I travelled by bus to Medicine Hat, Alberta from my home in Regina, Saskatchewan on the weekend – to do some work, including a signing at the Coles bookstore in the Medicine Hat Mall. I also enjoyed a visit with my eldest daughter, Lisa (who is also an award-winning author), my son-in-law Kyle, and their five-month-old baby girl. It was the first time in decades that I had travelled on a Greyhound bus and it was quite the experience.
I chose to take the bus because road conditions on the Canadian Prairies can change quickly, especially in winter months. I didn't want the stress of having to drive for almost five hours during a snowstorm if the weather turned bad. I thought an experienced bus driver could do that for me and I could figure out how to close my eyes and pretend everything was alright if the weather changed for the worse. Which it did, of course.
The drive there was fine.
There was very little snow along the drive on Thursday morning. It was surprising to be able to see the fields. I did some people-watching on the packed bus – which stopped at many different communities along the way, offering plenty of opportunities for new characters to board and attract my attention.
I saw travellers who had either little income or no desire to care for themselves clothing-wise or hygiene-wise. These were people of all ages. There were younger males who explained to others that they were travelling across the country because of the downturn in the economy. (It is close to impossible to not overhear others while waiting at a bus terminal, especially boisterous young males.) Some travellers were older and by themselves. I gravitated toward older women, as they seemed closest to my age and life story.
During our lunch stop in Swift Current on the way there, I sat at a table with an older woman who also turned out to be a widow. We had a lovely visit and discussed our grief and how it takes years to process it and learn to live with it. We also talked about how others who are not as affected by our loved one’s death have carried on with their lives within days or weeks. It is hard being a widow. It is hard being alone. Our conversation offered some healing moments for each of us and we were glad we’d found each other on this journey, among this bus full of strangers.
On the buses there and back, there were a handful of riders who had obvious mental health problems. One talked loudly and explained his illness to anyone in his path. He was obviously a nice guy, but definitely sick. I wondered about him and felt sad that his drug use caused more problems for his mental health and daily interactions with others. One young man had visible twitches and made many trips to the bathroom on the bus ride home. Another yelled out in his sleep. It was enough to make me uncomfortable and I thought about the bus drivers who meet these people daily and take them onto their buses, hoping everything goes well – which it did on my buses.
On arrival in The Hat, I was met by my daughter, son-in-law, granddaughter, and this terrific sign:
It was the start to a great weekend.
As always, Lisa and I spent many hours talking about our books, marketing ideas, book awards contests, future book sales and signings, and other strategies for our respective companies - her Above 540 and my DriverWorks Ink.
It began snowing on Friday night and continued for the rest of the weekend. We visited and worked, drove through the snow, and visited and worked some more. (And I got in plenty of Grandma cuddles!)
Oh ... and we got our toenails painted! Thanks, Lisa, for the early birthday gift!
On Saturday, we had a signing event at the Coles bookstore in the mall. Lisa signed her award-winning spiritual book Opening Up: How To Develop Your Intuition And Work With Your Angels and her new book Leap! How To Overcome Doubt, Fear And Grief & Choose The Path Of Joy. I signed two non-fiction books that I have compiled, Cream Money: Stories of Prairie People and Fun on the Farm: True Tales of Farm Life.
My granddaughter is the cutest co-signer I've ever had!
At the signing, we held each other up emotionally and spiritually when people asked about Lisa's new book, Leap! In it, she shares details of her own story and how she felt when she heard the news in August 2015 that her dad (my husband, Al) had colon cancer. She shares what that diagnosis meant in her life and how she coped with that situation at what should have been the happiest time of her life – a time of expecting her first baby.
Our entire family lived with hope from the minute that Al got sick. He chose to fight with all he had and we chose to be there beside him, doing whatever we could to keep all our spirits up and LIVE in every moment we had together. Unfortunately, in December 2015, the doctors surprised us with news that they could do no more. Al passed away two weeks later, on January 4, 2016.
In her Leap book, Lisa talks about overcoming feelings of doubt and fear as well, but mostly her story is one of carrying on through grief. She shares meditations and exercises and strategies to help readers overcome these obstacles and events in their lives.
It was tough for me to read her story, hearing my own child's pain. It was emotional for me to edit it and publish it. But she did it and I did it.
The story is difficult but important.
We know it has already helped others.
"I am reading your new book and cannot put it down! It is filling me with the inspiration and affirmations I require. Your opening of your soul so openly in this book has me examining every inch of my own soul and filling it with love and appreciation for the journey I too am on."
We know Lisa's new book will continue to help others. And we are confident that Leap, like her first book, Opening Up, will win a book award too. It’s very well written.
So every time Lisa and I get together – as happens with my other two children and their partners – we talk, we listen, we care for each other. We miss our dad, dad-in-law and husband. We talk about him. We love him and each other. We grieve. We cry. We laugh. We hug each other. And we carry on.
|Al and Deana Driver, 2013|
|The little one's fingers on the window were a precious sight as she looked out at the snow.|
The bus leaves Medicine Hat going east only once a day. At 3:15 a.m.
As the bus depot's answering machine's voice message says, “You heard that right; 3:15 in the morning.” You cannot buy a ticket “at this ungodly hour” – a comment that made me laugh out loud – but if you buy your ticket ahead of time, as I did, you can get on a bus driven by an experienced driver who will head out onto the highway even though it’s been snowing for three days and is still snowing, and there are warnings to stay off the highway.
It's quiet on the streets of pretty much any Canadian town or city at 2:30 in the morning. Medicine Hat is no exception.
I tried really hard to sleep while the bus driver did his job. The one kind-of-open lane of highway caused me some stress.
And it got a little worse partway home.
I did not take photos during the worst parts. I closed my eyes and said a lot of prayers.
But we made it! And I wanted to express my appreciation to the driver.
But we made it! And I wanted to express my appreciation to the driver.
As he handed me my suitcase, which he had just pulled out from the storage compartment under the bus, I handed him a $20 bill. "I haven't taken a bus for years and I wanted to thank you for getting us here safely."
He just looked at me, so I asked him to please take it. He lifted his arm up and out a bit and asked me to "put it there", under his armpit. Ummm... okay.
As I turned and started walking away, he followed and stopped me. "Do you know that this is only the second time in 26 years that this has happened?"
"That someone gave you a tip?" I asked.
"Well, you deserve it." And I left. Perplexed. I understand that people who ride the bus may not have much money but ... really? Not even a dollar? Sad.
My daughter-in-law Kelli and my youngest grandson picked me up from the bus depot and drove me home. I cherished the hugs and the "Welcome Home" sign made by my four-year-old grandson.
As I shovelled snow, I thought about the weekend and all its experiences and interactions.
I saw this mug in Lisa's and Kyle's cupboard and I used it all weekend.
Profound and appropriate. Exactly.