Snowstorms & Mothers

Snowstorms and mothers — especially mothers travelling at the tender age of 80 — do not mix well. Or so I discovered.

It was increasingly evident as the day of her arrival drew closer that she would be arriving in Montréal in a snowstorm. How bad a snowstorm wasn’t clear, but the predictions were getting worse as we got closer to the day. By the time I got up around 6:00 am to fetch her for her 8:00 am arrival, it wasn’t snowing yet but the weather office was calling for at least 20 cm that would fall intensely between noon and suppertime — precisely the time when we’d be heading out to visit her sister in Longueuil.

Gare Centrale de MontréalI stupidly didn’t think of calling ahead to see if the train would be arriving on time; I figured it was coming into the storm and thus had no good reason to be delayed. How I underestimate VIA Rail! When I arrived at Gare Centrale around 7:50 am, the arrivals billboard proclaimed that her train would only be coming in at 10:00 am. So, I thought, the hell with that: I headed back home for the multiple cups of coffee I had skipped before heading to the station.

Further screw-ups ensued, like my cell phone not having enough credits to receive calls and, upon arriving back at Gare Centrale around 9:45 am, discovering that, ultimately, her train had arrived at 9:20 am. Fortunately, my mother didn’t worry much, as she figured the train’s delay explained my absence, especially since the passengers, too, were initally told they’d only arrive in Montréal at 10:00 am.

I brought her back to my Snowdon abode with the intention of having lunch at her favorite, St-Hubert (on Côte-des-Neiges), the moment it opened. But, alas, it was between 10:00 and 11:00 that the heavens opened and the snow started to fly with a vengeance. As we were driving up the Queen Mary hill to the restaurant, that’s when she started: “This is the last time I’ll be travelling in the winter,” she sternly declared. “I made it until I turned 80 and that’s good enough.”

We were the first customers to arrive at St-Hubert, so we had the choice of tables. I, not thinking, let her sit in a way where she was looking out the window while I was back to it. She was thoroughly miserable throughout our short hour there, looking at and commenting on the worsening storm. As for me, I didn’t really care; I knew it was only a matter of driving slowly and carefully, plus we weren’t going outside the city (really).

Now I admit it: the visibility and the roads were really bad, but I wasn’t nervous in the least. I’ve been through worse — namely similar conditions, except after dark. THAT was truly nerve wracking; not this. I warned her to expect the visibility to be a bit worse as we crossed the Champlain Bridge across the St. Lawrence, but that everything was under control. And it was.

Once on the other side, though, we were driving into the snow, so an already unpleasant experience got progressively worse. I knew, however, that we were already more than halfway to destination and the return wouldn’t be as bad. But that didn’t stop her “Oh doux Jésus, oh doux Jésus“… At that point I couldn’t help but say, “Ma! Who’s driving? And do I look the least bit nervous?”

We reached our destination, of course, and visited my aunt for about two hours. On our way back, by which time the storm’s fury had abated considerably, she went on saying how this was likely the last time she would see her sister, as it’s too much trouble due to all the unknown bad weather conditions that could be encountered. Taking her at her word, I reminded her that, the next time, she wouldn’t be travelling in winter, so if we were able to make it through this, we could make it through anything.

We spent her remaining hours in Montréal at Gare Centrale having coffee and waiting for her train to depart for Ottawa (late, of course). When I got home, I immediately called my sister to advise her that Mom was safely on her way, and admitted that I may have ruined forever her going to Ottawa for Christmases to come. But, as my sister said, we have a year to work on her and give her assurance that we won’t attempt to repeat the detour to her sister if it’s the middle of winter.

But already Mom is countering that, in winter, she still has to worry about getting to the train station and having people drive in bad weather to fetch her from the station. You just can’t win with her when she sets her mind on something. I need to remind myself that, although my father was the biggest worry-wart of them all, she’s no slouch in that department herself.