It started on Thursday night.
I was at the airport, seated in a comfortable leather chair. My right hand firmly squished into a frog puppet and clutching a bunch of flowers which had been dyed green for St. Patrick's Day. My left hand was holding my phone, waiting for the first text from her.
The "her" I am referring to, of course, is Emily. The airport was Calgary International and the weekend we were about to embark upon was another milestone in our life together. Moving weekend.
Just moments later my phone would buzz. "Waiting for my bag."
I turned to my right and look up at the monitor which shows part of the baggage claim., Nope, can't see her. I don't remember if I replied, I don't remember if she sent any more texts to me. Everything becomes a bit of a blur and time seems to lose all meaning in those final moments before she emerges from Canada Customs and steps through those doors and into my arms.
She emerged and our reunion was in full swing. Those four weeks apart -- which had seemed so long, so interminable while we were in the midst of them -- disappeared in an instant. It was like we had never been apart. The fun, the joy, the happiness -- they all just picked up right where we left off the last time I had seen her in Chicago.
We raced out of the airport and headed to the Water's Edge Pub in Priddis. We never had time to visit this place during any of her previous visits and I wanted the chance to show her my local watering hole.
We arrived just after 10pm and were pleased to learn we caught the kitchen before the closed for the evening. A plate of food and a couple of beers and our weekend was off to a great start.
After about twenty minutes one of the locals at the bar meanders his way over to our table. "Excuse me. I don't mean to eavesdrop. But I have to tell you that you too really seem to be in love. I can just feel it coming off of you. I've never seen such happy people before."
The stranger introduced himself and explained about the ranch where he worked. Midway through his conversation he stops and eyes me up and down and gives me a knowing smile. "You are one lucky guy, my friend." I smile and nod. I know, believe me, I know.
Friday morning. Off to Turner Valley for breakfast at The Chuckwagon Café. Then off to replace a Geocache I have hidden in the area that had gone missing. Then back to the house to start loading some things into the Jeep. Items that were either too awkward to pack properly into boxes or I didn't want anyone but myself to move. Plus a load of stuff for Value Village. We're not loaded down heavily, but we're packed enough that the dog needs to stay home.
Off to Cochrane. At noon we pulled up in front of our new house. It's the first time Emily has seen it in person. No one is around however. I phone the owner on his cell. He says he can meet us later in Calgary to give us the keys. Uh, no...that's not the plan. When I tell him we're parked in front right now he says he'll be there in five minutes. That's better!
While we wait for his arrival we walk into the backyard. It's a mere drop in the bucket compared to the multiple acres I owned before, but it's affordable and it's ours. The owner arrives and we get the keys. We step to the front door and swing it open. I grab Emily and carry her over the threshold. Sure, we're not married (yet) but it seemed appropriate.
We don't have long to enjoy our new place. After a quick look around the first of the items get carried inside and the Jeep is emptied of most of its load. Back on the road!
We drive into Calgary and go buy wedding bands. It seemed like an appropriate thing to do on our house weekend, even if we can't really afford them right now. From there it is off to Value Village where we drop our donations and do some quick shopping for tacky tourist glassware to help fill the new cupboards.
Back to Priddis! Tucker is let loose for a few minutes to do his thing while we figure out what we want to do for dinner. With the dog recaptured we head back into Calgary for sushi before attending a Great Big Sea concert at the Jubilee Auditorium. After a tremendous show it's back to Priddis for the final night in the old place.
Saturday morning. Moving day. We attempt to hit the Priddis Café and Grill but they aren't open yet, despite the hours on the door saying they open at 7am. With no time to wait, we drive into Calgary and buy coffee and breakfast sandwiches at Tim Horton's. We get our stuff to go and head back to Priddis. The movers should be leaving the office at any minute and we want to be ready for them.
Emily and I eat quickly and then begin cleaning and the final packing. Bedding, towels, toiletries -- all the things that are needed right up to the last minute go into one of the last boxes I have left unfilled. Emily is a cleaning machine attacking the kitchen cupboards with gusto. The movers arrive and see how I have prepared everything. The foreman yells out to his crew "Hey guys, we'll be done here in no time." Apparently in mover terms, "no time" still costs more than $1300.
Before long the house is pretty well emptied of its contents. While the movers stop to hookup their trailer to the truck, Emily and I race ahead of them to Cochrane.
The unloading goes smoothly. Emily begins to unpack the kitchen while I direct the movers as to where the furniture should go. It doesn't take long for the house to begin shaping up into a home.
The movers leave and we're left alone. While neither of us are anxious to leave, we know we need to do the final work in Priddis, not to mention we left the dog there. We make the drive back down Highway 22 one more time.
The final cleanup goes quickly but with the last items and cleaning supplies, the Jeep is packed full. Tucker is forced to ride at Emily's feet. The long handles of the mop and shovels intrude into the front seat area, resting nicely on the dashboard. Other than missing granny on top, we look like the Beverly Hillbillies riding into town on their jalopy.
Before long we're back in Cochrane with take-out Chinese sitting on lawn chairs in the dining room. Our first meal in the new place. It is a great moment. While previous moves always had left me with a sense of melancholy about what I was leaving behind, this move was all about the future and what lies ahead.
The weather on Sunday morning was awful so we quickly cancelled plans for our drive to Lethbridge. Instead we ate at the Smitty's across the highway from the house, enjoying coffee and pancakes and discussing how to organize the living space. Although neither of us speak it out loud, we already can feel the first twinge of "Oh no, it's coming to an end."
Sunday is spent in a relatively manner. We put a few things away and hook up the TV so we can watch "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". We go for a long walk along the river and get acquainted with the new town. We talk about the future and wonder how long it will be before Emily can join me here permanently.
As happens all too often, the time passes quickly and soon it is Monday morning. We detour to the airport on my way to work and walk back into Calgary International. Four days ago it was all smiles and anticipation, today it is silence and dread. We both fight to not betray the emotions we are feeling inside. While we internally try to convince ourselves that we're doing it for the other person -- "I'll be strong for you" -- we also both know we don't need to show our cards since we know what the other is feeling.
Monday morning is such a stark contrast to the Thursday evening. The frog puppet is packed away in her bag, the flowers are resting comfortably on the kitchen table at home -- our home. It's there now, just waiting for the day she can move.
And, with a longing glance in her direction as she slips away to US Customs, I turn away and make the long walk back to the Jeep. Alone again. I try and console myself with knowing that it is less than four weeks until we'll play out the scenario again, this time on her home turf. While I never want to wish time away, I certainly know those weeks will not pass quickly enough. I need to be back with my Em, back to being a whole person again.