Friday, January 18, 2008

'The Man' Tales - I Move West

In 1996 my parents were in Toronto and they ran into the bartender. My mother described the meeting ‘like talking to an old friend’. I shuddered when she told me that. The bartender had married the best friend (a stripper) of his second wife (also a stripper). When Mom told me – I immediately thought of that movie ‘When Harry Met Sally’. In the movie Sally flung herself on her bed and cried out “What about me? Why didn’t he marry me?” I didn’t fling myself on my bed – but I did think that – briefly. I have often wondered if she tamed his brutal ways – if he is still the same – or if he got it out of his system after me. I know they own a coffee shop in Toronto but I heard that he doesn’t spend much time working there – she does most of it. Of course. That sounds familiar to me.

During the entire writing of this back-story I have called him ‘the bartender’. In my daily life I actually always refer to him as ‘The Beater’. But that would have given everything away if I had started the story with that. Writing this has been extremely hard for me – even though it is 20 years later. I have spent sleepless nights with anxiety filled days. When I wrote the final post to this story, ‘The Man’ looked at me and said – “You look much happier – not stressed at all - what has happened?” He then hugged me long and hard. Bless him.

I live with a daily reminder of those beatings with the chronic back pain I now have. The discs in the lower half of my spine have disintegrated and are collapsing outwards, pressing on the stuff that encircles the spine. Just this year they discovered that at sometime I had broken a rib. I wouldn’t have noticed with everything that was going on back then. Some days, like today, the pain is so intense that I can’t seem to get away from it or take a deep breath. The pain will only increase as I age and my body breaks down further, and I am thankful for the discovery of painkillers.

But there is little help for the mental pain. I know I will have to go through it once more when I get around to writing those chapters in The Wailings, but I think (hoping) blogging about it will take that stress away. Thank you for your kind words and support and for going through it with me. Not only was it upsetting to read but at times it was downright distasteful and horrifying. I have at times been totally ashamed of what I was writing, but that was my life back then. We all make stupid dumb choices. And then (hopefully) we move on.

It didn’t take me long to find a buyer for my little wool store. One of my customers heard I was thinking of selling – and that was it. I always dreamed that my vision of a wool store would continue – much like having a child I guess – but that never happened. I heard from my girlfriend that the woman never opened the store after she took over. In fact, she just packed it all up and disappeared. Sigh. It is so hard to find a good wool store these days.

I packed up my meager belongings and rented the smallest U-Haul you could find at that time. After the heartbreaking goodbyes (driving away from my girlfriend was the absolute worst!) I headed west with my cat and a car full of plants - my U-Haul in my rearview mirror. It was December, and I owned a car without a block heater in it. I took the southern crossing – which meant I drove part of the way through the United States. Crossing the border was easier than I thought it would be – they just put a sticker on the U-Haul and away I went. As the temperatures plummeted I started to get a little nervous. I had made that crossing by myself 6 times. It’s a three-day drive, and that is driving for 12 hours for two of them.

Somewhere in North Dakota, I woke up to find my car had frozen solid overnight. Fortunately I had taken my plants (and cat) into the hotel room when I stopped the night before. I had to have my car towed to a gas station where they took it inside to get it warmed up. The radio stations were warning people to stay off the roads, but I couldn’t afford to keep paying for hotel rooms and I had to keep moving. I called my parents to tell them of my predicament and my father advised me to get a candle, some food and make sure I had clothing and blankets inside the car. I was often the only car on the road for long periods of time and I tried hard to ignore that fact. I listened to the radio and sang along, or I listened to the car. When I learned I was driving at -80F with the wind-chill factor – I was worried.

I arrived at my parent’s farm on December 23rd. The next day my mother and I went into town to buy Christmas groceries. When we came home again, we discovered that my father had been in an accident and they had raced him off to emergency. A pressure tank had blown up in his face and he was still alive. We raced back into town and found that they were transferring him by ambulance to the bigger hospital in the nearby city. We followed the ambulance and spent that night and all of Christmas day sitting beside his bed in the burn unit. He had pieces of metal embedded in his face and his hand was badly burned. A steel rod had gone straight through his knee and he had gone through the surgery to have it removed. While he spent 6 weeks in the burn unit the temperatures stayed at -40F and my car was frozen solid. What a welcome to my new home and my new life!


The Rotten Correspondent said...

Clearly not the best welcome in the world, but on the other hand it was a clean start. Or at least a clean change.

You're a brave woman. I've driven roads like that alone and it's nerve wracking. And that's not even factoring in the weather.

Looking forward to more.

Potty Mummy said...

Good grief, Aims. But at least you had taken back control.

softinthehead said...

Good grief, that's exactly what I thought! When does this woman's luck change? Tt is certainly well overdue. But I'll keep right on the journey with you.

Sweet Irene said...

I see how capable you are and how self sufficient. Once we get out of the domination of someone, we turn out to be quite reliable and strong people.

You did a good thing, hitching that U-haul to your car and driving away from everything. It takes guts to do that.

Breezy said...

Aims - the journey continues then? With still more bad luck along the way. Or good luck if you factor in surviving that journey! I hope your blog and book help with the mental pain keeping all that inside can not of been easy. But now you know you have laid it all out for us to see and we still like you. In fact like and admire you for your strength.

I Beatrice said...

And were there bears Aims? On that long and terrible journey,I mean...

All the way through I kept thinking to myself, "all that's wanting now is for a bear to come lumbering out of the darkness, and poor Ani's cup of misfortune will have overflowed!"

The fact that none came is a good omen - at least I hope so. The horrific injuries to your father came as another terrible shock at the end though - what a difficult time that must have been for you all.

I think it's clear to all of us now though, that your sheer courage is going to see you through almost anything... But is it going to be plain sailing into the big blue barn at last? Oh how I do hope so!

aims said...

RC - It was a scary drive - long and lonely and I wondered if I would end up freezing to death by the side of the road.

Potty Mum - Finally - I thought!

SITH - It took a very long time - but eventually it did.

Irene - When I think back on how controlling he was - I shudder.

Breezy - I've noticed a difference after I've written horrible events.

Dearest B - how did you know I'm terrified of bears?? Thankfully none - but it was a horrible way to start my new life.

Stinking Billy said...

aims, you are a victim, a survivor and, above all, an author. Good luck with your book.

Debra in France said...

Hi Aims, I have finally been able to catch up reading your blog. I echo Breezy's comment about coping with everything inside of you.

You are a real inspiration to us all. You are brave, talented and strong. Debs xx

aims said...

Billy - You are a darling.

Debra - Glad to see you back - I've noticed your absence.

Joy T. said...

Oh lordy you write SO good! I want to be the first to buy your book :o) And if you are EVER in the Edmonton area, you make sure and look me up. I'd love to meet for coffee with the bravest blogger I know!

aims said...

Joy - that would be fun! Maybe meet in R.D.?

laurie said...

your courage is astounding.
your life has been remarkable.
i hope you're not ashamed of any of it. it's your life. and, like p. mummy says, you took control of it.

aims said...

Laurie - Some things I just can't tell - and have spared the readers here much that is not in the book. Don't know if that was right or not - but I didn't want to offend anyone. Here it is more personal than say if it was published. Then you don't have much interaction from people you have grown to almost know.