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!