My little battle with cancer had not been the first time the bartender had endured a major illness with me. During the first year of our relationship I had to have a hysterectomy. He did not spend much time with me during that either, and it is only now that I am wondering what he had been doing during that time.
As the year of doing nothing slowly ticked away, so did my bank balance. With the bartender’s memory problem that had set in as soon as I acquired the money, it was easily spent. No wallet - could I pay for the gas for his car? No wallet - could I pay for the meal. No wallet - and here we are out shopping for a gift for his family! He’ll pay me back – sure.
Before I sold my house I had bought a knitting machine and had fallen head over heels in love with it. I loved all kinds of knitting, and anything to do with wool. However, the one thing I couldn’t find was coned yarn to go with the knitting machine. With that in mind, and with the need to work looming over my head, I went to the bank and asked the loans manager for some money to help me set up a wool store. One thing I learned – when the loans manager asks you if you think you are asking for enough money – say no. It is never enough. Don’t be humble and shy – it doesn’t help in the long run. Money does.
I then approached my uncles who owned the building where my Grandfather’s office was once located. His office sat empty and I could still envision what it looked like as a coal office, but better yet, I could imagine what it would look like as a wool store. They agreed to rent it to me cheaply and we set about building a store. I have no idea why, but the bartender and I were happy together during the building period. He had some good tools for working with wood and between the two of us we turned the small space into my first wool store. If I stood at the front door and looked across the tracks, I could see the hotel where I worked and watch my former customers go in and out. On the day I hung up the “Now Open” sign – I hoped and prayed for a different life entirely.
One Saturday, after the end of a long and tiring week, I was keeping my eye on the clock in the hopes that watching it would make the day end faster. Dressed in a pale blue knit dress and fuchsia heels, I turned wearily towards the door as it opened and another customer came in towing her young son behind her. I chatted pleasantly with her and listened attentively as her son told me he was going to become a truck driver. She browsed the yarn and the machines, looked through some patterns and examined the coned wool. We chatted about knitting machines and I listened patiently as she told me how many she had. But! I just wanted to go home and my feet were killing me. The shoes were gorgeous, but it had been a long week. I heaved a sigh of relief when I locked the door behind them and shut off the lights.
The next Saturday, she was back. And the next Saturday and the next! She claims I was quite hoity-toity when she first came in and she vowed she was going to wear me down and become friends. Twenty-two years later – we still are – the best of friends. Something great came out of that horrible period of my life and I treasure her. I still have the shoes.