Our 25th Wedding Anniversary (For What It’s Worth)

Having suffered the slings and arrows of 25 years of marriage, Nat and I decided to celebrate by taking four days off with a mini-trip to Stratford. Having been there several years ago, we had a pretty nice time despite my choice of plays to see – Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Being the first Shakespearean play Nat has ever seen he was at a loss. Having booked the play myself, at the time I felt it was one of Shakespeare’s easier plays to understand. I was wrong.

This trip I booked a Noel Coward play, Private Lives which I knew was a good comedy. So we packed our bag and decided to leave Monday morning for that 4 hour drive via the back roads and farmland, which Nat loves.

Monday morning arrived. Nat packed the car, along with my Walker for safety and convenience, as I finished off with that “last minute” stuff. The tone for our little trip was soon to be set as I lost a bottom tooth. One of two teeth that my bottom dentures attach to. My tongue was now being scratched by steal hooks and could get caught in the gaping hole where that little tooth once sat. There was nothing I could do. I would have to endure the next four days trying to eat meals I was so looking forward to.

Once on the road, we took our first stop in Caledonia at Tim Horton’s for a quick bite to eat. We were back on the road and endured numerous road works as we arrived in Shakespeare (just east of Stratford) early afternoon. The Shakespeare Inn has seen better days, but was clean, friendly and in a convenient and less expensive area than Stratford. Our room was smaller than we were use to and apparently stuck in the past. At first we were unable to connect to the internet with my iPad, had no bedside clock, no set-up for coffee or tea and wondered about the Satellite.

After unpacking we took a small drive into Stratford to refamiliarize ourselves with this quaint and theatrical city. We stopped and walked around the downtown core, stepped into one of our favourite stores, The Scottish Shop, where I had to buy a Scottish Thistle pendant and a Highland Cow pillow. As usual, it was difficult to restrain myself from buying more, as I knew I wanted to save what I had for my other favourite store.

As we needed a small cheap clock for the room, we took a quick look at the WalMart store on our way home. Not exactly the same set-up as our store in Ridgeway, we were taken aback when we were told they don’t sell clocks!!! I explained I could find all kinds of them at our store at home, but the clerk explained the store was down-sizing or re-organizing. We left disappointed.

After great research we were dumb-struck where to have our evening meal. As it happens, the owner of the Inn told us about an extremely popular restaurant in Millbank and showed us on the map exactly where it was. We decided this may be our best bet for the evening and plugged the info into the GPS. While on the road, we began to wonder if we were headed to No Man’s Land” It was further north than anticipated. We soon arrived at Anna Maes, a restaurant and bakery where home cooked meals and homemade breads and goodies were prepared by the Amish and the aroma was wonderful. We were escorted to a table and ordered a couple of sandwiches that came with French fries and enjoyed a small but tasty meal. It was obvious this place was well known for miles around by its size. We were tempted to buy something from the bakery, but knew it would be hard to enjoy during our trip or even save for home. We paid our bill and headed back to our little room. The joke was on us, however, as Nat took a piece of homemade pie back to the Inn to have for his evening snack, but arrived home and discovered we had no fork!!

Arriving back at the Inn, we approached the Owner again having told him of our dilemma. He soon went to fetch us a fork, and also informed us that we did have the internet for free and where Nat could get a cup of tea or coffee when wanted. A little nook hidden around a corner in the lobby! With that, we soon settled in and began to watch the Federal Election results.

Tuesday arrived after a half decent sleep. With a little more research, we drove down to a restaurant in Stratford, Demetre’s, a family restaurant with lovely atmosphere, for what turned out to be a great breakfast/brunch. Two eggs, bacon/sausage, etc., home fries and homemade toasted bread. Delicious, especially the toast!! Nat and I were impressed and would return for our evening meal before the play later that night.

Not having found a clock, we drove across the street to see if the Dollarama in the Festival Mall had one. We had wandered through this nice Mall previously and checked out a couple of stores. Winners was a much cleaner store than the WalMart, so we walked around while Nat, this time, found something he could use. Dollarama also had the perfect little bedside clock which we purchased and then headed over to the Avon Theatre in the downtown area where we could case the joint to find available parking, so Nat could get his bearings without any surprises. We then took a walk along the Avon River, but the wind had picked up and the weather was starting to turn, with rain in the forecast for later, we drove back to the Inn for some thinking time.

Once we arrived back at the Inn and while unpacking our clock, I realized we didn’t buy any batteries. The old brain was playing its tricks again. Nat decided he could pop back into Dollarama on our way to the theatre later and all would be right with the world.

We were dressed and ready for our evening at the theatre. Dressy casual, we felt good as we left for our night out. We drove back to Demetre’s where we both ordered a simple Chicken dinner. Simple but home cooked – Chicken, Baked Potato, Carrots. It was delicious and not over whelming like so many restaurants now – too much on the plate that Nat and I can’t finish. We enjoyed this meal with great abandon. Again, homemade bread for a starter. Bonus!!

We finished our meal exactly at the right time, as we drove across the street where Nat picked up a package of batteries, and then downtown to find a parking spot. Luck was on our side as we were able to park right around the corner from the Theatre and were only steps away. Our seats were in the balcony and as this old broad is still struggling with her balance, we took the elevator up, but had to finish by walking up some stairs to our front row seats. The view was perfect. The play was enjoyable and Nat had a great time watching the Set Decorators do their thing during intermission. He had done that exact job earlier in his life at Brock University Theatre. He was fascinated at the extra features the Decorators were able to make use of nowadays. Aww, memories!!

We arrived back at the Inn by 11:00 PM, and went straight to bed. Our 25th Anniversary evening had, at least, been enjoyable. Despite the extremely crappy mood I was in during that day, the play had seemed to lighten my spirits. I made so many screw-ups during the day with my memory, I knew I was driving Nat crazy, but he endured, as always, trying his damndest to help out as much as he could.

It was a “no brainer” that we would return to Demetre’s for our breakfast/brunch on Wednesday morning. Our plan would be to have our morning meal and return to the downtown core in the afternoon for some walking about. It was a given that I wanted to visit my other favourite Stratford store Indigena, with its Native art, sculptures, jewellery, clothing and blankets.

Maxine Noel is a former workmate of mine while living in Edmonton. It was apparent from our first meeting of her desire to return to her Native routes. This woman opened my world. She taught me to downhill ski, and we both loved our adventures while skiing in Jasper and Banff. She has a great sense of humanity, humour and love. She (and her first husband) returned to Cochrane, Ontario. She then headed south and within time soon began to draw attention to her beautiful paintings while living in Stratford. She has become such a success she’s been awarded the Order of Canada in recognition of her paintings and her support of the missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. I purchased a painting of her’s while in Stratford the last time, and I had to see what else she has done. She’s now expanded to doing T-shirts, wallets and small prints, so I purchased a T-shirt “Not Forgotten” in memory of those missing and murdered indigenous women. I’ll cherish it forever and I’ll carry my memories of Maxine with me whenever I wear the shirt.

The rest of our afternoon was spent quietly walking around the shops while rehashing our mini-getaway and discussing the trip home tomorrow.

With the balance of Wednesday ahead of us, we returned to the Inn, packed away the purchases I made, and decided to go for supper. Where else, might you ask??? Well, Demetre’s would be my reply. Another nice meal – Nat the Perch and me the 6 oz. steak. Not my best choice with one bottom tooth missing, but I endured. Guess what I have to do when we get home??

Thursday morning arrived. We had mainly packed the evening prior, so we drove back down to Demetre’s for breakfast, returned to the Inn, finished the last minute packing and started our journey home.

As with all trips Nat and I take, we had our little foibles regarding the GPS and managed to take a couple of wrong turns, but were soon put back on track and arrived home by early afternoon and to a dire message we did not expect.

The message was from our friend, Floris. Her husband, Cecil, had taken a fall before we went on our trip, and after going through some rough times, medically, had passed away while we were gone. We could hardly understand her words through the tears that were swelling up, but managed to understand her words he’s gone”. I called her back as soon as I could and it was obvious she was still too upset to talk. Having been married for 67 years, this couple were devoted to each other, and had only been apart for one night during that entire time. After calming down for a second, I told her to email me when she was ready and let me know if there was going to be any memorial.

Nat and I attended Cecil’s memorial service this morning. Standing with her son, Floris was still struggling to go through the gestures of greeting their friends and family and it broke my heart to watch. This was a time when you still want to be alone and suffer in silence with your memories. A necessary evil to go through the motions of thanking friends for their thoughts and prayers, Floris stayed as strong as she could and when everyone gathered together in the Church’s dining room, we gave Floris a big hug and sadly had to say our goodbyes. Other life events had reared their heads that we had to attend to. I asked Floris to give me a call whenever she felt she could talk. We haven’t seen each other in quite some time and both wanted to get caught up with the news.

With such a loving 67 years of life together, it will take Floris a long time to recover from her loss. Nat and I think about her all of the time and am at least thankful that she lives with her youngest daughter who will give her the support and help she may want and need. Our friendship will always be there for Floris along with any support we can give, too.

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