A Move of My Own –Chapter 2

photoI’m now in the family room. It is a large room with three leather sofas, a large screen TV, a fireplace and three garden doors across the back wall. Garden doors are the same size as a regular door and they swing open normally, but about eighty per cent of them is glass. These particular doors do not all open. The centre has a lattice that makes them look a little like french doors, but the lattice is between the two panes of glass and there is no bevel.

The doors provide a view out the back of the house. From here, I can only see the tops of the trees and some of the houses that are on the other side of the green space. It is the perfect view of the sunset and that adds a certain drama to the room at that time of day.

I usually do not write this much in a day, but it is a Saturday and none of my children are here. I have the whole day to myself and it feels quite satisfying to be sitting on my computer committing these stories to the page.

The day that I left for university is etched on my brain the way any significant life changing day later becomes stylized in your memory. By this time I had another Ford Capri, I believe this one was a 1974 model and I was never as attached to this one as I had been attached to my first car. It was in better shape and much more reliable than my first car but not as beloved.

I had packed the car full of my possessions and anything that wouldn’t fit in my car had been left at my sister’s place. I had ended up staying with her near the end of grade thirteen and for the summer before university. She had a spare room and even though she was married at the time, it was OK that I stay in that room.

During that summer she moved from the one side of the semi, to the other side when it became available. I had begun to believe that I would never stay in any place very long. There had been numerous moves over the last few years and at the very least I was becoming more efficient at it.

It is a liberating experience to be leaving the world that you know behind and going to an unknown place where anything can happen. Unlike those that make this sort of move in order to find new jobs, or try a shot at acting or living in a big city, I had a plan. I had been accepted into university and I was going to become a veterinarian.

In hindsight, this was probably not the best career choice for me. I did not have a lot of people in my life that could guide me as far as career choices or educational opportunities were concerned. My only experience with the guidance counselors at school was not positive. They had become aware that my parents had separated and called me down, out of class, to speak to them. Getting called out of class is never a good sign when you are in school and it exposed my family problems to all of the people that I went to school with.

I don’t know if they ever considered making an appointment with me and having me come at a time that was convenient, but they didn’t do it that way. Public humiliation, in the form of being called down to the principal’s office was what I experienced. When the meeting with the counselor and my sister commenced it only got worse. Divorce was fairly uncommon in the seventies. Birth control, which provided the first opportunity to leave a marriage, or choose not to be married, had only been around for about ten years and was only becoming mainstream at this time.

The increase in divorce may not have been a result of birth control but it was definitely related from a temporal perspective. The seventies were the era of swingers’ parties and sexual freedom; freedom that had never been experienced before. This was the first adult generation that could have sex without the fear of an unwanted pregnancy.

But I digress; the way that the counselor saw our predicament was that we were going to be in a state of utter confusion and emotional turmoil. Our best bet, if we wanted to survive in the world, post divorce, was to get our high school diploma as quickly and easily as possible. She recommended that I drop down from my university level, grade thirteen classes into the four-year program. Interesting. My sister took this advice. I did not.

Another tool that was used at this time was a type of aptitude test. By filling out questions like, “Do you like the smell of turpentine?”; they decided whether or not you should choose a job as a painter. I filled this out and there was a notation on mine. A computer generated question of whether or not I had filled in the “sex” part improperly. Another female friend of mine, who later became a doctor, experienced the same thing when she got her results back.

This test said that I should become an engineer. There were a few other suggestions but this one makes the best story. When I spoke to some people that I knew, including my father, about this option, I was told that this would be a mistake because trains were going out of fashion. You can’t make this stuff up!

The good thing about my singular focus on becoming a veterinarian was that it took all of the decision making out of this time in my life. I had a focus. I had a goal. When my boyfriend wanted to get married right after I finished high school, I knew that this wouldn’t work for me because I wanted to go to university. It also meant that I only applied to one university and that was where I was driving on the day that I left for school.

I remember driving down the newly built four lane divided highway that had no stops and no distractions at the side of the road. I had a clean, clear feeling of having everything that was important to me with me in the car. I was leaving the drama, the history and the conflict behind and I was taking the next step out into the world. I had a good feeling that life was only going to get better. The problem with having all of your worldly belongings with you is that a simple car accident could have destroyed everything that I held dear to my heart. On the other hand, I felt mobile and self-contained. I was meeting all of my own needs and everything that I wanted was with me.

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book.

Keep Reading: Residence www.wendypowell.ca

Point of No Return — Chapter 1

20130720-085248.jpgIt is Saturday morning. I spent Friday writing, editing and posting blogs on another topic and did not end up writing any of this story. I am sitting on my deck at the back of the house on a lounge chair. The deck is a half story above ground level and gives the feeling that you are elevated looking out over an expanse of green space.

From where I am sitting I can see my backyard, which is almost all pool, raspberry bushes and plantings and then a pond and a walkway out further. It is a cool day with a blue sky and even though it is still early, you can tell that it is going to be quite hot today.

One of the things that my mother could count on when she threatened my father with divorce is that his mother would never allow it. I have no way of knowing whether or not she had relied on this happening, but I know that the first time that my mother left my father, his mother had insisted that he make it right. This put my mother in the position of being courted and chased. She had the power.

If she had relied on this, she got some of the worst news that she could’ve imagined before Christmas that year. My paternal grandmother had been much younger than her husband, being his second wife, and had learned how to take care of herself quite well after he passed on. The house that she lived in had a store on one side that would be the approximate location of an indoor garage if the house had been built fifty years later.

I heard stories that this used to be a type of general purpose store where the neighbourhood children could buy ice-cream and candy. But by the time that I was old enough to remember this retail space it could most easily be described as a second hand store or an antique store if you were feeling generous at the time. My grandmother’s home was filled with furniture to the point of it being awkward to walk around in. These were handcrafted wood pieces elaborate with details and fancy handles.

On a particularly bad evening, a man came into my grandmother’s store and tried to steal something or hurt her. I never heard the entire story, but I know that when the police arrived she still had a hunk of his hair in her hand. The ultimate outcome of this terrible incident was that my grandmother lost the will to live. She no longer felt safe living alone in her home and her health fell quickly. By November 1977, less than five months after my mother had left my father, she died. My father moved another woman into his place, right away.

That same winter, my mother’s father died. He died right before Christmas and I remember hearing the discussions about what to do with the gifts that had been bought for him. A small thing in the larger scheme of things, but a poignant issue when put in context. We had all planned on having him around to celebrate Christmas.

Years later I heard my aunts teasing my grandmother about taking another lover. She had been with my grandfather her entire life. Her response was that she had pleased one man, every night, for several decades and she had had enough. This made me feel for her.

Extrapolated from what my grandmother said, the night of my grandfather’s death would have been a particularly difficult time for her. Like every other night of her life, since she was fifteen years of age, she would have been anticipating her lover. She was in the bedroom, in bed and he had gone to the washroom before joining her. She would have known that he would be with her in a few minutes and that she could count on his attentions when he returned. With this anticipation and comfort in mind, she heard him fall in the bathroom. He never got up. He was ripped from her at the worst possible time of day when she was anticipating his return, alone, at night.

So, the issue of spending Christmas at my father’s mother place had never come up. We had always gone there for our dinner and a gift exchange with the cousins. I remember these times fondly with the crowded rooms, the large meal and the card games that we played as a family. My grandmother had taught me how to play cards and how to make the sauce for Christmas pudding. That was a holiday staple that my children would never learn to love and gradually got phased out because I was the only one eating it.

There was no actual family Christmas celebration at all that year. My mother did not want to get out of bed and in the middle of the afternoon I went over to my boyfriend’s where we had Christmas dinner. Some time at this apartment my mother tried to commit suicide but was unsuccessful. I called the doctor, who got angry with me because I could not accurately describe the pills in the bottle that I found (she kept multiple medications in the same bottle) and I think that an ambulance came, but I’ve erased most of the details of this event from my memory.

My mother was forced to stay with her new boyfriend, a hideous, creepy, skinny man that was the janitor for one of the high schools. The only saving grace for me was that it was not my high school. I would have been terribly embarrassed to have had to go to school with the knowledge that my mother was dating the married janitor. How her self image of wanting to look like she had it all had fallen. She had lost her status, her husband and her wealth all in one unanticipated break-in at a grungy second hand store.

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available

Keep Reading: Guardian Angel

www.wendypowell.ca

To Be Single, or Not To Be Single — Chapter 3

20131018-152334.jpgBeing a single mom when I graduated restricted the jobs that I could take. It was almost impossible for me to take a regular veterinary job because you were required to be on call. How could I possibly leave in the middle of the night when I had a baby in the house and no one to take care of her? I looked into sales jobs, research jobs and veterinary practices that had an emergency clinic in town, meaning that there was no on-call required.

As it turned out, I ended up getting a great job as the staff veterinarian for a feed company that also raised its own calves, thousands of them. I bought a house and moved with my daughter to a city not that far from the university town. Bob had gotten a job at a local daily newspaper over an hour away and had moved there with his girlfriend.

I hit a low point here. I was a twenty-six year old single mom that was already on my way to a divorce. I was living in a city where I knew no one except for the people that I worked with. I only saw those people at work. I was terribly alone and I was not sure what to do with myself.

I remember doing groceries with a blinding headache, my daughter in the shopping cart not in such a great mood herself, and just feeling like I had hit bottom. Bob would often say that he was coming to get his daughter and then he would simply not show up. Or, when he did take her she would come back on Sunday and have milk diarrhea for a day or so and a diaper rash.

For those people that have not raised a baby, when all you feed your child is milk, they get soft, greyish white poos that are not normally formed. This was neglect. As far as I could tell, he would just give her a bottle of milk every time that she was hungry or upset and that would be all that he would feed her. She was over a year of age by now and basically could eat anything that he was eating, assuming that he was eating. His girlfriend would have been about 18 by then so she was not all that equipped to deal with having a toddler around either and the diaper rash that my daughter had when she came home was a testament to that fact.

Then a strange thing happened. A good friend of mine, who also had a daughter, separated from her husband and came to stay with me. Things were great. We had the same level of responsibility but we also had the same understanding of what needed to be done. When you are living with someone that already knows how to manage a home, it actually splits the work in half.

We had meals together, played with our daughters together, had ample time to talk and discuss our failed marriages and our lives. She was only there a short while. I’m guessing a couple of weeks, but it set me up. When she moved out there was a gaping hole in my life.

I had more or less adjusted to living on my own and now I had to readjust to being by myself. I had experienced how nice it was to have someone there. The loneliness that followed her stay was bottomless.

Then Bob stepped in. He explained that he had panicked when our daughter had been born. He was scared and acted inappropriately. He was sorry for what he had done and he had learned his lesson the hard way by being separated from his family. He wanted to be married. He wanted to be a family. He had realized that he had acted inappropriately and regretted his mistake.

Looking back now, I’m almost certain that he had fought with his girlfriend and she had thrown him out. I recognize that the lines were probably lifted, if not word for word, at least the theme of them, from a romantic comedy, but I hadn’t been watching a lot of movies. He had brought a wedding band with him and presented it to me. He wanted to get back together; the question was, did I?

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available

What’s a Girls to do?

www.wendypowell.ca

 

A Move of My Own –Chapter 2

photoI’m now in the family room. It is a large room with three leather sofas, a large screen TV, a fireplace and three garden doors across the back wall. Garden doors are the same size as a regular door and they swing open normally, but about eighty per cent of them is glass. These particular doors do not all open. The centre has a lattice that makes them look a little like french doors, but the lattice is between the two panes of glass and there is no bevel.

The doors provide a view out the back of the house. From here, I can only see the tops of the trees and some of the houses that are on the other side of the green space. It is the perfect view of the sunset and that adds a certain drama to the room at that time of day.

I usually do not write this much in a day, but it is a Saturday and none of my children are here. I have the whole day to myself and it feels quite satisfying to be sitting on my computer committing these stories to the page.

The day that I left for university is etched on my brain the way any significant life changing day later becomes stylized in your memory. By this time I had another Ford Capri, I believe this one was a 1974 model and I was never as attached to this one as I had been attached to my first car. It was in better shape and much more reliable than my first car but not as beloved.

I had packed the car full of my possessions and anything that wouldn’t fit in my car had been left at my sister’s place. I had ended up staying with her near the end of grade thirteen and for the summer before university. She had a spare room and even though she was married at the time, it was OK that I stay in that room.

During that summer she moved from the one side of the semi, to the other side when it became available. I had begun to believe that I would never stay in any place very long. There had been numerous moves over the last few years and at the very least I was becoming more efficient at it.

It is a liberating experience to be leaving the world that you know behind and going to an unknown place where anything can happen. Unlike those that make this sort of move in order to find new jobs, or try a shot at acting or living in a big city, I had a plan. I had been accepted into university and I was going to become a veterinarian.

In hindsight, this was probably not the best career choice for me. I did not have a lot of people in my life that could guide me as far as career choices or educational opportunities were concerned. My only experience with the guidance counselors at school was not positive. They had become aware that my parents had separated and called me down, out of class, to speak to them. Getting called out of class is never a good sign when you are in school and it exposed my family problems to all of the people that I went to school with.

I don’t know if they ever considered making an appointment with me and having me come at a time that was convenient, but they didn’t do it that way. Public humiliation, in the form of being called down to the principal’s office was what I experienced. When the meeting with the counselor and my sister commenced it only got worse. Divorce was fairly uncommon in the seventies. Birth control, which provided the first opportunity to leave a marriage, or choose not to be married, had only been around for about ten years and was only becoming mainstream at this time.

The increase in divorce may not have been a result of birth control but it was definitely related from a temporal perspective. The seventies were the era of swingers’ parties and sexual freedom; freedom that had never been experienced before. This was the first adult generation that could have sex without the fear of an unwanted pregnancy.

But I digress; the way that the counselor saw our predicament was that we were going to be in a state of utter confusion and emotional turmoil. Our best bet, if we wanted to survive in the world, post divorce, was to get our high school diploma as quickly and easily as possible. She recommended that I drop down from my university level, grade thirteen classes into the four-year program. Interesting. My sister took this advice. I did not.

Another tool that was used at this time was a type of aptitude test. By filling out questions like, “Do you like the smell of turpentine?”; they decided whether or not you should choose a job as a painter. I filled this out and there was a notation on mine. A computer generated question of whether or not I had filled in the “sex” part improperly. Another female friend of mine, who later became a doctor, experienced the same thing when she got her results back.

This test said that I should become an engineer. There were a few other suggestions but this one makes the best story. When I spoke to some people that I knew, including my father, about this option, I was told that this would be a mistake because trains were going out of fashion. You can’t make this stuff up!

The good thing about my singular focus on becoming a veterinarian was that it took all of the decision making out of this time in my life. I had a focus. I had a goal. When my boyfriend wanted to get married right after I finished high school, I knew that this wouldn’t work for me because I wanted to go to university. It also meant that I only applied to one university and that was where I was driving on the day that I left for school.

I remember driving down the newly built four lane divided highway that had no stops and no distractions at the side of the road. I had a clean, clear feeling of having everything that was important to me with me in the car. I was leaving the drama, the history and the conflict behind and I was taking the next step out into the world. I had a good feeling that life was only going to get better. The problem with having all of your worldly belongings with you is that a simple car accident could have destroyed everything that I held dear to my heart. On the other hand, I felt mobile and self-contained. I was meeting all of my own needs and everything that I wanted was with me.

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book.

Keep Reading: Residence www.wendypowell.ca

Point of No Return — Chapter 1

20130720-085248.jpgIt is Saturday morning. I spent Friday writing, editing and posting blogs on another topic and did not end up writing any of this story. I am sitting on my deck at the back of the house on a lounge chair. The deck is a half story above ground level and gives the feeling that you are elevated looking out over an expanse of green space.

From where I am sitting I can see my backyard, which is almost all pool, raspberry bushes and plantings and then a pond and a walkway out further. It is a cool day with a blue sky and even though it is still early, you can tell that it is going to be quite hot today.

One of the things that my mother could count on when she threatened my father with divorce is that his mother would never allow it. I have no way of knowing whether or not she had relied on this happening, but I know that the first time that my mother left my father, his mother had insisted that he make it right. This put my mother in the position of being courted and chased. She had the power.

If she had relied on this, she got some of the worst news that she could’ve imagined before Christmas that year. My paternal grandmother had been much younger than her husband, being his second wife, and had learned how to take care of herself quite well after he passed on. The house that she lived in had a store on one side that would be the approximate location of an indoor garage if the house had been built fifty years later.

I heard stories that this used to be a type of general purpose store where the neighbourhood children could buy ice-cream and candy. But by the time that I was old enough to remember this retail space it could most easily be described as a second hand store or an antique store if you were feeling generous at the time. My grandmother’s home was filled with furniture to the point of it being awkward to walk around in. These were handcrafted wood pieces elaborate with details and fancy handles.

On a particularly bad evening, a man came into my grandmother’s store and tried to steal something or hurt her. I never heard the entire story, but I know that when the police arrived she still had a hunk of his hair in her hand. The ultimate outcome of this terrible incident was that my grandmother lost the will to live. She no longer felt safe living alone in her home and her health fell quickly. By November 1977, less than five months after my mother had left my father, she died. My father moved another woman into his place, right away.

That same winter, my mother’s father died. He died right before Christmas and I remember hearing the discussions about what to do with the gifts that had been bought for him. A small thing in the larger scheme of things, but a poignant issue when put in context. We had all planned on having him around to celebrate Christmas.

Years later I heard my aunts teasing my grandmother about taking another lover. She had been with my grandfather her entire life. Her response was that she had pleased one man, every night, for several decades and she had had enough. This made me feel for her.

Extrapolated from what my grandmother said, the night of my grandfather’s death would have been a particularly difficult time for her. Like every other night of her life, since she was fifteen years of age, she would have been anticipating her lover. She was in the bedroom, in bed and he had gone to the washroom before joining her. She would have known that he would be with her in a few minutes and that she could count on his attentions when he returned. With this anticipation and comfort in mind, she heard him fall in the bathroom. He never got up. He was ripped from her at the worst possible time of day when she was anticipating his return, alone, at night.

So, the issue of spending Christmas at my father’s mother place had never come up. We had always gone there for our dinner and a gift exchange with the cousins. I remember these times fondly with the crowded rooms, the large meal and the card games that we played as a family. My grandmother had taught me how to play cards and how to make the sauce for Christmas pudding. That was a holiday staple that my children would never learn to love and gradually got phased out because I was the only one eating it.

There was no actual family Christmas celebration at all that year. My mother did not want to get out of bed and in the middle of the afternoon I went over to my boyfriend’s where we had Christmas dinner. Some time at this apartment my mother tried to commit suicide but was unsuccessful. I called the doctor, who got angry with me because I could not accurately describe the pills in the bottle that I found (she kept multiple medications in the same bottle) and I think that an ambulance came, but I’ve erased most of the details of this event from my memory.

My mother was forced to stay with her new boyfriend, a hideous, creepy, skinny man that was the janitor for one of the high schools. The only saving grace for me was that it was not my high school. I would have been terribly embarrassed to have had to go to school with the knowledge that my mother was dating the married janitor. How her self image of wanting to look like she had it all had fallen. She had lost her status, her husband and her wealth all in one unanticipated break-in at a grungy second hand store.

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available

Keep Reading: Guardian Angel

www.wendypowell.ca

A Move of My Own –Chapter 2

photoI’m now in the family room. It is a large room with three leather sofas, a large screen TV, a fireplace and three garden doors across the back wall. Garden doors are the same size as a regular door and they swing open normally, but about eighty per cent of them is glass. These particular doors do not all open. The centre has a lattice that makes them look a little like french doors, but the lattice is between the two panes of glass and there is no bevel.

The doors provide a view out the back of the house. From here, I can only see the tops of the trees and some of the houses that are on the other side of the green space. It is the perfect view of the sunset and that adds a certain drama to the room at that time of day.

I usually do not write this much in a day, but it is a Saturday and none of my children are here. I have the whole day to myself and it feels quite satisfying to be sitting on my computer committing these stories to the page.

The day that I left for university is etched on my brain the way any significant life changing day later becomes stylized in your memory. By this time I had another Ford Capri, I believe this one was a 1974 model and I was never as attached to this one as I had been attached to my first car. It was in better shape and much more reliable than my first car but not as beloved.

I had packed the car full of my possessions and anything that wouldn’t fit in my car had been left at my sister’s place. I had ended up staying with her near the end of grade thirteen and for the summer before university. She had a spare room and even though she was married at the time, it was OK that I stay in that room.

During that summer she moved from the one side of the semi, to the other side when it became available. I had begun to believe that I would never stay in any place very long. There had been numerous moves over the last few years and at the very least I was becoming more efficient at it.

It is a liberating experience to be leaving the world that you know behind and going to an unknown place where anything can happen. Unlike those that make this sort of move in order to find new jobs, or try a shot at acting or living in a big city, I had a plan. I had been accepted into university and I was going to become a veterinarian.

In hindsight, this was probably not the best career choice for me. I did not have a lot of people in my life that could guide me as far as career choices or educational opportunities were concerned. My only experience with the guidance counselors at school was not positive. They had become aware that my parents had separated and called me down, out of class, to speak to them. Getting called out of class is never a good sign when you are in school and it exposed my family problems to all of the people that I went to school with.

I don’t know if they ever considered making an appointment with me and having me come at a time that was convenient, but they didn’t do it that way. Public humiliation, in the form of being called down to the principal’s office was what I experienced. When the meeting with the counselor and my sister commenced it only got worse. Divorce was fairly uncommon in the seventies. Birth control, which provided the first opportunity to leave a marriage, or choose not to be married, had only been around for about ten years and was only becoming mainstream at this time.

The increase in divorce may not have been a result of birth control but it was definitely related from a temporal perspective. The seventies were the era of swingers’ parties and sexual freedom; freedom that had never been experienced before. This was the first adult generation that could have sex without the fear of an unwanted pregnancy.

But I digress; the way that the counselor saw our predicament was that we were going to be in a state of utter confusion and emotional turmoil. Our best bet, if we wanted to survive in the world, post divorce, was to get our high school diploma as quickly and easily as possible. She recommended that I drop down from my university level, grade thirteen classes into the four-year program. Interesting. My sister took this advice. I did not.

Another tool that was used at this time was a type of aptitude test. By filling out questions like, “Do you like the smell of turpentine?”; they decided whether or not you should choose a job as a painter. I filled this out and there was a notation on mine. A computer generated question of whether or not I had filled in the “sex” part improperly. Another female friend of mine, who later became a doctor, experienced the same thing when she got her results back.

This test said that I should become an engineer. There were a few other suggestions but this one makes the best story. When I spoke to some people that I knew, including my father, about this option, I was told that this would be a mistake because trains were going out of fashion. You can’t make this stuff up!

The good thing about my singular focus on becoming a veterinarian was that it took all of the decision making out of this time in my life. I had a focus. I had a goal. When my boyfriend wanted to get married right after I finished high school, I knew that this wouldn’t work for me because I wanted to go to university. It also meant that I only applied to one university and that was where I was driving on the day that I left for school.

I remember driving down the newly built four lane divided highway that had no stops and no distractions at the side of the road. I had a clean, clear feeling of having everything that was important to me with me in the car. I was leaving the drama, the history and the conflict behind and I was taking the next step out into the world. I had a good feeling that life was only going to get better. The problem with having all of your worldly belongings with you is that a simple car accident could have destroyed everything that I held dear to my heart. On the other hand, I felt mobile and self-contained. I was meeting all of my own needs and everything that I wanted was with me.

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book.

Keep Reading: Residence www.wendypowell.ca

Point of No Return — Chapter 1

20130720-085248.jpgIt is Saturday morning. I spent Friday writing, editing and posting blogs on another topic and did not end up writing any of this story. I am sitting on my deck at the back of the house on a lounge chair. The deck is a half story above ground level and gives the feeling that you are elevated looking out over an expanse of green space.

From where I am sitting I can see my backyard, which is almost all pool, raspberry bushes and plantings and then a pond and a walkway out further. It is a cool day with a blue sky and even though it is still early, you can tell that it is going to be quite hot today.

One of the things that my mother could count on when she threatened my father with divorce is that his mother would never allow it. I have no way of knowing whether or not she had relied on this happening, but I know that the first time that my mother left my father, his mother had insisted that he make it right. This put my mother in the position of being courted and chased. She had the power.

If she had relied on this, she got some of the worst news that she could’ve imagined before Christmas that year. My paternal grandmother had been much younger than her husband, being his second wife, and had learned how to take care of herself quite well after he passed on. The house that she lived in had a store on one side that would be the approximate location of an indoor garage if the house had been built fifty years later.

I heard stories that this used to be a type of general purpose store where the neighbourhood children could buy ice-cream and candy. But by the time that I was old enough to remember this retail space it could most easily be described as a second hand store or an antique store if you were feeling generous at the time. My grandmother’s home was filled with furniture to the point of it being awkward to walk around in. These were handcrafted wood pieces elaborate with details and fancy handles.

On a particularly bad evening, a man came into my grandmother’s store and tried to steal something or hurt her. I never heard the entire story, but I know that when the police arrived she still had a hunk of his hair in her hand. The ultimate outcome of this terrible incident was that my grandmother lost the will to live. She no longer felt safe living alone in her home and her health fell quickly. By November 1977, less than five months after my mother had left my father, she died. My father moved another woman into his place, right away.

That same winter, my mother’s father died. He died right before Christmas and I remember hearing the discussions about what to do with the gifts that had been bought for him. A small thing in the larger scheme of things, but a poignant issue when put in context. We had all planned on having him around to celebrate Christmas.

Years later I heard my aunts teasing my grandmother about taking another lover. She had been with my grandfather her entire life. Her response was that she had pleased one man, every night, for several decades and she had had enough. This made me feel for her.

Extrapolated from what my grandmother said, the night of my grandfather’s death would have been a particularly difficult time for her. Like every other night of her life, since she was fifteen years of age, she would have been anticipating her lover. She was in the bedroom, in bed and he had gone to the washroom before joining her. She would have known that he would be with her in a few minutes and that she could count on his attentions when he returned. With this anticipation and comfort in mind, she heard him fall in the bathroom. He never got up. He was ripped from her at the worst possible time of day when she was anticipating his return, alone, at night.

So, the issue of spending Christmas at my father’s mother place had never come up. We had always gone there for our dinner and a gift exchange with the cousins. I remember these times fondly with the crowded rooms, the large meal and the card games that we played as a family. My grandmother had taught me how to play cards and how to make the sauce for Christmas pudding. That was a holiday staple that my children would never learn to love and gradually got phased out because I was the only one eating it.

There was no actual family Christmas celebration at all that year. My mother did not want to get out of bed and in the middle of the afternoon I went over to my boyfriend’s where we had Christmas dinner. Some time at this apartment my mother tried to commit suicide but was unsuccessful. I called the doctor, who got angry with me because I could not accurately describe the pills in the bottle that I found (she kept multiple medications in the same bottle) and I think that an ambulance came, but I’ve erased most of the details of this event from my memory.

My mother was forced to stay with her new boyfriend, a hideous, creepy, skinny man that was the janitor for one of the high schools. The only saving grace for me was that it was not my high school. I would have been terribly embarrassed to have had to go to school with the knowledge that my mother was dating the married janitor. How her self image of wanting to look like she had it all had fallen. She had lost her status, her husband and her wealth all in one unanticipated break-in at a grungy second hand store.

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available

Keep Reading: Guardian Angel

www.wendypowell.ca