… 49 years ago, to be precise. On March 28, I was enjoying “The Republic of Doyle,” a quirky TV series filmed in St. John’s, Newfoundland, when the telephone rang. I decided to let Jack take the call, since I was intent upon ascertaining if Jake would retrieve the priceless violin from a local con artist.
So began what is potentially evolving to be one of the most endearing reconnections on my incredible journey as a recently published author. The female caller identified herself before asking me if my maiden name was “Whitford.” When I said “yes”, she momentarily interrupted our conversation, and enthusiastically announced, “Elva, I have found her!”
The only person I have ever known in my life with the Christian name “Elva” was the Director of Nursing for the Brandon General Hospital. My very first encounter with Miss (Elva) Cranna was in her office in the summer of 1963. I was appealing a letter that said I was too young to enter the Registered Nurse Training School in August, and I would be required to wait until the subsequent autumn. I was very nearly speechless during the hour that I had nervously sat in front of this imposing woman.
Back to March 28. Our hour-long conversation on Wednesday evening was amazing. As I gingerly transitioned from addressing the 98-year-old Miss Cranna as Elva, their story unfolded Elva’s 89-year-old sister Marjorie, the super sleuth, had received Arriving from one of her friends, who had purchased it at The Edmonton Indoor City Market last December.
Marjorie shared that she always begins a new novel by reading about the author. When she saw that I was a graduate from the Brandon General Hospital School of Nursing, she hastily gathered a calculator, an old history book of the hospital, and the 2011 St. Albert Telephone Directory. Within minutes, Marjorie had deduced my age, my year of graduation, and my home telephone number before calling me. When my identity was confirmed, Marjorie Agar and Elva Cranna invited me for afternoon tea at their acreage outside St. Albert.
After two and a half hours of visiting, I left their beautiful home and spacious property. Time had passed so quickly as we reminisced, enjoyed coffee served in fine bone china cups, and savoured homemade rhubarb jam on blueberry muffins. When I presented Elva and Marjorie with a gift of their own signed copy of Arriving, they asked me to read to them from it.
Elva asked, “Why did you ever become a nurse? Why didn’t you just make writing your career years ago so I wouldn’t need one of those Kindles to read your books? And, I wasn’t planning to live until I was 100, but now it seems I will have to if I am to know how your story ends.”
As I write about this awesome experience, I still do not know about the plight of the rare violin on The Republic of Doyle; I am, however vividly cognizant that I am about to embark upon a priceless relationship with two remarkable senior ladies: Miss Elva Cranna and her sister Mrs. Marjorie Agar.