By Greg Price
I took a long overdue trip to Great Falls right before Christmas and although the trip was only for a few days, I’m glad I made the journey.
Trips south of the border to Montana used to be made with more frequency. But for one reason or another, or perhaps one excuse after another, it had been awhile since I made the trip to go see cousins and my great aunt and uncle.
THANKFUL FOR FAMILY: I had always sort of seen my great uncle Dale and aunt Ester as sort of second parents to me. Venturing out on my own as I pursued my newspaper career in southern Alberta, they were always a close drive to when I needed a break from the grind and visit family I’ve kept in close contact with since I was a child. I had heard from my mother that Dale and Ester suffered falls right close to each other with Dale breaking his nose and Ester her hip. It had been awhile since I visited both before and after their accidents and to tell you the truth, I don’t know why. A work weekend here, running an errand there and the excuses piled up. I was even sitting on the fence this month on whether to go. Nevertheless, I was glad I went. While not as spry as I last remembered him, Dale still had that spry smile as we sat down at his familiar island in his kitchen reminiscing about days gone by. For Ester, I did not realize her Parkinson’s Disease had progressed so much. I could tell she could recognize me at first, but not quite sure if she did for the duration of my two visits with her in a senior’s home. Part way through conversations Ester would speak of relatives coming soon to visit that same day that we all knew were mere hundreds/thousands of miles away. It brought back memories of my Grandpa Price’s battle with dementia and once again the song Thief by Our Lady Peace came to mind. It broke my heart when you could tell she was sad to see us leave as it was for my uncle Dale who had spent very few days apart from his bride since decades ago. Make time for the people you love Taberites, if they mean enough to you, you’ll make time. Don’t push it off if you don’t have to.
SHOPPING SPREE: Besides some Christmas cheer from the Duty Free Store, I can’t remember the last time I went to Great Falls without making some major purchase for myself. I did manage some coconut creamer for myself and apparently the Holy Grail of a couple of particular items for friends. I’ve heard from cashiers in Great Falls that Canadians buy cheese by the boat load and I had to paddle my way to three different grocery stores to get Tillamook Extra Sharp White Cheddar. It’s cheese people.
Being a bachelor, I’m sort of not in the loop when it comes to the hot items for children. But apparently in 2017 when parents are trying to get Fingerlings this Christmas, it’s like a scene out of Lord of the Flies or security camera footage on Black Friday stampede shopping deals. Nevertheless, one phone call later and a kindly toy person putting the item on hold while I scurried over there 15 minutes later and I was victorious in grabbing the last one in the store. Apparently, the woman was reprimanded by management for putting a toy on hold that was in such high demand. I profusely apologized to the woman not knowing my favour would get her in trouble. But for all you weary Christmas shoppers out there I said SORRY SUCKERS…I GOT THE LAST ONE!!! At least I wasn’t one of these Grinches I’ve been reading about who have tried to hoard these Fingerlings and then jack up the price three or fourfold to take advantage of desperate shoppers.
COUSIN COURT: To be honest, in my younger years, I really wasn’t very close to my older cousin Phil. I do remember taking rides on his motor bike and laughing at his Donald Duck voice. But many trips to Great Falls later as an adult and one family reunion later and we have grown closer. A guy who is very rough around the edges, he does have a heart of gold. Having just retired recently, you could define Phil as working poor in his life. But he’s a guy that would give you his shirt off his back and very cognizant of the little things that can make someone’s day. While his place is not very big in his basement suite, he offered me his extra room in my visit and will be doing the same when his niece and her husband come to visit. His brother and wife are also coming to visit in which he set them up free of charge in a hotel and also took the time to get me an early Christmas present in the form of a Dallas Cowboys calendar for 2018. It’s good to recharge the batteries in simply talking about life with him and my cousin Jim when we hanker down with a pint at a nearby watering hole.
DRIVE TIME: My family is often concerned at how fast I make it to Great Falls from Taber given you also have to get through the border as well. I’m surprised because in the United States you are allowed to put the pedal to the metal a lot more with a speed limit of 130 km/h (80 m/h) compared to your regular 100 and 110 km/h limits on highways in Alberta. I obeyed all traffic speed limits, but you can bet that speedometre was kept at 130 clicks the whole way once I crossed the border to the U.S.
DOWNER: I have to admit, the ending of my extended weekend in Great Falls was a bit of a downer and it only partially had to do with my time in Great Falls. I of course missed my family already the moment I jumped in my car to head home, but I also proved to be a glutton for punishment. As readers will know from my last column, I belly ached about my loss in my fantasy football league playoffs. Just for interest sake, I still worked the waiver wire and set myself up a lineup for what would have been my league semifinal. I picked up a returning Aaron Rodgers from a collarbone injury to replace an injured Carson Wentz, and kicker Robbie Gould to replace Dan Bailey who was reportedly dealing with a groin issue. It just so happened that my team decided to play its best game of the season when it didn’t count, recording a league high for the season of 154 points, including an insane six field goals from Gould. That would have made for some early Christmas scratch making it to the championship game where you are guaranteed money win or lose. And of course, I am not learning from history and will once again be setting my imaginary lineup for the championship to see how I would have fared against the opponent on the other side of the bracket. I’m already getting the imaginary championship trophy made for me.