This Evening in Rural Alberta

I drove from Rocky Mountain House to another seniors’ home in Wetaskiwin, another rural town in central Alberta. I listened to CBC news on the car radio. It would seem that the world is in disarray – Israel bombarding the Hamas strongholds in Gaza, intense fighting in the Ukraine with the Russians, Canada suspending embassy operations in Libya because of the violence. It all seems so far away. A bit surreal. Even in Alberta, with the RCMP possibly getting involved in former Premier Alison Redford’s travel shenanigans, the news still feels distant. Like I’m listening to an audio book. Just fiction.

Today, what was real to me was the story of one of the seniors. I’ll call her Mary. Mary is quite frail, but she still has the independent free spirit that I adore in women. She speaks seldom, but her eyes light up when I take her hand in mine and speak with her.

Mary was married four times. The first was a mistake of youth. Her second husband passed. And her third marriage ended in divorce. But it’s her fourth marriage, at the age of 72, which is so remarkable. Because that last man she married was also her very first lover. Seems they were engaged when Mary was young, only 17 or 18. He went off to war and had an adventure (or misadventure, depending on how you look at it) with another woman. That woman became pregnant, so he did what he thought was the honourable thing. He broke off the engagement with Mary and married the pregnant girl.

He lived a full life with that woman, and when she passed, he went looking for Mary. He found her, they married finally, 55 years after they were first engaged, and they had three wonderful years together before he succumbed to illness.

Mary has been on her own now for a dozen years. She’s outlived two husbands. Perhaps she doesn’t have much time left herself. But her life is rich with memories, and I’m honoured that one was shared with me.

Sure, CBC Radio aired the news today. But the most important story I heard was the one that was told to me in my own backyard. Thanks Mary.

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