We had long resisted the idea of moving from Edmonton, where we had lived for nearly 40 years, to Victoria, where our son had relocated after graduating. He, our lovely daughter-in-law and wonderful grandson were a big draw, but every time we visited Victoria, I always thought there were just too many flowers.
Maybe the bleakness of the Prairie landscape spoke to my soul.
But as we got older, we started to find Edmonton’s icy roads and sidewalks increasingly treacherous. I had a couple of nasty falls on the ice. Once, driving home from the airport, I was caught in a whiteout and drove into the ditch with about 200 other cars. More and more often, I was fishtailing on icy highway off-ramps.
Winter seemed to be getting life-threatening, though I wondered if we were just becoming more risk-averse in old age.
We would miss our friends and Edmonton’s wonderful ethnic restaurants and vibrant theatre scene, but with social networking, e-mail, Skype and cheap long-distance calls, moving away from friends is less traumatic now than it has ever been.
Maybe, I thought, I could take all those flowers in Victoria after all.
In 2009, we sold our house in Edmonton and moved to a spacious condo in the Oak Bay area of greater Victoria. It was a startling revelation that life could be so easy. No more scraping ice off the windshield, no more warming up the car, no more slowing down long before a stop sign so as not to slide into the intersection. But the greatest pleasure of all was walking on the sidewalks all year round without fear of slipping and breaking our necks.
I was gradually adjusting to the floral gaudiness that assaults the eye at every turn.
One day, walking jauntily along a street leading to Oak Bay Village, without a care in the world, I suddenly saw a young woman walking toward me pushing a child in a stroller. The sidewalk was too narrow for us to pass each other, so I stepped aside, giving her a nice smile. My feet caught some wet leaves and I went flying. I landed flat on my back. Amazingly, I was completely unharmed. I was wearing a leather jacket that only those of us from the Marlon Brando generation can really appreciate, and I think it saved me.
The young woman was horrified.
“Oh my God,” she said, “are you all right?”
I assured her I was fine, but I had a bit of trouble getting up and she became even more alarmed.
“Do you live near here?” she asked.
“Yes, yes, just up the street.”
“Do you know your address?” She had a cellphone out.
“Of course I know my address,” I said. “Look, I’m fine.” I jumped up and down a couple of times.
“Are you sure?” She obviously didn’t want anybody from the Marlon Brando generation popping off on her watch.
“Absolutely,” I said. “I’m just walking to the store.” I didn’t tell her I was going for prunes.
“Well, okay,” she said, putting her phone away. “But please be careful.” I’m sure she kept a watchful eye on me as I walked away.
So, it turns out that Victoria’s sidewalks aren’t so safe. But how often does anybody slip on wet leaves?
Well, I am part of an older demographic now. Not long ago, I was buying a gym pass at the Oak Bay recreation centre. The young woman at the window asked me if I wanted an adult pass or a senior pass.
“Senior,” I said. “Very nice of you to ask.
“Oh,” she replied, “I’ve learned to be careful with you old people.”
I took my pass and headed up the stairs to the gym. I suddenly remembered that I needed to get quarters for the locker and turned around abruptly, lost my footing and fell down about four stairs. I picked myself up with some difficulty and asked her to give me four quarters for a loonie. She didn’t bat an eye. Seniors falling down stairs must be common.
Of course there is one downside to living in Victoria, or anywhere on the West Coast – the inevitable Big One. I sometimes fear that my gloating about the weather here to friends in Edmonton will bring on the Big One and they will have the last laugh.
Our condo building is in a tsunami inundation zone. Our instructions are simple: head for higher ground. But we’re also supposed to keep an earthquake emergency kit that should include water, food that won’t spoil, a can opener, a battery-powered flashlight, a battery-powered radio, any prescription medicines we need and some cash in small bills.
I tried to think of what an Edmonton emergency kit would contain and all I could come up with was a pair of jumper cables and a bottle of Crown Royal.
Sometimes I miss Edmonton.