The hot missionary, thrown in the native’s cooking pot, felt quite comfortable in the cool water, not realizing that there was a fire under the pot, slowly raising the warmth of the water. It did not alarm him as he did not notice the gradual rise in temperature until he noticed heat bubbles coming to the surface and the water started to boil, but by then it was too late, for by then he was cooked.
It was not the water in the pot creeping up to me, but old age. It was obvious to me when I passed my eightieth birthday that I was on my last legs, the thought of ‘the end ‘which had in my middle years troubled me did not terrify me now as I thought more composed about it; so, the inevitable end was now closer than it ever had been, but I had no deadly illness I was aware of, and with the help of a great doctor I felt I was doing quite well. Perhaps I was given time to leave something behind for my offspring, and for some friends, though most of them have passed already.
The children felt that the time had arrived for me to sell my home and find myself a home to retire in. Amazing how great minds think alike sometimes. I had arrived at that conclusion as well but via a different route, especially since my dear wife had passed away five years before.
I lived in a comfortable house which we built twenty-five years ago, halfway up on the south slide of Sumas Mountain, overlooking the great Sumas valley dotted with numerous dairy and chicken farms, divided by green grass meadows and yellow cornfields, as far as the eye can see, right into the somber American mountains at the horizon. Under an often blue sky it was a picture never to be erased from your mind.
My wife Anne designed our ‘retirement home,’ which turned out to be a house with a lot of ‘firsts’ and ‘only's.’ It was one of the very few houses on the mountain where you could ride a wheelchair from the street, through the front door into the living room, without the obstruction of even one step. The reason that I built it like that was that I saw three of our friends eventually winding up in a wheelchair and even one step would hinder them from entering our house. One friend had lost a leg in a car accident, the other had both legs frozen off when his airplane crashed into a lake up in northern BC, and the third one had a clubfoot. All three of them are dead by now.
Every room except one of the bedrooms had a view of the valley, including the majestic Mount Baker of the United States. The west side of the house had no windows in order to retain privacy from the neighbors and therefore we needed no curtains. The house featured a large sundeck off the living room, and the generous sitting room was built circular shaped, with its ceiling three feet higher than the rest of the rooms, giving it an appearance of a merry-go-round.
The part I liked the best was the round living room jutting out from the rest of the house into the south-west corner of the irregular building lot. Standing inside at its farthest protrusion, it gave me a feeling of standing like a captain on the top deck of an ocean liner, cruising down the mountain.
The site was beautifully landscaped, and anchored by a towering ponderosa pine tree, higher than our multy story home. It was also the only ponderosa tree in Abbotsford, as far as I know. I loved the house and the site it was built on, which was selected by my wife Anne, and I never tired of it. The family feasts and gatherings were held in this house, which the grandchildren knew as grandma’s house.
Why then, in spite of all these happy family times, did I so willingly agree with my daughters to leave it? I’ll tell you why. Both Anne and I had lost a lot of money by investing it in the wrong place, shortly after we started to live permanently in Abbotsford. We did not have our eyes open when we should have, though in our defense, the perpetrators who took us to the cleaners belonged to a very well-known Christian Church. Anyways, the upswing was that we lost our financial backup and for that reason I did not wind up in Menno Home by design but as a result of careless investing.
The house needed repairs inside and out, including a new roof, a new sundeck, and extensive landscaping, estimated at a cost of one hundred-thousand dollars – which I did not have.
However, I was sitting on a lot of money in the form of a mortgage-free house. Selling that house meant that I had to rent another place to live, and for me there was no other place to do just that than Menno Home. There is a story as to why.
When I sixty years ago as an immigrant landed right in the middle of our great country, in Winnipeg, I started working for a precast concrete company. My working partner there was a French-Canadian who was good enough to teach me English, which was great because I hardly knew one word in that language. What I did not know was, that he taught me the basest and vilest words in that great tongue, and he proved to be very knowledgeable in that specialty, but he also told me something that, after sixty years, I still remember. He said, ‘if you have a Mennonite as your neighbor, you will never be hungry.’ I have never forgotten these words.
I promised myself that the time at my new Home would not be spent by inactivity, neither by going out with ‘guns ablaze in both hands', but using only my right-hand index-finger steadfastly pressing the keys of a computer, I will do my best to produce some stories about people around me, and at the same time share some of my own thoughts and beliefs.
I hope my finger will hold out.