It was a hot day today... it seemed like a storm in the making but the sun melted away the threats of rain and things just went from hot to ... hotter.
We arrived at the seniors res to a welcoming committee armed with little cups of kool aid and old teeth smiles... The kids started all bunched together, unsure of what was going on around them... but within ten minutes they had fanned out, chatting with old ladies in wheel chairs, playing checkers and chess with old guys in a lounge area and a bunch of kids out on a patio with road-chalk drawing huge pictures while a gang of very old ladies sat in wheel chairs watching.
While everyone was being served snow cones, I got to talking to Francis.
She fell in love with her dearly departed husband when she was 20, but he was still in school and getting married before school ended was just not done. It was 1944 and he had just become one of three Rhodes scholars named in Canada that year. Rhodes scholars were not allowed to wed until they finished their education... however he couldn't begin his studies until the war ended. So love bloomed with a fear of imminent separation hanging over their lives.
The war ended and the government in England wanted people to marry and have babies and to do it... now! It was this attitude that resulted in the rules for Rhodes scholars being changed and so long as she could show that all of her costs would be covered, she was welcome to marry and accompany him on this journey. A cruise ship, converted to a troop transport and destined for conversion back, was transport for the newlyweds... Canada to England, 1946.
Oxford... Christ Church College, and the first married Rhodes scholars to arrive in the long history of the school sat in the Deans office. There would be 80 wives in attendance by the end of his studies, but they were the first. Accommodations for such a couple was uncharted water and needed the intervention of the Dean to get things sorted.
The Dean had them as house guests for a week... and along with his other house guest, they shared stories and memories. The other guest of the Dean was a life long friend who was staying for some time and, was related to another student of Christ Church College... His name was Lewis, and while lived in this very house, he had cared for and penned a story for a sweet young girl ... named Alice.
As Francis and her new husband began their post war life, they shared the stories of this Lewis.
I immediately mentioned "Finding Neverland" (I have not seen it, but I am now most eager) and asked if she has seen the movie. "I had a small stroke five years ago and lost the vision in my left eye... then two years ago... my right began to fail. I can't seen any movies." Her enjoyment of the children chalk drawing on the patio was the pure enjoyment of hearing their voices as they played.
I asked her about "Books on Tape" and she said...
"Oh yes... I have a tape player... and we used to get books on tape... but they are all on those discs now."
"Do you have a CD Player?" I asked her?
"No... but my son told me he'd bring me one and show me how to use it..."
"but that was last year..."
My heart was ready to break here...
"Do you like to listen to books with headphones or from a "box" like radio?"
"Oh a box... but..."
I spend time every year collecting donations to help the CNIB support vision impaired community members... but I know in my heart that this is something I can do that will have a real and valuable impact.
The office staff were happy to give me her full name... and Francis will have a CD player boom box this week... I'll show her how to use it.