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Reflections on some challenging times


If you’d seen her eyes that cloudless day last November, glossy, staring out the window overlooking the azure waters of Chequamegon Bay from her room at the Bayfield Inn, you’d have simply envied the creature for taking the opportunity for a solo getaway! In reality, she’d left Ely in her vehicle earlier that day, in tears after the kind of frustration only a mother stretched thin as a rubber band...just before the snapping point…can know, driving in a fog at first, speaking words only a sailor may recognize. Well, you’d have easily concluded that simple euthanasia or a nice straight jacket and padded cell would have been the best fix for her.

I’m talking about myself of course! Much had happened in a short time frame last spring, summer and fall to upset my apple cart. My brother and I had finally sold off the last of my mother’s two properties and I rid myself of the work and stress of managing them. My purple and gold Bearded Iris had failed to bloom, and my son chose to get a GED rather than his diploma.

Of course none of this was enough, one more life-changing event had to take place. I was in an Ely bar late one night in early August with a friend, caught up in fest, singing Dean Martin’s song, “Hey mambo, mambo Italiano...” and as the song ended, I was smiling, coming down from where you go when you feel like this, and as I turned to look toward the end of the bar something happened. Seriously, it did. I saw Bill. Yet it’s too schmaltzy to write about the details because there are men and possibly sailors reading this. Let’s just say it was an extremely rare case in space-time history when you meet someone that can mean so much in so short a time. Seeing him immediately transformed a rather tough fifty-seven-year-old into an infatuated maiden who wanted to be adorned in dotted swiss, toss bouquets of daisies into the air, lilting her plus-size figure down the length of the bar on her dancing toes. Thank god my feet were weighted down with plaid, studded, Dr. Martens Mary Janes that prevented any lilting. At least not on THIS occasion!

Since fall, Bill and I have been together, he having relocated to Minnesota to live. Recall my passport hell and us taking the trip to Italy in October with my son and his girlfriend? It was a great time! I knew when the trip was over some needed changes had to take place. Fresh perspectives from Bill and other friends about my situation here at home brought me to the difficult decision to ask my son to move out of the house. It wasn’t a result of drinking, drugs or anything illegal. It was just time for this to happen. This is parenting...which I never learned to do very well.  My parents hatched us kids or something. The eggshells cracked, we waddled out and went on our merry way. There were no verbal lessons on anything, few words were spoken and yet we just evolved into active, talented honor students with no ruffled feathers, pregnancies or police records. I personally saved that for later in life...well, ya hate to miss experiences! We were easy kids.

Raising my surprise baby as a single, rather bohemian parent during his formative years was not fun or easy! I worked, I cooked, I prayed, we moved a few times and I routinely read him books at bedtime. Whoever said it was the best time of a woman’s life? I doubt it was a woman. It’s the kind of thing men would contrive to exert control so women would just stay home, having been told they were happy and experiencing the most gratifying stretch of eighteen years one could hope for. The outcome being, women wouldn’t rival them for their stools at the local tavern!

At any rate, it was the culmination of many things that brought me to Bayfield in November, where I spent a couple of heavy-hearted days contemplating those “tough love” scenarios you hear about. I knew there would be real tough stuff ahead and I wondered if it’d be easier to wake up the next morning, resolved, and take off running down the pier in my LL Bean flannel nightgown and leap off the edge and float away like some figure in a Rossetti painting, clutching flowers to my chest in a porcelain-faced stillness!

The ridiculousness of the entire vision brought a smile to my face and I left to go find a cup of coffee and head out to explore the shops I enjoy on Main Street. Thank god for a sense of humor.

I returned home from those few days of rest, knowing what I was going to do. I called and met with a close friend the next morning, counselor by profession and by heart, who could help me. Over breakfast at a local restaurant she infused my grappling, needy spirit with the words I needed to hear and helped me with a plan. Within a few days it all came strong son did move out and great changes have come for all involved, and continue to happen through these winter months.

As is often the case with me, I bury myself in household projects to keep my “clicking brain” busy.  Also, I’d purchased a used snowmobile back in the fall so I conquered my fear of being on frozen lakes. When I’m riding, firmly grasping the handlebars, rolling over bumps, sometimes slush, I am reminded that it mirrors my life.  I’m out there on those frozen blue waters and exploring the trails, feeling every bump, bending with the turns with the bracing wind on my cheeks. Often my son is riding a sled next to me, smiling as he gives me a thumbs up, signaling to me that things between us are gonna be okay. “Common ma, let’s shred the knar,” he yells, and we continue on.


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