in a small canadian town

This morning took my dad into the hospital for a follow-up appointment and I was able to reserve an ambulance that came to the house and comfortably wheeled him out on a portable chair. (My dad has limited mobility, because of severe arthritis in his knees.) The Canadian health-care system has its detractors both here and certainly in the US, but this public system provides extensive care and support for 36 million people. The ambulance service, part of the large out-of-hospital support, is an amazing component of this universal health-care. (I marvel at all the at-home support my parents are getting.) The at-home option is a way of keeping patients in familiar surroundings and out of the hospital unless absolutely necessary.

After the appointment, I called the ambulance service to schedule the return and the dispatcher told me it would be a two-hour wait. (Because I had no idea how long the appointment would take, I couldn’t make a reservation for the return portion, so we had to take what was available.) My dad didn’t want to wait, so I called my sister and we went to the lobby to wait for her. (I had ridden in the ambulance and expected to get home the same way, so I didn’t have a car.)

While we were waiting, a relative of my dad’s saw him and came over. When she realized we were waiting to go home, she immediately called her husband and arranged for him to come by and pick us up and take us home. This all happened so quickly and without any hesitation on the relative’s part, that I didn’t even get a chance to tell her that we already had a ride. So, I was left to call my sister and tell her not to come up.

Only in a small town, where one frequently sees extended family and where everyone lives near, is this happenstance possible. The flip side of this feeling of belonging/of community, is the suffocating experience of living in a place where everyone knows your name.

I left the small town 50 years ago; I thrived in the anonymity of New York City; I experienced the freedom of living away from parents and relatives; and I got to create my own non-biological extended family. But even I, skeptic and stranger, could appreciate the serendipity of this morning’s chance encounter.
The above image is the pond, still under winter snow, above the Fort Creek spillway.