A cab driver, Monet and Monty Python

By Helen Fortin

Good to be back! I hope you all enjoyed your summer. Mine was great except for the month of August. ‘Take a vacation’, they said. ‘It will do you good’, they said – in the end it did.
Day 1 – Saturday: I woke up excited just to know that I could do, well… nothing, soon realizing the word ‘nothing’ isn’t part of my vocabulary. Off I went to organize my bookcases. Mistake! I proceeded to throw my back out and lay on ice all day in front of the tube assuring myself that things would get better. After all, there was still the museum show that I’d been saving up for all these COVID months.
Day 2 – Sunday: Hmmm…I felt a bit better. I’ll just get a chair and move the globe off the top of the bookshelf before it falls onto somebody’s head – and so it did, onto mine. So, I have a lump on my head? No big deal. Back to the ice and the tube. After all, I still had the museum show to look forward to.
Day 3 – Monday: I’m walking a little crooked and my head hurts a bit but ever the optimist I believe things will get better soon. The phone rings. ‘Helen?’ a sheepish voice utters. ‘I hate to do this right when you’re starting your vacation but I need to move back to Ontario the last day of August’ – this from my second in command. We are 3.5 people in the office so our vacations are always meticulously planned. Ergo I had to put my vacation off for a week and find someone to replace her by Friday. No big deal, I thought. I had my phone, my laptop and plenty of people who covet the job!
Day 6 – Thursday: We find a keeper! Yes! I can get back to my vacation. I go to get a beer out of the fridge to celebrate but the door comes with it. Panic ensues as my husband races into the kitchen yelling to see what I’ve done now! He stops dead as soon as he sees me underneath the unhinged mess of stainless steel bruised leg and foot in tow. Out comes the ice…again. So much for the museum show.
Day 7 – Friday: The phone rings and a sad little voice from my first in command chimes in. She’s off to India. Her father has COVID-19. Cancel week two of vacation with much heartache for my staff. Cancel museum show, again.
Day 11 – Tuesday: Finally I seem to have a proper gait and John Cleese keeps popping into my head, which I take as a good sign, so I decide to take an hour off and go to the museum show. I could be reached by text.
I carefully planned my trip, followed protocols, sported my mask, and gleefully waited for the bus. The bus was canceled without notification. Okay, I was a little rickety but I could use my anger to fuel my pace and make it in 45 minutes at a fast trot. I refused to miss the one thing I wanted to do while I was off! I deserved at least that didn’t I?! And then it happened. I turned a corner and saw a cab. The driver looked at me with his beautiful face and said ‘please get in’. I could hardly speak as all the rage, sadness and ‘serenity now‘ drivel that I’d stored up in the past week rendered me mute. He knew I was rattled and looked me straight in the eye and said ‘isn’t this a wonderful day?’ We bonded immediately. He was from Beirut which put my little worries into sharp perspective. Thankfully his family was safe from the explosion which had occurred a few weeks back. He proceeded to tell me about his beautiful homeland. He was just lovely!
I stood in the museum queue patiently listening to people complain about social distancing. ‘There has to be some give somewhere’ I thought. The give was waiting for me in the second hall – Monet’s Waterlillies. That’s when I lost it. I immediately broke into tears at its sheer beauty. It clutched my soul to its core instantly relieving me of all the turmoil I’d been harbouring as I found my truth. Out came the grief for my first in command whose father had succumbed to the virus the day before. Tears of joy welled in my tired eyes as I reflected on how we human beings are able to make the deepest of connections even during a simple cab ride. And lastly, tears flowed because all of those accidents really hurt! Not just physically but my ego had been bruised. Is there anything worst than a bruised ego?
Day 15 – Saturday: After a rough week buoying staff morale and dealing with my own personal grief – I learned that one of my favourite aunts is in palliative care – I’m finally on ‘vacation’. I’m in my ‘homeland’ sitting on the verandah of a 100 year old country house. As I soak up the sunshine I shake my head and grin. I sense both the calm and the struggle of those who lived here before and they are grinning too. It is all clear to me now. Life is just a Monty Python skit. Best to accept it and move on – but get to the museum first!

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