The Perfect Storm

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The wedding has come and gone and was everything that Sabrina and Ben hoped for, but after months of preparation, just like that, it was over. Directly afterwards we spent a few days packing up Sabrina’s apartment and loading my car with her belongings before she and I headed west where Ben (who needed to fly straight home after the wedding) was anxiously awaiting her arrival.

Our first day and a half on the road passed in a blur of cookies, scones and trees (all numbering about the same), punctuated by Sabrina’s cat Earl mewling and hyperventilating. We laughed together through a gazillion miles of Ontario’s boreal forest. Our plan to sleep rough with a tarp and sleeping bags was nixed the first night on account of the rain, so we just kept driving.

The second night we both wanted to lay horizontal.  Throughout the month of September, Sabrina was busy wrapping up her job at Canadian Geographic and co-organizing the annual conference for the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada. She also travelled to London, On. to meet Ben’s relations and got married, all while trying to pack up her life to move west. We both wanted a good rest and were looking for either a cheap motel or a bridge to crawl under.  A motel came first and one would think that would be the uneventful choice. They would be wrong.

“$50.00 a night” the girl on the phone said, as Winnipeg faded away in our dark rearview mirror. And yes, they had a room available. Were we suspicious at such a price? – I can’t recall. There were no cars in the lot when we pulled up to the Oakville Motor Hotel on the far side of nowhere. While checking in, I noticed two signs at the reception. One said, Friday night – stripper. And the other said, Saturday night – church dinner. It was Friday night.

“Sabrina,” I squealed, “ there’s a stripper, I’ve never seen a stripper. Let’s go see!”

She looked decidedly dubious, but in the end, she humoured me. We wandered into a virtually empty honky tonk bar room and perched ourselves on stools, counting a total of seven people; three girls and two guys at one table, (a bachelor-bachelorette joint party, the barmaid informed us) and an additional two guys playing pool and that was it. That was the crowd! A little intimate for my liking. I would prefer to sit anonymous at the back of a crowded room. I didn’t notice the unobtrusive pole among the tables until a mature woman arrived, took off her coat and without any ado or ceremony, or the slightest hint of self consciousness at the small gathering, began to dance. I’ve never danced on a pole before but I can assume that what she was doing was much harder than she made it look. My eyes got big. A few minutes later they got bigger when the bride-to-be pulled up a chair beside the stripper, whipped off her shirt and asked her fiancé excitedly if she should also take off her bra. The stripper unharnessed her own lacy covering and cozied up to the bride, bosoms bouncing. Whaaat! Sabrina and I looked at each other, simultaneously nodded in silent agreement, and made a hasty retreat to our room. Sabrina said it would have been less awkward if I wasn’t there. I said the same about her. We laughed and crawled into bed still giggling, where Sabrina admonished me not to touch her and began calculating therapy costs. Minutes later we were both fast asleep with nothing lost but a little piece of our innocence.

Our third night we stayed with Ben’s folks in Edmonton before arriving in Hinton the following day where Sabrina and Ben were happily reunited to begin their married life together. It was also the day that my divorce became final.

About the same time I broke my ankles (turns out they were both broken), Jim and I broke up. We hadn’t lived together for a few years but we were an exclusive couple nevertheless. And even though our 26 year relationship was at times tumultuous and interrupted, getting a divorce was never on the agenda. While we remain on friendly terms, it hit me hard. Fortunately, I had Sabrina’s wedding at my place to prepare for and that kept me busy. Whenever I would think about the impending divorce or the fact that after the wedding Sabrina would be permanently joining Ben in Alberta, I would push it to the recesses of my mind and concentrate instead on happy things, like the wedding and the fun trip west Sabrina and I would share. But there was no more avoiding the facts. The wedding was over, the fun trip with Sabrina was over, my marriage was over, and it was now time to say goodbye to my baby girl. It was the perfect storm.

I drove home through the states and cried all through Montana. In North Dakota, I was temporarily distracted as I fought to keep my car on the road with tornado clouds looming. I pulled over to take a picture and when I tried to start my car again, it wouldn’t start. I tried again, still nothing. Fighting a kernel of panic, the wind tugged hard at my car. Maybe this was it, I thought. Was my emotional perfect storm about to collide with a literal one. I had terrifying thoughts of sitting helpless in the badlands and being swept up into the sky. On the next try my car started and, with relief, I drove away. By Indiana, I was crying again.

I had planned to sort out my jumble of emotions on the long drive home but it’s going to take a little more time. I chide myself for being foolish – kids grow up and move away. That’s the way it is. That’s what happens. Sabrina says it’s ok to cry. To let it be what it is. She’s very wise.

When I arrived home I texted my son Colin.

“Glad you’re home” he said.

“Thanks, feeling a little lost and overwhelmed” I replied.

“About what”, he’s 23, he wouldn’t understand.

“Whatever it is mom”, he wrote when I didn’t reply, “I’m sure you’ve handled worse. Breath, relax and carry on👍”

He’s wise too. I console myself that Jim and I must have done something right.

Sabrina is starting an exciting new chapter of her life with a great guy and I am thrilled for them. We each write the story of our own life. I guess I’m starting a new chapter too. But what do you do when writers block has set in? – take some time, be gentle with yourself, and then just keep writing.

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19 responses »

  1. There are few words to say except, I’m here if you need me. But I remembered this and thought it suitable to share. My friend Pam is a writer and a songwriter.

    From my friend Pam, who truly has a wonderful mom.

    “When I was growing up, my mother would always tell me, that my happiness was in my own hands. It is one of the countless absolute truths that she has shared with me over these years. A person can find happiness if they know that it is in their own hands, and not somewhere else. Isn’t that a beautiful life lesson? Any given moment, what you need is right there. We are made that way. In life, agonies come of course, but we don’t have to allow ourselves to be swept up in the chaos of that. We can always be better. A person can always shift from whatever is happening, into serenity, peace, even happiness. Sometimes in the moment, sometimes over years, but it is beautiful to know that you are in the process.🌻”

  2. Arlene,

    I loved reading this. I laughed out loud, and teared up.

    For starters I totally would have checked out the stripper too. Despite how conservative I am about some things – that’s kinda on my “to do” list..lol.

    As for the divorce part, you’re guess is as good as mine when it comes to coping. Sometimes I wish someone would shine a light on the pain and confusion – but the days come and go, and it gets easier – at least the crying happens less, and that’s something;)

    Love ya,

    Lisa

    • Hi Lisa, thank you. It’s nice to know that the spirit of what you hope to say, is said. It was definitely a time of laughing and crying. Days do go by fast and before you know it, a huge block of time has passed. I hope you are well and …thanks 🌷 😘

  3. Arlene you are a wonderful writer and a strong person, Colin is right, you have handled worst, you will get through this rough patch and enjoy the new chapter❤

  4. So beautifully written – and also a bit heartbreaking… hope you are doing OK and looking forward to your next adventure. We are starting to send our blogs as PDF attachments to emails as there are many people who understandably don’t do Facebook. We would love to include you on the list – if you are interested, can you send us your email?

    Love to hear from you… Jim and Jan

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