Ya Cain’t Pick Yer Relatives
Let me start by saying I love my sister in law. Anything I say from this point on could be used against me in a court of law.
Janette Snyder is a beauty. She has a heart of gold, a sarcastic streak that rivals Don Rickles, and a sense of style – well lets just say that leaves something to be desired – and she could give a crap what you think about it. She is indeed one of a kind.
Karen and I recently visited Janette and husband Keith at their home in Florida. They have lived in the US for many years, crisscrossing the continent, following Keith’s career in the oil and gas industry.
They met many years ago in Turkey Point. Keith apparently was a bit of a bad boy at the time, and Janette was drawn to this handsome hunk of a guy, playing frisbee on the beach. Soon they were an item – Janette leaving her career as a nurse, to follow him from oil patch to oil patch all over North America.
Stops along the way included Alberta, Pennsylvania, South Texas, Alaska, East Texas, West Virginia, upstate New York and many points in between. Keith was a man’s man, in a man’s industry – rough and tumble like the geography and men he encountered along the way. You have to be both mentally and physically tough to survive in the fracking industry. He is both and a fascinating guy to talk to.
Janette adapted to the nomadic lifestyle and easily made friends wherever she went. Always with a ready smile and a willingness to pitch in and help anyone she met along the way.
Over the past several years, Keith has run into some health problems that required surgery. But like the resilient guy he is, he has tackled them head on and come out on top.
While recovering from surgery he fell in his hospital room, trying to get to the bathroom. Many months later and in constant pain he was further diagnosed with a broken hip. Late November 2022, he had hip replacement surgery. 2 months later, he is moving around again like a finely tuned machine. He is one tough son of a gun!
Now, visiting the 2 of them is a treat. Keith is as quiet as Janette is verbose. Janette is VERY social. She knows everyone and everything going on in the park. Keith tends to keep to himself, save for a few close friends. He is very particular about his appearance. Roughly 5’10 inches and 160 lbs, it is still evident that he was muscular and sinewy prior to his health issues – and likely would still give me a run for my money even today – health issues notwithstanding. Silvery grey hair gives him an air of confidence. He talks slowly and with a purpose.
Janette on the other hand is a social butterfly. 5’6″, vibrant blue eyes and a smile that matches her spirit, she could give a rat’s arse about what people think of her. She is as tough mentally as Keith is physically. Want an opinion? The girl has opinions! She handles what life throws at her with aplomb – and sometimes a few vulgarities 😊
She, Karen and their 2 older sisters grew up in a home with few extras. There was enough, but not more than enough. It was a dysfunctional family, but the 2 younger sisters learned coping skills and the art of giving and loving. Neither of them require a lot to be happy – content to give more than they get and to make the most of what they have. You would be hard pressed to find 2 more kind and loving people.
I learned quickly that I have to be on my toes around Janette. She loves to tease and to set me up for failure. The most recent case was leaving their mini-Cooper at the pool for me to drive back. Of course she never mentioned that the key fob had to be INSERTED before it would start. She let me struggle for 20 minutes trying to figure out the trick to start it, before not so subtly calling me an idiot for not realizing it had to be inserted (my truck only requires it to be present).
I took great delight in knowing that she peed her pants just a little by laughing so hard. It sucks getting older and payback is sometimes sweet revenge.
Making the Best of Adventure
The 4 of us always make our visits into an adventure – intentional or not.
Several years ago, we visited them at their home in New York state. It was located on the south shore of Lake Ontario, an hour or so from Gananoque Ontario. Keith, the perfect host, offered to take us out for a boat ride around the small lake they were on, attached to Lake Ontario. Their grandson Jack and Janette were sitting on the front with their toes in the water as we putted slowly around the lake. Karen and I were behind Keith as he manned the wheel.
Suddenly, a patrol boat showed up out of nowhere:
Patrolman: Good afternoon sir, your passengers should not be sitting on the front of the boat with their feet in the water. Do you have life jackets for all those aboard?
Keith: (checking frantically), ahhhh I seem to have 3. I must have left the others on the dock.
Patrolman: Do you know the weight allowed on this boat?
Keith: (checking the tag), the tag says 500lbs sir
Patrolman: Looks like you have more weight here than allowed.
Keith: It looks that way sir.
Me: (trying to help ease the tension) Sir, it is my fault. We are here from Canada and I asked him to take us out.
Patrolman: That is not a good reason. Do you have your registration?
Keith: Yes sir, here it is
Patrolman: It says here you live in Texas
Keith: Sorry Sir. I have not got around to changing my address.
Patrolman: Do you have flares?
Keith: (searching frantically). It doesn’t appear so sir.
Patrolman: (Sighing) I am going to give you a citation for not enough life jackets. I expect you to clear the rest of this up as well asap!
Keith: (Red faced) thank you sir.
Patrolman: Follow me to your dock, so I am sure you get there safely.
Keith: (whispers: “Gawd…..the ride of shame”) Thank you sir.
It was a tense ride home. But we have laughed about this incident many times since.
The Appeal of Home Cut Fries
Last summer, they visited us at our cottage in Parry Sound. Karen likes to treat our guests to some of the local amenities. She had been bragging about the french fry wagon in Rosseau – “you know – Justin Beiber eats there sometimes” – as if that made it all worthwhile!
So mid morning on a Monday off we went to Rosseau – a few short miles away, only to discover that the chip wagon was only open Wed- Sat. Now what were we going to do? In my infinite wisdom and thinking I actually had an opinion in all this, I started to drive to Huntsville, 45 minutes away.
15 minutes into the journey I discovered that I did not in fact have an opinion – I was simply the courier.
Karen decided Bala was the place to be. There was a great chip wagon there that we had visited last year.
Apparently I cranked the wheel a little hard as I made a U turn to go the opposite direction – and threw my passengers against the side windows of the truck. Whoops – sorry – NOT! Sometimes my lack of opinion gets the best of me!
Off we went cross country to Bala – 40 minutes THE OTHER WAY. I may have been going a little fast for the curves in the road. It’s hard to tell when you are driving, but I could hear the moans and groans of my passengers as they were forced one way and then the other as I navigated the sharp bends. I admit, sometimes I can be grumpy. Did I mention Keith had a bad hip?
We arrived at the chip wagon, only to meet a young lady at the entrance, pulling a chain across the laneway. “Sorry we don’t sell fries here any longer. It is now a BBQ. We sell pulled pork, but aren’t open today.” I think I said something like “are you freaking kidding me”!!! Now I was getting pissed and HANGRY. “Can you not get fries in this GD province any more????? All I want are some frigging home cut fries. Is that too much to ask”?
As it turned out, this lovely young lady directed us to a restaurant on the water on the other end of town, where we had the most wonderful lunch. Fries, onion rings, deep fried pickles and more. The lunch special allowed 4 choices – supposedly one choice each – or so one would assume. Turns out it meant Janette got a choice, Keith got a choice, and Karen got 2 choices because she didn’t like my choice. Janette kindly reminded me that I was simply the driver.
It turned out to be a memorable day – one Janette and Keith have never let me forget.
Seems our visits always turn into an adventure.
Ya cain’t pick yer relatives – so ya got ta make due with whatcha git.
I could not ask for a better Sister and Brother In Law. Perfect hosts and always memorable visits.