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June 16, 2008

Geriatric Boot Camp

It was Father's Day so I made the trek out to Surrey. It was such a gorgeous day and now, whenever I go out there, dear old dad looks forward to me taking him on an outing. Why wouldn't he?

We go to White Rock or Crescent Beach or Fort Langley. We need to expand our repertoire. And, now that gas has become a rare commodity, it's time to use his car. That's what fathers are for right? Let's get in the veteran mobile with the special veteran's licence plate; the one with the poppy on it. I always say that those licence plates for veterans are a lot like the "L" for new drivers. One glimpse of the red poppy and your brain immediately says: Warning. Veteran at the wheel. Stay back. Keep your distance. May not see. May not hear. Still driving. Except, in this case, I'm driving! Imagine when you reach an age where your children no longer let you drive your own car when they're with you. A tad cheeky! But, c'est la vie.

So, I get there at 9 am. Ya, it's a wee bit early but he's always telling me how he's out and about for his daily walk by 8 am. I knocked on his door. There was no answer. I call him from my cell phone. He takes a long time to say "Hello". I have to explain that I'm not in Vancouver. I'm standing outside his door - a mere 10 feet from him. He answers the door. He's in his pyjamas. "Oh, I guess Im' a little early," I say. "Sorry about that. I guess I should have called last night to let you know I was coming." What I'm really thinking is oh god, I'm glad he doesn't sleep in the nude.

"I guess I slept in," he says. "Well, get up. Have a shower. Get dressed. I'll get your breakfast. It's sunny. There's no time to waste. If it's Father's Day it must be time for a Geriatric Boot Camp." I say that because it seems like I have developed this bad habit of forgetting how old he is (90 in August) because he is in such good shape. As a result, I end up taking him on what feels like a major boot march almost every time we go out. "Are you trying to kill him?" my sisters ask me when they hear about these excursions.

Yesterday, we did the route along the Fraser River from Derby Reach into Fort Langley. The sign said 4.6 km to the Fort. Me and numbers you know. That doesn't sound too far I thought. You think you can manage that Dad? I forgot that it was one way. "That's fine," he says. He has developed this rather annoying habit of saying "That's fine" to just about everything. It makes me wonder what I'd have to do to evoke an objection.

We set off in the sunshine through thickets of ferns, glimpses of a muddy brown arm of the Fraser, yellow buttercups sprinkled like tumeric on the clover, horses grazing and a gravel trail that winds its way past Maples and Cottonwoods.

He has a habit of walking in dress shoes. It must be some Presybterian aberration I think to myself. I'm not sure I've ever seen him wear runners. Strangley enough, before I started running, I had a bad habit of doing that as well. Is it possible that choosing inappropriate footwear is a genetic aberration?

We make it to Fort Langley and sit on a bench in a park near the old railway museum. The yard is full of irises, pale florentine and purples and hard pink bulbs of peonies getting ready to burst into blossom. It would be beautiful if not for the fact that bikers love Fort Langley. Their bikes wreak havoc. The roar of the engines confuse the silence of the main street.

I leave him on the bench and I go off in search of water. I return and look at him and say, "How ya feelin there dad? Are you going to be able to make it back?" He looks at me and says, "I don't think I could feel better than I feel right now!" And, he's completely serious!

I stare at him for a second. I think to myself, Geez, when was the last time I felt like that? Try saying that. It makes you feel better just saying the words. Repeat after me. "I don't think I could feel better than I feel right now."

Just say it Gayle. Lie!

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