Visiting relatives in rural Saskatchewan is always a delight, especially since they are all in-laws, my wife’s brothers and sisters.
Not that those prairie visits are frequent; they only occur about every three years. And that’s good because the length of the absence definitely makes my heart grow fonder.
Of course, I look forward to catching up on all the family news about children and grand children, who have moved where and are doing what. And health news is always a fun topic, the competition to out-do each other growing every year.
On the one hand, we want to impress one another with tales of the terrible illnesses, operations, conditions and treatments through which we have suffered.On the other hand we want to confirm that we are in fact in far better condition than most people our age.
Only a few of my wife’s relatives are left in Saskatchewan. Most have moved to BC or passed on. The ones that remain only spend half the year there, preferring to winter in California or Arizona.
That means that the topics available for discussion are no longer just related to weather and the price of canola and combines, but the number of pools at Paradise Hills and the cheapest golf courses near Yuma.
My sister-in-law, Bea, isn’t completely sold on the annual trek to Arizona, mainly because she doesn’t get to see her cronies from the Snipe Lake Quilting Club anymore. The quilting was always done in the dead of winter and of course she is no longer available. Instead she spends her afternoons playing bridge and bingo in the air conditioned Grand Hall at Paradise Hills, games that do not allow the free flowing discussion of weight gain, deteriorating relationships and fabulous new recipes that she enjoyed while quilting.
Her husband Burt loves it though because “the Hills” has eight horse shoe pitches, and Burt has been the reigning Flat Lake horse show pitching champion for 17 years in a row. He recounted with glee to me that he defeated the former Idaho state champion last winter, throwing 27 consecutive ringers, the last three with his left hand just to rub in the victory. Bea rolled her eyes at Burt’s revelation, shaking her head and holding up eight fingers. She loudly added that Claude Ritchie won the state championship in 1984, is now 79 and has cataracts and a bad hip. Burt angrily responded that with his new glasses, Claude sees like a hawk and before each match takes a double dose of Oxycontin for the hip.
Crops look good this year in the Southwest corner, by the way, though harvest might be delayed a week or two due to cool weather. Hail could be an issue.
– Jim Holtz is Weekender columnist and former reporter for the Grand Forks Gazette