Keeper of the Stars

“It was no accident, me meeting you…”. Tracy Bird

It was 1994. With three teenagers to raise and provide for and a recent escape from unholy matrimony (as I referred to my first marriage), the last thing I wanted or needed in my life was a man. My life was good, happy and fulfilling.

For a couple of years things went along great. My kids and their friends filled our home with love and laughter. I filled it with groceries and other basic necessities. As the months went by, we were able to take my mother on an unforgettable family holiday. We moved from our little basement apartment to a much nicer and roomier duplex in a better part of the city. I traded in my battered and worn sedan for a sweet turbo charged convertible. Life was good.

The only downside to my life was that I was grieving the loss of my father who had recently passed away (although I always felt that he was very much with us through those years) and my health. I had lost an unhealthy amount of weight in previous years. I was working for a millwork company and was frequently in the warehouse, which was in the same building as our offices and showroom. I was, and am, asthmatic and seriously allergic to trees and everything tree related – wood, sawdust, wood smoke, feathers (birds have feathers and they live in trees). It still seems rediculous that I would put myself in such a situation but I loved the place and everyone in it.

Although everyone else at work was male, I didn’t really think anything of it and I didn’t really think anyone considered me as anything but one of the guys (who happened to always wear skirts, heels and makeup). A couple of years in, my bosses hired an autocad guy to work in the office. Since said bosses were busy on Dave’s first day, I took him out for lunch to welcome him to the team. He took the opportunity to hit on me. I told him in no uncertain terms that I did not date, would not date and dropped it. He did not, but he was not there long and he just never got anywhere with me. He did however, tell his friend Dan about the company. Dan had years of experience working for industrial steel companies. With a downturn in the economy, the company he had been working for went out of business and he had found himself unemployed.

Soon after, Dan walked into the office and asked to speak to Ken, one of my bosses. I took one look at him and ran to the other side of the warehouse to find Ken and to tell him that there was “a BIG native man there to see him”. (In my defence, I knew very few natives, had never seen a Hungarian before – and I was very sleep deprived at the time).

After a short interview, Ken hired Dan. Dan went home and was to start work in a couple of days. The day before he was scheduled to start, his mother passed away suddenly. He came to the office to explain the situation and his pain was obvious. He was very close to his mother. She was, to him and to all who knew her, a very special woman.

A few days later, Dan returned to start work. He was introduced to everyone and announced to the rest of the guys that he was there to work and marry the receptionist – me. Nobody told me of his plans or that he was Hungarian (which was totally irrelevant but it was hilarious that I was oblivious to the fact until a year later, after we had been living together for a month).  I did however learn that he worked hard, took pride in his work, and that he stood up for himself and supported his fellow workers. 

On July 31st, 1999 we were married. Our family and friends were there to support us. We had a beautiful wedding. We both agreed that as heaven’s gates opened for his mother, my father had been there to welcome her. Together they had conspired to bring us to each other.

By that point our economy had improved, Dan had gone to work at the pipe plant of our local steel factory and I had moved on to a healthier environment. We moved in to Dan’s house (an ongoing project) and we built a good life together. We have definitely had great times together, good times together and faced difficult and heart wrenching challenges together. We have come to love, respect and and admire each other. We have definitely learned to annoy each other and at times to take each other for granted.

This week, I realized how very much I love Dan, appreciate him and how perfectly suited we are for this life that we share. This week, Dan had a few days off between shifts. On Tuesday, I called him from work to tell him I was was very sick and struggling to breathe. He rushed over to pick me up and took me to the hospital emergency ward. He stayed by my side for six hours, on his last day off this week, to support me. When we got back home, he went to get my medication and pick up supper. The next evening, when he returned home from work, he told me some silly anecdote from work that made me laugh until my sides hurt. Last night we started talking about people winning large lotteries. I said my biggest concern, if we ever won, was that we would want such different things that it would be hard to find workable compromises. Dan agreed. Then we started talking about what each of us would want and our thoughts on the matter were almost identical. We had even both always thought of how important it was for us to show our appreciation to two special doctors. A few years ago Dan went to the emergency department with a blinding headache. A young doctor looked up from from his paperwork, yelled “get that man on a stretcher – he is septic” and proceeded to save Dan’s life. He was fantastic. My special doctor, went above and beyond to take care of me and keep Dan fully informed of what he was doing, after my lung collapsed and no one could repair it. He saved my lung (without surgery) for which I will always be grateful. Both of these men were such gifted physicians and such dedicated humanitarians – and they were both high on both of our lists of ‘lottery win’ priorities. (In the guise of their dream medical equipment I would expect).

I know – I had no want or need of a man in my life. Until he met me, Dan was quite content with his sports and his cat Hank. I am however, eternally grateful that my father and his mother felt otherwise.

‘I tip my hat to the keeper of our stars. They sure knew what they were when they joined these two hearts.’

Mortality

From as long back as I can remember, my Mother would dwell on her own mortality. Every Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving would be her last. Every health episode was fodder for stories that would be told time and time again, with every supporting actor placed at her bedside, anxiously waiting for her to gasp her last breath. Occasionally, she would even adopt health episodes that had actually been mine or my siblings, just to shake things up a bit. I am not sure why she was so obsessed with dying but she lived to be ninety-five and was relatively active and healthy virtually to the end.

The thing is, I was never terribly comfortable listening to my mother go on about her near death experiences or her impending doom. I should probably have been more sensitive to her desire to discuss death but death in general just wasn’t my favourite topic.

Mother and I

Over the years, I have done a fairly passable job of avoiding thinking about my own mortality. I have had a few serious, life threatening episodes – although to be honest I didn’t really understand the severity of such situations at the time. Morphine does that for me. By the time the morphine wears off, I am generally on the road to recovery so there isn’t that much to dwell on. Until lately…

A few weeks ago I had an outbreak of shingles. I knew one woman who had shingles. She was my Mother’s next door neighbour and she was about ninety-seven at the time. My first thought was holy hell – I am old! I have since heard from a number of people who had shingles outbreaks before they turned ninety-seven and and even long before they reached my sixty-four years. But my initial reaction to the diagnosis was shock.

My doctor prescribed an antiviral drug that controlled the shingles rash and made my entire body feel strangely numb. The outbreak passed and other than my eye still being quite itchy, I am almost fine. But not really. I lost my appetite, a good fifteen pounds and a lot of strength. I am so tired. I still struggle. I am definitely reminded that my own death is coming, not today, but sometime in the forseeable future.

I am not excited at the prospect of dying – but the idea does not terrify me. I have been re-invented so many times in this life that the idea of radical change does not bother me. I believe a part of me will stay here with the people I love. I believe a part of me will become a part of the afterlife where others who have passed before me exist. I am pretty sure I will know I am back in their presence. I think it will be beautiful and peaceful, warm and pleasant. I am not anxious to get there, but I am pretty sure it will be ok.

The End