Love is Timeless and Ageless

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Welcome to another edition of TardySteve, the new website that I should be starting up. As usual, I’m running several weeks behind in updating the World Wide on my happenings. Well, what do you expect right? You get what you pay for ultimately, and the cheques just haven’t been pouring in for all my hard work 🙂 At any rate, I’m sorry I’m slow to write, but between working, travelling, racing, and training, it’s just been a very busy time. But this isn’t a post where I do any complaining, this is a post about celebration and happiness! I’ll start right off the bat by saying a hearty congratulations to my father Robert on his marriage to Nicole a couple weeks back! Yes, it’s true, you don’t have to be a youngster to fall in love, and be a romantic at all. He’s living proof of it. That’s what this little story is going to be all about, my last-minute trip to Nova Scotia in order to attend a private little ceremony for those two love birds. If you’re interested in browsing all the pictures we’ve got from the wedding, head over to the flickr folder. If you’d like to hear more about it, read on.

It all started about a month before the July 1st long weekend. Well, in reality, it started over 10 years ago, but I’m just not sure I want to go there. Actually, I think I will, it is a good background and will give you a perspective on why I’m happy as a clam about these developments. You see, over ten years ago, Andrea and I lost a mother, and my dad lost a wife and partner. Our mother passed away far too young of cancer, at a time just when dad was starting to plan out their retirement together and all the adventures that would go with it. I won’t go into the long details here, as I’m sure most of you (sadly) have all too similar stories you could share. The interesting thing to set this up is that Nicole had lost her husband an additional 7 years before that in New Brunswick. Are you ready to hear the interesting parts yet?

Well, this Nicole lady wrote my father a letter expressing her sadness for his loss, and that if he needed to talk to anyone about it, she would be there for him. After all, she had gone through a similar experience and could relate. So how exactly did this letter come to arrive at my father? How did someone from New Brunswick hear about this, and take the time to hand write a letter to express her sympathy? Well, in fact, this woman was actually a childhood friend of my mothers’. They had gone to teacher’s college. So while they had lived different lives, they had similarities all along. Not the least being that she had a son just a week and a bit before I was born. Now, you might also logically ask yourself how she knows dad. Well, she was sort of responsible for the two of them meeting and getting closer. It was in 1967, on a road trip to the World Expo in Montreal. My father had a car, and wanted to drive up, but needed some cost-sharing carmates. So, being the young stud that he was, he loaded up the car with three women, and Nicole and my mother were among them. The whole way up, my dad was checking out my mom, and was even so bold as to reach back and put his had on her knee. Heady stuff for the 60’s, don’t you think?

So there you have the brief background. My father certainly knew Nicole, but really hadn’t been in touch with her for some time. This most classic and touching of gestures (the letter) got the ball rolling for a renewed friendship. The more my dad talked with Nicole, the more they learned of similarities and shared interests. One thing led to another, and before you knew it, there were some little road trips planned to visit each other. As more time passed, my father somehow convinced Nicole to uproot herself from her Acadian town in New Brunswick, and move in with him in a completely anglophone community in Nova Scotia. She had only minimal comfort in English, and knew no one else in the area, but took the chance. I can only imagine how daunting this must have been to her. By this time, I could already see the strength of character that Nicole had, even though I was no longer living at home.

Over the next few years, the two of them grew closer, and started doing some adventurous travel together, including a 9-month road trip through Eastern Europe together in a vehicle not much larger than a minivan. They ate, slept, and travelled in that van, through some of the most interesting regions in the world. If that wasn’t going to split them up, nothing would! They came back, with a lot more stories, and just as much admiriation for one another as ever. Together they got things back in order at home again, but before long, the restless spirits were at it again, and they next planned a North American trip, where they would cross all of the provinces, and then head state-side to cover all the United States. However, this time they upgraded to a much larger RV, for comfort in the long term. Although this trip didn’t get completed in its entirety, it was still a great adventure and experience.

Why go into these details? Well, it gives you a sense of my father’s adventurous side. It also sets the stage for my next part in the courtship. My father decided (how, I’ll never really know) that he wanted to undertake a pilgrimage. For those of you uninitiated, as I was at the begninning, this is still a popular practice in the world. It generally consists of a solo journey, either on foot, or these days could be on bicycle. On this journey, there is much self-discovery, as well as cleansing of the mind and soul. I guess in a way, I’ll be on my pilgrimage this winter on my 4 month trip in NZ. My father, however, chose one of the classic pilrgimage trails in Europe. His chosen path was from norteastern Switzerland all the way to the tip of Portugal (I’ll let my dad correct as needed!). The trip was planned to take about 5 months, and would commence in early April. Originally, Nicole was going to join him, acting as a bit of a support vehicle. However, in truth, this is sort of frowned upon when on a pilgrimage. You are supposed to be completely self-reliant on such a trip. This meant she would basically just be driving about 30km a day, then stuck on her own while dad was making his way to the end points. In the end, it seemed this would be silly, so it was decided that Nicole would remain at home.

The departure date crept up, and dad headed off into the sunset, so to speak. from this point on, communication with dad became spotty. At the beginning, he had a cell phone, and was reachable through it, as well as via email and skype. However, once the journey began in earnest, he was not in range of anything it seemed, so weeks would go by without hearing from him. However, when we did get word, it was always good news. Progress was going well, the experience was even better than he had imagined, and it was starting to look like things would be wrapped up earlier than anticipated. One day, I got a call from dad, partly as a birthday call, and partly as a progress update. Dad was very upbeat, and telling me about some of the sights, as well as how far he was getting in the days, and the sort of places he was staying in along the way. And that was it. Nothing more intriguing or telling about any developments on the home front. This was very early in June.

Well, two days or so later, I got another call, this time from Nicole. This in itself was surprising, as she wasn’t in the habit of calling me. However, I had recently celebrated my birthday, and assumed the call was regarding that. I was partially correct, but only partially. There was a bit of hesitation in the way she spoke, and I started worrying there was bad news from the camino (pilgrim’s trail). However, the next phrase was a shocker. She asked me if I would be available to act as a witness for a wedding. Not just any wedding, but her and dad!!! What? I was a bit floored, but very happy. I immediately said yes, and congratulated her. However, in my mind, I couldn’t fathom this. Did dad know about this? I also did some quick math, and didn’t see how this was possible, as he wasn’t supposed to get back from europe till later. Well, okay, I guessed I’d just have to take this one on faith until I got more information from my dad. As Nicole put it to me, that was what she loved about my dad. He was rather spontaneous like that. One day, he ‘s just chatting to me on the phone about the trip, and the next day he decides he’s going to get re-married! Nicole figured he was just a little bit lonely over there on his own 🙂

In truth, I think it was a combination of a number of different things. My sister is that one that pointed out that it had in fact been 10 years that the two of them had been together, so if there was a time to shit or get off the pot, this was it! Before letting me go, Nicole discussed a few possible dates to see what might work for me. Well, I had originally planned to go to New Brunswick for the July 1st long weekend, so I figured that family came first, and that I’d just have to make that weekend work. I really couldn’t take a big vacation, as I’m in a position that I need to keep all my vacation time for the NZ trip. That was my trade-off and commitment to my employer when I started this current post. However, I did manage to trade a provincial holiday day, and take it a week later in order to give me an extra day in my hometown. Over the course of the next week, the plans started coming together, with word coming back from Nicole on the details. She was doing a great job getting things all sorted out, and told us that dad would be wrapping up early, and would be flying back the week leading up to the wedding. You’d think that by now dad would have dropped either me or Andrea a line, but no such luck. I don’t know if he was afraid about how we’d react or what 🙂 However, by this point, I had booked days off, and plane tickets were paid for. One way or another, someone was going to get married that weekend!

The end of June rolled around, and Jody and I boarded Porter Airlines for our Halifax flight. This was in fact the inaugural day of flights to Halifax, so there was a little pomp around that, and we even got commemorative luggage tags as a gift. This will only be a little plug for Porter, but next time you’re flying to either Halifax or Toronto, check them out. You get awesome service. No line-ups, easy check-ins, free food and beverages (including Stella Artois and wines). Boarding and de-planing are also painless, as the planes only have 70 seats. When we landed in Halifax, Andrea and Patrick were supposed to pick us up on their way through. They were a bit late showing up, and couldn’t believe that we had a) landed early by 10mins., b) gotten our bags within 5mins. and were now waiting. When they arrived on another carrier, they ended up being late, and waiting about an hour and a half for their stuff. Ridiculous. Anywho, once we were on the road, it was a quick 1.5 hour drive home.

Upon arrival, we were pleased to see that dad was in fact there, and was also fully aware of the fact that he would be getting married the next day! That was a relief. Don’t worry Nicole, if you’re reading, I really didn’t think you were trying to trick us 🙂 I was also informed that evening that I wouldn’t get to be a witness after all. The eldest children would have those honors. However, I would have two other important jobs. I was to be the ring bearer, as well as videographer. As such, I was to take footage of the little ceremony and the special group of guests in attendance. The ceremony itself would be a simple civil union ceremony, with a o justice of the peace presiding. Also, it would be held on site at our house, in the ‘chapel’. This was our balcony, converted into a solarium a couple years back by dad. This gave a nice backdrop of our property, with the trees and Green Hill. At this point, I’d like to also mention that this weekend would be significant for another reason. It would be the last time that I’d be inside the house I grew up in, since dad and Nicole had purchased a new home in Pictou, that they were working on. In an ironic twist, over the course of the weekend, I got to tour my real childhood home (up to Grade 3), stay in my other house, and also have a tour of the ‘new’ house which is currently being renovated by my dad and his friend Gary Nowlan. But back to the happy day.

Nicole’s son, my near twin, Rene Gilles, and his girlfriend Nathalie were also in attendance for the weekend, and had just arrived earlier in the day. When we got home, R-G was up to his elbows in Lobster, preparing it for the next day. My father and Nicole are both quite the gourmets, and truly have a passion for food. As the ceremony was to be held at the house, Nicole insisted that there be an amazing spread of food available to the guests prior to the wedding. This included lobster, shrimp, bread bowl, vegetables, selections of cheese, fruits and vegetables, some hot hors d’oeuvres, etc. etc. It was quite insane the amount of food on hand. All this, and we had still planned to take everyone out after the wedding to a nice sea-side resort for supper. This was the gift from the children to the happy couple. The location was the Pictou Lodge Resort. If you’re ever out that way in Nova Scotia, check it out, it’s a romantic location. You can even rent little cabins there for a getaway. It looks out over the Northumberland Strait.

Wedding day was actually a little surreal. Since everything was taking place at home, the day had a very normal feel to it. I got up and went running with Patrick (well, actually, he ran 16km, I ran 30km!). Upon returning, we were all just having a nice normal breakfast around the kitchen table. Then, we all got to work on different little tasks. I helped get the chapel set up, and tested out some lighting and camera placement options. The space really wasn’t all that large, so this proved to be a bit tricky. I’d have to be crammed into the corner, so that I could film our dozen or so guests, the happy couple, and the justice of the peace. I fiddled with some lights, and sadly, had to end up closing the blinds in order to be able to film people’s faces without having back-lighting issues. I wanted to make sure that I did a reasonable job, so that dad could then work some magic and whip up a cool wedding DVD as a keep-sake.

To make things flow well, Nicole had hired a few servers to take care of the food stuff, and they arrived around 2:30 in the afternoon, with guests slated to arrive sometime around 3:30. They were a good idea, as they could take care of arranging and plating the copious amounts of food while Nicole and dad could concentrate on things like getting nervous. Ha ha. In truth, they both seemed as cool as cucumbers. I guess that’s the one thing about having gone through it before, and being retired. They really didn’t feel the weight of the world on their shoulders on this one. No one to prove anything to, nothing to worry about going horribly wrong. Just good friends, family, and a mutual love and respect to show off! I was running a little late myself, and was still getting dressed and showered when the first guests were supposed to show. All worked out though, and I was upstairs manning the camera by the time people started showing. One of the earlier arrivals was Sharon Nowlan, a childhood friend of mine. She was also informed upon arrival that it would be great if she could play piano for a while. No pressure though! She took it all in stride, and played some tunes while people mingled. Helena thought this was just amazing, and strolled straight over to the piano and started pressing keys. I just know she’s going to be a natural!

Everything went incredibly smoothly. If there was one downside to this event, it was the fact that everyone was going to have to gorge themselves, just to put a dent in the food stores! We did our best, but let’s be honest here, there was too much food. When the right time came, we rounded everyone up into the chapel for the main event. Although it was a tight squeeze, eveyone fit in the seats, and the groom took his seat at his stool. Yup, they would be sitting on little stools for the actual ceremony. Luckily it was only going to last about 20 minutes. Nicole had disappeared a bit earlier, and we shortly found out why. She re-appeared on the arm of her son, dressed in a nice white dress with a nice hat to match. This was when it finally hit me that this really was a proper wedding! We all paused a moment to admire the blushing bride before getting things underway. The justice did a lovely job of the vows and the ceremony. The only funny part came when dad stumbled on repeating the line that he would respect Nicole. He claims he just didn’t hear her properly (twice!), but to us, it just seemed like he was being a prankster. Either way, it added a little bit of levity to the event, and as revenge, when it was Nicoles turn to repeat that line, she too chose to make fun of dad, and have a ‘hard time’ spitting it out! Nice.

Post-ceremony, we set to work eating more food, then heading outside briefly for some wedding pictures on the grounds. I say grounds, because ‘yard’ doesn’t do justice to all the work Nicole has put in over the years to making our acre and a half look it’s best. We took a few pictures of just the couple, then family, and finally all the guests for posterity. We then worked out a car-pooling arrangement for all guests so that we could head to the restaurant for our 7pm reservations. I volunteered to chauffeur the couple, so they could have the back seat to themselves to be giddy and silly newlyweds. The lodge ended up being a great choice for a meal. Although we were dwarfed by a large wedding reception being held there by another couple, our little group did get a nice dining area facing the ocean. The sky also cleared up just perfectly at one point close to sunset, so we coralled dad and Nicole outside to snap a few sunset shots there. The food was also top notch there.

Another thing that struck me here was just how small a world it is, even when you’re in a small town area. Our server was actually an old student of my mothers’ waaaaay back. She had been taught french at Westville High School during the brief time mom was teaching there. That was just before Andrea and I were born. What an odd coincidence. She also knew the daughter of one of our guests. Also, the manager there was the uncle of one of Rene-Gilles best friends, so they chatted a bit. And finally, another random server was actually from the same area in New Brunswick as Nicole was, and they had mutual aquaintances. What are the chances of all three of those people ‘knowing’ people in our small group. It’s just another reason that we should always remember to be kind to one another, because in the end, we are all connected. So ends my moral lesson. Now, you’d think that now that the ‘reception’ was over, we’d be done, right? Wrong! There was more food to eat. Onto the desert phase…

I’ll keep the final section brief, as I’m sure you’re tiring of my ever-rambling tale once again. To cap the day off, all guests were invited once again to return to our home for desert and coffee, and some stories. The piece de resistance was to be the creme brule that Nicole had prepared the day before. I was lucky enough to be allowed to finish the prep work by burning the sugar on their tops that forms the crispy top. My favourite part! Crumbled sugar and a blowtorch. What could be better? I got them prepped and brought them to the living room. I then tried dazzling the guests with my skills. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as showy as I’d hoped, but I got the job done 🙂 We then sat around eating the delicious deserts, with some guests enjoying coffee, while some of us youngsters had a beer or two to wash down the day.

After a bit of converstation, the children (if you can still call us that) took turns making toasts and sharing different little stories about the newlyweds. There was some laughter, there were some tears, but over-riding everything was the sense that we were now all connected in a new way, as a newly formed “family”. Dad and Nicole couldn’t look happier, and you could see that they were glad to have been able to share in their special day with all of us. Andrea and Patrick also presented them with professional chef’s smocks and hats, in recognition of their gourmet leanings. It made for a funny parting memory of the guests I suppose. Dad and Nicole all dressed up as chefs, convincing people to eat more before finally heading home for the night!

All in all, I’d have to say that was one of my favourite weddings. Not just because it was a simple ceremony without some of the annoyances associated with long weddings and receptions, but also because of what it meant. Ten years ago, my father’s wife was taken from him too early. It caused some damage early on, and we were all worried what the future held. Then along came Nicole, to help pick my dad up, and put the spark back into him. He seems to have found his way again, put some weight back on, and rediscovered his passion for life and adventure. Nothing could ever make me any happier. I can only wish all of my other friends can find such happiness! That’s the end of my little tale for now, but only the beginning of a new chapter in my father’s life. I wish he and Nicole all the best in their new future together!

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