Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Visiting Mike One Last Time

Because I knew that I wouldn't be seeing Mike until his return to Canada in April 2011, I decided two weekends ago to see if I could manage to get together with him one last time before he leaves for Laos on December 4. Initially, I had planned to have one of my roommates drive me out to Port Hope, but last Wednesday these plans changed. I received an email from Mike saying that Sammy, the owner of Port Hope's Bualai Taste of Thai restaurant, where Mike and Steve hosted their first fundraiser for Adopt a Village in Laos, offered to pick me up at the GO station in Oshawa and drive me back to Toronto the following Monday. So I arranged with Mike to meet them at the station about 2.15 pm on Friday afternoon.

Within ten minutes of the train pulling into Oshawa, Sammy, Mike, and Kai Sing, Mike and Steve's miniature Schnauzer, arrived. On the way back to Port Hope, Sammy took the scenic route along Lakeshore Drive, which gently winds its way close to Lake Ontario. When we came to a stretch of road flanked by forest, three deer, in rapid succession, suddenly leapt across the road and then quickly disappeared into the forest on the other side. On reaching Newcastle, I asked Sammy to pull over for a few minutes where I braved the elements to take some pictures.

About an hour later we arrived at the Bualai restaurant, where Mike promptly took Kai Sing up to Sammy's apartment above the restaurant and left him in the company of her three little dogs. Then I helped Sammy resolve a couple of minor computer issues, after which Mike and I sat down to dine on some sumptuous Thai cuisine.

In the evening Mike took me to the Capitol Theatre, where the Adopt a Village in Laos fundraiser had taken place in October, to experience the Christmas Festival of Light and Trees, a collection of eighty finely adorned trees decorated by local businesses and individuals. The sight of all these trees was overwhelmingly beautiful and simply magical. There was a warmth and intimacy about it all which a big city can't reproduce.

Later that night Sammy drove us back to Steve and Mike's house.

In the wee hours of Saturday morning - sometime between 3 am and 4 am - I stirred and happened to glance out the window, where my eyes beheld thin layers of snow caressing the bare branches. When I  finally got out of bed a couple of hours later, big fat snowflakes saturated and drifted through the air, and the countryside was carpeted in a sea of white. Later that morning, Mike and I ventured out into this winter wonderland to take Kai Sing out for a leisurely walk.

At around 11 am that morning, Jennifer Hawthorn, one of the three accompanying Mike to Laos, arrived to take us and Kai Sing into Port Hope, where she and Mike would have their hair cut. When we got to Port Hope, Jennifer went to have her hair done first, leaving Mike, me and Kai Sing to wander around town for an hour. During our travels we popped into Hinchcliffe & Lee to say hello to Barbara, the proprietor, and sauntered down near the waterfront, where a cold wind blew off the lake.

About an hour later we returned to the hair salon in time for Mike's appointment. While I waited, the staff treated me to hot apple cider and freshly baked cookies. Afterwards, we met up with Jennifer and decided to watch a bit of Port Hope's own Santa Claus parade. There, we ran into Cleve and his wife, members of the Port Hope Rotary Club and who had attended that special dinner at Steve and Mike's house on October 30. In the parade we saw Jennifer Mercer, who is also accompanying Mike to Laos, and her Jazz It Up! contingent. Eventually, we succumbed to the cold and retreated to the warmth of Sammy's restaurant across the street and had lunch.

While we grazed, Jennifer and Mike reviewed some important details about the Laos trip. A bit later, on the way back to Steve and Mike's house, we briefly stopped at the Railside restaurant, where we joined Jennifer Mercer, who had texted the other Jennifer while we were at the Bualai restaurant, and her daughter. The conversation naturally drifted to the impending trip to Laos.

When Mike and I finally got back to the house, he put on some classical guitar music and went for a nap. I curled up on one of the couches with my book, Three Cups of Tea, and finished reading chapter eight. After Mike awoke, he concentrated on making dinner. Later, we watched a movie. Then, I retired for the night, while Mike stayed up until the early hours with his laptop.

Sunday was a lazy day. Both of us didn't rise until 9 am. We had breakfast, then went out for two-hour jaunt with Kai Sing. When we got back, we were famished and had lunch. Mike went for a nap and I simply lounged, then read chapter nine of Three Cups of Tea. At 6.30 pm, we had dinner. A couple of hours later, while sipping steaming cups of mint tea watched a movie before retiring for the night.

Monday morning. We got up at about 7.30 am, had breakfast, and then took Kai Sing out for a short walk. At 9 am Sammy arrived. I collected my things and loaded Kai Sing's belongings into Sammy's vehicle. Along the way we stopped at the home of Teresa Hawthorn, mother of Jennifer Hawthorn, to drop off Kai Sing. This is the place where he would be lovingly tended to for the next several months while Steve and Mike are away. Then we said our good-byes to Kai Sing and departed.

Driving back to Toronto, Sammy took the same scenic route we had come on our way to Port Hope. Once we hit the 401, we were back in Toronto in no time at all. Sammy dropped me off at the McCowan LRT stop, where we said our good-byes and I gave Mike a big warm hug.

When I got on the LRT, a profound sadness swept over me, not only because I wouldn't be seeing Mike for the next few months, but also missing that small town with which, each time I go there, I leave a little piece of myself behind.

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