Returning from Paradise on Death’s Doorstep
When my father died in Santa Rosa Texas, my parents were in transition. They had recently sold their home – a cottage they had renovated for year-round living, but in the heart of a summer-only tourist area, 200 miles north of Toronto. Permanent neighbors were scarce.
They had bought into an over-55 subdivision in Tillsonburg Ontario, where permanent neighbors were plentiful but unmet, unpacked enough boxes to live for a few weeks before loading up the motor home and heading south.
So with no home base nor circle of close friends to return him to, the decision was made to bury my father where we were, in a tiny, out-of-the-way cemetery in La Feria Texas. We were amongst a very caring group of new-found and concerned friends, church-going, Godly people and the Reverend Earl Kilpatrick.
Though it’s not hard to get to, you’ll have to ask directions to La Feria Cemetery. Fifteen minutes from Harlingen Texas, it’s modest, to say the least, and at the end of a pot-holed, dirt road, twelve miles from the Mexican border. I don’t think I’ve been to a more peaceful and serene place in my life.
We decided to buy a second plot alongside my dad, for my mother. About five years ago, we added a third plot, for me. To many this will appear strange, a family buried in a tiny, mostly-Spanish farming town so far from any place we had ever called home. ‘Home’, though, is the key word.
I have a Birth Certificate from The Great Western Hospital in Glasgow Scotland. The details appear to be correct, though I believe it to be in the same category as Obama’s Birth Certificate: suspect. I believe really I was born in a gypsy’s wagon and have continued their wandering ways ever since. So where better to be buried than La Feria Texas? At least we’ll all be together.
I have been convinced for the past few days that I would be visiting La Feria much sooner than I had anticipated. Arriving not shoe-horned into an airline seat, but laid out flat and comfortable in a satin-lined, pine box, compliments of the weather in Bayonne, New Jersey.
My mother turned ninety on January 27th. To help her celebrate, we went on a Caribbean cruise. She flew down from Toronto to Newark, NJ., and I flew up from Atlanta. Packing for a ship when flying on an airplane is not easy, especially when you have Scottish/gypsy blood. Not wanting to pay for checked luggage, clothing had to be kept to a minimum and liquids to under two ounces.
Today in Atlanta, it’s 60 degrees (15c). I knew it would be colder in New Jersey, so I dressed warmly: a sweatshirt and a windbreaker. You’d think for someone who has walked down the canyon, snow-banked sidewalks north of Lake Superior in Thunder Bay wearing a hydro parka during the dead of winter that I would remember what ‘cold’ is. Apparently not.
Joining the vessel wasn’t bad but at the end of our trip, after having sat on the pool deck reading a book in eighty-degree sunshine, my Southern-living metabolism simply couldn’t take a day in New Jersey’s 16 degree (-9c) environment, even with a sweatshirt and a windbreaker.
With the ship’s doors open for disembarkation, Deck One was freezing. Baggage handling and retrieval was freezing. US Customs clearance in a Terminal Building with walls but no heat was freezing and the Customs officer sent me through the “Non-Resident” line with my mother, the Ferrner, where we waited for three French-speaking, Canadian ladies to figure out enough English to please the US Immigration Officer.
We walked through a wind-tunnel to the Airport Coach, which had more heat than Newark Airport, where I had a four-hour wait. By the time I got home, I was shivering so badly I could barely get my key in the doorlock. I have spent the past four days with a Man’s Cold, assuming death and a trip to La Feria Texas was nigh.
Today, however, I feel a lot better. I decided to pen this, instead of my Last Will and Testament.
How did my bundled-up, ninety-year-old mother fare? A lot better than I. Air Canada scooped her up and put her on an earlier flight, no charge. She has traveled so much, she has an arrangement with a Limo company where she calls as soon as she arrives in Toronto and a car is sent to the head of the queue to pick her up – she doesn’t wait like the common folk.
She called me from home, in Toronto, happy and healthy, just as my flight was being called in Newark.
She’ll outlive us all.Share