This is a true story and it warms my heart to recall it. It concerns my husband Jim’s ancient aunt, Gertrude.
New Year’s story
We were parked in downtown Sidney, still sitting in the car discussing the things we had to do before heading home.
Jim was half-watching several elderly ladies chatting just in front of us.
Suddenly he said, “You know, I think that is my Aunt Gertrude, the one in the brown coat.”
“Why don’t you get out and speak to her?” I asked
“Oh” he said, “there has been a spit in the family, Mother felt that the Lang girls considered themselves better than her and, for years, they have had nothing to do with one another. Mother ran a bakery during the war, where the Lang girls considered themselves landed gentry and did nothing.”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake,” said I, opening the door and stepping out of the car. “She looks like a darling to me.”
I went and stood close to her, pretending to be examining things in the store window. When the group broke up and the other women walked away I turned and touched her arm, saying, “Are you, by any chance Gertrude Lang?”
She turned and fixing me with a cold and suspicious look, she answered, “Yes, young woman, I am, and who might you be?”
I said, “My name is also Lang and I’m married to your nephew, Jim, who is sitting in that car.”
At the point Jim had the car door open and was getting out”
Gertrude cried out “JIM!” and she had tears in her eyes.
And so they met and from then on it was a love-in as we adopted her as our very own.
She had never married, no one seemed to care whether she lived or died, she was desperately poor, living in a rather dreadful two room apartment in Victoria. Jim changed much of that.
She was entitled to a pension from a job she had worked at forever but hadn’t known how to access her entitlement. Jim took over her finances and suddenly she felt rich. We moved her into a lovely retirement home on Rockland avenue (a good address which seemed important to her) and began to look after her welfare.
At one point she fell ill but we had moved to Vancouver because of Jim’s job. I phoned her one day and she sounded so ill both Jim and I were concerned. I went over and found her weak and exhausted.
I said, “Gertrude you are coming home with me!”
She said, “Oh, my dear, I couldn’t. I have no decent clothes, not even a suitcase.”
But I had spotted an old suitcase on top of her cupoard and said, “Get up, sweetie and lets get you packed, or I’m taking you with me wearing your nightie!”
That got her moving.
The thought of being seen in her old flannel nightdress galvanized her into action and she was soon ready to go,
We kept her a month, during which time Jim revamped her finances and found her a great place to live.
We bought her a winter coat, gloves and a felt hat, and moved her into a lovely home in what seemed to her to be a little piece of paradise.
Once in a while you have a chance to do something good.
Grab it with both hands and thank Heaven for the opportunity!
Happy New Year to all of you!
Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.