I detected no erosion.
My late, long-time friend Bob Nagel was wont to say that there are wooden ships and steel ships but there are no ships like friendship. The great truth in Bob’s chestnut was on full display during our visit. Mum has a much younger friend at Edinburgh Hall – Florence is just 91 – who demonstrates in spades that life proceeds much more happily when it is garnished by gold-star friendship. I’m pretty partial to Florence myself, and admit that in contemplating the two of them – their attitude, their commitment to positive thinking – it is hard to avoid the conclusion that I am a wimp, shot through with doubt that I’d be man enough in my tenth decade to live life as bravely and brightly as Doris and Florence do.
Our B & B for the Truro visit was the Nelson Arms at the end of the Clifton Road. Don’t bother looking for the Arms in a listing of Nova Scotia hostelries. It is a private B & B run by sister Nancy and bro-in-law Don. It delivers the most perfect of arrangements: though the appointments are lavish and the hospitality grand the room rate is zero. I am partial to the million-dollar vista on the Great Bras d’Or and Kelly’s Mountain from my own front porch on Boularderie Island but I admit that the view of Cobequid Bay and the mouth of the Shubenacadie from Nancy-and-Don’s front room is second to none.
Human neighbours are scarce at the end of the Clifton Road but there are neighbours nonetheless: deer, porcupine, raccoon, even a groundhog or two. It is just my sort of community. The Nelson Arms even boasts a namesake bird beyond the front yard: pairs of Nelson’s sharp-tailed sparrows raise their young in the salt marsh beyond the well-mowed lawn, declaring their territorial imperative by bursts of song quite unlike any other. How can you beat that?
It won’t be long before Jan and I will have another opportunity to return to Colchester County. In anticipation of the next visit to Edinburgh Hall and another hangout session with Doris and her friend I am playing a lot of cribbage with Jan. She beats me too, but with stepped-up concentration on my part, focusing on boosting my killer instinct, I hope the next time I square off with Doris Irene I can manage to lose without being skunked half the time we play.