GRAPE AND GARY'S LOVE STORY
Chapter 1 |
Chapter 2 |
Chapter 3 | Chapter 4 | Chapter 5 | Chapter 6
Chapter 7 | Chapter 8 | Chapter 9 | Chapter 10 | Chapter 11 | Chapter 12
Chapter 13 | Chapter 14 | Chapter 15 | Chapter 16 | Chapter 17
Back in January of 1996, as the rivers were rising thru out the Portland area, my Mom was dying of cancer in Tucson. With each terrible storm here in the NorthWest, my mother would ask for me, and thus help me, escape the terrible weather condition Portland had that whole winter. This was the period of my life I called "My Era of Loss".
It started with my losing a great, fun job I had delievering flowers for a friend's flower shop. As with the Ma and Pa hardware stores, invididual flower shops are no longer thriving due to 1-800-flowers and the mass selling of them in grocery stores. So Wendy had to close her shop and my 2 years of driving around with my dog in my purple truck cheering people's lives with flowers came to a quiet and sad ending.
The next month, February, my mother died.
March brought to me my first root canal and my 40th birthday.
April, a guy friend I had been seeing on and off went away (never sure if this was really a loss in the big picture, but it sure felt like one at the time).
In May my best girl friend, who lived across the street, found the town of her dreams and started to plan the move that would take her 252.5 miles away from me.
June 19th, my beloved and elderly dalmation, of whom I have many many stories about, my only constant in my world of perpetual change, the one who shared my heart thru really "ruff ruff" times, was put to sleep in a most dignified way. The pain of that loss is without comparison. I saw what I thought was her out of my perephiral vision for about 3 days. I couldn't walk thru the front door without an enormously heavy heart. Well, you animal lovers know the pain of that kind of loss. I took comfort in our 13 and a half years together, and the memories, including her visiting 8 states and about that many National Parks with me.
So all in all I lost my dog, my mom, my job, my best 2 friends moved away, I turned 40 and had a root canal...in 6 months! That was my era of loss.
Threes days after we lost Riki, the dalmation, a friend called to ask me over for dinner. I told her I hadn't stopped crying and couldn't eat anyway. Well she started to lie, she said I have to eat(we really don't need to much while in deep mourning)she said it would be just us,(thinking she meant her husband and me)and various other mistruths to get me to come over. It worked, somehow she convinced me to leave my sad little house and go to her happy horizontal house(it is 4 stories!!!and 15 steps up just to get in the front door!)
Well I may have been a bit out-of-it due to my sadness, but I noticed right away there were many people there,
3 couples and a very handsome man.
I was introduced and right away I noticed a silver band on his wedding finger. This was my signal, even if I were up for new stuff, to run away. So for the rest of what turned out to be a really enjoyable evening, I would chat and run away from this big handsome guy.
At the end of the evening when the hostess and I were in the kitchen doing the late night rinsing of dishes, she asked me "So what do you think of Gary?" I was a bit startled by this question I answered "I think he is married!" Kathleen's voice rose in pitch and speed saying "he is not, why do you think that, he's who I told you all about months ago". When she took a breath, I said "What is that ring on his finger?" She excitedly said "I don't know but I have known him well for 10 years and he isn't married,never been married, no girl friend, I have no idea why he has a ring on." She must have sensed my next question, without another word coming out of my mouth, she responded quickly, "And he is straight!". Gee, when we get to our 40s it really does seem like men are married, gay or crazy. We had just eliminated 2 of those, but the party was over! Almost over anyway.
After chatting politely and running away repeatedly from Gary all evening now, I was ready to chase this single man!!! With 10 minutes til everyone was to leave, every minute was valuable. I followed him up the stairs and he went to the bathroom! Well, this is not working. So when he came out he said his goodbyes. I'm thinking and thinking, and I come up with a stroke of sheer brilliance, I'll ask him to walk me to my car! Oops, I forgot that I was parked at the foot of the 15 stairs, practically right out the front door! So being the very gallant man, he walked me out the doorway and down the stairs,... that took maybe almost a minute!
I got in my car and Poof he was gone.
OK this is the first installment. Stay tuned to the next chapter. I thought of a couple titles, but all came out sounding so bad, like "You look really bad, would you like to date me?" "I hear you are having the worst time in your life, shall we go out for dinner?"
Over the course of the summer, I saw Gary at parties almost every weekend. It turns out we knew many of the same poeple for years and years. In chatting without running away, I learned that we had lived 2 1/2 blocks from each other for 5 years, and both had worked evenings at that time. It is absolutely amazing to me that we never met. I knew just which house was his. I rememeber walking Riki by this house and seeing people out on the front porch with cans of beer looking like they were having fun. He doesn't remember me or remarkably my Dalmation from that time. He had a long time girlfreind during these years and never had a straying eye is his reason. (but not notice my dalmation??)
Anyway, at each of these parties he looked worse and worse to me. His face was literally greying and he was losing weight at a remarkable rate. He had lost his job he had for 9 years too, due to too many sick days. He complained of a backache.
I guess one day in late July, he was hurting so badly he asked a friend to drive him to the emergancy room. Since he no longer had insurance he was not given x-rays or proper attention, was diagnosised with lower back sprain, told to go home take pills and lay low for 2 weeks.
It was awhile before I saw him again. Our mutual friends were saying things like, "Why don't you ask GJ out?" and he was saying "OH gee um, I have no job, I am in pain, I can't sit up straight, I'm broke, think she'd want to go out with me?" and they would nod and say "Sure!"
And actually the friends were right! Even tho I was dating a bit that summer, more than I had in years, I saw something in Gary I really really liked. Something about him I really wanted to know more about. He had a grace about him, even under these terrible conditions.
In August he went to other doctors, many said "buck up" others accused him of wanting pain pills. He gave up seeking medical advice.
By the end of August, he had sold almost all of his antiques and other valuable stuff to pay the rent and utilities. He was trying to paint a friend's house to get some money, but hurt so bad he could only paint for an hour or two. He had now lost 35 pounds in 2 months.
One of our mutual friends told him I have a hot tub, why didn't he just call and ask me if he could come over. She assured him I would say yes.
So on September 3rd 1996, almost 3 months after meeting him, I got a phone call from him.
Chapter 3, give a guy a beer, strip him down to his bathing suit, put him in hot water and watch him tell all!
Gary got directions to my house (I had bought this little house a few years earlier and moved out of his neighborhood, but was still only 2 or so miles away). When he showed up he looked like a man in so much pain, we went almost straight into the hot tub. I was so hoping he could get some relief.
We spent about an hour in there, he talked like I had never heard him before. He is normally a rather quiet man, great listener, but this evening he even told me all kinds of stuff. He even told me that night he would marry if he found the right gal. I couldn't believe how he opened up to me. We had some laughs. I was rather impressed with this man but deeply concerned for him.
When he got out of the tub after what should have been a healing relaxing soak, he was in more pain than before. I am no doctor or medical person, and don't play one on TV, but even I knew that if it were really a muscle sprain it would not be made worse by a long soak in the hot tub.
I suggested he go to a free clinic I had heard of close-by.
As I recall I got a nice hug and quick good night. He left early and in great pain.
He called me the next day to thank me, and I think he called me or we saw each other almost everyday from then on.
Gary went to the free clinic and was told he could not get drugs there and was not to come back! They treated him like a drug addict even tho he had never been to a clinic like this or had any history of abuse. He was humiliated and I was aghast. I felt extra bad because I was the one who encouraged him to keep trying to get medical help and lead him toward that free clinic.
The second date we were going to go to a movie but when he got to my house in his cute little Datson 240Z-car he said he hurt too much to go sit in a theater. I remember we sat around my dining room table and talked so easily, but he could not sit still and the couple of beers were no where near enough to kill that kind of pain.
He had let his hair grow, he said shaving was too much, so his beard was bushy and wild. He looked like a biker-dude without the tatooes. But his eyes were soft and sincere, his manner so gentle and sweet. He never swore. I remembered thinking how classy he was even thru this terrible ordeal.
That evening when he got up to go home, again rather early, he bent over to give me our first kiss. We were on my covered front porch, just as our lips touched a flash of what we can only think must have been heat lightening lit up the sky! I got goosebumps, even to this day thinking about our first kiss, brings the same responce to my body and my heart. It was amazing, one simple kiss and I was forever changed.
I was happy and smiling like crazy after he left. This really is special I thought.
So I planned a little dinner party with 2 of the other couples that were there the night we met 3 months before. It was a good way to have a fun time withut Gary feeling bad about having no money. The women from these 2 couple had been the ones really pushing Gary to ask me out all summer and the men had been Gary's dear friends for along time. It would be a relaxed time and I figured they can check out the 2 of us together, see if it appeared to them as special as I felt it was.
I decided on an Asian themed party. I was serving Thai pad noodles with chicken. I decorated the house in Chinese lanterns and big paper dragons. I planned to wear a tight fitting dress my Mother had made from silk she brought back from Thailand. I was really slender then and the dress was long, to the ankles and VERY fitting. (I mean tight-ass dress).
The morning of the party, us girls were all excited, we chatted on the phone about us all dressing up, what they can bring and how it was going to be so much fun.
I headed off to the hairdressers, yes I was even having my hair done! I was going to knock Gary's socks off!
It was raining for the first time in awhile and the roads were wet and slippery. As I drove down the street I remember thinking I best leave some room in front of me to brake. I no sooner had that thought, and started to brake slowly when out of the blue I was rear ended---- BAM!----
We both pulled into the center strip and got out, it was POURING rain. Z who had been in the supercab part, seemed to be alright, I was OK, the driver that hit me was polite and concerned, appropreiatly so and he seemed fine too. We looked at the back of my truck and WOW, was it damaged. He really did hit us hard! He was a Home Health Nurse on his way to a client's house in the company car, so I was relieved to know they would have proper insurance. It was funny trying to write down the info, since it was raining so hard the writing kept disappearing. But I got what I needed and headed onto the hairdresser's.
As my long time caring hairdresser was cutting and styling my hair and hearing my story she was getting a bit concerned, and I was getting a stiff neck. She convinced me that with my history of skeletal problems and arthritis I needed to be checked out, for the just-in-case factor alone. So I convinced her to finish my hairdo and Kathleen came and got the dog and me and took us to the emergancy room. The staff was so cool to Z, they had her lay down on a heating pad and they gave her an asperin. They did x-rays on me. I checked out fine. They said that I would probably hurt more later so they wrote me out a prescription for muscle relaxers. Kathleen called the others and set the party back one hour. She also said since I was OK for now that in the interest of time she would pick up my prescription on her way over that evening, if I dropped it off then. We had a plan.
I was home getting the dinner started and I put on my dress. It has a zipper that goes all the way up the back that I couldn't get closed. Since Gary was the first one to arrive, he zipped me up.(this part is important for later on in the story)
I don't normally do this, in fact on the whole I am against this next part. I told Gary who was in more pain than ever, that when Kathleen got here I would give him a muscle relaxer. He said he would take it. Soon Kathleen and her husband got here and she handled me the bottle she picked up at the pharmacy. I opened it and gave Gary one pill.
The guys went downstairs to do guy things and us girls stayed in the kitchen finishing the meal prep and giggling. I didn't take a pill even tho I was stiffening up and starting to hurt a bit. I was worried about getting dinner on the table first in case they made me too sleepy and I was to fall asleep in my noodles, I wanted everything all ready.
So when everything was really ready I went to the bathroom to take a muscle relaxer. I picked up the bottle Kathleen had brought and looked at it carefully for the first time. It wasn't muscle relaxers, it was anti-fungal medicine! I had given Gary an anti-fungal pill!!! I came running out of the bathroom, red faced, laughing nervously and deeply concerned. The girls knew something was up immediately. I was able to tell them I had poisoned the man I was falling for! They both laughed so hard there were tears coming out of their eyes. This was theeee funniest thing they had ever heard of.
I was getting no sympathy that I had to tell him. I had to confess this. First I called the pharmacy to figure out what had happened and if there are complications if combined with beer! The pharmastist had given Kathleen an old prescription of mine and the muscle relaxers were still there and anyone would be OK if they had a couple beers with one pill.
What was left to do was to go tell him. But all I could think of was the Seinfeld episode where Jerry finds anti-fungal cream in his girlfriend's medicine cabinet, is so horrified and breaks up with her.
I end up making it a much bigger deal when I asked the guys to leave so I could speak privately to Gary . This made it all the more intimidating. Poor Gary was so worried, his face besides in pain, was now very worried, while I could not seem to say what I had to say. What must have felt like forever, I finally blurted out "I am so sorry I gave you an antifungal pill, not a muscle relaxer. I didn't know". Gary looked instantly relieved and simply said "I wondered why I didn't feel better". So no big deal, phew.
Ok, we have dinner and poor Gary can't stand to even sit still, he couldn't even eat my wonderful food.
Jimmy was telling him he had a job where Gary could make some money for a week which should have made Gary happy. Nothing. No reaction, just more shuffling in his seat.
We were not even thru dinner when Gary said he was so sorry he had to go. He got up, I walked him to my porch, it was still raining. I could see the once adult friends all peering shamelessly thru the window, as Gary once again bent over to kiss me goodnight.
Lo and behold a bolt of lightning came flashing again from the sky. It was so amazing. This time I said something, I don't remeber what. Gary said "whoa" and we both grinned ear to ear. That's twice now, 2 kisses, two bolts of light. Portland rarely gets thunder and lightening, it rarely gets heat lightening either for that matter.
I was disappointed that Gary left early but at that point I couldn't wait to get back in the house to see if our friends noticed the lightening and the kiss. They did. Everyone was shouting and wooing and laughing. All of us were excited. The other 2 couples stayed late and when the last one left late that night, I forgot to ask for help to be unzipped!
YEP! I spent the night in my tight sexy Thailand silk dress, my Morticia Adams tight-assed full length dress. It was awful! Not being able to sleep tho left me along time to think.
There was something seriously medically wrong with Gary and I had to find out what it was.
Chapter 4---Gary gets examined really well...in time.
I finished tossing and turning in my tight-assed Thailand pajamams, um, dress, grateful I didn't have a leg cramp while bound up in this get-up. I decided someone in the neighborhood would be awake enough by then to unzip me. I was thinking of the night before standing on the porch at 2 AM, looking up and down the street for anyone up and about, or anyone's house light on, on the off chance that I could beg for an unzipping. In telling this story later to a normally sensible friend, she said "why didn't you call the fire department?" ...Excuse me? I am going to call a bunch of on duty emergency guys to ask them to come undress me? What would I say..."just send the short truck?".
I eventually got help from a neighbor that had to finish laughing, which added a fair amount of time to the total I spent in this tight-fit outfit.
Now with my entire focus off of myself and my clothing, I could think about a dear man in a lot of pain and desperation.
The phone rang that morning, it was Gary. He said he was just too in pain to go with Jimmy to Hermastin, Oregon to work, to do that job Jimmy offered him. That's when it really hit me how serious this really must be. That it was time to really intervene. Up to this point I felt it was Gary's responsibility. And call me cold, but I think especially by the time a woman hits her 40's and has been single as long as I had, we see men trying to use all kinds of ways to get attention, to possibly even sponge off a romance. I was leery of doing to much too soon. I was not out to have him dependent on me. But I was seeing a man's whole being slipping away and it was time to step up.
I called a doctor friend from the days I worked at a hospital. He had been an elderly surgical resident (as Mel and others know a resident in their 40's in OLD!) while I was evening shift operating room co-ordinator. I was the one that got to tell high-stressed, over egoed surgeons that their case would not be going on time. (But actually I liked that job).
Then I called a few people from the social service working field to ask about "The Oregon Health Plan" which is a rather brilliant umbrella of medical coverage for people that fall between welfare and company health coverage.
As a side line here,I'd like to tell you that this Plan has been studied thoroughly as a guide for a National Healthcare Plan. We have a remarkable Governor who is a former emergency room physician to thank for it.
This was a Sunday. I learned that Gary would be able to be covered by following some simple steps. I learned that Donel would be able to come by, but not for many hours to come. So I went to Gary's house and we waited. It was hard for me to see him in so much pain, I can not come close to imagining how hard it was for him. He told me stories of desperate feelings he had thru these many months of descending into a private anguished hell.
Donal got there at 11 that night (aw the hours of a surgical resident!) I left while he examined Gary. I could hear screams that pierced the air right thru the walls. My concern was growing so fast. How could Gary's condition have gone on so long? Is he going to get the help he needs? Will he be OK? Why didn't I act sooner? Why didn't the other doctors in the emergency rooms and clinics DO something?
Donal came out to talk to me, in whispered tones he told me it was serious, could be a tumor, and he was calling the University Hospital (not the one we worked at, but the other trauma hospital with a larger research base and more medical residents). We were to go NOW!
It took Gary over an hour to get enough strength to get dressed and get in my truck. We drove the short distance to the emergency room and were ushered into a room immediately, we didn't pass go, didn't even see the waiting room, Donel had called ahead, they were ready for us including a social worker. At the same time they started treatment they had him signing papers to graphics/GrapeBunch1.gif">
At this point Gary is settling in to his hospital room and was in a bit of a state of shock. He wanted to get help and relief, but I think he wasn't expecting such a drastic stream of events after so many months of debilitating pain and suffering.
The first thing they did was hook him up to an IV to get a general antibiotic flowing and to dump massive amount of Demeral into him. I was glad to be there when the doctor came in to let him know what was going on. She told us he had an infection in his lower back. They were going to need to find out what kind of infection and the source if possible. She explained in gruesome detail the damage the infection had already done to his lower back and the fact that he had had the infection for a year or more(!!!!).
At one point she said that it could be a fungal-type infection. At that point, we both had to laugh! You know what we were thinking don't you? I had not poisoned him afterall. The mistakenly taken antifungal pill was a help!!!! (Gratefully we did not share this with the doctor, but it was a great source of comic relief when we needed it!)
She asked a lot of questons, history of medical problems, family history and then she got real serious, especially discerning sounding, when she started asking about intravenous drug use, past or present, sexual orientation or experimentation. This was my cue to leave.
After she left, I went back in and Gary was the most scared I had seen. They were testing him for AIDs. He told me he had no history to make him in a high risk group, but that the doctor told him that people with AIDs get some crazy infections.
She also told him that it was amazing that the infection seems to have stayed in one place, not traveled to his heart or brain and killed him already. She told him he was with in DAYS of becoming permanently paralyzed and weeks from death if they had not started treating him now, that day.
So I went home heavy hearted wondering if I was falling for a paraplegic with AIDs. And Gary lay in a hospital bed fearing for his very life.
The tests all came back negative for AIDs! Unfortunately I could tell that his care got more hands on after that. I know the caregivers are to take precautions on everyone, and that all patients are supposed to be be treated with the same compassion and dignity, but I saw a difference in how he was treated before the number of days the test took to come back and after. For me that was another sad awareness of what AIDs and HIV people go thru.
They needed to know exactly what kind of infection he had so they could be specific in which antibiotic to give. They would not say if it was curable or if his back could heal without surgery until more information was attained. They told him he would be going for a biopsy soon.
I stayed with Gary during the daytime while he was in the hospital, along with my dog Z. We got to be such a fixture that the housekeeping staff made Z a bed in Gary's room with clean sheets everyday or every other. Gary was getting good care.
One day early into his stay a team of cocky-acting medical residents came in for their daily rounds. One of them said "WHO is SHE?" pointing at me. Gary sat up straight and said in a strong voice, "She is my girlfriend". Now this might not seem 'romantic' to the casual observer, but my heart skipped a beat, then started pounding. I am sure I was beaming with delight. A version of Sally Field came to mind, He likes me, he really likes me.
We may have had only 3 dates and seen each other in passing for the 3 months before that, but I felt I could see the real man with all he was dealing with, how he handled himself thru the worst time anyone could have, and I was so impressed. I think I learned more about him than if we had done the regular dinner and movie date thang.
And now I was his girlfriend!!! Official title! I was liking that!
His friends really rallied in many ways. A team of them dispatched themselves to clean his house. It had gone down hill so badly in the year he was going down hill. A neighbor had been great about feeding his beloved male cat named Vivian. (I guess we all know how those mistakes can be made early on in a cat's life. Poor cat has lived up to his name, he acts like a Vivian, but since Vivian is a man's name in England, Gary says he acts British! I have no comment).
Other friends would stop by regularly with a gift or some good food. Everyone of the many many friends Gary had showed their love and care in neet ways. I was honored to be with someone that could inspire such love and concern.
I don't remember how many days into his stay they did the biopsy. It did not go well. Gary was not suffiently medicated before hand or during. Apparently the floor(ward) didn't understand they were asked to give (some or all?) the meds and the X-ray department, or wherever the procedure was done, did not make sure he had been given the right anesthetic and pain meds and didn't give him more. On top of that the instrument that they do the biopsy with got tangled in some nerves. I have never even seen a burn patient in that much pain. Gary was crying out deperately. I was in another room yelling that something is wrong, FIND OUT!!!
When he was wheeled out of the treatment room, his teeth were clenched and his coloring was gone! He was shaking, almost to the point of convulsions. They got him back to his bed and only then, after getting a doctor's orders, did they get him enough pain relievers that he could begin to relax. I have never seen anyone so brave that was not at war. But that was a battlefield for Gary, that's for sure.
It was only AFTER that, that we learned of the communication error. AND Gary had nerve pain due to the damage in his thigh where the procedure was done for over a year afterwards. We have always been grateful that the terrible high pitched pain that can only be associated with nerve pain did eventually go away.
The biopsy was successful in that it was determined exactly what kind of infection he had and it could be completely curable! He had a staph-like infection, probably had traveled down his body from a bad oral surgery procedure he had had a year and a half before!!!
In men over 40, their lower backs are a vulnerable place, and so like soldiers looking for a safe camp, this infection found it's haven between L3 and L4 and had dined on the disc between those vertebrae. That disc had been completely liquified by the rage of the infection.
Now they could give the exact right antibiotics, but the question would remain if his spine would fuse properly on its own? And would it fuse on a nerve thus giving Gary a pinched nerve problem? Only time would tell they said.
They inserted a Groshong Catheter in Gary's forarm. This is a small blue tube that ran all the way up and dumped out over his heart. This is the avenue that would be used for the 5 more weeks he would have to have antibiotics.
I was impressed because one of the surgeons I had worked with, invented it!!! I knew Dr. Groshong.
After being in the hospital a week now, Gary was started to ask when he could go home.
Chapter 6.... Where was Gary to go tho?
On the Monday morning that made Gary's hospital stay a full week, he was feeling better and was really ready to go home. When I arrived he was dressed in street clothes and looking antsy. I had taken some pictures of the beloved Vivian and had them developed. I asked him if he wanted me to tape them up so he could see his baby boy anytime he wanted. Gary said "No I am ready to go home!"
The doctors came by on their rounds and said as soon as Gary learned to infuse himself with the antibiotics, he could go home. We asked them a few questions like,"How long until Gary can start looking for work?" When we heard the answer, it was another real awakening to the severity of Gary's medical situation. The head of the department of Infectious Diseases was a real straight shooter and didn't beat around the bush. He said they hoped Gary could get back to work in 6 months to a year at best. He would have limitations on lifting and perhaps some mobility issues. Some of it depended on how his back fused and if he needed surgery down the line.
This was devastating news for Gary. I asked what kind of help he could get financially. They said they would send in a social worker and get him all lined up with aid and everything else he needed. We exhaled a bit hearing that.
The next thing that happened is the IV nurse came to teach Gary how to infuse himself every 6 hours with the life saving drugs he needed to be able to live a full, hopefully healthy life. She invited me to stay so I could learn to do it too, "2 are better than one" she said. (I'm thinking , YEA! Tell Gary that!!)
I don't think anyone in the hospital knew or could tell just how new our relationship was. I really think we looked like a comfortable match. I was feeling very close to him, going thru this medical nightmare together.
Waiting and watching how he dealt with the next steps was going to be really important too, tho. I was still aware that no matter how brave and noble he was through this, facing the upcoming battle of getting better and getting back into the mainstream of life was going to be equally hard.
The IV nurse showed us the complicated procedure. I was overwhelmed by what all he would have to do, the efforts to keep everything sterial is just one thing. The schedule of every 6 hours sounded hard. It meant he could never sleep more than 5 hours at a time. The warnings she gave about making sure no bubbles get in the line, or he dies, make sure the flow doesn't reverse or he dies. Don't leave the line in after the bag is empty or he dies. If he feel asleep while doing this he could die. I asked if a nurse would be coming everyday to oversee this. We were told, oh yes, a nurse will come every week. Once a week? Oh My God!!! And the nurse is coming by ONCE a WEEK?
This man is going to be on demeral for another month, while infusing himself with medicine that makes him even more tired, and he can only sleep in short spirts, and he has to do all this on his own? He had 5 more weeks of infusions, 4 times a day, to deal with. His schedule would be 6AM, noon, 6PM, midnight. Each infusion took almost an hour. I kept my mouth shut and listened and watched the procedure really carefully. But I was worried . I didn't say a word. Gary seemed to understand and follow the steps to this really well.
Later that day the discharge planner/social worker did come by. She told us that they were working with the Oregon Health Plan to get a skilled nurse to come visit him once a week while the infusions were going on. She said that there were a few snafus and it could take a day to get everyone and everything in line so he would need to stay there as an inpatient until everything was set in stone. Gary thought "OK I can hang one more day."
Gary and I had had the big financial talk over the weekend. That's when I learned just how bad his finances were. I knew he had been selling lots of his stuff, antique furniture and nice dishes, tools, who knows what all else. I didn't know what the rent situation was. He lived in a pretty nice neighborhood, in a really sweet 2 bedroom house. Rents in Portland even 5 years ago were high, tho since Gary had lived there 10 years, his rent was considerably lower than the rest of the area. I learned that weekend that he had paid that month, September, but he had nothing to pay the next month or the month after.
I spoke up and told the social worker that Gary had some finacial issues, and asked how do we start the process to get him the help he needed to stay in his house.
She looked dumbfounded.
This didn't look good all of a sudden.
She asked Gary some questions like did he have children, no. Would he be permanantly disabled, no. Over a year? no. She said "I'm sorry there is no way for him to get financial aid. He is eligible for food stamps and the Health Plan but the state is not going to pay his rent or utilities." I said "well where is he to live while he injects himself 4 times a day?" I am sure my voice went up to a high pitch, I could feel the emotions come right to the forfront of my face and body.
She said "Oh, well, as long as he is having the infusions, we can put him in a nursing home".
I said "Let me understand this, the state will pay ...what? $2500 dollars a month for him to stay in a NURSING home but there is not $700.00 to keep him in his home? And after he finishes his treatment he is OUT? With Nothing?"
I am sure that her job must be hard, especially if she has to tell people this news. I was in shock. "The doctors told us there was help, that Gary is going to be disabled for almost a year, that you would lead us to the way we can keep this man from dire straights". (I caught myself from saying the powerful word 'homeless' in front of Gary.)
She asked if we wanted her to look into a nursing home.
I don't remember her leaving. I remember, with what was left of that day, my running home and calling everyone, anyone, welfare, voc-rehap, Portland Impact, every neighborhood association in the southeast area. I called every social service agency. I even called churches, even tho neither of us belonged. I called the Crisis Center which has the best base of referrals in the city. Any number or place they gave me turned up empty.
I was beyond shock.
I worked with the homeless for 4 years prior to my mother getting sick (and after the hospital job). I had learned and knew of about 5-8% of the homeless population was caused by sheer bad luck, such as medical nightmares like Gary's. I had worked with both the "campers" and the ones that got hooked into the system and slept in the shelters. A mentality, with even the 5 to 8 percenters that didn't have drug or alcohol problems or mental illnesses occurred almost the first night of being homeless. It might be like what happens to people incarcerated, even the innocent ones. I think that they change, they HAVE to change in order to survive. It is not a good change, it maybe necessary, but it is not pretty.
I was scared for Gary. He was scared too. How many hurdles is this man going to have to jump to get back to being a contibuting member of society without some help?!
That night I called his friends. We all got together, I told them the situation. They were all as shocked as I was. How can there be NO help? This rich country we live in, and all we could find was a shelter bed and a food basket. We could not find an organization to give $700.00 to keep him in his home! Incredulas. (Gary was laying in his hospital bed feeling more alone than ever. He was having nightmares of a bus ride back to Iowa to his mom's house, which would NOT be a good place either).
His friends and I bantered some ideas around. At first each one of them said "he can stay at my house" but each family had a problem, it was either not enough room, (Jimmy and family had 2 bedrooms and 2 kids), Kenny lived 45 miles out of town, not close enough for Gary to get to his many hospital appointments, Kathleen has the vertical house, it would take him 35 steps to get in the living room and another 20 to get to the bathroom each time) Paul lived with his mother, Denise and Byron had lots of late night parties. We did think maybe he could move around to each for a week or something, but that didn't sound healthy or stable for a recuperating man either.
Someone said,"well GJ, you have a 2 bedroom house all to yourself". A wave of emotion, and not the good kind, ran thru me. I could do that, I could let him move in, I did have the room, but it would surely ruin the relationship. Most of the "Tribe" of really incredible friends said if I would let him move in with me, they would each help support him and Vivian. That they would try to make sure that it didn't cost me anything. HUH! I was thinking it might not cost me a penny, but it could cost me a relationship with the most wonderful, noble, honerable, not to mention fine looking man I had ever met.
The next day, I went to the hospital dreading what I would find. I just couldn't imagine how Gary was going to get thru this. I was hesitant to tell him the offer, What am I saying, I was hesitant to GIVE him the offer.
I greeted him with the regular smile and kiss. He looked really down. Normally, thru this awful week of hospitalization, my walking thru the door would elicit a smile, not that day. He told me he had to spend yet another day inside this prison-feeling place, and not because of his health, but because of organizational problems. The hospital was still wrestling with getting home health coverage for him. I could appreciate that they were not taking any chances that he could be discharged and then find out that he has no coverage, but how frustrating to spend the 9th day inside these sterile walls.
We got his IV pole mobile and went for a walk outside. This hospital is situated on one of the highest hills in the area, the views are absolutely spectacular. The air was clean and warm, we sat on a park bench and held hands, quiet and sad but not alone.
I couldn't bring myself to tell him the "Tribe's offer" to have him move in with me. He had September's rent paid, and long ago he had paid "last month's" so he had until the end of October. Maybe a miracle would happen to keep him in his home. At that point I thought, let's just get him out of the hospital.
Chapter 7....OK, we kissed and have been to "second Base" let's live together.
It is Wednesday and Gary had been in the hopsital well over a week. The good news when I got there was that he had been sprung! He was going to be able to leave that afternoon. I drove him home and he settled in, the cat was happy to see his "Daddy" and all was well.
It was a few days later, when the high of coming home was wearing down and the reality of the unpredictable future was setting in, that I brought up the option of his living at my house in return for chores and stuff.I told him that the "tribe" and I had talked about it. He brissled at the idea. I told him to just put it in his row of ducks he would be lining up.
My little house has a small bedroom up a flight a stairs with low ceilings, but I was too paniced, selfish, something, to offer him that room. It seemed just a bit too close and maybe claustrophobic.
I have a whole big empty basement and in 5 years of owning this house the basement had always been dry. There were nice size windows down there. I didn't think it would be too bad. (OK one had to go outside to get to the main house, but how bad is that??!! OK thats bad, but it is dry and warm.)
As time went on and we listened to people tell us their opinions about us living together varying from "great idea" to "DON'T it'll ruin the relationship", Gary decided to make the move. He was backed up against a wall really. His choices were very limited,and he knew it. He had lived in the cute older home for 10 years and had been set and happy to stay there for at least that many more. This was not a decision he made lightly, but he saw no alternative, he had no money, no way to work and no state aid other than food stamps.He did not want to move back to Iowa, away from such good friends and now his medical support system.
He had almost month to pack and sort and prepare. He sold some more things to pay the phone bill and the electric so that he could have light his last few days there. He was down to a few pieces of furniture , his incredible cigarette lighter collection and his cherished books, some old, some not, but all loved! I know how many of you feel about your books, so you will completely understand how wonderful it was that he could at least hold onto those treasures.
He had some help before the big moving day and he asked that the books be moved first. We put them in the basement like all his stuff would eventually go.
That night it rained and rained, much like it does here 250 days a year. I didn't think anything of the rain. And, like normal I didn't go down to the basement.
Gary came over between the narrow window of opportunity he was not infusing himself, to start setting up stuff the day before the gang was all to desend in masse to help move everything.
He walked into the basement and was mortified.
My basement had never even been damp, never mind flooded. I don't know what happened, what must have changed, or any of the whys.
The basement was sopping wet and almost every single book in every single box was wet...was damaged or completely ruined.There were a good 5 inches of water on the floor. It took the breath right out of Gary. He sat down on the stairs and wept. Thru this whole mess, he had maintained such strength, such foresight, such honor. This was simply too much. He had lost everything now. I felt bad, surprised, sad, responcible, all kinds of things, but nothing to compare with the loss Gary must have felt at that very minute. When were things going to get better?
I heard so many people say "hang in Gary, it's gonna get better" and words to that effect. Gary was hanging in and it was not getting better, it must have felt like it was getting much worse.
No one could live in that mess that was once a nice dry basement. As Gary waded thru the books and tried to salvage and dry each treasured page, I went to the upstairs bedroom and started to remove my storage stuff, so he could live there.
I was ashamed of myself that I didn't just have him move right into the main part of the house from the beginning. I was very freaked out about ruining the relationship.
Truth be told, I was actually SURE it was going to wreck the budding romance. I decided during some real sleepless nights, before I offered this option to Gary that it was more important to help save one person from a potencially bad situation, possible homelessness, certainly a chaotic situation of moving from friend to friend, than to worry about a love relationship. I had been single a long time, I was happy, I was prepared to be single a lot longer. Loosing a potential love affair was not as important. Sometimes one person can change a whole cycle of events, turn a life around and I was thinking that is way more important than my getting a good looking guy to call mine. It is an honor to be able to help someone else. Sometimes,no, so many times we are helpless to do anything but stand by and watch suffering. I decided that there was a bigger picture.
Chapter 8...Next day, moving day
The Night Before the "Merger".
Gary and I both wanted to spend the fateful last night in our respective houses. A long time friend that didn't know Gary stopped by. I told him "Joe, I think my life, as I have known it, is over". I meant to be meladramtic but jeesh, that was really over the top even for me. Funny, I had no idea how true that would turn out to be.
I decided I best tell Daddy I had met someone , at least the day before he moved in. I had avoided that, not knowing how well telling a very protective loving father that had spent 27 years in the military ..."well he has a full beard and long hair,he has no job, he can't even go to work,he's broke, he's hooked up to an IV, and he is moving in and I really like him Dad". It didn't sound good.I just didn't know how that was going to go so I put it off.
The actual conversation with Daddy turned out to be a hoot. I told him I had met someone. Daddy, being single and lonely for the first time in 51 years, was very excited about this. Perhaps his being thrown into the dating world so suddenly made my Dad less protective and more open minded. I was telling him about how Gary was getting better after a near death experience, that he is a truly noble and honorable man and I was amazed at his strength to go thru all this with such dignaty and determination. My Dad started asking light airy questions like color of eyes and hair. This was very unlike Daddy and I was very relieved.
When Daddy got to the question "how old is he?" I casually said "He is 45" ALL of a sudden my Dad gasped loudly, a fast inhale like he could barely catch his breath. I was startled for only a second ...then I said very quietly "Daddy, I'm 40". I could almost see thru the phone lines my Dad start to smile but all I could hear was a sheepish "oh...ok 5 years, oh,thats ... ok".
I laugh to this day and enjoy telling that story over and over. I am Daddy's little girl, the youngest and I guess forever his baby. It was almost unfathomable that I could be 40 and a man 45 would be age appropriate.
My Dad seemed to even understand that letting Gary move in was OK to do. I explained that Gary would help out with chores around the house, he was a good fix-it guy(something my Dad has always been and rates highly in the big picture). I told Daddy we were getting the upstairs room ready and Gary would be moving in soon.
Phew, that went ok. I'll tell Dad he has a pony tail someother day.>BR>
I awoke the next morning, a Saturday, the 16th of October. I called Gary and asked him if he were ready and he said "not really". I could understand that.It had to be hard moving due to circumstances beyond his control. Any other move would be because he wanted to, would be ready to. This was very different.
The Tribe showed up in fine form with everything including a wonderful attitude.!We had trucks, beverages,strength, lively banter and a pretty good system. After a few hours of packing up the last few things Gary had managed to hold onto and cleaning and clearing out of a house that had been WELL lived in, it was time to put the indoor cat in a box, grab the IV pole and head to the new home.
After most of the work was done and we were waiting for the pizza to be delivered, I sat out on the front porch with a few of the gals . I listened to the stories of these gals who were currently all in long term relationships. They were telling stories of how long it was before they moved in together. I think Denise was telling me her story to calm me down. She was saying "You know Byron and I moved in together after only 6 months of dating" I was quiet for a moment and then I just couldn't stop myself. I said "Gary and I had out first date 6 weeks ago".
Let me tell you it was very quiet, for quite awhile too. I got some really sympathetic looks at that point as I recall.
Then, I just couldn't help it, it spilled out over my tongue before I could catch myself, "And I bet you all slept together before you all moved in with each other."
Laughter broke out. I guess I have never been the most conventional person and so this experiance was to be no different either. Move in first, then fall in love. Hmm, not how it goes in any romance I had heard of. But I was pretty clear in my head though, that I was doing the right thing by him and if we lost the romance that was OK. This was a good safe landing for a man whose life had been cascading downhill for well over a year. I knew Gary to be a fine man, I trusted the friends would honor their commitment to loan/give/donate money and cat food. I was pretty sure I would get some light duty projects done around the house, and I knew that at the very least, the best lasagna I had ever tasted was coming my way.(Gary had won a lasagna cook off the previous 3 years running). Now it was just time to see how the roommate part was going to work. I didn't have the best record of roommates lasting a long time in the past and had since given up on the idea of sharing my house, which I didn't tell Gary before he moved in. I figured he had enough to deal with, injecting antibiotics every 6 hours, dealing with alot of pain as his spine fused and keeping a watch over my dog that he was sure was going to eat Vivian, his baby boy, to name just a few things. Why tell him everyone I had ever lived with up until then, went screaming out of my life in 3 weeks or less.
Gary got all moved in and he spent his first night up in the little attic room. The stair case is too narrow for him to have brought up his bed, so he was going to have to sleep in the futon I already had up there. I was secretly hoping he would hate the futon. So the next morning when I got all dressed up to go to the bathroom and saw him in the kitchen, my chipper "How did you sleep last night?" greeting was really a ploy to run him out of his new bed and into mine! heehee. But alas he slept well and thought the futon would work out just fine.
I felt so stongly about him, I was nervous about US and was so excited about any future. We were still acting like a couple on a romantic voyage, but now this new element was added to the mix. We were roommates. I was concerned about how we were going to "keep dating", keep the newness alive as long as possible, and yet I wanted to, I was ready to add to the level of intimacy. I didn't want our relationship to turn platonic. I was trying to resolve inside myself that if, out of this budding relationship, I ended up with a friend the quality I had come to know Gary as being, then I was the better for it. But honestly, I would be greatly disappointed.
I knew that I had to sit back and watch him do the huge steps one must take after reaching such a tragic "bottom". Perhaps a balance was not possible. How could I ask him to be my partner, my equal, my bed mate if he were still struggling with so much loss, and so much ground to regain. And I was well aware that if I tried to do too much for him, that the relationship would take on a dependent feeling and I didn't want that! I resolved that I had to sit back and wait for him to make any move. I would be the best I could be (it would be great practice) and I would try to go about my life as if the man of my dreams hadn't just completely rocked my world.
I know, I'll leave!!!!!!
That was what I came up with over the course of the next few days and sleepless nights. After he was there for not even a week, I called my best friend that had just moved 252.5 miles away and asked her if she had her spare bedroom set up yet. She said in a surprised voice, "Come on down!". Millie never expected me to leave so soon after Gary's moving in. I guess she figured I would be staking out territory within the house. She and I had had a long standing running joke about my independent streak. We used to say I could fall in love again, but god forbid that a man would move in and try to put a picture up in MY house. Boy one never knows how fast things can change.
I wasn't sure if I was in love yet, but he was already putting things up on the walls! 250 cigarette lighters to be exact! Jimmy had long ago built him a shadow box about 4 feet by 4 feet with 110 feet of surface space on it. That went up on the dining room wall first thing. It is a remarkable collection. I am to this day so impressed with it. He has 400 or more lighters, of varying ages, manufacturers, designs, and worths. They range from the kitchy as in the Playboy bunny ones, frogs, that if you squeeze their legs they light up, ((Like I wanted too, opps I digress)) and ones shaped like cars, typewriters, telephones, coffeemakers, to the send-away-with-coupons-Camel ones that WILL be quite collectable someday, to the antique table lighters that already get a fair market value. They really made a statement when one first walks in the door. I hoped that that helped Gary to feel at home in his new abode.
Before I left for Millie's, 252.5 miles away, I wanted to get the stove situation settled. The stove that came with my house was a really cool looking older one made by Fridgedair. Perhaps they should have stuck to refridgerators tho, because it never worked quite right. Gary offered to bring his stove from his house. Even tho it was avocado green, it worked alot better than my older white one. , Gary felt like he didn't have much to bring to this household and I really did need a new stove so we went thru the huge efforts to have the guys haul over the heavy old ugly, but well working stove and oven. Back on moving day it was decided that they would leave his stove on my front porch until I could get rid of mine.
A couple days before I left I called some places, like Salvation Army and also scrap metal places to see who wanted it. As I recall most places said they were not interested, that must have been why I remember calling so many places. Also I remembered later on that I did give out my address. This was unlike me, as a single gal living alone in the Big City (ok medium size but I'm from Boston remember and normally take all the precautions) so I can't figure out or remember why I even gave the address out. I was specific tho that the stove to go was white and would have to be taken from the inside of the house. Anyway, I didn't commit to anyone to come take the stove.
The next morning while Gary was infusing himself with the antibiotics at 6 AM when the sun was just starting to come up, he happened to look out the attic window and see a rental van, U-Haul or Ryder type. From this window one can not see the porch, or even the front yard, only the street. Knowing that the guy across the street had just moved his girlfreind in, and also knowing that he was hooked up to an IV poll, he didn't think much about this or could have done much if he thought he needed to. Turns out the guy across the street, who knew Gary had moved in about the same time as his girlfriend a couple days earlier, saw 2 big men that morning, take the ugly, but working stove off the front porch and into the van. My dog never barked, like she normally does when someone comes up onto the porch,I was sound asleep and didn't hear a thing.
So just when we thought there wasn't much left for Gary to loose, 2 dishonest guys, who I apparently gave our address to, stole the stove while 2 people watched!
Amazing.Unbelieveable! Now this was not a big loss, this was not a tear jerker or anything, but Honest To Pete, what was going on????!!!How much was gary suppose to loose and how many times was I going to feel like I caused it!?!
The two nice directors chairs were not and have never been messed with on that porch, the planters remain untouched, but Gary's stove...someone wanted it and got it! Once again I felt responsible, this time because I had given our address out without first making sure the stove that was to go was ready. Once again Gary handled it with much grace, no blaming and in fact he got a big laugh out of it. And I was relieved. I really wasn't that excited about an avocado green stove anyway. Maybe it meant it was time to get a nice one!
I left for what was to be 5 days in southern Oregon.It was a lovely trip down there, the leaves were still changing colors and the weather was cold and crisp.It was wonderful to see Millie! She and I had great conversations, I talked and she listened!!I had so much to ramble on about, I was falling so hard. In our years of close friendsship she had never seen me quite like this.
Really we truly had a great reunion. I realized just how badly I missed her, but what a great fit Grant's Pass was for her and how darling she had made her new little house look. We did all kinds of fun things, helped her do alot of yard work, but mostly she gave me soothing, sage advice and a great listening ear. She knew how important Gary was to me and she was really excited too. She let herself be more hopeful than I did at that time. She said she had never seen me look so happy and excited (or skinny hahah, goes along with when I fall in love... can't seem to eat or sleep. So all the signs were there). On the fourth day I got a toothache, a really bad one. I called my dentist in Portland and jumped into the truck to drive the ...yep 252.5 miles back. This trip that included some windy mountainous roads (all highway tho) is normally up to a 4 hour drive. The worse my tooth hurt, the farther down the gas pedal went. I made it home in 3 hours flat! I tore thru the house like a tornado, left Z in the truck, went to the bathroom, yelling words like Tooth! Hurt! Go ! Now! Bye!
So Gary was seeing me at my best, calmest, predictable self.
I spent 2 hours with my mouth propped open while I had another root canal performed. I swear they opened up a big drawer and then methodically took each of the several instruments out, one by one and placed them all in my mouth at once and then announced that they would be back in a few minutes. Just like that the doctor/dentist guy, the techs, the aids, everyone was gone and I sat there, mouth wide open.Eventually they finished with me and I could finally go home.
I was grumpy and tired and sore and not happy when I got home. Gary was wonderful, calming, soothing, sweet, gentle, kind, and very good looking. He had shaved his full beard that he let grow when he was simply in too much pain to move. WoW!!! This man is gorgoues!And getting more so by the day!
He missed me bad too! This was a very very very good trip all the way around.
Finally,... He didn't let go of me until the next day!
A next big step in the new household was the day Gary had his last IV infusion. This was big occasion. He could start to reclaim his life again. Antibiotics can be so draining, never mind the infection they are curing. His schedule of infusing every 6 hours and each one taking up over a half hour was also tiring, so being released from the IV pole and having the Groshong catheter removed was a celebration!
We had a party. People brought food and booze. Gary had become a bit of a lightweight in the booze department and had a bit too much that night. He ended up going to bed, my bed on the main floor even before all the company left. So by the time the last partiers departed and I got things a bit tidied up, Gary had plenty of time to fall into a deep sleep.
I slowly and gently snuggled into bed. I started cuddleing up close to my sweet big guy, and all of a sudden just as clear as day he says "NO NO NO!" Well I am so taken back, in fact I was so startled, tears almost came to my eyes. Our intimate relationship was so new, and I was so vulnerable. I started to move towards the egde of the bed quickly.I was feeling so instantly rejected. Then I heard him say emphatically "I'm with G.J.!!"
Oh wow, a big huge grin came over my face. I even laughed out loud. I just learned a whole lot. First that this man talks in his sleep(I have since learned he eats a cookie, just one, in his sleep too!)secondly I knew then I was even in his subconscious!!!!!! It took no time at all convincing him that it was alright. I was GJ. I feel asleep in his arms being held tight and feeling pretty good about how he felt about me. I loved telling him that story in the morning, realizing for sure just how sound asleep he was. Believe me tho, I told that story VERY softly and very gently. Gary didn't feel good the next day.(but I did!)
They say you learn alot about someone when you travel with them. Also it was important to me that he meet my family, not "real" family(didn't want him running away too fast just yet) but my choosen family. It was time to take him up to Seattle to meet Sue and Lana and the gang.(Sue has 5 brothers and a sister who all are as close as any good Irish family can be, and they take their holidays serious).
Gary and I packed up for a couple days worth of visiting and off we were for Thanksgiving weekend. This was to be a big test. Sue especially didn't like one single solitary man I had dated(well OK one but only one) in the 10 years we had known each other. If Gary can pass this test, I knew it was looking good. Deep down inside I knew this was a cake walk. No one can not like Gary, as far as I could tell anyway. But hey we were away from home, anything could happen.This was THE test after all.
To say things went well is putting it mildly. Everyone felt instantly comfortable around him and he seemed to fit in beautifully.
And as happens once every year or so, one of Sue's nieces or even sometimes a nephew will pipe up and ask "GJ? Will you tell the story of how you met all of us?". I had telling this story been since these kids were old enough to remember and a couple weren't even born yet. And still, they all act like each time I tell it , it is the first time they have heard it.There is always a sqeel or two at the least a giggle. What was different about the telling of it this time was that Gary was there to hear about my not so tame past. I protected a bit but to no avail. And actually let me say that Sue is a natorious liar and an outragously dishonest storyteller, so if I didn't tell what actually happened, she would make one up that far exceeds any trace of wildness that really did happen. So I tell the story.
10 years earlier, when I worked evenings at a hospital, for the Life Flight program, I had a handfull of good, close friends. Each was a very different kind of person and we didn't all hang out together, but we were all single. I don't know what happened this particular month but each one of my best friends met someone within 3 weeks of each other and feel hard. Each one became so engrossed with their new partner I practically never saw them again! It was like they all went off in 2s into the woods to hybernate. Fall was coming on and they all went to nest. WITHOUT MEEEEEE!!!!!
I was suddenly so lonely. Mind you I was happy for them all. I love what was happening to them, but Jeez!! What about MEEE???
About a month later, one of them, Amy, came out of the cave for a short time, long enough to ask a favor of me. She asked if I would drive her up to Seattle so she could pick up a table that she had left a few years ago with her old roommate and bring it back to her new house with her new lover and put it next to her new love bed.
I thought the trip sounded like fun. Gosh I was so lonely that I think if she had said lets go race slugs in 30 degree weather in our underwear, I would think ...SURE something to do with a friend. I know she asked me only cuz I had a car that got good gas milageand had a hatchback big enough to stick a small table into. So that Saturday, she filled up my gas tank and off we went up Interstate 5 towards Seattle.
Let me explain the situation I felt I was in at that time in my life, so you all might understand why the following could happen.
Along with loneliness can sometimes come the emotion so deliquately called horney. I will admit that all the way up there, which is about a 3 hour drive, I was looking at men on the road and requesting to Amy, "may I have one of him?" "I take one of him" "Oh Honey, gemme 2 of them fine lookin specimens" just pretending to order me up some fine meal of men. Amy being completely satisfied, had no inclination to play this game with me and was bored to tears.
I being the truly smooth and sophicatated single girl of the 80's spotted a really cute guy in a really beat up old car. I think it was a 20 year old Datson or Toyota. It had a bumper sticker on it's loose bumper that said "THis is not an abandoned car." So you get the idea of just how spiffy a car this was. But come on the driver was cute and he was smiling at MEEEEE!
That started it. We had a blast passing each other back and forth for about 20 miles. There was no way either of us could speed in our small pathetic cars, but we did enjoy a great game of cat and mouse at 55 MPH.
Amy was mortified because somehow once you are in a relationship you forget all the crazy things you did before you become coupled and instantly mature. I did not however let her new found maturty detour me in anyway. I was smiling and passing and smiling and slowing down.There was alot of head turning, but honestly all while driving perfectly safe.
All of a sudden the cute guy in the car holds up a phone number!!!!!!!!!!! This is so exciting and I start screaming to Amy "write it down write it down". You would think I had asked her to have my baby. I had to practically bribe the woman to get out a piece of paper and write down the 7 digit number. The timing was crucial too, as soon after we got it written down he took the next exit. Oh that was fun!!!
So we went up to the old roommates house and I tried calling the number, figuring it was the same area code. A recording said it required dialing a one first, so not wanting to put a charge on a stranger's bill, I pocketed the number and forgot about it for awhile.
Amy and I got the table, had a fun lunch in the University district of Seattle, watched them throw fish around Pike's Street market and headed home. It was nice to spend a whole day with a dear friend again, and I loved Seattle.
A week later it was slow at work and I'm telling my co-workers about the guy, ahem, CUTE guy, OK cute poor guy, in the abandoned car holding up his phone number while driving down Interstate 5. Well, this thrils them and scares them all at once.
Let me back track and explain that at that time in the 1980's there was a horrible rash of murders to women, some of them prostitutes, along the I 5 corrider between Portland and Seattle. This unknown, uncaptured murderer became known as the Green River Killer.
So as some of my co-workers were naming this cute guy 653-GRK.(the first 3 numbers of cute guy's phone number and the abbreviation of the murderer)the others were convincing me to call him. I called , a woman answered,I hung up. My thoughts were OK, that is that, now lets move on.
Nope not quite...We have this recipe,
slow night at work,
co-workers that were all bored to tears.
Put those together and somehow I was talked into calling back the next night. The people at work were saying that if he were married he would have given me his work number, others were saying maybe she was the maid(hahahah, they didn't see his car!!), and the final comment that worked was "maybe that was his sister".
Ok OK OK, I'll try once again. But remember, he wrote his number down, not his name. This was not going to be too smooth.
I called and a young sounding man answered this time. I asked in the most intelligent manner I could muster" Hello, does a man live here who drives a car that is not abandoned?"
I try again."Does anyone there own a Toyota or a Datson?"
OK this is progress, it isn't much but it is something, enough to keep me from hanging up. I say "Is he there?"
"Um do you know when he will be home?"
It's getting tough again, I don't want to give up now, I feel I have come so far, I press on. "Can you tell me his name?" I hold my breath. I can't even imagine this chatty guy giving out the cute guys name.
"OK thanks" and I hang up.
I have his name now. Great what do I do now?
Well get this, we have a third slow night at Life Flight. I mean what are the odds that the only an air ambulance between Seattle and San Francisco will have 3 slow evenings in a row? So I call again and ask for Paul.
He says "This is he". Right there I was impressed, proper English! I said "Are you the one that held up your phone number on Interstate 5 a couple weeks ago?" He said he was and he could not believe that I called.
We laughed and made a date to talk on the phone again later.
For the next 5 or 6 weeks we talked and laughed and enjoyed each other in phone calls and even exchanged a couple letters(this is before Email). I invited him to come to Portland and he did. We had a nice time. He was very recently divorced, very broke, and that was his mother who had answered the phone that first call. He had moved home again, and that explained the really sorry car.
A couple weeks later he invited me to come north. He said I could stay at his sister's house. This sounded fine. So I drove up there for the weekend and met his sister... Sue and her partner Lana!
Paul and I went out for a few more weeks,including a really fun Christmas, but the relationship was not to be. Sue and Lana like to say that one weekend I came up there and said I was there to see them, not Paul and the rest is history. I continued going to Sue and Lana's for most of the holidays and I am frequently invited to family campouts and other get togethers.
Oh and the "chatty guy" that gave out Paul's name? That is Paul's and Sue's youngest brother, at the time he was 15 or 16!!!
So now Gary knows I picked up guys on the freeway and he is only a tiny bit startled to realize that the guy he just spent Thanksgiving with is an old boyfriend of mine.(really 10 years before tho, and long since remarried to a great gal). The kids loved the story and secretly I loved telling it. And it is so great how welcome and love I feel in that family. We have all been thru alot together even if we started out rather unconventionally. Paul's and Sue's mom is someone I call Mom to this day.
The other note worthy thing that happened that weekend was that Gary saw the way Z handled herself around Sue and Lana's cat and he decided that when we got home he would finally open the door to the upstairs bedroom and let Vivian have the run of the house. He was feeling safe that my sweet Z doesn't eat cats.
What he didn't think about was that Z didn't have to eat the new cat. Z could open the back door and just let Vivian out. And then shut the door and act as if nothing had happened.
It took Gary and me a couple times of finding Vivian, a strictly indoor cat, and a not street smart cat,to figure out what was happening.
Gary changed the door knob and Z no longer could let herself or her new roommate out. But I just love what a great problem solver my baby girl is! New Cat? Let him OUT!!
In the following months, I was impressed at how well the two animals that had never been around the other's species adapted so well.They gave each other alot of room and alot of respect and I watched very carefully to see what I might learn about co-habitation and respect for each other's space.
Gary's and my days settled into a sort of routine. Although each day was different we found ways to devide the household chores and discovered we were pretty good roommates as well as compatable in many other ways. Equally as important,we found ways to have time alone while still in a small house. Remarkably we found ways to "date" and we were falling head over heels under our very own roof.
While this is very exciting and a blessed feeling, it is also scary. Besides all the regular feelings of wonderment in how a relationship will play out, I still needed to wait and see if Gary could climb up out of a disasterous medical and financial upheaval. Even if he did not cause any of this, it was really up to him to deal with it, and either rise above it or sink under the weight of it all.
Up until this point we had stayed away from the word love. I had found that in past relationships once that seemingly little 4 letter word either escaped or stampeeded out of one's mouth, a relationship would be changed forever. This didn't seem true during a friendship, but it was really obvious that this was no ordinary friendship. And it was obvious to me that Gary is not one to be rushed.
There was also another issue that as close as we were becoming, and as easy to discuss things as I felt with him, we had never talked about my birth defect, for lack of a better term. Anyone who could see me would see that I was "different", so I knew he knew! I had been very comfortable NOT talking about it with him. I think that the lack of words said so much in many ways. I figured that it made no difference to him. I have never concentrated on it. I have always felt and was raised to feel that a handicapp is only what you make of it(or a golf score). And the biggest part of it had always been other people reactions, not any limitations it put on my good life.
Unlike Eddie in Big Brother who said he welcomed childrens' questions about his one leggedness,I did not. And for many years I was uncomfortable with the stares.
So it didn't seem odd that Gary and I could know each other, live together and fall for each other without talking about that part of my life.
I am not sure what brought about my talking to him about it. But one day I asked him in a humorous way..."So did you ever notice I am different?" He laughed a bit nervously but sweetly and said yes. Then added in a cute way "Oh are you talking about your arms?" Very funny Gary. This was a good start.
I told him the story starting with one day that my mother had taken Thalidomide once, on a day she didn't know she was pregnant, when they were living in Germany. He asked very tentivively but gently "is that what made your arms short?" And I said that probably was.I felt comfortable telling him the story. My cute little arms are nothing I am ashamed of, on the other hand(pun intended)they are not the defining part of who I am.
Many children born to Thalidomide were alot more affected and some even died but in my case I was only missing my forearms and all but 2 fingers on each hand. If my mother had taken Thalidomide on a different day or taken it more than once I could have had many more skeletal problems and in severe case colon problems , so if Mother were to take that drug on ANY day, she definately took it on a good day.(my butt if fine thankfully!)
I told him that we never much talked about my arms growing up. I went to public schools and learned to tie my shoes and have good penmenship and beat the boys in teatherball along with all the other kids.
It was only in 1979 or 80 that my shoulders started to hurt, that I really started looking into what caused the birth defect and what others were doing about theirs.
My first chat about this was with my Mother. She told me that she had a terrible headache and the live in maid, who had been known to take drugs and drink excess amounts of alcohol, offered her a pill that might help. Mother, it turned out didn't know she was 21 days pregnant that day. Even tho she had a sence throughout her pregnancy that something was "wrong", she never connected taking that one pill once, to anything and the doctors never thought there was validity to her concerns.(this was before the days of ultrasound thank goodness. I hate to think of my not being brought to term if it was known that I was "deformed". Tho let me say that I support a woman's right to make that decision.)
So it was a great shock and a bit of a mental adjustment for my parents when I was born. But I told Gary that my Mother has always told me that I was born a happy kid and stayed that way. This time she shared with me that she came to realize that I was not different or dependent in the ways that she had feared. My Dad was always such a rock for me. He built me go-carts that could go 30 MPH and gave me my first hammer and nails at 10 years old.(so I could help him with the garage he was building).
Gary asked me about the people staring at me. He wondered if that bothered me. I told him it used to but not so much since I had a chat with my boss at one of the first jobs I had ever had.
My boss was (I'm sure IS) a very attractive blond woman with BIG blue eyes. She and her sister went to China back when very few Americans had ever been. She was startled to witness all the stares they got, since she and her sister looked VERY different from the Chinese. She was telling me how she just loved feeling like a movie star with everyone staring at her.
It was like a light bulb went off inside me. All this time I felt bad about people staring at me. Right then it dawned on me that in reality all I had to do was deside that my raving beauty or star quality could be the reason! From that day on I never felt bad about the stares that is apart of my life. The other thing it taught me was that if I ever met a child that was struggling with feeling stared at because of a physical challenge or obvious birth mark, I would tell them that it may be just because that child is being mistaken for a movie star or famous princess or prince! Then teach him/her to do the royal wave!
A few years later, on that boss's last day of work, I told her how she literally changed my life in her story of her vacation abroad. She was very startled and amazed.
I think that is another event that can show all of us how much impact we can have on others in even just a day to day basis.
So it was obvious that it was not a big deal to Gary and nothing that would keep us from furthering a relationship. It was good I guess for him to understand why I was not working anymore and had an assistance dog. Tho I think he could see what Z did, it was good to tell him why.
My shoulders have had their cartiledge worn out, due to a couple reasons probably, they were like a square peg in a round hole to begin with and wore down and also maybe the extra strain that I put on them water skiing and other situations that took alot of upperbody strength but made my life so full and complete. Also my hips were starting to hurt and I had resently been diagnosised with hallow hip sockets, probably due to the Thalidomide also. So bending down to get something was becoming more of a chore and carrying heavy stuff a bit harder. My wonderful dog can do both for me. Actually I think we all have noticed that as we all age the floor gets further away and harder to reach , so I think we should each have a dog (or pony!) to get objects off the floor and hand them to us!(or put in the wastebasket, or washing machine!)As well as many other things that allow us to feel spoiled or just take a break.
It felt good to have talked about it all with the man of my dreams. And I was equally as glad that we hadn't for 6 months either. That more than anything showed me how it really didn't affect our relationship in any way that could keep us from continuing our wonderful jouney together.
Christmas was coming and what fun that would be!
As Christmas approached, I was filled with joy and immense gratitude. I hadn't put up a tree in 3 or 4 years, and now it was time.
The last 2 Christmases I spent at my parents house in the desert nursing to my mother's ill health but shining spirit.
My Dad was going to be at my sister's house so I knew he was going to be OK. I hadn't spent any Christmases with the parents in the dozen or so years before that. Mostly I went to Seattle to My Choosen Family. And we know what a blast that was for me, but the idea of having a real fun relaxing homey Christmas right in my own house for a change was a dream come true.
I realized, tho, with hesitation, that Gary and I just might be making the first year of many traditions to come. So we best do this up right, set some precidents. I had lots of decorations from years of my Mother's generous nature, and this year I had help putting them up. So we dragged out all the boxes from the recesses of the far back corners of the basement. (There was no water damage to any of my stuff during the freak flooding of the basement). As my excitement grew I was noticing Gary getting quieter and more reserved. He is by nature a somewhat quiet guy, but this was not that.
At dinner that night, which was becoming a sweet ritual of us sitting down at the dining room table, eating and talking together, I asked him if something was wrong.
He hesitated and hummed and haw'ed. I got out the preverbial vocabulary pliers and started pumping him.
In all my excitement and thrill of having a wonderful boyfriend to celebrate Christmas with, I hadn't thought about the issue that he had no money to buy me presents.
He spoke sofly and sadly when he said that this felt uncomfortable and uneven.
I was so happy about our growing relationship, the whole spirit of building some traditions and of not feeling alone on Christams morning, I forgot the association of Christmas and the giving of material goods. I was so wrapped up in not being lonely on Christmas Eve and the following morning, of making new traditions of meals and decorating and such, I had completely overlooked the monetary pressures that our society place such high importance on for this holiday.
Gary didn't know how much just having him meant to me, and he being so generous in spirit wanted to share in the gift giving of course.
OK and frankly, all of sudden I remembered just how much I do love to get presents. I have never been shy or quiet about the level of squeeling with delight as I unwrap any gift.
So I told him that he could make me something and that didn't seem to really perk him up. So I guess it was time to really open myself up and let him know just how much I was enjoying him, falling for him, how much he gave to me on a personal level, that those are the gifts, the ones of the heart, that make the real impact. We carefully avoided the word love, which frankly would have been the very best gift I could have asked for. I mean I KNEW I was madly in love with him at this point.
I watched him fight for his life, and now I was watching him fight to regain a normalcy of life, even the doctors were still telling him that he was months and months away from being released to go back to work. I saw how living together was so easy and compatible. He was just starting to really laugh and show a playful side of himself to me. He had my respect, friendship, a growing sense of intimacy, I mean if this ain't love, I don't know what is. But in realizing that the relationship was still very lopsided, that he had many personal goals to acommplish and that he was stone broke and only had food stamps to give, that I had to consider his pride.
That talk was goosebumply. He told he how much he cares about me, how I saved his life, that he never felt this way towards a woman before. And he shared how he had to regain alot of his life before he could go forward. (Oh boy oh boy!! there is a "forward".) I was happy to hear about this gear. We were humming along in second or third gear quite nicely, I didn't mind hearing about what I considered another "step". I was going to keep oiling this tank of hunk baby!
Seriously tho, this was the chat that really showed us how vulnerable we were and how sweet things really were, but certainly we had hills to climb. We were climbing them together tho, and I liked that.
We had a romantic, sweet, thoughtful, gentle, fully decorated and happy holiday. Gary found his 4 ornaments including the Christmas pickle, and I was thrilled to hang them togther with a treeful of mine. I made sure his stuck out prominantly. He got me some of my favorite chocolates with his food stamps, he found a used CD (Stevie Ray Vaughn)with money his mother sent, and he and Jimmy made me the coolest wooden towel rack that you can imagine. It matches the wood trim in the bathroom and has 10 pegs that can hold towels, bathingsuits for the hottub and the backpack I use to take to the gym. It is a work of art and totally practical. This man is an artist!! His talents and sensitivity never cease to amaze me. I never had Christmas presents before this that were so well thought out and personal that I would remember each detail about them years and years later. We had such a memorable holiday, from the elfing we did (we made cookies and put them on fun mismatched plates I had found at garage sales) to 10 or more households of friends, to the couple of parties we attended, to the quiet intimate loving and oh so sweet parts that were just the 2 of us(and the furchildren of course).
When it was time to take down the decorations and put away the stuff, I asked him if i could put him 4 ornaments in with mine. I held my breath over this. In my mind I made his answer the answer to alot of my questions, and OK it was another way I might have been pushing a little bit. When he said a reluctant "OK", I stifled the yipee, but thought that that meant we had a real good chance to have another wonderful Christmas togther. At least he was open to that idea.
I think that the spirit at that Christmas between us and the type of sharing we did was the stamp on my book of love. Now I had to keep my mouth shut , so as not to rush him, or scare him or any of the things I worried about if I told him I was IN LOVE.
He kept his distance from me in ways that quietly drove me crazy. I was ready for him to move out of his little attic room instead of just spending a couple nights a week in "my" bed, I was ready for him to spend all the nights. I remember the aching I would feel on the nights he would say, "good night, I'm going up to bed now". My heart would just sink to the ground. I knew intellectually that a lesser man would have just moved right in and started taking. I understood intellectually that his keeping this distance showed that he was not going to use me up and throw me away. But I can recall those nights alone knowing that the utmost man of my dreams slept a flight above me, was just out of reach.
We threw a fun Valentine's party that year since we were the "newest" couple in the tribe. Gary being a bit more conservative than I am (not politically mind you), perhaps I should say more gentlemanly, was only slightly aghast that us girls played "pin the cock on the cupid". I still didn't get my "I love you GJ". But luckily I had girlfriends to keep me from rushing things and helped me put our relationship into perspective. (Yes it was wonderful, yes he is in a rough spot, OK he can have his integrity, and what is it about those 3 words???)
Soon after Valentines day the roof started to leak.
My Dad and I knew 5 years earlier when we bought the house that the roof passed the 5 year inspection by a hair(or shall I say in this case by 3 months!).
Gary called Kenny, one of his best friends that was an out of work contractor/stay at home Dad. Kenny needed the work and we needed the roof and he and Gary worked out a deal where Gary could help with it. My Dad was pleased with the bid and offered to pay, so now we just needed the dry weather in February (not likely) and we were set.
I have hired contractors before, not on such a big job tho. And I have known MANY friends that have had huge projects done to their house and hired contractors to do them and not once had I ever heard of this situation happening.
Kenny and his 3 year old daughter moved in! Actually it took me a couple days of them working on the roof for me to really understand this. It was subtle at first. "Sure spend the night, rather than drive the 40 miles home". But within a week of roofing and my taking care of a fun little 3 year old, I was pretty sure that my contractor had moved in.
Luckily he and his daughter went home on the weekends to the wife/mother. The second week of this interesting roofing job I found affordable day care at a neighbor's house that was acceptable to all, (phew) and I became the construction site cook. Friends, neighbors, even a total stranger came out of no where and all chipped in to help. It was truly the barn razing I had only heard of with the Amish people happening in my own home! I had up to 7 guys working at a time racing against the elements to get the 3rd layers of old old roofing slats off and at least plywood on between rain storms. We totally lucked out with 2 full weeks of no rain, which is very unusual in this area in Feb/March.
Right before the construction I had received a notice from my house insurance company that the mortgage company had stopped paying the insurance. It took many phone calls and much aggravation over the course a many days to get that straightened out. I remember the day I finally did, I went to Kenny and Gary and said to them, "Ok this does not mean anyone can hurt themselves, but finally I got the insurance straightened out and we are all covered. I feel safer now". See Kenny had been staying home with the daughter and he didn't update his contractors licience, so he didn't have insurance. This was part of why we got the "good deal". I know Kenny's workmanship, so I was not worried that way, I was just glad when the house insurance problem was settled, only because if anything were to go wrong it would be because I didn't have insurance, I figured.
It was the next day that the threat of rain started. These guys really upped their pace to get a huge tarp and plastic to cover the house. As the rain was starting to spit Kenny was all the way up to the peak of the "hipped roof". The style of bungelow I have, that was built in 1908, all four sides of the steep roof meet in the middle where the chimney comes out. The house has 6 steps to go up just to get to the first floor and the first floor has 10 foot high ceilings. So the peak of the roof, at the point of the chimney, is 30 feet off the ground.
I never heard a thing. I didn't see a thing, even tho I had been sitting playing with the 3 year old in front of one of the livingroom windows. When it was quiet for a bit I went down to the basement so see what was up and the guys were down there smoking and having a few beers. Kenny seemed to be drinking rather quickly, but I didn't think anything of it. The only thing at all different from usual quitting time activity was the joking about "the Texas slip and slide". I knew Kenny was from Texas, but I didn't understand this. One of them wuld say it and then all would laugh and then Gary would look worried. This went on for long enough and past enough times I was saying "I don't get it", that I just left to go cook.
Kenny came upstairs, packed up his daughter and said they would be back on Monday (this was a Thursday). I figured due to the rain they needed to break.
It was NOT UNTIL THE NEXT DAY that Gary told me that Kenny fell from the TOP of the house, all the way, landing in the driveway! He "stuck" his landing by golly! Here is what I FINALLY learned...
Kenny, racing against time and rain didn't nail up a safety board to stand on while putting up the plastic covering. As the rain started to come it made the plastic VERY slippery and Kenny lost his grip and flew down the roof. At the point of where the roof ends and the side of the house begins, it propelled him away from the house, across the driveway, towards the chainlink fence. He landed on his feet on top if about 3 feet of the discarded roofing BETWEEN the hundreds of nails sticking up and out of the boards. As soon as he landed, the force of the landing caused him to fall flat back on his back.
Gary and Jimmy were on another part of the roof, saw this and sprinted off and then down the ladder, figuring they would be tending to a dead or paralysed friend. I guess Kenny took some time to open his eyes. He just layed there, reciting something unintelligable. Soon he opened his eyes, the guys told him he was indeed alive and asked if he could move. He started with the toes and they worked. Gradually he realized he was OK and started to shake. The guys got him into the basement and started feeding him beer. They decided not to tell me so as not to scare me. I was glad Gary did finally the next day. Kenny called that day and he was still fine remarkably enough, had a small cut on his hand. The amount of shingles on the ground was enough to cushion his fall and the miracle was that he missed the nails. Well, the whole thing was miracle that he was not hurt or even shorter. From that day forward it was known as the "Texas Slip and Slide" and we gave Kenny a "10" for sticking his landing.
After a few days off the weather cooperated and the guys were able to finish the job. I got a beautiful solid leakproof roof, Gary made some money, and Kenny was alive!Also...Gary had to sleep each night with me, to give his room to Kenny, and never went upstairs again.
A week later I bought a dresser and moved it into what had been MY bedroom, and without a spoken word Gary put his clothes in it. Maybe I was crazy, but I obviously noticed this, and didn't speak of it until much later. I was quite happy!!
Not only were we falling in love under our very own roof, but it was a roof that my truelove built.
I had a new solid beautiful roof, Gary had money in his pocket for the first time in 6 months, the little purple house was quiet and peaceful again, and Kenny, the creator of the Texas Slip and Slide had his LIFE and Limbs! He and his darling 3 year old daughter finished up the roof and left to go live at his own home again.
Gary and I started spending alot more time alone, really for the first time. He and I had so many friends and they felt as comfortable stopping over my house as they had at Gary's last house. It was more than I was used to but it was fun and spirited and I was liking it for the most part.There was more drinking that went on than I was used to. But no one got hurt and I was enjoying the excitement. I was actually drinking alcohol more than I had in years. It seemed harmless enough.
Having all the people over all the time and drinking beers almost every night also help me from getting too close to Gary in some ways.I still needed to keep some distance until he got back on his feet. He still didn't know what lay ahead until the doctors released him for work, and he still didn't know if he was facing more surgery.
Every now and then Gary would say something like "when I get back on my feet and have my own place....". Believe me I couldn't hear the rest of that sentence. My heart would thud.I am sure the color would vacate my face. I was confused. On one hand it showed that he was wanting and ready to be independent,didn't want to be a burden to me, but on the other hand I felt that he could BE independent without moving out.The bottom line was I was in love with this man. Yet being in love with someone doesn't always mean that the relationship would work out. All the love in the world between 2 people doesn't guarrentee a solid healthy good relationship. And I still didn't know if he loved me! Sometimes it felt like we had so many MORE hurdles to get past. Sometimes I would get so frustrated. It was a case of that prayer I've heard before " God, Give me patience NOW".On top of that I wanted the crystal ball, the Weejee(sp?) Board and the Tarow cards. It would be easier to hang in if I could only tell the future!IfI could know for sure what was going to happen with Gary.
Money was starting to be an issue. His friends had stopped loaning money anymore, it was becoming a bit too easy for me to pick up a few things at the store that his food stamps didn't cover. At some point we were going to have to really talk about this. I was quietly keeping track of everything I paid for. I was also VERY aware that he did alot around the house that in the past I paid someone to do. It was another case of balance and a certain amount of trust. I knew that he couldn't do much about money until he was released to go back to work.
I had a growing concern about the past due bills that were coming to him from his old house. A couple times I asked if he were dealing with it and he said "yea".
One night while we were having a quiet dinner alone, we got a loud knock on the door! Looking out the window, we did not recognize the towering figure on the darkened porch. Gary got the door and the man asked "are you Gary_____?" Gary said yes and went outside to talk to him. He came back in PALE! We were both litterly SCARED to see it was a creditor. He was a little bit threatening, just the idea he would show up made it feel that way. Gary was so upset when he saw the fear I had. Nothing like that had ever happened to me. This incident was mortifing for Gary. Never before had any of his problems haunted me, but having a scary sort of threatening-type man come to MY door after dark was NOT something I was prepared to deal with. This was our first fight.I admit, I flipped out.
I am sure it went something like "I thought you said you were dealing with your debts????!!!!!!" And Gary saying "I am!". Well in his mind he was. Also I did understand the reasoning that Gary had, going something like "I don't have any money to pay so why would I(meaning Gary) call them to say that I don't have money , they know I don't have money or I would send them money..."
Someone like Gary who had always paid his bills, never been turned over to a collections' agency would not neccessarily know how to deal with this sort of thing. Also, my not knowing then just how poor he was growing up,I didn't realize how badly this was pushing buttons on his already deliquate physchie(SP?)and his male ego. During his last relationship he paid all the bills, his, theirs and hers! Now it was just too much to think about how far he had fallen. Each bill, each month felt like a statement of failure.
As with any first fight, we learned alot about each other. I learned that he gets defensive but really doesn't raise his voice. He learned that altho my voice goes up into a terrible high pitch squeel, there is no name calling or swearing. We discovered that we didn't interupt each other, well not much anyway. I was so impressed that one of the first things Gary said was "Can we get thru this?" That really stopped me in my tracks. We seemed to both want to reach a conclusion.And that question, that I had never been asked before,certainly not in the hieght of such heated discussion, took so much of the anger out of me. It set the tone so abruptly that this was an "argument" that was to reach a conclusion. Not just ugliness for anger sake.
I felt heard that I was not going to be in a position of thugs coming to my door. He was really devistated by this also. This was the awakening that something MORE had to be done and he hadn't done it because he really didn't know what to do. It never dawned on me that someone wouldn't know what to do, I was afraid he didn't want to do something about it. The conclusion we reached was that he would let me take over the straightening out of the bills. I wondered if this could be interperted as "enabling", but then his chores around the house could be that for me too. It came down to my knowing how to deal with this stuff and he didn't, so it seem to make sence that I would take over. We kissed and made up and had a plan. Also we got thru our first fight with honor and calm and for me anyway, a newfound respect in yet another area of this man. He could fight fair, without screaming, and reach a compromise.
The next day Gary brought down a BOX FULL of nasty colored over due bills. I made lists of who and how much each was for. It really didn't end up so bad once I figured them all out(many were copies).
I called each creditor and told them I was a friend and Gary was severly disabled, recovering and not released for work yet. I pointed out that the debt was not big,(non of them went back much before the hospital stay and none were large). In a couple cases the creditors were willing to write off the whole amount, in other I got the late charges decreased , in other case all we had to do was return the cable box and we got a deposit back to pay towards the bill. Once I really started looking I found that he had disability insurance on his credit cards!! Each time I spoke with someone I told them that they would be paid back slowly but THEY WOULD BE paid back because Gary was able to get The Oregon Health Plan that paid for his entire medical bill. If Gary had to pay for his medical bills on top of everything else,he would NEVER be able to get to his other bills. So even if that person didn't think they would ever have to use the Oregon Health Plan it was helping them in this way. I think this was something many hadn't realized. They would complain "why should I pay for a dead beat's medical bills? What good is it to me?" Now they know, it is good because without the HUGE debts that a sudden deathly illness incurs, the person can concentrate on paying the utility and personal bills, credit cards etc.
When I got thru the entire box and called each person and got permission to be the one to talk to about Gary's situation, it was all pared down to a very reasonable amount. Even before the credit card insurance I figured would be paid for, we were only talking about an amount less than $2500. That awful scarey man came from a loan company that I ended up have terrible problems with and have since learned they are a terrible company.
I learned alot dealing with companies and then collection agencies. I was _amazed_ at the rudeness, hostily, impatience and worse of the people that work in collection agencies. In many cases I was able to convience companies to not turn him over and set up a minimal payment plan. But boy once he would be turned over it was instant ugliness. I am sure these people deal with able body, lazy people that are full of excuses, but I would think that when someone with a real situation that WANTS to pay his bills come along they would WANT to work with them. I know once I was the one writing the checks(Gary had long since drained his account so didn't have one then) I would pay the company that was nice to me the extra $5.00 rather than the company that was mean to me.
It never ceases to amaze me what a spiral down it is when things go wrong for people. It compounds and all means of support, even in subtle ways make huge sad downward turnarounds. It must be where the expression "kick 'em when you're down" comes from. I was astounded by the lack of respect I was hearing. And I even kept reminding them that I was helping them get their money, don't mess with ME!
Gary got money here and there during the next few months, the roof job, doing odd jobs for the neighbors, from his mom, and the big garage sale we had. I also loaned him some that I kept track of and he remarkably was able to make big dents in his debts rather quickly.
I actually went to a battle with Montgomry Wards over the insurance issue. They wanted proof of his disability of course, but interesting how they lost the proof not twice but 3 times. They were terrible to deal with thru the whole process. Heehee, look where they are NOW!!! Gary is doing quite well and monkey wards is going out of business !!
I think that says quite specifically not to mess with Gary and me!!
I was so glad that by the time we had our birthdays(which are only 9 days apart) we really had most of the money situation at least organized and a plan in gear. Gary was very impressed and extremely grateful. I think he saw another side of me too. I was very tough on the phone with these idiots (in some cases).He didn't realize that such arrangments could be made. I know it must have felt wonderful to have such a huge weight lifted, and to have someone so dedicated to HIS SIDE!(He felt like his last girlfriend loved him for his money. It sounds like she took advantage of him until he ended that relationship . We laugh to this day that I could never have been accussed of that!)
We went to the beach for our birthdays. This was the first time we went away alone and didn't stay at friends. We stayed in a very affordable little motel a short walk away from the roaring, beautiful ocean.
I was actually nervous about being so alone with him for the first time away from our normal lives. That might sound silly, but I was worried how we would be, just the two of us. I'm not sure what I thought would happen, or not happen. Maybe some of it was what if I invested all this in this man and then we go away and we are all by ourselves and I found out I am bored or he isn't that great after all or something like that. I didn't say anything about this to anyone, but I was rather quiet all the way there. I think Gary must have wondered why I was so quiet , it is NOT like me at all to be so quiet for so long. But maybe he really liked it for a change.
We got all checked in to this place that gary had stayed at years ago, and the sun came out. This is wonderful to have on the coast in late March. So we bundled up, as it can be quite windy down on the shore and headed out to take advantage of the break in the clouds. Z as always was so happy to be at the beach. She froliced in and around the waves as Gary and I walked a long stretch of the beach, holding hands, being very quiet still.
That night we built a fire in the little fireplace and made our own dinner in the tiny kitchen. We didn't have TV to discract us, we didn't have several friends popping in to entertain us, it was JUST us, totally out of our envirnment, our safety zone, anything familiar, yet we were truly enjoying each other.
What had been my awkward silence the first part of this little trip was turning into a comfortable quietness as the day and evening wore on. We really felt good together, we really were enjoying each other in a really intimate peaceful quiet way.
That night I heard the 3 little words that I had at times feared , but mostly had longed for.They sounded more beautiful then I could ever imagine.
Gary said "I love you sweetheart."
Hearing them was so wonderful, so perfect, so sweet so romantic. I hope I didn't jump on his wonderful delicious declaration with my "I love you TOO!" But I was so excited and it felt so right and so TRUE!
The ocean had never roared so loudly after that. And the stars came out instantly, well in my mind anyway, as it had started to rain again by then. Everything was twinkling as far as I was concerned. What did I know at that point? I was extactic!!!!!I was LOVED!
He loves me! He really loves me!And he wasn't afraid to tell me or show me! WoW! This was a great trip to the beach ...and the ocean was nice too.
Gary had a big doctor appointment coming up as well as a meeting with Vocational Rehabilitation.
We were settling in as a couple. It really felt like we were getting into that comfort zone. Of course one gives up the racing of the heart when the other so much as walks thru the door, for the relaxed comfy steady pounding of the full heart. I was ready for that. For years I went after the crush-factor. Loved the thrill of the fall, not the contentment factor. This was different. Maybe it was because of the quality of the man, maybe it was because I was maturing, who knows. If I analyzed it to death it might go anyway. I was just really enjoying it. It was such a gift of amazement that just sitting on his lap was all the entertainment I seem to need at that point!
Before the roof was put on, I went to see my Dad in Az. It was the one year anniversary of my Mother's death. We thought it would be nice to be together for it, maybe go the 60 or so miles to where 1/3rd of her ashes were buried to pay a visit. Mostly I needed to just visit with my Dad. He had been dating steadily and then they broke up, so he was back in the wading pool of widows again. My Mother had called them "Casserole Cookies" and indeed she was not dead 3 weeks when the first ones started dropping in, casseroles in hand!
All this dating freaked my sister out but I was finding it charming. The way I looked at it was no way did it take away from the love my Mom and Dad had for each other during 51 years of marriage. In fact I saw it as my Dad liking the marriage they had so much he was trying to replicate it. He was not a young man now and he was never a patient man.
For the first time I was all settled down and he was the roving, dating, bachelor on the prowl. He and I really had a great time talking and emailing about his dates, where he would find them, what they were like, and how the date would end. Even tho I was thoroughly entertained by these tales of his, it only made me more glad I was out of the circuit. He would come back from a date and tell me things like ..."She was short, fat, balding, had bad teeth and didn't laugh much. Some of which she couldn't help."
This was funny at first but oh how it brought back memories of all the rejection that the dating days bring with it. And obviously it doesn't change even in our 70's.!!
On Feb 9th Daddy and Z and I drove the 60 miles south to the Army base where 1/3rd of Mother's ashes were buried under a sweet tiny tree. It was good she was in the shade as she burned easily.
We had been told the year before that my mother would not get a grave stone until Daddy died. Until then she was given a marker that resembled a meat thermometer. It had felt so slighting. But that does represent how the Army treated The Wives in so many cases. My Mother was brave and the hardest worker I have ever known. It was her structure, encouragement (even if frequently in the form of nagging) and dedication to the Army life that helped get Daddy as far as he went, which was VERY far. And now she lays in the ground and all that shows would be a meat thermometor! I was glad that she had allowed her ashes to be devided. My sister and I each also got a third. This way at least 2/3rds of her was treated with more dignity than the Army said they were going to do.
Daddy and I parked at the military cemetary, and got out of the car. As we were approaching the area neither of us had seen in a year, it had many gravestones, unlike the year before. We came to the place we remembered Mother to be and there was THEE most beautiful, simple, eligant marble headstone with her name engraved in a way that looked so permanant and prominant, just the way my mother always came across. The tears streamed down both of our faces. We whoopped with delight. Z took this as a release command and started hopping around the gravestone until I could calm myself down to reel her in! It was a wonderful surprise.
Let me tell you all the NEXT surprise was maybe not as wonderful but every bit as exhilerating.
My Mother had for some reason never talked about her age. Even in a doctors office it was to be kept secret. If she was cornered by a friend about it, she would actually lie.(and say she was younger). I never understood the whys to this but grew up knowing first, how old she really was and second, that if I told I would die an instant and horrible death. So believe me no one in the whole family ever told.
Two weeks before her death she was still active and alert and cleaning her drawers so that we would not have to.
Top on her list was to write her memorial service and straighten out the funeral parlor as to how things should be done, this included her picking out the dress she wanted me to wear. She had called not only the newspaper that would run the obituary but also the people at the parlor that would be submitting the biography. She made it clear that her birthdate was NOT to be printed. She even made unveiled threats as to what would happen to them if they slipped up. Believe me they did not. The article in the paper was done exactly how she wanted it, as was everything else she had instructed.
After the whooping and crying at the sight of this perfectly beautiful gravestone we started to read it...
sure enough it had her name and that she is the wife of the colonel and his name and then...
YES! her birth date, engraved as permanantly and deeply and obviously as one can engrave.
My Dad started just howling, he looked towards the sky and said "Jody (that was his and only his, nickname for her)please don't hurt me, I swear I didn't know they knew or that they were going to do this!" then the 3 of us stood there waiting for the bolt of lightening that had been threatened. When enough time went by and we felt safe we patted the gravestone, smiled to the heavens and went home. We were pleased that she had a gravestone and had it without Daddy having to die. We laughed over her secret, after all these years, being spilled. I guess all the organizing in the world still can't control somethings.
The rest of the visit was warm and fun and I loved seeing my dad do as well as he was despite having losing his one true love. They had known each other 65 years. They lived next door from each other from junior high school up until Mother went off to college and later Daddy went off to WWII. They hadn't dated in high school but were always the best of friends. The story goes that the spark hit when they both were in there mid-twenties, after almost all their friends had married.
I met one woman that seemed to stand out from the rest of the flock of females flaunting themselves to my handsome dad. Her name was Anne. My Dad and I were at the symphony and he kept saying to me "Anne is here", "She said she would be here", "I don't see Anne". Boy was I glad that during intermission we found Anne or I would not have heard the second half of the program. Anne was with some girlfriends, some of whom had been friends of my mother! We was a tall, slender and beautifully dressed lady. She absolutely lit up when my Dad approached her. He invited all the ladies back to his house for drinks after the show and they all accepted.
When we went back, Anne and daddy sat on the couch together and the rest of us found some chairs and poured our own drinks and made our own conversation. the two of THEM were emersed in chat and obvious flirtation and that just a bit-too-loud laughter that comes often with new beginnings. It was sweet and fun to see. This was their 4th time together. One of my Mom's best friends had introduced them a couple weeks before this. I was glad about that as it said to me that Mother's deeply devoted friends were ready for my Dad to date again. I think this showed acceptance on their part. And I thought that is was a good sign also that the same people that liked Mother, liked Anne. I found out later Anne and Mother had never met, Anne moved into the neighborhood during the last years of my mother's illness when she had stopped doing much entertaining. I have always wondered if mother would have liked Anne.
I didn't get a chance to visit with Anne that wonderful week I spent with Daddy. That short evening was theirs and theirs alone and I left soon afterwards. But I had a feeling that there would be more time to meet and get to know Anne, the way Daddy was glowing around her,(and she towards him).
My next visit to Az was not long after this. After the roof was on and the "3 little words" had been spoken, my Dad needed a hip replacement. It was gladly my job to go down and tend to him while he was in the hospital and my sister's to help him after he first got home.
Daddy's romance with Anne was swift and romantic. It was full of activities and flowers and it seemed the jewerly giving was started. Daddy even told her that he wanted to marry again, have some more fun, and wondered if that fit her schedule. She was a bit noncommital before the hip surgery. We think she wanted to see how a man about to turn 80 was going to heal from this big operation.
Daddy healed quite well, I think Anne's visit helped him more than any medicine they could give in the hospital. I went to lunch with Anne and saw her a bit at Daddy's side in the hopstial. She seemed nice, maybe a bit hard to get to know. But what was important was seeing how Daddy was when she was with him. These 2 were absolutely smittened with each other and their attraction could light up the Tucson sky.
I was not surprised when Daddy called me and said he was getting married! He said that the plan was he would sell the house he and Mother had lived in for a dozen years and he would move in with Anne. This sounded great, she even lived so close, only 2 short mountain ridges over in the same development. In fact she even had a house with the exact same floor plan!! We joked that as my Dad's memory was getting worse this would be ideal for those half-awake middle of the night trips to the bathroom.
The thing is, he said that Gary and I needed to come down and get our stuff. Apparently Mother had willed many of her pretties to me. I had thought that it was all going to my sister and I was to get the money parts when the time came, but Daddy said he had stuff for us. This was the end of May and it was starting to get hot down there, so we desided to leave soon.
I was excited, this meant not only Gary's and my first big road trip, but Daddy and Gary would finally meet.
At this point the doctors had released Gary to go back to work, but with so many stipulations that it was best for him to go to school, get retrained, and then pursue the job market. We had learned that for financial aid, he would get get more if he didn't get work at that point. The system has a screwy way of doing things and society had a different way of looking at the poeple taking this aid, but we had to put alot of preconceived notions and other people's opinions aside and figure out what was best in the long run. Before we left on our big trip in the purple truck, Gary was accepted to college and had a plan. This was really good way to meet my Dad, having a plan and all.
Oh and I finally got around to telling Daddy about the pony tail and the cigarettes.
Gary had signed up to start a couple classes in the summer and was ready to go full time in the fall at the local respectable Community College.
One day out of the blue, he said to me,"I think it is time for me to get serious about a few things and to cut back on drinking beer." I was rather surprised actually. He drank more than most people I knew, but he didn't wake up hung-over, he was never mean, and the worst might be that he got silly. I did not have serious concerns about his drinking, but when he told me he was thru drinking beer I was glad. I mean it is expensive and addictive and smelly.
More what that told me was about how serious he was about rising to yet another challenge. In our 40s we were seeing so many of our friends, that mostly met in a bar 15-20 years earlier when they were single or at least not yet parents, either have to cut back the partying or they were starting to pay high prices. One of the gang got a DUI, another one was having problems with their daughter.
I think that may have been some of why Gary made that decision. I think that the love we were discovering in ourselves with each other was so powerful. Who needs anything else when we could just fill ourselves up with each other? I know I felt drunk with love.
Gary said it was just a good test for him. He likes to keep things in check and this was an excellent way to make sure he was still in control. He said he will still have a nip or 2 on the weekends and that's that. I never heard him whine or fret or complain. He said he was going to do something and boom, he did it.
WoW! He never ceased to amaze me. At this point it had been just days short of a year since that wonderful day at Kathleen's where we met. I had never realized that 2 people could be together, go thru all we had already and still surprise each other.
I had to laugh at people when we heard their responses to our anouncement that we were driving a couple thousand miles and staying with my Dad. Some, no many of them said terrible things like "Oh NO! That will be the end of your relationship!" and "I loved my husband until we did a road trip and then it was over". "Gary will never go. He doesn't like to leave the block". These were people that knew gary for years but I did not understand any of these things. We had figured out many things including how to live on very little money and how to survive his near death situation,and the big one... how to live together. I mean that was the biggest.
We found ways to respect each other's space and personal zones. We were learning to solve each problem while they were still small and we had yet to not talk about anything that came up. That alone, the talking things out, seemed for us to be the single best tool we had.
Frequently, this was done over dinner. Gary had never had the habit of sitting down to dinner and eating and talking. In my house, growing up, that was a sacred time. It was when we talked about anything and everything and it was the only hour we were demanded to be home. So it felt fitting that Gary and I fell into this time to be together, chat things up and just enjoy each other. If others were here during that time, they could stay and eat, we always had enough. But no one and nothing interupted our dinner hour. I was just adoring these rituals. We were starting our OWN traditions and it felt so great.
I didn't see why we couldn't take all these great skills we were acquiring onto the road trip and have a blast!
Over the dining room table we poured over maps, a great enjoyment for me and we packed, which turns out to be something Gary loves to do. I was amazed at how much that man could and frankly WOULD take on a road trip. But we had my little truck and plenty of time.
Finally it was time to go! The day to leave on our Big Adventure had come. Hit the road! Set out on the big highway of life!
We had stops to see friends all along the way. It was NOT a stressful drive. The first day we went 4 hours and stopped for the night at Millie's. It was as always so wonderful to see her. I wished she hadn't had to find such happiness so far away as much as she wished that Gary and I could move to Grant's Pass. The next day we stayed at a couple's house in San Fransisco. I had worked with her years before and we kept in touch. It was fun to introduce them to Gary. We drank wine that night and had a great time. The 3rd night we landed in LA at my cousin's house. We played horse shoes and ate tons of good homecooking. The next day we would drive 7 or 8 hours and be at my Dad's house.
Up until one hour outside Tucson we got along great, we had fun, no stress, everything was wonderful. Then all of a sudden 60 minutes until the meeting of the colonel and we found everything to fight about. We couldn't decide on what to listen to, we couldn't agree where to get gas, we couldn't compromise on when the last potty break would be.
At about 10 miles from Daddy's house Gary pulled off the road, told me to get out and he gave me this giant hug. At first I was pissed, don't know which incident at that point they were blurring together, but how could he possibly be loving me and hugging on me at such a hard time??? We were fighting, couldn't he see that? With his big ol long lovin arms around me it only took me about 10 seconds to melt in his arms. He summed things up pretty accurately, we were tense about meeting Daddy, we were a bit road weery, we were smelly (I am not sure he needed to throw that one in or how true that was, I mean I wasn't smelly). Well he got me to laugh. We got back in the truck with a total attitude adjustment. We were ready to "meet the parents".
Daddy greeted us in his typical gregarious way. Gary gave him the firm hand shake that I know always impresses my Dad.
I was pleasently relieved that he was going to let us sleep together. You know, we may be middle aged, but he is the Father after all and it IS his house, so when he said to put both our bags in the guest room, I quietly did the "whipee yell" in my head. We showered, OK, maybe we did have a bit of road smell to us and then Daddy took us out to dinner. Where he took us said so much to me. It was an out of the way, horrible, cheap-O, all-you-can-eat, place. He said he picked this place cuz he saw that Gary was a big guy.
He picked this place cuz he was worried about anyone seeing him, about how much he thought it might COST him to feed a big guy, cuz he didn't think we could cook, and a number of other sorry reasons. He was bracing himself for Gary being some sort of a slob. I have no idea where he got this idea, maybe cuz of his ponytail, or maybe his detesting cigarettes and those that smoke. Whatever the reasons, Gary didn't know my Dad and I was NOT going to tell him that the reason we went to the "Cattle Call all you can eat" was cuz Daddy was making sweeping generalizations as to Gary's character and manners.
The next 4 days Gary and Daddy worked like troopers. There was so much to do to get the amazing amounts of stuff organized and sorted. As each day went by and Daddy saw Gary work, and each hour went by and Daddy witnessed Gary's character,I watched the melting of The Colonel's rough exterior.
Another evolution was happening too. As my Dad warmed to Gary with each day that they worked together, Daddy was becoming more generous. By the 3rd day, we were talking about renting a small U-Haul trailor. On the 4th day we rented a HUGE trailor and still didn't have enough room to put everything Daddy wanted to give us.
What was even MORE telling was the last night we were there, Anne, who kept an eye on us and lit up my Dad's heart each time she would pop in, took us out for dinner. She took us to one of the finest, most impressive french restaurants Tucson has to offer. We had a lovely time. It was a great way to end what turned out to be a really special trip. When I went to kiss my dad goodnight, he told me what a really great, honorable man Gary is. I didn't go near the "I-told-you-so s". I was just so glad that he could open is mind and his heart enough to see thru the ponytail and the smoking to The Man.
I wanted to tell him that I liked Anne too, and I did say the words, but this was yet another visit that I didn't get to spend much time with her. Gary had a bit more conversation with her than I did at dinner that one last night. He said she is very easy going and seemed really nice. I was, of course so glad to hear this.
On the day that we left, we had the trailor hooked up to the back of the truck, it was loaded so that no inch was wasted space and yet, while we were waving goodbye, my dad stood there with some huge tool in hand yelling "You want this ? I want to give you this!" Gary and I were cracking up. We would love whatever that was but..." Colonel, we just don't have room". (And we are driving away with this older grey-haired gentleman chasing us with tools in hand. I am sure the neighbors had some good dinner conversation that evening!).
Now it was hot, we had a desert to cross and I had insisted that we haul all the candles that my Mother had said one day would be mine, all the way back to Portland. We couldn't put them in the trailor or even the canopy cuz they would melt. We had to have them in the cab with us. Z went crazy having them in the back part with her. I don't know why, they were just 3 boxes, but she cried until we moved them to the front seat. So for the next 3 days of solid driving and the a/c on high to keep the candles nice, we straddled these boxes. Gary has never to this day, understood why we had to have 3 HUGE boxes of candles, but I haven't said a word as to why we had to have a half a trailor full of tools ranging from teeny weenie ones that fit in individual tiny drawers to humungous ones that have their own sets of wheels.
We got thru the desert and up the California coast and home just fine and what a great trip that turned out to be.
We arrived home, safe and sounds and happy and that felt great!
We had just spent 6 months trying to fit all of what was left of Gary's stuff into my little 2 bedroom house, now we had 1/2 of my Mother's house and we had to fit that in now. We had our work cut out for us still.(But boy oh boy did we have "stuff".) And best of all we had good memories we had made for ourselves.
And the best part...Gary liked my Dad and won his respect.
The next big step for Dad was to have my sister come and get the bulk of what was left. Surprisingly she didn't come out before Gary and me. Most of all of the really fine stuff Mother and Daddy had gathered thru their worldwide travels was to go to my sister.
Daddy and Anne had announced that they were to be married October 3rd and shockingly Daddy was moving in with her September 1. My sister needed to get down there before it got even hotter. My Dad depended on this to make his move easier.
Unfortunately, she never went and all hell broke loose.
What a beautiful summer in Portland Town.
And I think the weather was nice too. We were so in love!
We were financially strapped, but found ways to enjoy and celebrate the young love of middle aged couple. We were firm in our belief that if people are to be poor, it is best to be poor when first in love. That way just gazing into each other's eyes is enough recreation and enjoyment as a one week Carribean vacation. I could loose myself in the blue of his eyes as easily as I could the ocean waves.
We had another garage sale. This time to sell mostly my stuff since we brought back so much wonderful furniture and glassware and such from my parent's house.I could get rid of many of my not-as-nice things. Thus giving us a bit more money and just as good, giving us more room in the little purple house. The garage sale was quite successful and so we decided to have a party, a big party a big purple party.
We invited the tribe of course but also people I had known for years from the days of working at the hospital. Some I hadn't seen in a long time but still felt friendly toward. Whoa, did this ever turn out to be a mistake. Some groups of people just don't go together. If we didn't know that during the party we were sure of it by the next day as we heard the morning after stories.
I am not sure we will ever know the absolute truth in what provoked and what transpired but Kathleen, the woman that introduced us and several people from my past that she was meeting for the first time got into a terrible fight.Poeple sat in segragated groups and didn't move a muscle, certainly didn't mingle.
Somehow in the midst of glorius imaginative purple food including purple daquaries made with marian berries(not the exmayor but the fruit), purple attire and purple decorations, words, ugly words flew. Some claim it was about cigerette smokers being bad people, others said it wasn't. I never understood what happened that day. All I know is that Gary and I said it would be a long time till we threw another party. I think that demoned-alcohol was at fault in a large degree.I also think some groups of people aren't meant to be mixed. And on top of that it was becoming painfully obvious that many, too many of our friends could not control their drinking or their actions and words while drinking.
We had designated drivers and lots of room for people to spend the night, but the problem was glaringly obvious that this one nite was not the problem.
How is it that friends can be known and enjoyed for years and years and then it seems like over night something happens? It is not clear if it is change on my part or theirs but things were feeling different and actually after that one party were never exactly the same.
The tribe, who had been getting together for gardening parties monthly(where the guys would cook and the gals would garden in a different couple's yard), overnight camping trips at the beach in summer and for 10 years a lasagna cooking contest had been falling apart.But this seemed like the cattlist that brought many friendships to an end.
We knew that Jimmie's and Michelle's 17 year marriage had strain, but it was easy to figure that all marriages of that duration had trioubles. They had both said that watching us fall in love had regenerated their love but I guess that couldn't sustain. Kathleen had had so many struggles with maintaining a level of staying mentaly focused but had suddenly become very unstable acting. We were getting strange messages from Kenny and we never saw his wife. There were signs of disfunction coming from all angles. Many of which we didn't see or choose to really look at. We were blissful in our own lives.
Also we were in our own stage of a relationship that takes place at a certain period in the evolution of falling in love where we stopped telling friends what was happening in the relationship and started confinding more in each other. At least I think this is a normal happening when a romance is growing and gaining intimacy. Things I had shared so naturally with girlfriends seemed inappropriate to share with anyone but Gary now. So we were probably drawing inward a bit at the same time the group that had once been so close, was starting to fall apart.
Gary and I were not fighting with anyone but we could feel and were hearing many friends discontent with each other.
I was getting excited about my Dad's upcoming nuptuals. He and I had always had a bond, all thru my young years and except for some tough teenage times we stayed close. After my Mother died we became _exceptionally_ close. We shared the falling in love process, we talked openly and happily of our lives. I never remember a time like what we had this past 2 years.
My Mother had said so many things to me on her death bed. She talked of her past, her regrets and her unexpected successes.She spoke of her fears for each of us, her 2 daughters and her husband and she made a number of predictions. One of the many things she confided in me was her fear that she was the glue to our small family and without her, the 3 of us would fade apart. Actually she had said that there was no hope of my having a relationship with my sister and I should stay away from her to avoid the pain she could instill. My mother loved my sister dearly and they had more incommon than I did. Mother also said she was concerned that Daddy's next wife might come between Daddy and his daughters.
I told mother that I couldn't imagine how a woman could get in the way of my relationship with my Dad.
My mother shared with me that even tho my sister married a man that made alot of money from the company his dad gave him, and they had 2 seemingly healthy happy grown sons, that her ability to have compassion and cope with situations was very limited. My sister had not spoken to me for over 10 years before my Mother's terminal illness for reasons that I never knew and my mother claimed to not know either. I had been a bratty teenager and had my stint with drugs. I caused alot of heartache to my parents in my early 20s so maybe that was the reason. This was 15 or more long year ago and all was forgiven amoung my parents and myself, but who knows.
During the 2 years mother needed our help, we would normally take turns in going to Tucson so our visits didn't overlap. But twice my Dad had heart attacks, his heart was literally breaking as his true love was dying. At these times they needed both of us. One to stay with Mother and one to watch over Daddy in the hospital.
These visits were dreadful for me. My sister dragged my parents into conflicts she made up about me, she would yell and swear at me in front of them. Since no one had ever said anything about my sister's temperment, she had not spoken or been in the same room as me in over a decade and I had been blamed for the problems due to my unorthodox past plus our 8 year age difference, this behavior of hers was coming as a shock to me. I really only remembered her from my childhood and she was a fantastic big sister. She did more to make me socially acceptable than either of my parents. My mother couldn't say no to me. My sister was the one that made sure I didn't pick my nose or pee my pants. She was the one that taught me to box and climb trees. My mother coddled me and spoiled me and treated me like a china doll, my sister teased me and toughened me up. While my mother forced me to be spoon-fed by her until the age of 9 or so until when Mother first got sick, but at the same time my Dad made me go-carts that could go 30 miles an hour. He wasn't around much due to the long work hours and many trips away that are part of Army life, he did nurture my independent streak. I always felt like it was my sister and her influence that had the best impact on my life and in my gaining acceptance and independence in life later on. I had always tried to be close and to please her. But from the time I was 10 years old and she left for college, we never had any kind of a close or even a tolerable relationship. I never knew why. These 2 years of being around her were a shock. It was not until a late night chat with my mother that I learned how much had been covered up. Many things were at play here. It is not "polite" to talk about mental illness. My mother didn't like to set my sister off as her temper could be actually frightening, having oodles of money could hide a world of problems and the bottom line was that my family had a terrific platform of denial that our lives were built on. We never talked about my arms in my first 20 years of my life, so it was just standard operating proceedure not to talk about anything that might be viewed as bad or wrong.
My Mother finally opened up and told me that in the early 50's when my sister was in kindergarden the teach reported to my parents many behaviors that pointed to mental instablilty. But back in those days therapy was rare and medications were practically non-exsistant. Considering how extensive and how long my sister dealt with what must be horrible, she has done really well in life. When one sees her delightful charm and rapid smart wit, it is easy to not see or overlook her inner turmoil and some crazy behaviors.
It had only been a year since my sister had summitted papers to my Dad's lawyer starting the proceedure to have me declared incompetant. I was glad my mother had told me the secrets she had as it served as a warning but still this was a huge shock. This went beyond her yelling at me about non-exsistant occurances, she was messsing with my life. Her motives are unclear but she said that she was trying to make sure I got as much inheritence as possible. Appaerently she was under the impression that I was on welfare and she was going to help manage my money.This makes no real sence but in a way
I am grateful that this happened since it alerted my Dad and his lawyer that steps needed to be taken in the will to protect my interests down the road.
The paper work that would have made me dependent on her never went anywhere. Interstingly tho it started dialogue between us that had never been there. She said she had done this to be a good sister and she wanted to be close. She never apologized but she did start sending me nice little emails and was not yelling at me.
All summer long Daddy asked, begged and tried to demand his oldest daughter to come get her stuff. She never went, never gave an explaination. So during the hectic the last weeks before my 79 year old dad was to move and a month before the big formal wedding, my Dad and his soon to be bride worked like crazy to pack up hundreds of pounds of priceless treasures and mailed them to California, to my sister. There was resentfullness there but, as always, my classy Dad never showed it. He complained ONCE to me that he didn't like the work it put on Anne.And he didn't understand why someone that wanted the stuff so badly that she had inventoried it numerous times, would not come and get it.
While Daddy and Anne planned the wedding I sent little notes asking what I could do to help, what colors the wedding would be, so I could dress appropriately,and other questions that hopefully let it be known that I was supporting this wonderful occasion and was comfortable in my Dad's decision to remarry. Sometime during the summer Daddy asked Gary to be an asher. Oh how that thrilled us. Daddy also generously offered to pay our airfair and have us put up at the Marriott. Daddy even sent us an older tuxedo he had owned since the 1970's hoping that it would save us the cost of renting one. It didn't fit Gary but it was fun to see a tuxedo with flaired bell-bottom pants!
We hadn't heard yet what I would get to do or be in the wedding and Anne was not answering my messages or notes. I did get a beautiful satin bow for Z to wear that matched Anne's dress in the mail from Anne, but nothing about what would be good for me. So I bought a dress anyway, got a great deal on it and was very happy with it.I was sure they were just so busy with everything...
2 or 3 weeks after Daddy had sent the all of my sister's inheritance that Daddy didn't want to keep for himself, a week after he moved in with Anne, and 3 weeks before the wedding my sister was in a car accident. The date has always stuck in my head because it was EXACTLY one year to the day that I had my car accident where the home health co-ordinator rear-ended me. September 14th was a rough day for rearend collisions in our family it seemed. She said she was injuried but not hospitized and that she could still come to the wedding. She was hit pretty hard she said and her back got tossed a bit as well as her neck I think, luckily and smartly she had her seatbelt on.
Gary had started school fulltime and was wrestling to make sure that he didn't miss anything while we were gone over just the long weekend. He was taking school very seriouly and doing well these initial few weeks. We were excited and charged up by what sounded like a great all expence paid trip.
We arrived by airplane on the night Daddy told us to come,Thursday night. We never did find the rental car place Daddy had arranged for us to go to.We called Anne's but no answer. So we rented a another car and found our way to the Marriott. When Daddy got in he heard our phone message and called us at the motel. He explained the details again about which car rental place and all, but they just didn't have a car for us. My Poor Dad sounded so tired and a bit stressed out. He said that the party they had been at, the reason he couldn't pick us up, was great and that it was so good to have the whole family at it.
I said "oh you mean Anne's whole family?" and he said yes and my sister and her husband, the whole newly conjoined family. I guess he was so tired he didn't realize he was leaving Gary and me out. So I didn't think too much about it. This was the first I have heard that there were parties that involved the family as early as thursday. had i known or been invited we could have flown in a bit earlier to attend.
The next morning we were told to do whatever we wanted and to meet at the church at 4. So Gary and Z and I had a nice day. We toured a bit of Tucson and enjoyed ourselves. When we got to the church we met Anne's 3 kids and their spouces. Everyone was laughing and having a great time. The priest explained the jobs of all the people in the wedding and it was then that I first realized that every single person in both Dad's and Anne's family had a role in the ceremony and/or the reception... but me. Even my dog had something special to wear, which was nice. I didn't dwell on this however, this was my Dad's day.
The rehearsal dinner was interesting if not delicious. I am not sure how but I ended up right smack across the table from my sister but we chatted very well, almost comfortably and quite pleasently. A bunch of us were getting a real kick out of Anne's youngest son. He was enjoying his beer immensly and with each new beer another one of shirt buttons became undone. He found some cute gals to flirt with and brought them over to the large table.He was the only single one of the bunch and he was a riot! His brother and sister didn't seem to think so. It was just fun to see that all families have their challenges and I loved how they seemed to basically all get along.
The next morning, the big day, my Dad called our room early and said he had a couple extra minutes and would meet us for breakfast. I was thrilled! I so much wanted to let him know personally how happy I was for him and I was looking forward to a visit with Anne. I was so flattered that he made time for me.
I guess I should not have been surprised that Anne was not with him, there is so much for a bride to do that day of her wedding. It was so generous of Daddy to make the time for us.
Gary and I woofed down large portions of food at the continental breakfast, and not surprisingly Daddy didn't eat much. He was nervous and even seemed a bit on edge. In fact this edge started becoming edgier and edgier. I kept making jokes and keeping it light, but then out of the blue Daddy turned to Gary and said "You know GJ can be nasty as all get out and that is on one of her better days". Gary looked confused and said "who?". Daddy repeated the sentence.
There was dead silience. And unmoving forks for what seemed like a long time. I had the wind knocked out of me. I must have looked quite confused. Needless to say that was the end of breakfast.
We wished Daddy the very best. We discussed what time to meet at the church later that day. Gary being an usher in the wedding, we needed to be there early. We all hugged and said byebye. I had no clue what brought on the ugly mean words from my Dad. It was just so unbelieveable.
Gary and I walked the short distance back to our motel room. Gary was saying all kinds of things to excuse Dad's bizarre verbal attack. He must be really overwhelmed.
And Gary was right, it is much more fun to think about getting all dolled up and go to a wedding! We showered and dressed and then took turns taking pictures in our wonderful fancy clothes. We had never seen each other so formally attired and it was a real turn on! But we must stay clean and fresh for the Catholic Church wedding.
We got there early as requested. Both families were there except for the single son of Anne's. We had come to learn that his family spoke of him in whispered tones. "He's adopted" seemed to follow each discussion about him. He certainly didn't look like the others, but I would hate having the obvious whispering about me, and so what if he is adopted? All that whispering would make me late too I imagine.
My sister was the guest book lady. She was in good spirits, greeting the people as they arrived. She had a break in the crowds and pulled me aside to do some whispering of her own.
She told me she had gone over to Anne's early that morning to look for a crystal bowl that didn't arrive in any of the boxes Daddy and Anne slaved over packing. She told me with no hesitation that while she was looking inside one of Anne's pantries that Anne saw her and got really mad and then told her to leave right that minute. "Get out of my house!" my sister said she yelled. My sister said this with no apparent guilt or remorse. I was picturing Anne, who is No Shrinking Violet herself, standing up to my sister. This was the first time I had heard of anyone ever calling my sister on some of her outragous behaviors. I didn't even smile, but inside I was punching the air and saying "Right On Anne!" I asked in a matter of fact voice, like this was not a horrible thing to occur, not even acting like it was a tragic wedding day event , "Was Daddy there?" . She said " Oh yes, he was right behind her and he didn't say a word!". I couldn't help myself I had to ask " Did you find the bowl?" She said in a very exasperated tone "NO! She probably is hiding it so she can keep it". Oh boy that sounded mean. My impression of Anne is that she can buy whatever it is she wants, no need to take and hide other people's stuff. The obvious thing to say at that point would have been "If you had gone to get the stuff yourself you would more likely have it now." But I had no interest in pursuing this topic. I was still in shock that anyone would be that bold.
As people arrived that I recognised I would introduce Gary. For some reason I have always had a tough time introducing people. I have on many occasions blanked out people's names that I know VERY well. It is a problem that runs in our family I have noticed. One time my Dad, years before this, my Dad introduced me as his daughter Stuffy. That's the dachshund we had! It was embarrassing and funny, but I never forgot it. Same type thing was happening to me that day. I stuttered over Gary's name a couple times, butchered other people's names, and the worse was when I went to say "This is my honey Gary" and it came out "This is my husband Gary" !!!! Then I was suddenly paralysed, I couldn't even correct it. I was making gasping sounds but nothing came out. Nervous laughter abound. Gary didn't say a word, I couldn't look at him, so I have no idea what faces may have been made. I think the kind soul that I was introducing to Gary helped me get out of it by saying " Marriage is in the air" or something like that.
I have to add though that Gary never corrected me, or was in any way appearing angry or upset. It was just dropped. Once the redness in my face subsided and the tightness of my skin loosened and I was able to breath again, I was kind of tickled that Gary didn't seem to mind that I just made such a huge fopa. He didn't seem upset at all of the accidental title of husband. I liked this a great deal. We were deeply in love, that was obvious for all the world to see and I felt it close to my heart, but we had never spoken of marriage, even with all the nuptual talk that was taking place.
I sort of hung out in the vestibule while Gary seated people. I thought I would be seated in one of the front rows with other family. It was right then I was approached by Anne's daughter , saying I was to go in now and sit anywhere behind the first 2 rows. So Gary walked Z and me down the isle. I whispered to him "You will sit with me when you are finished ushering won't you?" He smiled a big reassuring smile and said "Don't worry honey". That's right! This is Daddy's day and I am in love and we are here on a beautiful sunny day.
This Catholic Church has huge soaring windows behind the alter that frame the rugged magnificent purple mountain range the town of Tucson nestles up against. The placement of the church and it's windows make it look like one could just reach out and touch the huge hills right threw the glass. This was a strickingly beautiful place for such a joyful and wonderful occasion. I took a deep breath and drew in the beauty and happiness of the day.
Everyone was seated including my Honey, not husband, (Ok still a few waves of nervous, excited, embarrassment over that one slip) The music started, the bride was coming down the isle. Anne looked fantastic! She was glowing in a skin tight floor length sequin gray dress. I am sure it was designed for her, but I don't know by whom. She was stunningly attractive. She and my Dad may have been in their 70's but they both looked and smiled like they were kids. I bet they felt every bit that way.
Only one thing sort of gave it away that these are not youngsters. Up at the altar where the bride and groom typically stand, there were 2 well cushioned chairs! I was thinking that this might mean that we are in for High Holy Mass, but I was hopeful that it was just for the comfort of these older couple.
Up on the large roomy alter was where the singer was standing. She had a magnificent booming voice. She sang spirited operatic songs that I didn't recognize. We were barely into the first part of the singer's song when I could see the shoulders of my sister start to tremble. I was a few rows back so I couldn't tell if she were laughing or crying. Then I say her husband hand her his hankerchief. Before the end of the song, she had turned her head in away I could see her face. She was sobbing! This did not look like the joyful tears we associate with weddings. Pretty soon as the song ended, I , and I would assume the whole church could hear my sister's sobs. It was soon that she got up and left. No one followed her. I thought about it, but I didn't want to disrupt things anymore that her leaving did. And I wasn't at all close like I imagine sisters normally are. I had no history of comforting her or even knowing if comforting is what she needed/wanted. Her husband didn't get up, so I had to think it was going to be ok.
The priest had known Anne for the 7 years she lived in Tucson . he had met my dad a few times during their courtship and the 2 or 3 times they went to him to discuss the nuptuals. This was actually the second time my dad was marrying a Catholic Girl in a Catholic Church. He enjoyed the teasing he got about how he has married more often in a Catholic Church then most Catholics are allowed. The priest welcomed Daddy and like almost everyone, he seemed to genuinely like Daddy. During the part of the ceremony the priest talks casually about his knowing these 2 and recognizing that when people of their age marry so much later in life that they already are pretty well established in their habits and set in their ways. He went on to say that he knew of Anne's temperment and he could imagined that there will be struggles and fights in this union. Then he said "I can see Anne throwing things…" he turned to my dad and continued "…and her aim WILL get better!"
There was a bit of nervous laughter from the audience. I couldn't see the bride and groom's faces.
The rings were exchanged, the vows were said, communion was given and the annoucement was made "I now pronounce you man and wife". Cheers and clapping broke out and the couple beamed!
The reception also held at the Officer's Club at the Airforce base was not for a couple hours. Next was picture-taking by the proffessional photografer. By now I was hesitent to assume I was to be inclued. I hope no one heard my sigh of relief when Z and I were called up to the alter to pose.
My sister finally came out of the bathroom with dark glasses on. She posed for most of the pictures with them on. I have never seen the wedding album, but I have to wonder how that was explained. I certainly was curious what got to her. I wondered if she had a delayed reaction to her snooping or getting caught. But we were not alone for me to ask. And she acted like it was normal to wear dark glasses in a church during family photoshoot for weddings.
When enough pictures were taken we still had time on our hands before we were to be at the reception but not enough time to go back to the motel. Gary and I found ourselves hanging out in a parking lot at a strip mall. Lo and behold who pulls up? My sister and her husband! They were killing time too and the Walgreen's parking lot seemed to the thee spot of the hour anyway. So 4 formally dressed people are gathered in the parking lot in broad daylight chatting like they are at a cocktail party.
My sister was ranting. It took me a few sentences to figure out what she was saying, but I was getting that she was explaining her outburst of emotion during the ceremony.
What I finally got was that she was saying that Anne had a lot of nerve to have the same singer and the same songs that were at our Mother's funeral. This made NO sense to me! Mother had a man singer and he sang Ava Maria. I don't know what this FEMALE singer was singing but it wasn't the same and Anne would have NO way of knowing what was at Mother's funeral. This was just another sign that my sister who seems to everyone to be the healthy put-together daughter has many problems, many inner turmoils.
We all desided it was(finally) time to go to the Officer's Club. We walked into the large room that was reserved for the celebration and saw name plates at all the tables. Gary and my sister and her husband and Z and I all walked up to what was obviously the head table. I looked for Gary's and my name. It wasn't there.
A waitress helped me find our name tags in the back of the room. We were seated with some small children and their mother. The room was full of people I had known for years, some that I had gotten close to during some tough years when my Mother was so sick. And so not only were we not seated with the family, but we were not even seated with friends.
When the toasts were done and it seemed lie a reasonable time I wanted to move away. Just as I was looking around the room, 2 of my favorite women approached. They picked up my drink and my plate and said "come on over sit with us, we have 2 chairs waiting". Oh I felt like I had been saved! It also said to me that it was obvious to more than just me that something was wrong. But what? Normally one knows when one has offended or messed up. This was the first time in my life I did not have a single clue or any understanding of what was happening.
The husbands of these 2 fine ladies are some great guys. I especially have always liked Jim. He was having quite a few drinks that night and his lips were loose! He was the only one to ruminate out loud about Gary and me not being seated at the head table. Then Jim was onto the fact that Daddy hadn't asked me to dance. So Jim asked me to dance. I am not a great dancer, and you put me with someone that is even worse, a bit drunk and about 3 inches shorter than me, and you get a lot of fun on the dance floor. Bless little Jim's heart. He thought by dancing in front of Daddy, it would remind him to come ask his daughter to dance. It didn't work. So Jim went up to Daddy and said "It is time to ask GJ to dance!" Let me tell you The Colonel towering over little Jim and his orders obeyed immediately! Daddy came over to me and asked me to dance.
I told Daddy how happy I was for him, how beautiful his bride is and then I couldn't seem to help myself. I had been able to talk to Daddy about everything. We had always had a special relationship and the last few years we had grown even closer. I asked him "Daddy why weren't we seated at the head table?" I wanted to ask so much more, "why were you so mean at breakfast? Why wasn't I given a corsage and a task for the wedding? What is going on?" but I let that one question stand out there alone.
There was a short period of silience, Daddy looked at me which almost started the tears so I looked away. He didn't seem to understand. I know he heard my question. Finally he said in a pitch like one is asking a question "Because the table wasn't big enough?" I shook my head, but reminded myself that this was a huge happy day for HIM. He and I could work out anything and now wasn't the time. So even though the words came out of my mouth, I am sure he didn't hear them "why not get a bigger table?".
OK, I tried my best to understand, now was not the time to get answers. One daughter per wedding making a scene seemed like more than enough to me. There were great people here, a good band , terrific food and all the beverage I could want! So I chatted people up and told the wonderful story of how Gary and I got together,. Gary was chatty and more outgoing than I had ever seen him in a crowd of strangers. But then again he had a tux on the outside and (looking great!)whiskey on the inside (feeling great).
When I saw the newlyweds saying their goodbyes, I decided to sit back and see if they would say good bye to me. I didn't need to try so hard , look desperate or whatever. Sure enough before they walked out the door they stopped over at the table I was at, my Dad gave me a hug and Anne said "thanks for coming" . I did try one more time, just a little, I said "I look forward to getting to know you Anne" She backhanded the air and said as she turned away "Oh you know me" and that was that. Actually the woman I was sitting next to said to me "that was a nice thing to say to her".
I don't know what people thought about Anne or me or how things went. But that felt like a supportive thing to say. It felt nice. I was much more interested in getting back to My Story of how I fell in love. And I was soaking up every last compliment about how great gary is and how happy people are for me, for us. And my favorite thing was said to me and to Gary by many many people there, "I know GJ's mom would be so happy to see you 2 together."
We were invited and accepted the invitation to continue the party at a private home not far form our motel room. We went and had more fun . The 4 couple that were there had been my parents best friends and frequent guests when Mother was alive. A bit of her was in the room that night and that felt good.
We drove the rental car back and left the next day. We didn't see anyone that day before we left. I understood that Daddy and Anne would be leaving on a cruise in a couple days.
As we sat on the plane coming home, we reflected on the 3 crazy days. I said to Gary "My Daddy loves me. I can't imagine how he is going to feel or what it might do to him once he realizes how I am being treated." And that really was my biggest concern. It was painfully obvious that Anne didn't like me. I knew deep down inside it wasn't anything I had done, I hadn't done ANYTHING! It seemed odd that my sister caused some problems but she and Anne seemed to be getting on fine at the head table.
For me, I was once again shown what a supportive, loving , solid good guy I had in Gary . I am not sure how focused I would have been able to stay, with out the love and support of that man. Had this happened … nope can't go there, can't even think about that. What is real and good and NOW is that Gary and I are having a life together that we are building in healthy happy ways. I knew in my heart that Anne was loving my Dad and he er…so everything would work out.
We got home safe and sound. It felt so good to be back in our very own abode. We may have been "stylin" in the places we stayed and the homes we were invited to, but our little 2 bedroom, 1000 square foot older house was exactly what was best for us. That full front porch welcomed us as though it had arms stretched out to hold us close. We walked in and smelled the familiar sweet smell that IS our home. The giant white fluff-ball cat came thumping down the stairs and plopped at our feet. Vivian missed us! MacKenzie even seemed a bit happy to see the Viv. They did a quick nose to nose greeting and then off to their corners. Home at last, ok it was only 4 days, but 4 long days.
The days grew shorter and the heater stayed on longer. Gary was finding a routine at school and I was loving the time in the house to myself.
I think I did a lot better at the whole "sharing" thing than anyone would have expected but not having my very own space was hard. Gary was finishing an area in the basement he could call his own. I helped him make a really nice work space for studying . We got an old slow computer for him and used his kitchen table for a desk. He was set up well down there.
I didn't have my own space like that. My desk was in the dining room and the dining room was the center of all activity. So what happened is that during all the times Gary was at school or the long bus ride back and forth, the house felt like it was all mine.
The little upstairs room that had been Gary's was now the cat's room We have no laundry room, or any place to put the cat food or the litter box except for the little upstairs room. This was one spoiled cat getting to have his OWN room. But with my allergies and not wanting MacKenzie to get into the cat food, this really seemed the only answer.
Vivian became quite protective of his room too.At least he appreciated having his own room. One day a friend and her large puppy, 8 months old came to visit. We had our dogs out in the backyard for awhile but it became apparent that her dog could and would jump over our fence. So we all came into the dining room to drink tea and have our dogs rest at our feet. We were chatting and laughing and assuming that our dogs were under the table.
All of a sudden we heard a really loud meow and a dog's cry of fear. Then we saw her large pup running down the stairs, tail between her legs, peeing all the way. Yipping like a wounded animal and Vivian not 2 feet behind her chasing and meowing at the top of his lungs. The dog ran under the chair Cathy was sitting in and shook. She had no signs of being injured. Vivian sat on the edge of the rug about 4 feet away making quite a racket. He sounded like he had all the cat curses pouring out of his mouth. MacKennzie who hadn't moved an inch thru this situation, very slowly started to move. Without getting up, she turned all the way around so her butt faced the action . It was like she was saying "I have nothing to do with this, I didn't do it, I want No part of this".
We made sure the poor unassuming pup was ok, no sign of any scratches, and we tried to keep visiting but that Vivian would not be quiet! He was pissed. He was not even thrilled that we had to clean his staircase.
I had never seen that side of the Mighty Vivian. No wonder MacKenzie bowed to him at any crossing. Vivian had never been around a dog in his 10 years on earth as an indoor cat and obviously knew no fear.
When Gary got home from school, Cathy and her frightened pup had long gone but what a story I had for him. When I told him how his ferosious 18 pound cat had chased an 80 pound dog away from his territory and down the stairs Gary was so proud! His only regret was that he didn't get to see this adventure. He had never seen Vivian be so territorial and aggressive. We all had a new found respect for the Manly Mighty Viv, and from then on we kept a much better eye on him when doggies came calling. And the puppy recovered for the psychological battering she took that day.(poor baby).
Thanksgiving and Christmas were wonderful. It was so great to pull out the ornaments and see his 4 co-habitating with my collection. I had been so bold the year before in asking to keep Christmas decorations with mine. I looked back and I was a "brazen hussy" a few times during that early year it seemed. But I must have known we were destined to be together for at least a few more Christmases. "Oh you have no job, no money, no formal education, I'll date you!" I look back and think I was crazy but then again, how many times in our lives do we pass something over that would be in reality a priceless pearl? In the garage sale of life, he was the amazing find of a lifetime.
Gary's health was good again. I had watched him fight to regain his strength, his morale, his work ethic and to make goals for himself. He was doing well in school, he was helping around the house, and he was still finding time and ways to make a few bucks to support his few needs and to put into the house. I couldn't ask for more. Well, OK I could have. I was finding out that Gary was not a "project guy". With his remarkable talents and knowledge, and his being a bit of a homebody, I was surprised he didn't like doing "fix-it-yourself stuff. I mean if we had to replace the innerds of the toilet, he would, but to set out to do a big project he was not like that.
OK that meant that I was able to see him for all he was. The good, the medium and the not so bad. This is a real important step I thought. If his worst habit was that he smoked cigarettes in the basement and didn't tear up the sheet rock in the living room, I can live with this man. I can live with this man for a long time. I hadn't really thought about marriage, I was LOVING being loved. I felt commited to him. I'll admit, for the first time in over a decade, maybe more, I actually thought about marriage, but I was quite content for now.
Gary's good friend Kenny, the roof builder and originator of the Texas Slip and Slide was married to a beautiful woman named Dana. We hardly ever saw her so it was a bit of a surprise when she called me and asked me out to lunch and an afternoon of shopping.
I gladly accepted. We made reservations at a school for chefs. Lunches are 5 courses and indiscribably delicious for very reasonable prices. These are students in their last semester of learning to cook and the school has a great reputation in the Pacific Northwest.
She picked me up and off we went. Conversation was stilted at first. She and I were so different. She told me about her growing up in a suburb of Portland and how she got involved in beauty pagents. She said she was Miss Teenage Oregon. She certainly was stunningly pretty. She told me how she fell for Kenny while married to someone else. I didn't know this. My biggest surprise was the ease with which she told me. I got a little uncomfortable after the first couple times she put Gary's last girl friend down.
I'll admit shamelessly that the first time she put Tara down I didn't mind. But by the third time, I didn't understand. Tara was long gone, I had heard that Tara and Dana were friendly. They certainly had spent more time together than Dana and I had. I was changing the topic when the conversation seemed to keep turning back to Gary's ex.
We had enjoyed eating our lunch and were shopping at a fun part of town that had been industrial . The warehouses are being turned into great art galleries, loft apartments and antique malls. I enjoyed this but the banter in the car between some of these places was growing more and more uncomfortable so I said it was time for me to get home.
The car ride home was not just scary it almost made me cry. She was a terribly fast driver and I am not a good passenger at best. So my nerves were rattled to start. When she turned to me (instead of looking at the road) and said to me with no provacation "You know Gary will never marry you." That blew my mind. She had no way to know, she had no right to say and she needed to be watching the road.
I didn't invite her in when we pulled up to the little purple house. I ran from the car, saying "Thank you". I was in shock that the day turned out like it did. She seemed to have a motive but what? I enjoyed what we did, but this was NOT a nice person.
Gary opened the door and kissed me hello. He waved to Dana as she pulled out(too fast for our little narrow quiet street). He asked me if I had a good time and I burst out in tears! Well the look on Gary's face couldn't have been more surprised. He knows I cry at movies, even the previews and ok TV commercials too, but he would have no way to predict that an afternoon of good food and shopping pleasures could result in my bursting out in tears.
He asked "What happened?" And I blumbered away with no thought as to how it might sound "Dana said you will never marry me,I didn't ask her, I don't know why she said that, why did she say that?What have you said to Kenny?"
Gary was so taken back by my tears and was equally surprised by the declaration that he never made to anybody, that it stopped him in his tracks. His response sounded firm and deliberate "I never said anything like that to anyone, certainly not to Dana. I have NO idea why she would say that. " and then it came out, I heard it but I didn't believe it. Gary said "I would marry you". He sounded like he was saying "I WOULD eat eggs for breakfast". The tears started to subside and it was sinking in that I might have just been proposed to. I said "You would?" Gary looked a little scared. He started out just to comfort me from a bitchy woman and her mean words and now look what happened.
I was strangely comforted by knowing that Gary thought Dana was being a bitch and not that I might have just become engaged.