The week before Christmas my very elderly mother-in-law Esther reported that Bad Men from Alberta were attempting to kidnap her from her seniors' home, and that Russian spies had taken over their newsletter. However, she assured us, everything was under control -- an undercover policewoman had been assigned to the case.
"Don't worry, Grandma," we said. "We're coming to pick you up on Christmas morning, and we'll sort it all out then."
On Christmas Eve it snowed, a lot. On the morning of the 25th, all attempts failed to get my rear-wheel drive Chevette up the slope from the house to the street. Taxis were in short supply, but we finally got through to one. They promised to collect Esther and deliver her to our house. We phoned the seniors' home. "Please have Esther waiting at the door with her hat and coat on at 12 o'clock," we said.
The taxi arrived, on schedule. We all rushed out to greet Grandma.
There in the passenger seat, glaring ferociously, sat an irate old lady. We had never seen her before in our lives.
"Oh dear," we told the taxi-driver. "That's not our Grandma.”
"Yes, yes," the taxi driver assured us. "Right house, right lady." He showed us our address, clipped to the dashboard.
"She must be somebody else's granny," said my daughter. "And some other family must have ours."
However, the old lady, clearly believing she had been kidnapped, maintained a tight-lipped silence, refusing to supply name, rank, serial number, or any other information.
"She's probably annoyed," said daughter Sue, "because she thought she was going to a nicer house."
Leaving Sue to calm the increasingly agitated taxi driver, I phoned the seniors' home.
"You've sent us the wrong granny," I said.
There was a long horrified silence. Then the woman at the other end said, "That's not possible."
"I'm afraid it is," I told her. "This may be somebody's granny, but she isn't ours."
"Well, "said the woman, "then it's obvious that the taxi company made a mistake. I'll lodge a complaint."
"Please don't do that," I said, imagining repercussions for the hapless taxi driver. "It's not their fault. You've mixed up the grannies. Could you send us ours, please, and tell us where this lady belongs?"
"I'll have to call you back," the woman said.
Meanwhile, our oldest son and his wife were developing elaborate conspiracy theories involving Russian spies and Bad Men from Alberta.
"Why would anyone want to steal our Grandma?" we wanted to know.
"Maybe they think she's rich," said our daughter. "Should we call the police?"
"No point," said my husband. "Remember, there's already an undercover policewoman on the case."
The seniors' home called back. Our Granny had been located in her room, and was being put in a taxi even as we spoke. Apparently when the first taxi had driven up with Esther nowhere in sight, it had been commandeered by the irate old lady, who was president of the Resident's Association and clearly a force to be reckoned with. A forwarding address was obtained, and we sent the perspiring taxi driver and the Wrong Granny on their way.
In due course another taxi arrived with the Right Granny, hatless, gloveless and equally irate, after being press-ganged from her room by panic-stricken staff, stuffed into a taxi and inexplicably driven off through the snow to some unknown destination.
Surrounded by familiar faces, Esther soon regained her usual good humour. Still, we decided, the whole caper had the unmistakable modus operandi of the Bad Men from Alberta.