April 11, 2011

miss judgment

Posted in herstory at 9:58 pm by ben

I could not be friends with someone who would take my confidence and use it against me.  I walked away again.

My son was in high school by this time and she taught him several times over the five years he was there.  I wasn’t worried about her getting involved with him but the thought of ANY teacher with my kid (or any kid!) made me ill and only added to the revulsion I felt for her.  She did however ask him about me often and tell him to tell me she missed me and blah blah blah.  Her husband had gone to work in the same mill as my husband by this time and he too passed on similar messages.  I wasn’t hearing any of it. I didn’t need her and her bullshit drama in my life.

To be honest Trixie fueled the flames as well and made me even more resolute to delete Marie from my life.  Why did Trixie hate Marie?  I bet you can guess.  Before he met Trixie, Harry used to sleep with Marie.  DUN DUN DUHHH!  The plot thickens.  Now I am not so shallow that I would ever dump a friend because another friend didn’t like them – or slept with their husband – but Trixie made it easier NOT to want Marie in my life.

When my mother-in-law died, Marie came to the funeral.  They went to the same church and my MIL thought very highly of her and vice-versa.  Marie offered her condolences to us at the tea and she sent a beautiful card detailing what a kind and generous woman Katy was.  It meant a lot to me and my family.

Therapy is a funny thing, sometimes when you’re talking about something, dealing with a specific issue it brings other things to light.  Early on in one of my sessions I expressed how hurt and angry I was that Trixie could throw me away so easily without any explanation.  How could she not even give me a chance to defend or explain myself?  How could she just walk away from a lifelong relationship?  I am not disposable!

Later as I pondered these questions I felt a pang of something akin to guilt, maybe mixed with a little regret.  Despite our issues (and they were big ones, at the time at least) Marie was a huge part of my history and at any point in the past, present or future I know without the slightest doubt that if I needed her, for ANYTHING, she would be there for me.  I have some really amazing friends but I can count on one hand the number of people I can truly say that about.

I started considering that perhaps I was out of line.  Maybe I was hasty in cutting her out of my life, maybe I should have heard her out or at the very least told her why I had such a problem with it.  I can’t control other people’s actions or reactions but I am in charge of my own and I started to realize that I didn’t handle myself very well.  Walking away without notice was judgmental, immature and selfish.

The Dalai Lama says, “When patience is combined with the ability to discriminate between the action and the one who does it, forgiveness arises naturally.”

Yeah, I know!  Look at me quoting the Dalai Lama!!  More on that later.

Marie had done some shitty things over the years, to me and to herself but she was never a bad person.  Besides, who was I to judge, I’ve done some things I’m not particularly proud of as well.  I expressed my thoughts to my son one day and told him I was thinking of giving Marie a call.  One week later she called me.  Dakota wanted her legs done.

When the now eleven year old came in to see me it was like we were long lost friends.  I feel such a connection to this kid, it’s bizarre.  We chatted and giggled and I fed her chocolates after I ripped the fuzz from her legs.  When Marie showed up to pick up her daughter she asked “So Kody, how was it, did it hurt?”  To which the kid replied, “No it was fun!”

They hung out and visited for a while and when they left she suggested we get together for dinner and drinks soon and I said, “That’d be nice.”  I meant it.

Since then we’ve gotten together several times with our husbands (I am thrilled to report that Marie’s husband has become somewhat less of a dick), Dakota came out and spent the night when her parents went out (she was offered to stay at friends or get a sitter and she asked if she could come stay with me) and twice they planned to come visit us when Kody was busy with her friends but the child had a fit saying “You can’t go out there without me!!”  She was especially excited when I invited them camping this summer.  Kody loves camping but since they only have a tent they don’t get out very often.  Marie says she has been babbling and planning incessantly about spending time with me this summer.

Of course it wasn’t until after I invited them to the lake that I realized the discomfort that might cause for my cousin.  Oh well, maybe it’s time to be a grown up.

My husband is the kid magnet in the family.  From newborn to adulthood they gravitate to him… probably because he’s like one of them.  When His Highness is around I usually cease to exist.  Dakota is the exception to that rule.  She doesn’t even notice him, it’s all about me.  I love that!

Marie and I have not had a chance to speak of the past, but I am prepared for that conversation and I do want to air it all out.  I’ve spent enough time in my life sweeping shit under rugs, it’s time to get rid of some moguls and put the dirt outside where it belongs.  The relationship I have with her now is different from before, we’ve both changed and grown, but we still have the history that binds us and that bond is strong.

 

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April 4, 2011

miss adventures

Posted in herstory tagged , , at 3:45 am by ben

When I was ten years old we moved into the house across the street from Marie, she was two years older than me but thanks to proximity we became instant friends.  We went from sneaking treats from her mother’s freezer and reading Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys in her basement to stealing from my parents’ booze cabinet and getting a sexual education (via dirty books not experimentation) in my basement.  The internet really has changed everything.  Kids have access to so much more info (and pics and videos!) than we could have even imagined.  And it’s more sanitary, when I think of those ratty books with pages stuck together it makes me cringe.

In our late teens Marie and I started hanging out with a group of guys who we knew did a lot of drugs.  In an effort to not look ridiculous, know what we were getting into and not cough our guts out we decided to practice smoking dope before we did it with these guys or at a party.  Hey, it made sense in 1981!

We bought some pot but we didn’t know how much to buy so when Marie coolly said she wanted a pound of pot.  The dealer almost pissed himself.

Lesson number one learned.  Pot is not sold by the pound unless you’re a peddler.

We took our score to the elementary school playground and we sat atop a wooden structure that was sheltered and private.  We didn’t think/know to buy rolling papers so we figured a piece of regular old lined paper out of my science binder would work.  We also didn’t know how much to use in a typical doobie so we poured half of the ounce onto the paper and I rolled it up and twisted the ends creating a joint that’d make Cheech and Chong proud.

We lit the behemoth blunt and the paper burned  and most of our weed fell from the flames and subsequently blew away.

Lesson number 2 learned.  Rolling papers are not the same kind of paper as foolscap.

Our attempt with hash didn’t go much better.  We knew what hot-knifing was but we weren’t brave enough to abscond with our parents’ knives.  Science bitches that we were we thought that tinfoil would be a suitable substitute.  We folded a sheet of foil into a square about 3X3” and we even turned up the edges to form a makeshift tray (we didn’t want the hash to be able to roll off and escape like our pot did!).  We placed a small lump of the black tar on the foil and held a lighter beneath it.  We knew that when it started to smoke that we should start inhaling so we had even been prepared (Girl Guides all the way!) and brought a pen without the innards.

As the little wisps of smoke began to rise we took turns with the pen, inhaling and holding it in.  It was about the third hit that the lump of hash fell through a hole in the foil and onto the ground.  We had burned through the tinfoil.  We hadn’t been smoking hash, we had been smoking burning foil.  Harsh.

Lesson number 3 learned.  Nobody notices missing knives from restaurants.

And so went our teen years, adventure after misadventure, lesson after lesson learned together.

Marie’s father committed suicide when she was young and she and her little brother were raised by a strict religious mother.  In my armchair psychological view I think because Marie  never had it she craved attention from men.  By the time she graduated she was out of control and would have sex with any guy who was even remotely nice to her… and some who weren’t.  The information passed quickly between the boys and they practically lined up at her door.  Now I will admit I was no angel back in the day but in my mind at least I was discerning about who I gave my body to.  One night when I was drunk (not that that is an excuse) I referred to her as a slut.  To be honest I don’t remember saying it but I was disturbed by her behavior and I certainly thought it.

A short time later she and I were having coffee (smoking and eating fries) at our favorite hangout, a chinese restaurant where I later worked, when something came over me.  It was one of the strangest moments in my life and somehow I knew she’d slept with the boy I had been head over heels (and occasionally heels over head) for for several years.

“Did you have sex with Joe?” I asked point blank.

“Yes.” she answered as brutally.

“Why?  You don’t like him and you know I do.”

“You called me a slut, I wanted to prove you were right.”

Betrayal.

Of course I couldn’t see past my own hurt, all I could see was what she had done to ME!  I walked away from her then.

I was still bitter over it when I met my husband.  We had been seeing each other for a few weeks when I asked him if he knew her.  Fortunately he had no idea who she was because if he had it would have been a deal breaker for me.  I must have mellowed a little with motherhood because a few months after my son was born she approached me and for the first time in years I was open to it.  We started hanging out again and soon it was like the old days but I always kept a thin buffer of mistrust between us.

It was nearly ten years later when Marie met and married Jerry.  He was ten years her junior and frankly we thought he was a bit of an arrogant dick.  When their baby Dakota was born he proved his dickishness when he told her “You wanted a kid, you deal with it!”  When she got upset he said that he only married her because she was “set up”, she had a teaching career, a house and a car.  I didn’t have much respect for him already but I lost a lot for her because even after that she stayed with him.

Dakota stole my heart.  Marie had had a C-section  and she didn’t have a lot of baby experience so every night after I got off work I would go to their house and bathe the baby and help Marie out… since her husband was a useless twat.

A couple years later Marie took me aside and said “Remember when you cheated on Tom with that guy who was younger than you?”  I cringed and nodded as I recalled my less than stellar moment.  “Well, I am kind of seeing someone.”

I winced, not really surprised and wanted to plug my ears and chant “LALALALALALALA”

I should have because it got worse.

“He’s a student.  I was helping him out with some after school study sessions and we’ve gotten involved but you can’t say anything because you did it too.”

It was that moment of emotional blackmail that put the nail in the coffin of our friendship.  I could have dealt with her husband being an ass and her sticking with him, I could have dealt with her having an affair and I might even have been able to deal with her having an affair with a student (maybe not) but using something I told her in confidence as a tool to keep my silence and to tell me that I wasn’t allowed to judge her because what I did was similar??!  For starters what I did was nowhere near as extreme, the boy I cheated with was only three years younger than me and he sure as fuck wasn’t  a STUDENT!

to be continued…

 

January 18, 2009

letting go

Posted in herstory tagged , , , at 11:11 pm by ben

Sometimes I imagine myself as a puppeteer but the strings that my fingers are pulling are not attached to marionettes but instead they are tied to all of the aspects of my life, my job, my marriage, my kid, money, my friends, etc.  I know I have control issues but that is beside the point.  There are days (too many of them lately) where I feel like the strands are slipping away from me and I am grasping to keep them in check.  I fear that if I let them go and give way to fate or “que sera sera” (what will be will be) that it will all fall apart and the fragments that make up my life will slip away until there is nothing substantial left to hold on to.   

It is no secret that I hate going to the doctor.  The clinic is a very uncomfortable place for me and I am convinced that if I am not ill when I arrive, I will be by the time I leave.  I know it’s irrational but all of the coughing and sickness there just creeps me out.  I have even gone so far as to have my husband get prescriptions for me so that I didn’t have to put in a personal appearance.  Now let me clarify that I only take two drugs, and neither of them regularly.  I get Toradol (synthetic, non-addictive Demerol) for the headaches and pain that Advil and Tylenol don’t help, and Ativan (anti-anxiety) for those nights when the noise in my brain won’t let me sleep.  I won’t say “ the voices in my head” keep me awake because that would just make me sound crazy.  And really the chatter I hear is my own voice anyway… for the most part.

I woke up Friday morning in a panic.  I had taken my last Ativan the night before.  I had been taking them sparingly over the last couple of months so as to put off making a doc appointment for as long as possible… or in hopes that perhaps my husband would have reason to go in and he could get them for me.  I have been out of Toradol for a while and could have suffered through without them, but Ativan is like a bedtime security blanket and I am afraid to ever be without at least one.  

My plan was to just zip in, see whatever physician was available, get my drugs and get the hell out.  I would have been more comfortable buying them in an alley… although those dealers don’t accept Blue Cross so I’d have had to pay full price.  I called the clinic and got set up to see some new quack since my regular doc was booked and the one I really like (Dr. G) doesn’t accept new patients.  

When I arrived at the clinic I was told that the doctor I had been booked with was called to the hospital and would I mind seeing Dr. Ginny instead.  I was more than ok with that.  I had seen her once before and this woman is the doc that all docs should be.  She has a fantastic bedside manner, she is thorough, non-judgmental, practical and very understanding… which explains why she is usually impossible to get in to see.  

When she came into the exam room she seemed genuinely happy to see me.  Before I even told her why I was there she asked about something I had seen her for the last time I was in.  Once I assured her that the warts were gone (kidding!) she asked me how she could help me today.  I explained what I wanted and she pulled up my history on the computer.  As she punched in the prescriptions she asked me how everything else was, I was shocked to not get the herded cattle (get ‘em in move ‘em out) treatment, so I settled in and chatted with her for a bit.  Eventually (as it tends to do) the topic got to weight.  I’ve always struggled with it and anyone who thinks it is a matter of simply eating less and exercising more has their head up their ass.  That in itself is easier said than done and there is always more to it, be it physical or emotional or genetic.  I work hard at exercising and eating properly but it is never as easy as people who have never had a weight problem make it seem.  It is a deeper issue that involves more than simply “putting the fork down”.  That’s like telling a kid with acne to stop eating chocolate.  Honestly, nothing pisses me off more than people who think they have all the answers when they really have no fucking idea.  Fuck off already.

There are some doctors who use weight as an excuse for everything.  If you stub your toe they say that if you’d just lose twenty pounds you’d feel better.  When I had endometriosis I went to a gynecologist who told me my weight was the cause of all of my problems.  Endometriosis was my only problem and women of all sizes get that.

Anyway, Doctor G. took a look at all of my past tests and blood work and told me that I am perfectly healthy, my glucose levels are perfect, my cholesterol could not be better and everything else is in the optimum range.  “You are a very beautiful woman, you carry yourself and your weight very well, you obviously look after yourself and you are very healthy so why is the weight such an issue?”  she asked.

I was stunned.  For years society has preached that fat is unacceptable and I’ve been given the medical impression that overweight people are automatically unhealthy and here was a doctor asking me why I was so obsessed with it.  “I guess I just want to be normal.” I sighed.  The doctor smiled at me and said, “But maybe this is normal for you.”

With those seven words she lifted a lifetime of baggage from my shoulders.  I actually physically felt lighter as I left that office.  I might have even skipped a little if the sidewalk wasn’t so icy.

Maybe this is normal for me.

I’ve tried to find self-acceptance for a long time.  I’ve always felt accepted by the people who love me but still I wondered if they only did so out of some sort of obligation or pity.  Self esteem issues much?  My husband tells me I am beautiful all the time yet even with him I roll my eyes and brush off the compliment like he’s saying it because he thinks it’s what good husbands do or because he thinks it’s what I want to hear.  I can always find excuses not to believe I am ok the way I am.  Like those puppet strings to which I cling, I have long held on to the belief that there is something inherently wrong with me, that I am somehow not worthy because I am not thin.  Maybe it really is time to let that one slip from my grasp.  I know that there is a lot more to me than a number on a scale, maybe it’s time I finally started to believe it.

July 23, 2008

genetic malnutrition

Posted in herstory, tales from the lakeside tagged , , at 5:48 am by ben

My great grandfather died (of a ruptured appendix) when my Nana was only ten years old, her mother, my Granny, had only ever been a wife and mother and in those days it was far more difficult for a woman to find work especially when she had four young children at home.  Granny managed to pay the bills by doing a bit of sewing and housework for other people but there was little left at the end of the week for anything extra…even food.  The five of them had to subsist on what they had or could grow which was very little at that time so their cupboards were bare and their meals were meager at best.  Granny tried to stretch her groceries as far as she could but times were tough and she had to fill her babies tummies as best she could with what she had.  There were a few staples that could be bought cheaply back then and it’s funny to me that many immigrants used similar ingredients to feed their families…Italians had gnocchi, my husband is of Russian descent and his Doukhoubor ancestors made perogies from flour and potatoes, my Irish clan did about all that can be done to a spud and were nearly wiped out without them.  Granny could buy old potatoes for much less than the new ones and was often given the soft spongy spuds that other people thought were no good.  Flour and salt pork were also inexpensive so she called upon her Swedish heritage to fuel her family. 

We call it palt but when I looked it up online it had other names as well, pult, kumla, kropps and klub, and some just call them Swedish potato dumplings.  Apparently the original recipe was for blood pult and called for blood (cow blood I would hope) instead of potatoes…I am thankful that that was not the version handed down in my family.  We peel the tubers and grate them…last time I used my food processor and that saved the added bonus of knuckle meat in the mix…we then add a little salt and enough flour to glue the shreds together in a sticky doughy mess.  The salt pork is chopped into small pieces and while some suggest pre-frying them we prefer them raw.  The dough is formed into baseball sized orbs and a tablespoon or two of the salinated pig is inserted into the center.  The balls are then placed in as-big-as-we-can-find pots of boiling water and let them cook for an hour.  We salivate waiting that sixty minutes for the palt to be ready.  It’s sick really but we can’t wait to dig into the leaden spheres of high carb, high sodium pasty goodness.  This may very well be the most dense dish ever but it slides easily down the gullet with the slab of butter we slather on each hemisphere as the balls are cut open.  It sounds disgusting (and honestly they don’t look terribly appetizing either) and really there are very few non-family members who enjoy the heavy meal like those of us who were raised with it…though there are a few who don’t mind it fried up the next day with a little ketchup…which is a waste and sacrilege to those of us who preserve the purity and blandness of the freshly boiled blobs.  We only eat palt once or twice a year (because it takes six months to digest it) but when we do we make it to share with as many relatives as possible… which also serves to distribute the guilt that comes with eating such a meal.

My nana called my (tattooist) brother a few months back and after their chat he was so homesick he made palt for his family.  It’s just one of those little ties that bind my maternal family together.  We were going through my grandmothers old photos a few weeks ago at the lake when we decided we should boil up a batch the following weekend.  My youngest brother (sic) is a celiac and unable to eat gluten (flour etc.) so he has not had the ‘treat’ in years.  He and his wife were coming to the lake the morning we decided to make the dish so I made them a few with soy flour, it may not have been the same but he enjoyed it nonetheless and I think he appreciated being re-included in the tradition.  We boiled the balls over the campfire as we all sat around visiting and drinking coffee, celebrating the moments of our lives (General Mills International coffee) as we waited the sixty minutes until we could dig in.

I think part of the appeal of palt (because really it’s not about the gourmet-ness of it) is that it’s a meal that is prepared collectively, we all pitch in, peeling, grating, chopping mixing and whoever is not in a palt-coma afterwards even helps wash up the messy pots.  It’s a beautiful thing really…too bad we don’t get that excited about salad.

Last Saturday my mom’s cousin Kris and his daughter were on their way home to northern Alberta when they decided to pop out to the lake to visit us and take a break from driving.  We were all quite excited that they stopped in, it’s been far too long since we last saw them and it was barely moments after hugs and greetings when he announced in what is like a familial battle cry “We brought potatoes and salt pork!”  We didn’t have the heart to tell him that we were still digesting the palt from two weeks prior so first thing the next morning with our peelers and graters in one hand and our coffee cups in the other we tackled yet another batch.  It was while we were waiting for the palt to cook that Kris told us of their origin and the hardships my great-grandmother faced and triumphed over.  I think my granny would be proud to know that what was once a monotonous staple to her children is now a delicacy and as much about comfort and family to her descendants.

July 10, 2008

anniversary present

Posted in herstory tagged , , at 5:21 am by ben

 

Twenty years ago today a pregnant twenty year old took her father’s arm and walked (waddled?!) down the aisle toward the boy who knocked her up.  There were over a hundred people in my parent’s back yard that day but that boy with the big 80’s hair and the atrocious mustache was the only person I saw.  He had tears in his eyes by the time I reached him.  “You are so beautiful.” he whispered to me as he took my hand from my dad.

It was not a fancy wedding, my parents were caterers back then so they did the cooking, my cousin tended the bar, my maid of honor wore her grad dress from two years earlier, a friend of my mom’s made my dress (they don’t make maternity wedding dresses), the DJ was a family friend and the cake was a gift from my former boss.  It was a lousy day for July, cloudy and blah but just as we said our “I do’s” the sun broke through.  The day was full of stresses beyond the unsettled weather (rain really puts a damper on an outdoor wedding), the mosquitoes were the worst I had ever seen, there was a smorgasbord of scents to attract them and the bastards were ravenous.  My brother-in-law spent the entire weekend telling anyone who’d listen that I was trapping his baby brother, I only wanted him for his money (HA!! If only!!) and that we were too young to get married.  The biker neighbor got loaded and passed out before the ceremony even started but fortunately (NOT!) he woke just in time to strategically place himself in the background of several of our pictures.  Some people have a flowery background in their photos…we had a drunk biker they called Klinger.   The best man broke his leg the week before so he hobbled around trying to keep his crutches out of the photos.  The same photos that were taken by a supposed professional photographer friend of my MIL, the photos that got ‘lost in the mail’ only to resurface six years later when she was moving, sadly they were mostly crap anyway.  None of that matters any more now than it did then.  Yes I was disappointed about the pictures but even they were not what that day was about.  I didn’t care that we had to string up ugly orange tarps in case it rained, I didn’t care that my brother-in-law was (is) an asshole, I didn’t care that it looked like a shotgun wedding (I totally would have loved it if my dad had walked me down the aisle carrying a shotgun!), it wasn’t about the gifts or the food or the music (although they were perfect) the day was about celebrating our love and future together with our family and friends.  For my mother-in-law however it was about ensuring that her grandchild not be born a bastard.

The preacher stood atop the lid to the septic tank as he joined us in matrimony.  We giggled about it later knowing that it was not a sign that our marriage was bound for the shitter, it was more about not taking things too seriously.  Laughter has gotten us through some pretty rough times over the years, my husband knows how to tickle my funny bone…even when he doesn’t mean to and it’s really hard to stay mad at someone when they make you laugh.  The ceremony was short and sweet and the word ‘obey’ had been removed from the vows at my request.  It was easy to promise to love and honor but I told the minister “Obeying is for pets and children.”  

We spent our wedding night in a hotel not four blocks from where we lived at the time.  We thought we’d have some dirty hotel sex but I was so exhausted that I couldn’t stay awake to consummate our marriage on our wedding night.  The evidence of our premarital consummation was six months along in my belly so between him and the whole wedding thing I was worn out.  My husband had a feeling things would work out that way so he thought ahead and booked the room for a second night and we made up for the momentary abstinence.  

My husband is upset that we can’t afford to give this milestone the attention that he feels it deserves.   Financially it’s just not possible to do anything big this year.  We are putting any extra into our cabin and that’s more than enough celebration for me.  We could have gone into (more) debt for a vacation but what we’ll spend on that little shack by the lake will be far less than what a holiday would have cost and it will last us much longer.  We fully intend to sit on that deck and watch our grandchildren play on the lawn one day.  Still he feels bad that he isn’t giving me some kind of gift.  I know it sounds corny as hell and it’s all I can do to keep from gagging on the syrup of it, but he is my gift.  He is everything to me and all that I want from him is his love (and patience) and he gives that to me freely and without condition.  He is my best friend (I typed ‘fiend’…that works too) he is my favorite companion, he knows me better than anyone and loves me in spite of it and he still rings my bell in bed…or on the picnic table or the kitchen counter or in the bathtub or the front seat of the truck etc. etc.

It doesn’t feel like we’ve been married twenty years, I still adore him as much as I did back then and I still get all squishy when he gives me that look that tells me that I still make his heart flutter too.  Sure he makes me mental some days and we’ve had plenty of rough (and some really shitty) times where it would have been easier to go our separate ways than to do the work to stay together.  I guess somehow we knew if we could make it through those bad times intact that we could survive anything.  I can’t even imagine a life without him and I look forward to the rest of my life with him.

I don’t normally post pics of myself but this was too good (bad?!) not to share.  Please note the drunken biker behind us and the pathetic attempt at photography…wtf?!

 

just the two of us...and Klinger

just the two of us...and Klinger

 

 

      

May 3, 2008

hear with me

Posted in herstory tagged , at 9:45 pm by ben

It was the summer of 1984 and there was no Big Brother despite what the Orwellian novel predicted, I did have two little brothers though and thankfully they spent my formative (wild?!) years at the lake with my parents.  As a teen I was far from the lake-lover that I am now, in fact I hated the place.  For all the reasons I love it now I couldn’t stand it as a kid.  No phones, no TV, no people (no boys in particular), it was boring, nothing to do but hang out and read and adding to my distaste was the fact that my parents and brothers were there.  I was way too cool to spend my summers with those people.  My dad worked at the lake so he was out there from May to December every year and my mom spent as much time as she could with him when the boys were not in school.  In the summer months she would come to town once a week or so just for groceries and to do laundry.  Since I was old enough to work and ‘trustworthy’ enough to be left alone it meant I had my own place for the better part of two months a year… and a whole lot of weekends beyond that.  Thankfully that house can’t talk or I’d be in huge shit… or jail.  Those stories are for a different post, this one goes in another direction.

It was a few weeks shy of my sixteenth birthday.  I knew my mom was due to come home so I was madly cleaning the house after the most recent soiree.  I had gotten very good at removing all evidence and getting the place spotless before her returns home and my friends were very good about respecting my place and ensuring it not be destructed.  Only twice did mom ever suspect that something sinister was afoot while she was out of town, the first time was when she found a beer cap in her shoe and the second was when she came home unexpectedly and found me and my boyfriend asleep on the couch, my friend and another guy in my bed and a third guy crashed in a chair.  The funny thing about that incident was that all three guys shared the same first name.  It made the introductions less awkward but I still had some explaining to do and had to promise that we weren’t doing anything bad.  Of course I swore we weren’t.  

It was 10:00 am and I had just taken the garbage out when the phone rang.  I picked up the receiver and said “Hello.”

Nothing.

I was about to hang up when I heard music.  I listened closer and realized it was REO Speedwagon.  I said “hello” a few more times and when I got no response I hung up.

The next morning at the same time the phone rang again.  I answered it and once more heard an REO Speedwagon song.  This time I waited the tune out to see what came next.  It was another of their hits.  I kind of laughed it off and hung up thinking one of my friends was fucking with me.

This carried on for almost a week.  Same time every day, same REO (Hi Infidelity) album and nobody speaking to me.  Finally I decided to hang on the line to see if my telephone disc (tape) jockey would finally speak.  After the ‘a’ side of the cassette ended I asked “Are you ever going to talk to me?”

There was a pause on the other end as I heard the click of the tape player door opening and finally he spoke.

“Maybe.”

I could tell he was smiling…if he had asked me if I was in the house alone I would have seriously shit my pants.

“Who is this?”

“Nobody.”

“Well Nobody, why are you calling me every day playing me REO songs?”

“Do you like them?”

“Sure, but I have my own copy.”

He laughed.

“Who are you?” I asked again.

“Who are you?”

“You have the advantage here, you called me remember, you know who I am.”  This was of course long before caller ID and even before *69.

“I guess I do.”

We chatted for a while that day but he refused to give me any information as to his identity.  I thought it was odd but I was pretty sure that I’d not hear from him again.  I was wrong.

The next morning the phone rang at the same time and when I picked it up I was not surprised to hear the same song playing.  Whoever this guy was he was going to keep on loving me.  This time he spoke right away.

“Good morning Brenda.”

This whole thing really should have freaked me out, I had a stalker before stalking was a felony but I was pretty sure this guy was harmless.  

Every day he would call me and every day we talked a little longer.  We chatted about music, movies, TV, people at school and just stuff.  We laughed a lot and I completely enjoyed his company.  By this time he admitted that he knew me from school but he still would not tell me who he was.  Finally about a month after the first call I devised a plan to figure out who my teleromeo was.  I worked family into the conversation and discovered that he had a sister the same age as me and since I had already discovered that he had his driver’s license I knew he was older than me.  I dug out my yearbook and tried to cross reference my class with the two ahead of me but that wasn’t narrowing things down enough so I started talking about my family.  I told him what my dad did and he volunteered that his dad worked at the mill.  90% of the dads in town worked there at that time so that was no help.  “Does your mom work too?” I queried innocently.

“Yeah, she cooks at the Hilltop.”  

He blew it and he didn’t even realize it.

As soon as I hung up with him that day I called my girlfriend Glenna who’s sister happened to waitress at that very restaurant.  She got me the information I was looking for.

The next morning at 10am on the dot my phone rang as it had for nearly six weeks.  I picked up and listened for the obligatory Speedwagon song.  I recall it being “In Your Letter” that day.  I am not sure why I remember that specifically but I do. 

“Good morning Gary.” I was grinning as I said it.

He hung up.

The next morning I watched the clock waiting for the ring but it didn’t come.  He never called me again.

I was disappointed, I regretted telling him I knew his name and I missed his calls.  This stranger and I had become friends… or so I thought… and yet the moment I discovered his identity he disappeared.  I could have called him but I was not that kind of girl.  

A few days later school started, I would see him in the hall but he wouldn’t even look at me so I decided he was just messing with me and I let it go.

It was nearly a year later that a bunch of us went to a house party we heard about through the  grapevine.  We didn’t need cell phones back then, we had no problem spreading the important info the low tech way.  AC/DC Back in Black was blaring as we walked into the crowded kitchen I saw him and was immediately panic-stricken.  I wanted to leave.  I was a self conscious teen who felt like a fool for opening up to a stranger on the phone and I was mortified that he and his friends might be laughing at me behind my back.  Some things don’t change much, I still worry about that shit.  

I couldn’t just turn around and walk out so I took a detour into the living room hoping he hadn’t seen me.  There on the wall was a photo of Gary in a cap and gown from his graduation the month before.  FUCK! Of all the houses in all of this town why did I have to stumble into this one?

I felt sick.  I wanted to bolt but the exits were blocked.  I grabbed Glenna and pulled her toward the door trying to fight the crowd but we knew everyone there so making a hasty departure was impossible with friends stopping us to chat every few feet.  Hell’s Bells was playing on the stereo and it stopped mid-song.  I never thought much of it until the new tape began to play.  Hi Infidelity, REO Speedwagon.  I felt my face flush as my eyes darted around the living room in search of the Hi Fi.  There he was.  Gary gave me a little smirk and walked toward me.  This was the first time we ever spoke in person.

“Hey Brenda, how are ya?”

My face was eighteen shades of purple.

“Good thanks, you?”

“I’m good.”

“This is your house?” Obviously I was the queen of small talk…and this conversation was right out of a John Hughes movie.

“Nothing gets by you.” he grinned pointing at the giant photo of himself on the wall above us.  “You want a beer?”

“Sure.” 

I followed him into the kitchen and he opened a bottle and handed it to me.

“Thanks.”

“You ever play ‘give one take one’?” he asked.

“No.”

“Well it’s time you did.”

He pulled an extra chair up to the table next to his spot and ushered me into it and told the dealer to deal me in.  Give one take one is a very simple card based drinking game.  Everyone is dealt five cards which are turned face up on the table.  The dealer turns over a card and says ‘give one’ at which point anyone with that card gives a shot to whoever they want.  With the next card flip the dealer says ‘take one’ whereby anyone with that card must have a shot.  Then the dealer flips again for ‘give two’ and then ‘take two’ until the deck is gone or everyone is loaded…or both.  

We had a great time that night, we partied until nearly dawn and Gary was at my side the entire time.  It was an odd connection, I liked him and I knew he liked me but somehow I also knew that it wasn’t going to go anywhere.  Nobody (besides my friend Glenna) knew of our phone relationship and none of us spoke of it.  Maybe it was because we knew if others were aware of it it might taint it or embarrass us somehow.  Maybe he would have felt silly if his friends knew he was calling up strange girls and playing music for them and I certainly would have felt lonely and pathetic for listening and playing along. 

One week later Gary was killed in a car accident.  It was a terrible tragedy and I was saddened deeply by his death.  He had too much life in him to die so young.  My heart broke for his family, his mom was devastated and I don’t think she ever fully recovered.  I’ll never know why Gary chose to call me that first day and I’ll never know why he chose to play the songs he did or if anything would have ever become of our relationship.  What I do know is that we would have become great friends and that REO will always remind me of him, that summer and those hours on the phone and those songs will always make me smile.