My cousin Julia was 18 years old when I was born. I think she started teaching in a one room country school in the fall of that year, taught for two years, then married Ed Ludke. Their first child, Doreen, was born a year later. I knew nothing of Julia without Ed until he passed away nine years ago today.
Ed & Julia lived on a farm just a few miles from ours and we often got together. As a young lad I was painfully shy of girls, with the exception of Doreen. I guess we saw each other often enough in those years that I felt no need to run and hide from her. Ed and Julia had four more children, three boys, Gordon, Leonard and Ron and another girl, Edith, the middle child of the family, born on my eighth birthday.
I suppose it was Julia’s teacher instincts that led her to encourage my early interest in reading. Most of the little books for beginning readers that I had were gifts from her.
When I was nine, we moved a couple of hours away, but the contact with Ed and Julia continued. There were regular letters and we eagerly looked forward to the times that we could get together again.
Time went on, I grew up, got married and moved to Eastern Canada. My parents had retired and moved into Moose Jaw. My father died, leaving Mom a widow. Ed and Julia also retired and moved into Moose Jaw. As Mom grew older, Ed and Julia kept tabs on her and helped her in many ways. They were often the ones who took Mom to the train station or airport for her annual trips to visit us, then picked her up and took her home on her return.
Mom had always had difficulty walking and the time came that she used an electric scooter outside of her home. When Mom was almost 90, Julia phoned to say that she was concerned about Mom living alone. Mom’s eyesight wasn’t very good anymore either, and Julia had seen her crossing the busy street at full throttle on her scooter, and sometimes cars had to stop quickly to let her pass.
My wife and I began to talk about returning to Saskatchewan. We came back for Mom’s 90th birthday and Julia repeated her concerns and we could see for ourselves that the time had come that we would need to take a more active part in caring for my mother. Ed and Julia weren’t able to be as much involved with Mom anymore, as Ed had been diagnosed with cancer.
Five months after Mom’s birthday we were back living in Saskatchewan. We settled in Saskatoon and Mom lived with us for some time, then spent her last year in a nursing home. She was almost 99 when she died six years ago.
We saw Ed and Julia occasionally on visits to Moose Jaw. Several times Ed was declared free of cancer, but soon they would find another spot. He had numerous surgeries and treatments and bore it all patiently. We felt in him a readiness for it all to be over and to go and meet his Lord.
My wife has a sister in Moose Jaw, I have several cousins, the roads are good, it’s only a five hour round trip, but that trip doesn’t happen nearly as often as we think it should. Are we really that busy? A year ago, at the funeral of Ron, Julia’s oldest brother, Julia and I hugged each other and she said, “It seems we only see each other at times like this.”
A few weeks ago, I received an email from Edith saying she was planning a small celebration for her mother’s 89th birthday and would we like to come? Of course we would. It was high time to give Julia a hug again, wish her a happy birthday and let her know I still remember and care for her. Thus, on the 9th of this month we made it to Moose Jaw, just for the opportunity to gather around, drink coffee with a group of cousins, and help Julia celebrate another birthday.