Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 23, 2017

How I spent my summer vacation

By Julie Johnston, Ledger photographer | Aug 11, 2011

When I was a kid we usually had to write some sort of story about our summer when we returned to school after Labor Day. Last year I told all you readers about the Great Western Adventure. What follows isn’t as interesting. I probably wouldn’t write about it at all except to save numerous explanations.

A week ago last Thursday I left home, driving to Minneapolis where I spent some time with my aunt and planned to see a high school friend. Friend Lynda was in the hospital overnight for some tests (which turned out OK), so we didn’t get to see one another. Then it was off to Winnipeg, Manitoba, on Friday for a Saturday wedding. I thought I would see her on the way back. As this story unfolds you will understand why not.

One of the great things about a wedding is the opportunity to see old friends again, or family you don’t often see. As the wedding party was involved with rehearsal, a group of about 14 friends, including me, went out for dinner. We had a wonderful time catching up.

Saturday started cloudy but cleared for the beautiful 1:30 p.m. ceremony in the formal garden of Assiniboine Park. Guests were then free until the 6 p.m. dinner at the hotel where we were all staying. Most of us sat around just visiting until time for dinner. It was really great to see everyone and I even met some new friends. More about them later.

Following a brunch on Sunday morning a friend, who had flown to Winnipeg and needed a ride to Red Lake, Ontario, and I headed east. I hoped to get in some photo time as well as some fishing. We didn’t see a moose or a bear, or even a squirrel on the five-hour drive. As most of the Red Lake residents who had attended the wedding took advantage of the long weekend and stayed over in Winnipeg, none of the friends with whom I stay were in town. The Norseman motel put me up for a couple of nights. If I had possession of a crystal ball to see the rest of the week, I would have stayed there until time to head home.

By Tuesday everyone was back home and I had three choices of where to stay. I opted for Terry and Jeannette’s as he goes to work at 4:30 p.m., and Jeannette and the kids were in Minneapolis for a hockey tournament. A plus was central air conditioning (it has been hot there, too, although not as bad as Iowa) and I had the basement to myself. Although we are friends, I am sort of Mom to them, and Terry loves any excuse to go fishing. We went out a couple of times, and his brother took me out to another lake one day. I ate all the fresh walleye I wanted and we threw back more than we kept.

Wednesday eight of us boarded John and Marian’s pontoon boat for a wonderful afternoon on the lake, followed by dinner at Lars and Dawn’s.

Thursday Terry and I took his boat to the far western end of the lake to better see the forest fire filling the town with smoke. All we got was a closer look at the smoke — no flames. We fished for our supper.

The plan for Friday was to wash the dishes from dinner Thursday evening, visit friends, go to the Lakeview for a pirogies lunch and shop for some things to bring home to family. None of that happened.

I got up early, before 6 a.m., thinking I would wash up the dishes. I went upstairs to do that, then changed my mind and headed back down to get clean clothes and a shower. That decision changed the rest of my summer!

I remember grabbing the railing and putting my right foot on the second step, then I was airborn and found myself on the floor. My ear hurt, and my thumb looked really crooked. As I got up I noticed blood on my pants. I went to the bathroom where there was better light to check it out and saw myself in the mirror with blood dripping from my ear onto my shirt and blood in my hair. I cleaned up the best I could, then went upstairs to wake up Terry’s brother Bernie who was also visiting. An early riser, he was usually gone before I got up. Fortunately for me he had slept later than usual. He had not heard me fall and was surprised when I calmly asked, “Could you take me to the emergency room? I think I dislocated my thumb.”

I walked to my car then we drove to the hospital, parked in the parking lot and walked into the building, down the hall and to the emergency area.

Four hours, four x-rays, two casts, eight stitches and a sizable amount of money later I was wheeled out in a wheelchair with a broken right ankle, broken left thumb, which may require surgery, and stitches above my right ear. At this point I was still planning to drive home on Saturday. My doctor friend Vic quickly informed me I wasn’t driving anywhere.

Although they had other guests, my friend Dawn, mother of the bride, insisted I stay at their home. It is only one step into their house, and four steps into Terry’s, so I agreed. The only problem remaining was how to get home. The other houseguests, Bob and Pat from Calgary, Alberta, offered to take me to the border. They had planned to leave Sunday for Winnipeg anyway and insisted it would be no trouble. These are the people I had just met at the wedding, and are now friends for life.

Sunday, after one last morning of fishing for the guys and a late breakfast of walleye, Bob driving my vehicle and Pat driving theirs, we left Red Lake around noon. My brother David, his wife Martha and their daughter Hannah drove to the border crossing at Pembina, N.D., to meet us and drive me the rest of the way home. They drove all night to get to their home in South Amana where my daughter Christine and granddaughters Rachel and Abby came to fetch me the rest of the way home.

I have an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon next week (I thought they should see me sooner) to find out if surgery is needed on my thumb. Meanwhile, I cannot drive. Nor can I work or do most of the things I am used to doing for myself. I am thankful my handicap is temporary, and have a new sense of empathy for those with permanent difficulties. I do not like to depend on others, but have no choice.

It is wonderful to have friends, both old and new, and family who are willing to sacrifice to help in time of trouble. I love and appreciate all of them more than they know.

Looking at the bright side, it IS temporary, and I could have sustained injuries much more serious. That said, I would not recommend this way to spend, or end, your summer vacation. 

Julie Johnston is The Fairfield Ledger photographer.



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