Whee! What a holiday

A full and free month in hospital here! That can do much more than merely revive your faith in human kindness. While that may have been my major enjoyment, this amounted to an opportunity any newsman might prize, combining both a chance to observe why the hospital manager is paid such a princely salary as recently announced ($163,000—a figure unheard of anywhere else in this small town and very few of our taxpayers come even close), and to see how the $12 million-plus addition to the hospital is progressing.
Sure we are told daily that the Ontario health system is becoming expensive, but come on! After all, this is still little old Fort Frances where town relief cheques caused a weekly parade of our jobless for handouts in the Thirties.
Definitely I did not enter La Verendrye only to obtain a better view of our great bass tournament parade. (But while we’re at it here, did you see the recent Reader’s Digest story about our growing and alarming shortage of fish around the world?)
But so many folks came along with condolences for my confinement, this was indeed rewarding to me.
While the hospital manager did not appear that I noticed (some of his co-workers also say they have never seen him), there were so many impressive features to take in–especially all those great meals in the well-served dining room, and the friendly attention from the nurses and everyone who passed at my bed. Such an active and deserving people. All came from this town and district–including one worker from Pinewood.
Try adding three or four hours driving to your work day year after year–and see whether your disposition can stand up to it.
But important to remember for patients like me are all the kindnesses bestowed by our friends who came along with get-well cards and wishes. These can make it seem your life has not been entirely wasted.
Also, you can make fresh acquaintances who drop into the hospital, people like Gene Andrusco from California, the son of widow Stella and the later Emil and nephew of Walter and Nick. Like the others, Gene is also a musician.
Our Legion branch sent in another great visitor in Walter Sobkowicz, whose memory for people here is phenomenal, and other callers both numerous and friendly.
In other words, our hospital is a popular rallying point for visitors from almost everywhere, Calvin Muckle from Toronto among them.
He was an old schoolmate of mine who phones at length and invited me to accompany him to the Rainy River centennial celebration, which I also missed, doggone it.
Then there were Jerry and Ione Benshooth from Minneapolis and Hopkins Bay on Rainy Lake and neighbour, Ross Kellett who came here with wife Cindy, the Wal-Mart manager, and Adel and Silver, whom I worked with 46 years ago on paper mill construction jobs. Silver is from Seattle today.
So if our hospital costs plenty to preserve and improve it with pride, well that’s important to us and friends from all over.
My first roommate was Ed Taylor, father of the young guys who wheel their international trucks and vans from here to Alaska and Mexico.
It was their local manager, named Gerhard, who bought my farm last fall.
After I was moved into 202 room upstairs, my new roommate was Doug Snider whose brother is Lyle, a country & western songwriter and guitarist who visited us daily.
I’ll never forget Doug for his great summer gift and my last day with him. I had been joshing Arnold Haver, who shared our dining room, about blueberry picking along Wasaw Lake Road, so Doug got me a generous Safeway carton of them. And boy, they came good as well as big this summer.
One day, I discovered Dr. Johnstone visiting a neighbour’s bed. He does not come from England as is generally believed, but Australia. So he smiles when you inquire about “Down Under!”
We welcomed a bullfrog of China, centering a blaze of red and yellow flowers that was a “get well” gift from the Times. And from my coffee group at McDonald’s came a card signed by everyone and delivered by Nick Andrusco.
Taking that week all in all, I’d say I was treated well. I almost hated to leave old La Verendrye.
But whoo! There are other things to consider. Such as a promise made to a new acquaintance before I went into hospital. I had met stroke victim Liz Pegler and promised to get her idea into this column.
Liz wants to start a discussion group with others experiencing strokes. I met several in hospital.
Liz, now 60, had her stroke at 53, and has not entirely recovered yet, although she soon regained her eyesight and hearing.
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Having known girl twins, the Macedons, who married the Ward twins here, I asked how many other twins came of that union. But I learned there were none because it is understood twins do not occur after such a double union.
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My grandson, Jordan Vandetti, the guitarist, leaves soon to attend Carleton University, my old school at Ottawa. The Carleton orchestra has been honoured as the only music group in the world, it’s reported, to be invited to France for a Second World War anniversary event. My own college singers, the “Succatash Seven,” with me on guitar for some Spike Jones songs, must have led the way.
• • •
Now there’s a movement towards a return to private health care in Ontario with costs to be paid by patients and families. This comes just as Americans are trying to copy our lead on Medicare. Our people would be required to pay more, not a popular idea considering. Let’s not spoil our great present system.

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