Finding Family

Old family photosPeople react to death in many different ways. Sudden deaths are perhaps most difficult, leaving family and friends to suffer the shock as well as the grief. Expected death may trigger feelings from anger, to loss, to relief. What if the death is that of a parent who has lived long and well and whose passing can be considered a blessed release from a debilitated illness or of long suffering.

Such was the end of my mother’s struggle from a stroke that had left her without speech and unable to support her own body for six years. My father had already passed on, leaving me face to face with my own mortality.

As her grandchildren assembled with the rest of the family and her many friends, it occurred to me that my sister and I had suddenly become the “older generation.” I am the eldest daughter. Did my place in the family devolve upon me any responsibility?

For most of my adult life I had been busy getting an education, raising three children, running a small business, and responding to community appeals for volunteer assistance that my flexible schedule allowed. Small changes in work and family commitments had more recently left a few more hours of free time. I began to contemplate my place in the family web and what this all meant.

As for all those who are left when someone dies, decisions about personal effects of the deceased must be made and a lifetime collection of “things” sifted through. This process had already begun when my parent’s home was sold and they had each moved into a long-term care residence. Now there were only several boxes stored in my basement that my sister and I could attend to at our leisure.

Rifling through the boxes I found three main items of interest. Of course, there was a lifetime collection of photograph albums that my sister and I laughed and cried over. My folks had taken pictures at significant events even when they did not have much money. Mom recorded family holidays and visits to special people in their (and our) lives. But she had also been the repository of other albums that had belonged to her mother, my grandmother, my dad’s sister, my aunt, when each had died.

Two photographs from the belongings of my aunt sparked the greatest interest. One was a 4” by 6” photo of a stern woman in white, standing at a table where other white-clad younger women with caps stood. She seemed to be in charge and the back of the picture was dated and stamped by a firm in Norway. Was this my Grandmother Gunhild?

My First Travel Experience

Coastline at sunsetI am in the process of writing a large travel book, that I hope you will enjoy as each section is completed. With the first six travel events listed I can generalize that most were cruises. But before I begin the text of describing these travel adventures, I want to tell you about my life before them. Think of this as an introduction to my travel stories.

I was born in a Vancouver, British Columbia hospital. When Mom’s doctor decided we were both well enough to travel, my mother bundled me up and took me to the Union Steamship docks. There we boarded the Chelosin bound northward for Port Neville. That first cruise, stopping along the way, took two days, and we finally arrive at the government dock.  My father was waiting there with his small boat, ready to take us farther up the inlet to our float-house home.

At six years of age, I began correspondence school, taught by my mother. Printed lessons were sent from Victoria every two weeks, and returned to Victoria when they had been completed. By the time I was nine years old Forberg Logging had removed all the timber allowed from that hillside location. Our floating house was then towed south to another land base, pulled off the float and positioned on to land in Rock Bay. Here I could actually attend a real school. The single classroom consisted of 28 students, including seven grades, all taught by one teacher alone.

High school was not available in Rock Bay where we lived, so for the next four years I attended school in a small coastal town, (Campbell River) boarding each year with a different family. With only 400 students enrolled, the school was not yet accredited, which meant all senior students were required to write final exams for their courses. Encouraged by my instructors I completed the application forms for a substantial scholarship. Two weeks later with shock and surprise, I was the chosen applicant to receive a five-year university education.

Surrey International Writers Conference

Those of you who enjoy writing, or at least appreciate reading works of others, may enjoy learning about an excellent opportunity to be immersed in both endeavours.

I attended the Surrey International Writers Conference. I stayed at the Sheraton Vancouver Guilford that has been our host hotel for all but the first two years of this thirty-year-old event. Because of COVID the planners had to go partly to Zoom-style recordings. They are available to registered attendees for 30 days following the in-person sessions.

In their report to attendees the committee organizers wrote that there had been presenters and attendees from nine provinces. Additionally, there were attendees from 28 of the United States. People attended from at least 14 countries: Canada, Australia, China, England, France, Germany, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, Switzerland, Trinidad and the United States. “It all made for a superb lineup of 63 presenters, 46 in person and 17 online.”

This 31st anniversary of the Surrey Writers Conference concluded Sunday afternoon after a four-day blended in-person and virtual conference. In closing the organizers stated, “It was a pleasure to constantly hear about connections forged, inspirations generated, and eschewing, ‘see you in Surrey next year.’”

A well respected and favourite presenter, Robert Dugoni, bequeathed us with the SIWC tag line in his keynote speech about 10 years ago, “This day we Write!” I have a leather notebook with that saying.

There are many examples of how the conference is a labour of love for the co-chairs, Ursula Maxwell Lewis and the conference coordinator, Kathy Chung. I look forward to attending again next October.