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Grace, meet Gracie: A surprise encounter

A white-haired woman in her eighties looked up from her magazine, smiled, and returned to her reading when I walked into a Vancouver, BC waiting room this week before my dental surgery. She was stylishly dressed in a black-and-grey ensemble with a curlicue-shaped white scarf.

“Are you who I think you are?” I asked her.

“Grace,” she replied, seated across from me. “Grace McCarthy.”

Immediately, I thought of “Gracie’s finger,” that election scandal when she was a B.C. Social Credit cabinet minister. (She was suspected in 1982 of interfering in the redrawing of electoral boundaries in her Little Mountain constituency to include a sliver of the wealthy Arbutus Street corridor. This change, which became known as “Gracie’s finger” due to its long, narrow shape, helped ensure her electoral victory.)

I thought of the white lights that glitter at night on the Lions Gate Bridge (their addition was her idea) and the repainting of Vancouver’s SeaBus catamarans from orange, recommended for safety on the water, to red, white, and blue, her preference.

I thought of McCarthy at the 1986 Socred party convention in Whistler, where Bill Vander Zalm won the nomination. I covered that event as a freelancer, writing a feature with a Wizard of Oz theme for the prairie magazine NeWest Review. I’ll leave you to guess to which character I likened Gracie (and it wasn’t Dorothy).

With these associations rushing through my head, all I did was seize the opportunity for some schmaltzy self-promotion.

“I’ve written a book for kids and the main character’s name is Gracie,” I told her.

“That’s lovely,” she said, reaching into her purse to pull something out. It wasn’t a revolver, but a packaged mint. It fell onto a nearby chair, but she didn’t notice.

“You dropped something,” I said and pointed to the mint.

She looked around, surprised, and picked it up. “Do you want it?”

Nonplussed, I nodded and took it from her.

“What are you up to these days?” I asked. McCarthy mentioned that she had started a charity for children with Crohn’s disease.

“I didn’t even know that kids could get Crohn’s disease,” I said.

“Oh yes, and it’s terrible.” When her granddaughter was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, McCarthy co-founded the C.H.I.L.D. (Children with Intestinal and Liver Disorders) Foundation in 1995 to raise funds for children suffering from these ailments. She is now the volunteer chair of the organization.

McCarthy’s warmth and graciousness surprised me and left me unnerved. I thought of her former nickname “Amazing Grace.” Regardless of her past politics and activities, I applaud her current charity initiative and continued drive at age eighty-four. I hope that I have such purpose, direction, and energy when I’m her age.

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December 7, 2011 at 6:30 pm
1 comment »
  • December 11, 2011 at 7:52 amConstance

    Thanks for the blog. Your blog is informative and attractive. Constance

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