By PAT WATSON
Maria and Joe’s plans to welcome Maria’s father, Ol’ Joe, back to Toronto for Christmas suddenly became altered by a storm front moving from the American Midwest, heading east. Joe found out when double-checking flight arrival times on the Internet that Ol’ Joe’s flight from Piarco Airport in Port of Spain was now headed to Ottawa. It was clear to Maria what they had to do next.
“So they are going to fly around the storm and land at Ottawa International Airport. But, Maria, what makes you think that we are going to have any better success driving there?”
“But Joe, we can’t very well let my dad alone in Ottawa Airport in his condition.”
“Maria, Ol’ Joe had that stroke years ago and I haven’t heard him complain one word about it. You hear him on the phone; he is speaking pretty well now. I think you worry far too much about him.”
Joe knew he was on the losing end of this conversation because once Maria had her mind made up there was no getting her to change it. So when she said that they were going to have to drive to Ottawa to get her father, he knew it was only a matter of time before he had to get in the car and begin driving because she was going to go with or without him; and there was no way on Christmas Eve that he was going to let his wife – now eight months pregnant – get into a car all by herself and drive to Ottawa in weather that was promising to become a snowstorm. Anyway, the weather was not actually much of a problem…yet.
Hours out of Toronto, driving towards Belleville with snow lightly blowing, Joe could not see why the flight had been diverted, but Ol’ Joe’s arrival in Ottawa was still some time away. As long as they could keep up the pace they could stay ahead of the storm and get to Ottawa before Ol’ Joe’s flight touched down. By the time they were on the other side of Belleville, Joe was comfortable with the decision. After all, the old man did have a stroke, and Maria was right. They had to go and get him; otherwise Ol’ Joe would have to sit out the storm, and even Christmas, in the Ottawa airport.
Joe and Maria’s young sons, Matthew and Marcus, were in good hands with Gran’B. Matthew, as the older one, assured his dad that he would take care of her. But it was still uncomfortable timing.
Just then Maria’s voice broke into his thoughts. She had been talking all along but Joe’s mind was on the road, the snow, the prospects for getting to Ottawa ahead of the storm, and then driving back. But, as was his habit, learned through years of marriage, he had been keeping up his end of the conversation with “Yes, Dear.”
“Hey Joe, remember when we were young, you used to sing that Christmas song that you made up your own lyrics to? The one with the shepherds’ flocks…?”
Joe pushed his cap back to think. “Maria, I didn’t make up those words, just took them from whoever muddled them up long before me. ‘While shepherds washed their socks by night and hung them out to dry…’ No, it was, ‘While shepherds washed their socks by night and hang them on the line…” They both chuckled at their childhood silliness.
“You know what my favourite Christmas song is, Joe? So many people do a cover, but my favourite version is from Natalie Cole, My Grown up Christmas List. ‘No more lives torn apart, wars would never start, and time would heal all hearts, everyone would have a friend, and right would always win, and love would never end…”
Joe looked at his wife with admiration and a smile. He reached over, took her hand and gently squeezed it.
“That’s why you are such a good nurse. There’s your heart right there, Sweetness. Although, you still only have Ol’ Joe’s talent for singing. You know that man cannot carry a tune.”
Suddenly, Maria let out a sudden yell that startled Joe.
“Oh, Maria, sorry. I didn’t think I squeezed your hand that hard.”
Maria herself looked shocked.
“No, Joe, I … I just got a hit from inside. Maybe it’s just the excitement of having to drive like this. I hope I’m right.”
But a few kilometres later Maria let out another yell.
“Joe, I have a feeling this trip is about to take a different turn.”
Next week: Three EMS workers named Shepherd, Wiseman and Gabriel.