On press day, nobody expects to receive a phone call from an estranged lover.
Last Wednesday, I walked into the Timberjay and our office manager told me I’d received a call the day before from a man with a pleasant voice who wondered if Lynn O’Hara from Ely worked there. She told him, “Yes she does and if you subscribed to our paper you’d be aware from her columns that she has changed her name to Scarlet Stone, and you could read about the new chapter of her life in Soudan.” She told him I would be in the office the following day.
I wondered who was “trolling” my way and after about five seconds made a silent guess. It had to be “D.T.” from the Hayward Lakes area...a hippie-carpenter-thing with interests in hydroponic gardening, cooking and smoking pot.
I figured the other exes are either dead or “in the know” on my whereabouts and what-ups! The phone call came in just before lunch, with five other sets of ears in the room (including Loki, the dog). I was hungry and ready to commune with my leftovers from Taco Tuesday; Loki was too, but I took the call with a wry twist on my lips and an eyebrow raised.
He identified himself. I said, “I thought it may be you calling.”
I hadn’t talked to D.T. for a few years and had no immediate reason to be rude. While my tacos beckoned from the other side of the mouse pad, he said, “The reason I had to call was to let you know about a couple things.” (Ya, what a line I thought.) He said, “First, is that our neighbor from down the road died.” (Well come on, I thought, I barely knew the guy.) He rambled on about that for a time, we conversed, and then he added, “The next thing I had to tell you was this guy that used to live east of Winton moved down here and said he knew you. He called you BIG RED.”
He chuckled as if getting in a virgin-usage fat joke. I said, “Yup, BIG RED was a nickname from Ely.” I then made the mistake of offering the tidbit that my hair wasn’t RED anymore, so of course he wanted to know what color my hair was. “Oh this is turning SO stupid and I feel like a sixteen year old,” I thought!
It started feeling like a phone-sex foreplay session in the newsroom! It was creeping me out, so I asked him how his wife was. He said they were getting a divorce and commented it was the fourth time of filing. Hmmmm, I thought.
He’d heard from mutual local friends in Wisconsin about Bill and told me what a nice man I’d married. I agreed and then put my “stiletto” down... “Well I gotta go...we’re on DEADLINE.”
All of us at the paper LOVE to say that on press day when we don’t feel like talking to someone! They immediately get a vision of us chewing our fingernails with an alarm clock nearby...rattling down the minutes, and they easily go away.
I’m not one to hold on to anger and resentment unless I think about something and stir up the ashes..which is what happened when that phone call came in. He now has become the launchpad for my column.
I’d met D.T. through an ad in the Duluth News Tribune Dateline section back in 2000 when I was living in near-poverty in Chisholm. He and I started this long distance relationship and after a year we moved me outta Chisholm with a U-Haul.
I enjoyed my experiences in the Hayward area for the next couple of years. I got a job as Director of Underwriting for WOJB radio, the nationally-known public radio station located on the Lac Courte Oreilles (prounounced La Coota Ray) Reservation.
I made friends, my son was in a nice daycare, and D.T. and I were officially engaged. Relationships go this way or that and you cannot always predict an outcome. Things soured, and Keaton and I moved into town and rented a furnished place. It was a time of flux. D.T. decided to join a friend in Alaska to work a construction job that summer and made the trip north.
At that point I returned to his place out near Moose Lake to get out of paying rent and to caretake his place and the dog. Her name was Ohbe, as in “Oh be quiet”...and I loved her.
In late June, my younger brother from Marine-on-St.-Croix died from a pancreatic infection after years of taking HIV medications. I was devastated, and decided to move back to Ely to be near my mother, who had a summer home on Burntside Lake.
D.T. was still in Alaska and didn’t want me to leave and made my life hell with threatening phone calls. Compassion fell very short. He said he’d have friends put chains across his driveway to keep me from taking my stuff out.
In my emotional state I felt like a caged wild animal. I feared he’d fly back from Alaska. I rushed to move all my stuff into a friend’s garage as a temporary holding spot and injured my rotator cuff in doing so. Meanwhile my family and I were dealing with my brother’s death and emptying out his big two-story house in Marine during the long hot summer. D.T. continued to make my life incredibly stressful until I was able to finally move north to Ely in August.
I landed on my feet, as I always seem to do, and got a job at the International Wolf Center as Assistant Retail Director. I lived at the lake with mom for the fall until I found a house to rent. It was a comfort to be back in northeastern Minnesota, where my roots were, with my mom and son.
Over the course of that fall, D.T. returned from Alaska and tried to convince me to move back to Wisconsin. At one point he drove to Ely in a rage to get back the $700 ring we had special-made by a jeweler in Hayward.
I liked the piece of jewelry from an artsy perspective, but not what it represented and gave it back....actually THREW it back! I was angry for a long time at his lack of compassion for me and the fear he added to my life. I’d hear from him occasionally, generally when he was separated from his now...wife.
My intention was to go forward, not backward...but it’s easier to say than to do when our emotions take over. Fear of the unknown can keep us from making needed changes. There’s fear of not having money, not getting help with child care, taking children from a parent or loved one if you go, fear of religious damnation, and there is mind control and fear of bodily harm. You lose both yourself and a more positive path.
In my life, there have been a few strong women, “survivors” who said things that were simple and profound. Over the years I steep myself with the truths their words carried. “When your cup finally runneth over...you’ll know it.” “Your relationship with your child is separate from its other parent or guardian.” “Don’t borrow trouble fretting about things that may or may not happen.” “Live for the day.” and “Follow your gut instincts.” All so true. We creatures need safety net words like these that keep us from going over the edge!
I’m very interested in moving FORWARD. At age sixty I don’t want to relearn the same lessons in life. At the same time, I recognize behaviors in myself that need addressing so that I am not causing anyone else grief (topics for other columns).
If D.T. should ever call me again I will tell him I’ve gone forward..not simply that I’ve moved on because forward is a strong direction, and I will ask him to please not call again.
Other forward updates include success with new projects, my walking program and a happy, quite-independent son! Until next time, don’t set the shovels down because Mother Nature has brought us a walluping spring snowstorm to contend with.