|Grandpa Allen believed strongly in healthy athletic pursuits, and made sure there was a tennis court on the farm for the children. Left to right, Frank, Phyllis, Frances, Len, Joe, Evelyn.|
When Uncle Frank broke his arm rushing to put the belt on a pump engine in September of 1945, he had to take three weeks off farm work to let it heal. According to the diary his mother -- my Grannie Allen -- kept in those years, he filled in the time by walking to all the neighbours' houses to visit. On Sept. 19, five days after his injury, he "walked up to George Kirton's. On to Uncle Tom's and then to Olsons, arrived home at midnight." On Sept. 21, he went to "Pyes, McCaws and Wells," and the following day to Leitheads. (By Oct. 9, he was back at work, stacking greenfeed.)
Uncle Frank, a Red Deer resident who turns 95 in May, has never lost his penchant for walking -- or his sociable instincts. Through phone calls and periodic visits, he was one of mom's regular contacts in her final years. His last trip from Alberta to B.C. to see her was in 2012, when he was 90. Nowadays, he visits his brother Joe -- who just turned 98 and lives in another seniors' facility in Red Deer -- every week.
And he still keeps in touch. On Friday, I received that rarest of rare items to slip through a mail slot these days -- a personal, handwritten letter. It was two pages of lined, notepad-sized paper, in the beautiful script inculcated in children of Uncle Frank's generation.
He's had a good winter, he said, but Joe has had a poor one, ending up in hospital with pneumonia after going outside in minus-20 temperatures. A son-in-law had a stroke; a new great-grandchild is on the way. As for himself, his sociable instincts -- and walking -- are getting him through. "I am doing much better since I got a girlfriend to go walking with and [she] tells me what day it is," he wrote. He signed off with a wish for a good year and a strong recommendation: "Keep on walking for health's sake."