A lovely friend gently reminded me that you, my loyal readers, might be hanging in suspense as to the outcome of my July 1st post. Franc had gone off in a huff that had begun as an inflated bombastic balloon, threatening divorce, and ended as a deflated wrinkly remains of one, looking lost and defeated.

There has been a whole month of silence in between. Life rolls on at it’s merry pace with or without us. I’ve been overwhelmed with “must-dos”, those tasks that one cannot avoid or at least, at great peril of one kind or another, and so have not blogged much. My story of Charlie the painter got half written and then I could no longer devote the necessary time to it. It took Charlie and me a full week to get the apartment painted for resale. Then I met with Realtor who is an old friend. She brought me a few more tasks to make the place presentable. My brother-in-law, bless his heart, came from up Sechelt way, with his truck, and took four or five loads of goods out to the new house, including the wooden Ikea shelving that I use to store my vast collection of paintings on.

I followed my brother in law out to the new house with car loads of paintings and household paraphernalia. I took one look at the basement where all this stuff will be stored and where I suspect I will be spending a great deal of my time, since I’m hoping to have a pristine looking in-home gallery on the main floor, and decided I could not live with the ancient rose colour that had become encrusted with dust and grime, nor its erratic companion colour of hospital green – left over paints from the fifties, at best. I needed there to be light and brightness. There was no other option than to paint out the grime and the depressing colours with bright white. I couldn’t put anything away until the painting was done. So I’ve spent a week at this already and have only done one wall, complete with all the built in shelving and the cold room.

The cold room is an anachronistic and charming left-over from the pioneer times when one preserved the summer harvest in jars for winter use when you could not expect an airplane to fly in tomatoes from Mexico or Spain. There were no grapes arriving from Chile. California was not sending year-round strawberries. We have no idea how rich and spoiled we have become in achieving our daily necessities! We take it all for granted. This cold room might have stored root vegetables like beets, carrots and potatoes in boxes full of sand, bins of apples and hard pears waiting to ripen on a window sill once they were liberated to the main living area of the house; rows on rows of canned-at-home green and yellow beans, fruits, asparagus, corn and other vegetables, chutneys, jams and pickles. There might be jars of dried fruits, dried beans – the seed variety – There were no corner stores; nor refrigerators, nor freezers.

Now this lovely cave like room is going to store a bit of my food storage but more so, it’s going to be storage for art supplies that will not be affected by possible damp. I’m not one hundred percent sure of the humidity levels in there.

This room was very clean, but depressingly grey. It has now been over-painted completely in white and I don’t feel so depressed going in there. This was another of the week long painting exercise I’ve just been through.

Heather and her husband left on Tuesday morning of that week and Lizbet and a cousin I’ve never met from Winnipeg came on Thursday morning to start their summer vacation with a day and a half here and then a week in Parksville in a time-share condo on the shores of the Georgia Straight.

All of that is to say, I’ve not had time to stand still. I’ve not had time to brood about Franc, although he has been in my thoughts in spare amounts of down time. And we have had two encounters, neither of which elicited conversation.

In his parting comments to me on the first, he asked me to move all my stuff out of his place as soon as possible. I arranged for a mover, I can’t remember the date, about the 15th. (Beware the Ides of Julius?). Perceptive Franc had seen me drowning in family responsibilities just after Mother’s death and had prodded me to pack up my things, knowing I would have to move, and he offered me a spare room in his apartment to fill up with the ensuing boxes.

It helped me in a number of ways. It kept me busy while motion, any motion, took my mind away from wallowing emotions; it gave me swing room while I coped with the vast amount of goods and paintings I had accumulated that needed to be moved for an eventual and more urgent change of address; and most of all, it gave me the feeling that at least one individual had some idea of the strain I had been living under for the last year in particular, and that he was offering a me safe haven, not just for the goods but for me, when the family and it’s Arrested-Development-type disfunctioning came out in spades.

Now here I was clearing out the room, under conditions that were truly saddening. I hadn’t seen him in two weeks. His face was stony. He sat on his couch where we had sat many evening, he watching television; me cursorily doing the same while fiddling with a Sudoku or crossword puzzle or crocheting the latest blanket. He was assiduously trying not to look at me. I still had the feeling that he had been steam rollered over and was terribly unhappy about how things had gone.

I looked at him and my tongue froze. Such is the power of ultimatums that they generally make for two losers; there is no middle ground, no room for compromise, no way to save face. Both of us were unhappy and I couldn’t say a thing. There was silence from both sides. He spoke to the movers, whom I had warned that I didn’t know what his reaction would be, in normal tones, helpful, directing their work, but there was not a word to me.

It took the movers about an hour to empty the room. All the bits and pieces of our life together had been separated and divvied up. His walls were bare of my loaned paintings. My Sudoko and crossword books were returned. The hardest thing to look at are the goofy lime-green frog slippers he bought for me at a flea market for a dollar so that my feet wouldn’t get cold. He thought I’d never wear them but they were so outrageously goofy with a tiny red tongue hanging out just about where my big toe goes, that I couldn’t not wear them. Now they are still in the back seat of my car. I can’t bear to throw them out, and I don’t want the constant reminder of what has occurred between us.

When the movers were ready to drive off, he came to me and spoke. I was glad that he had the power to break the dreadful silence. This time it was me who felt like a deer caught in the headlights, powerless to speak, powerless to move.

“Did Charlie finish the painting for you?
“Yes, he finished on Sunday.”

“That seems overly long.” he said.

“Well, he talked me into doing the ceilings as well; and he repaired the woodwork on the balcony. And he talked me into painting the surface of the balcony too.”

“And he did it properly?”
“Yes. It looked beautiful.”

“You are moved to the new house now?” I shook my head in reply.

“It’s just the beginning. You asked me to do this quickly and I did the best I could. With the painting and the real estate stuff, I haven’t had any time to do otherwise. ”

“Just send me the documents I need to start the divorce”

I nodded dumbly.

“Well this is it, then,” he said and hesitated as if there were more.

“Good luck.” It was said flatly. Or maybe with a bit of irony. I couldn’t tell. He went back into his apartment and I left.

Less than a week later, while Lizbet was here, it was his birthday. I agonized over whether to do something, to acknowledge it or not. I have good support from my friends. I’m not a very private person sometimes. They’ve been through this once before twelve years ago, but loyal as they are, God bless them, they will still put up with me and my roller coaster relationship.

I didn’t want to give him anything. I’ve never been successful in giving him presents. He doesn’t seem to want them anyway. Any one I’ve given has been mocked or ignored so that finally I stopped giving them. The only thing he seemed to want from me was time and companionship. I gave of that what I could, given my commitments to family that I wouldn’t break this close to the end of them.

I couldn’t say anything. The only things I wanted to say he would not listen to. I’d already had those mocked on the night of our disagreement. Talk about an impasse! I wrote a half dozen letters, each getting more concise, that all met with the shredder on a dark and stormy night.

Finally I wrote a short note telling him that I couldn’t let his birthday go unnoticed, but that we were both a pair of old fools, stubborn and recalcitrant; recognized that I understood why my stance had most likely hurt his feelings, but that he was not to think that I had not appreciated all he had done for me; that I loved him anyhow (which is something I’ve often said when things didn’t go my way).

On the morning of Lizbet’s first full day here, we decided to go to the Monet to Dali exhibition. I agreed as long as I could take the morning to go do something first. Business I had to get out of the way. I drove that long drive out to Surrey listening to Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto. It’s become a salve for me, calming my spirit in heavy traffic, or in heavy emotions. The day was sunny with mists hanging in the delta farm fields. I drove in and out of fog while the sun tried to burn them away.

At Save on Foods, I stopped and purchased a plant, red, his favourite colour. Not roses, I had been counselled. Too romantic. Something more sedate.

Carnations? Too fluffy. Alstromeria? Too palid, too wishwashy. Gladioli? They were one of his favourite flowers, but not yet in bloom. A begonia or azalea just seemed out of the question. I settled on a cyclamen, a long lasting plant with good strong red colour.

A few days later I called up my nephew to ask him a geeky question, like how am I going to make a slide show of photos if the CD player won’t play them to the TV? I dialed the number from my overactive brain and found myself talking to Franc. Their numbers start with the same 778 prefix and I guess the rest was an auto-Freudian slip up.

I apologized for disturbing him. He thanked me for the flowers. The conversation was driven by a hurry on both sides to hang up. And I’m left wondering if he’s OK.

Of course, he’s not OK. I can read in his face, in his voice that he’s not OK.

My dear loyal friends have offered some advice, and since I seem to be relatively naive in my relationships, I am trying to make the best of the conflicting advice.

“Just give him time to think things through; to come to terms with his own emotions. In my opinion, he’ll be back when he’s had the time. He needs to be able to save face.” It took him five years, the last time we went through this. I’m less vulnerable now; more sure that I can survive on my own. When I look back on where we were twelve years ago and where we are today, nothing has changed. Why would I wait again?

“It was somewhat of a lopsided relationship anyway. Let it go. Go meet some other people” Easier said than done.

“Sorry darlin’; I hate to tell you but there aren’t many single men in Maple Ridge. This isn’t a place to go meeting people.” Thanks for the support.

“Maybe it’s for the best.” Maybe. He’s made me see all colours of the rainbow. I’ve put up with things unthinkable for me and my upbringing. Why did I put up with any of it. Why do I want to bring it back into my life, now when I have a short time at the end of my career to do the things I want to do.

And so in the interstices of my daily living, I am filling up the cracks with thinking of Franc, the pros and the cons. He was tremendously generous in the last few years with his time and his incredible skills, repairing my house at Lisbets and at the apartment; with his brawn in helping me with my move, and in my garden; with his listening ear when I was bearing up with the days of Mother’s dying, despite the fact that she wouldn’t allow him on the property and would not tolerate his name mentioned in her hearing; with his chauffeuring, since I can no longer drive long distances; with his repairs to my automobile; and in many other ways.

Weighing this with his jealousy of how I spend my time with others. Weighing this with his criticism of my visual and written creativity that comes of a complete ignorance of what Fine Art is all about. Weighing this with his penchant towards surveilling my actions as if I were slightly retarded in my development and need constant correction – still after thirty years of knowing me. Or with his stubborn belief that what he has decided I want is really what I want, even though I tell him otherwise, and then imposes it on me, whether I want it or not, irreversibly. And many more things I don’t care to mention.

And so, as another friend has counselled, “Why are you always trying to rescue people? Just let it go and see what happens.


2 Responses to “Suspense!”

  1. nouveaufauves Says:

    Can I ever identify with your point of view in this post. I am going through some difficulties concerning my relationship and affinity to my family and our lack of agreement on certain issues. The biggest disagreement comes with the help…..or should I say interference ….of a close friend. I am offended by his insertion into our family decisions and my husband welcomes it. We just returned form a great ten day vacation trip to Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley, and North Carolina mountains. I have been posting pictures of our excursion. It sort of regenerated our relationship of about forty years. We were in such a good place and now this real estate problem (which we need to work out between us) is being taken over by someone who used to be a friend to both of us and has certainly abandoned his friendship to me now. Are you settled into your new abode? I am faced with the prospect of selling and moving and it is just one more stress producing event to look forward to. Arrgh.

  2. lookingforbeauty Says:

    Hi Nouveau fauves
    I”m not settled yet, but I’m treating this a holiday in a new place where the people who hired out the cottage furnished it sparely, or, as a camping trip where I forgot half the things I needed and I’m just making do.
    My adventurous spirit will last about another month before I get really fed up.
    The movers never came. I’ve now got some other ones lined up for the 4th of September.
    In between time, my nephew from Japan and his young 7 year old boy are coming along with my sister and her husband. They are all on camping alert and they are such wonderful people that they will embrace me and the challenge equally with love and understanding.
    Settling, I thing, will take about a year.
    Keep posted. I can’t write just at the moment but I have other stories to tell. When I turn it into stories, it makes it all bearable.
    Keep your chin up.

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