Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A medal for John

After a long semester of delivering his own excellent coffee to me as I worked on essays for my university course,  John appreciates the rare treat of somebody else making equally good brew for him. Here he is at Galileo Coffee, our favourite place at Britannia Beach. Maybe it's part of the big reward his cousin Janice thinks he deserves for putting up with months of my obsessive course work.

Outside the coffee shop, snow on the mountains adds to the view. Part of the pleasure in going to Britannia Beach is the spectacular ocean and mountain scenery en route. Plus, for John, the winding highway. Let's call that part of the reward too.
Galileo Coffee Company is in deep winter, while downtown Vancouver is clear of ice and snow. Up in Mount Dunbar where we live, the snow still sticks.

Whole books have been written about perfectionists, so I won't go into detail, but by the time I finished my last essay for this fall's liberal studies course -- a 20-pager on Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse -- I staggered out of my basement office blinking at the unfamiliar daylight. Whole days had gone by without my setting foot outdoors; I'd neglected friends, exercise, my blog and all news of the world. John had worn a trail delivering coffee to me downstairs, enveloped as I was in Post-it notes, paper and gloom.

John's cousin Janice -- my blog mentor and friend -- welcomed me back into the real world, but her sympathies were with John. Her husband, an Aldous Huxley expert, is a professor with books and a couple of doctorates to his name. Janice knows what that costs.

"As someone who suffered through a partner doing two doctorates and who always thought he wasn't ever 'ready' to do the numerous comprehensive exams (which meant keeping in mind about 100 works of literature and accompanying literary criticism) he had to do and for each one he would have postponed it no doubt until Hell froze over," she wrote. "Guess who pushed him out the door and made him write them anyway? He had three chances to write them so failing wasn't that big a deal. Guess who passed all of them the first time? Guess who should have been given a medal for putting up with it all?"

Janice's comments brought back something mom reminded me of a few years before she died. I was in Grade 10, working like a maniac at my studies. A biology exam was scheduled, and even though I practically knew the book by heart, I was convinced I wasn't ready. I tried to persuade mom to let me stay home on the pretence of illness. She wasn't having any of it, so off I went to my doom. A few days later she asked how I'd done, as I hadn't said anything. "I got," I admitted sheepishly, "100 per cent."

As for Janice, she has an idea. "We will all celebrate when you finish your program and have your degree," she wrote. "And I will design a medal for John."

Part of the fun of the coffee shop is the customers. They're all young and athletic; this group favours Santa Claus hats.

Through the coffee shop windows with their Christmas stickers, a better view of the water. An arctic wind was blowing down from Squamish , causing whitecaps and making the water look very very cold. 

At the bottom of the stairs, John leaves with one of the major reasons for making the trip -- a stash of our favourite coffee beans. When he gets his medal and I get my degree, we will probably celebrate with coffee.

1 comment:

  1. I got a good laugh from this post this morning and so glad I can count on your blogs being more frequent. When you take that May/June course on the arts you should have lots to blog about. So, I calculate it will be almost a full year before you hide out in the dungeon writing your next essay. It is fascinating how various ways of approaching the world seem to be hard wired into us. Vive le difference!