This morning, tootling along the 416, the gleaming highway to Ottawa, in my cherry-red Fiat, the sky extraordinary, powder blue with great puffs of cumulus, stunning, the weather stunning, the family visit behind me wonderful. I turned on the radio and it was a violin concerto, at first I thought it had the sweetness and nimbleness of late Mozart but then it turned muscular, so I guessed it was Beethoven – unfortunately they didn’t say afterwards what it was or who was playing, but it was so beautiful, and – you know me – I wept. I wept because I had spent two days with my dad’s family, Ted yesterday telling me how he’d looked up to his older cousin Gordin, how his father Leo and he too loved Mike, my grandfather, Leo’s older brother who put him through law school. We were celebrating a family legacy, and it meant the world.
I wept because I showed Ted the picture Anna had just sent me of Eli, and Ted exclaimed, “He looks just like your dad!” I had seen that myself, but to have someone who’s never met Eli see it so clearly meant the world.
And I wept because it was the most beautiful day of the year and because New York is nearly empty now, it used to be full of Kaplans and now almost none are left, and because one day I too will not be around to celebrate days like these, music like this blasting out of my cherry red speakers. My Dad played the violin, so right then, he was with me.
I pulled over when the music ended and sang a few bars into my phone so I can find out later what it was. (Just Googled – Beethoven only wrote one violin concerto and it’s not the one. Mystery.)
I arrived in Ottawa, went to my airbnb place and for a blessed walk in Britannia park – I seem to have done nothing but eat, drink and sit for days, am expanding exponentially – and marvelled at the para-sailers – is that what they’re called? People skimming over the lake at high speed pulled by sails.
The dots are sails; there were at least ten of them. Check out that perfect sky.
Then headed downtown to meet someone I didn’t know. Just before my mother died, a man got in touch with her whose hobby was doing research into Bletchley Park and those who had worked there. Did she know, as someone who worked there during the war, she was eligible for a medallion from the British government? So he ended up coming to meet her and sending her particulars to England, and she received her medallion. I have it now.
He and I had lunch together. I cannot use his name because he works for the Communications Security Establishment – CSE – and must keep his identity secret. But we had a great talk about Mum and what he learned about her work during the war. She told him a few stories she didn’t tell me. So again, we were celebrating a family legacy, this time on Mum’s side. And also, I was celebrating him, this man who made sure that deserving people got recognition. He told me about a very important civil servant in Ottawa, a Brit who worked at Bletchley during the war, side by side with Alan Turing, and when he received his medallion in a ceremony, said he’d been ashamed all his life of not being in combat like his friends; this was the first time he realized just how important his war work had been.
Now I am going to have dinner with the Scrabble ladies – Auntie Do’s team. She has been playing all afternoon and I was not invited, but am to join them for dinner. I have bought a bottle of wine to help me through.
The wedding was very moving – Debby at 65, marrying for the first time; Dan, whom she first met as a teenager, not long divorced with his three grown sons in attendance. What a story. Debby owns an apartment in the Marais in Paris and a country house too, none with heat and both with her hoarder’s stash of stuff and her many cats being looked after by friends. She is moving to Dan’s house in upstate New York. A big job ahead in France. Dan is up for it.
Debby being walked down the aisle by cousin Ted on the far side and his husband Henry on this side
After the ceremony – Dan and Debby. May they have many years of happiness. There are good omens – it was supposed to rain that afternoon but was gorgeous during the ceremony, as you can see. When we were inside stuffing ourselves with a huge wedding banquet, it poured. By the time the meal was over, it was lovely out again.
I was very glad, though, to get back to Canada this morning. Upstate New York is a poor white area; there are lots of angry people supporting Trump. And lots of the biggest people I have ever seen. Perhaps these two things go hand in hand. In any case, I’m back where sanity reigns. For now.