Lots of murky water has flowed over my dam since my last column in May of 2019. I am still working for the Timberjay and celebrated my twelfth anniversary there in mid-August. I also continue working …
Lots of murky water has flowed over my dam since my last column in May of 2019. I am still working for the Timberjay and celebrated my twelfth anniversary there in mid-August. I also continue working as a Co-Manager with Mary Batinich at the Vermilion Park Inn in Soudan. I’m still designing and printing T-shirts in my basement and will be doing it until I expire, I would expect! The business name having been Rollin’ Stone Screenprinting, is now more like Lone Stone Screenprinting. Bill and I divorced this past spring during the craziness of this COVID-19 pandemic.
I had made a trip to Missouri last Christmas with my son and his sweetheart of eight years. Bill decided he did not want to go and I was upset with him. The trip was great but as I drove home I felt so tired. There were growing tensions between Bill and me...spending money, his work hours, booze, lack of motivation and honesty. In January of 2020 we learned we were going to be grandparents, with a baby due in October. Such a surprise and a joy! Bill, however, gave me the long face a few days later stating he was not old enough to be a grandfather and I stated he was in a midlife crisis! Bill continued to spend more time away from home following night shifts at work, offering some pretty far-out explanations. In late February, out of the blue I decided to stop cocktailing....give it a rest. It was a good thing I did because I may have ended up in jail or worse reacting to what followed. We were hearing of COVID’s power and its arrival on our shores. Horrible reports of related deaths in overcrowded hospitals surpassed the news about Kobe Bryant’s and his daughter’s tragic deaths.
There were shortages of medical supplies...PPE’s, like masks, gowns, gloves, and sanitizer. I felt I needed to do something rather than sit and watch, so I decided to start sewing masks made from a pattern I got online. I received fabric and elastic donations from many who also wanted to help in some way through providing materials. My hours had been reduced at both jobs so donating masks turned into selling them at a modest cost for needed income. Bill helped too, because by then bars and restaurants were closed so he was out of work.
He was also wrestling with deepseated fears that we were in the biblical “end times.” When we’d met he had told me about his emotionally abusive stepfather, whom he described as being, “One AMEN away from a Pentecostal snake handler.” While growing up, he been shovel-fed end-time and Armageddon prophecy stuff, so I understood the source when he started talking about buying more guns, ammo and going north to live in the woods. “Bill, neither one of us has the skills...forget it...I’m staying in Soudan,” I said. The COVID news and constant media coverage was becoming overwhelming for everyone...everywhere.
One night, out of the blue, Bill said he missed his friends and was going to play pool in town at a house where they often gathered. I was concerned because we were supposed to be “sheltering in place.” He left the house anyhow, and I went to bed. Around 3 a.m. I went downstairs and his van was still gone. My gut told me to go see where he was, so I dressed and drove to Tower. His van was parked outside the “party house,” and was covered in a dusting of snow. I was worried about Bill and his frame of mind so I got out of my Jeep, walked to the door, and knocked. There were some lights on inside so I expected someone to be there. I opened the door a bit and called his name, “Bill?” There was no answer so I went inside. I walked through the kitchen and down the hall; then I heard Bill’s snoring on the other side of a closed bedroom door. I stopped, took a deep breath, turned the knob and pushed open the door. There, covered up to the waist with dark gray, rumpled sheets they lay....passed out. Poorly-rendered tattoos covered her arm. A dirty, stained pillow that was trying to escape its case was stuffed behind his head. I stood there in my Celtic green cape like a warrior clan woman. Tension mounting, I promptly reached down and took hold of the hand of my Texas-born husband, and lifted a lifeless arm that quickly flopped to stillness when I let go. In a firm voice I said... “Houston, we have a problem!” Neither one even lifted an eyelid. I could barely believe what I was seeing. Visions of our wedding day in Grand Marais, romantic days in Italy, our home and the deck we’d built, snowmobiling, laughter, enjoying friends and family....all rushed forth and capsized my fixed gaze. In calmness I lifted my iPhone and took a picture, locking it in place for all of time...then turned and walked back down the hall. I spoke in my strongest steadfast voice, “Well Bill...it looks like you found a new place to live.”
I drove home through the darkness, put on my plaid flannel nightgown, climbed into bed, curled in fetal position, and wept deeply, soulfully, like I had not done since my mother died in 2012. What in the hell was I going to do? At my order, Bill came to get his things the next day. I’d placed bags and boxes of his possessions outside on the deck. Then he left. Later that day, and for days and weeks to follow, I sewed masks. I filled order after order, sewing on my mother’s old sewing machine, the same machine I’d used back in high school. I felt so alone and it was soothing therapy. The same week Bill left, my son and his sweetheart had a miscarriage. That’s swell, I lost a husband and grandchild in one week. It was raining and pouring in my life.
I listened to speakers on YouTube covering topics on healing, meditation, spirituality, and addiction. Bill came to see me weeks later and told me his actions were largely due to falling into an old habit of “non-alcohol” substance abuse. It made much more sense to me then, and I told him to stay and I would assist him in getting professional help, but within a few days he left again. I saw him occasionally but worried about him daily.
I decided to legally end the marriage because I needed to protect myself and my assets...including my sanity. I did an online divorce and in three weeks it was done. Then I moved quickly to separate our finances. I had done this all before. With the divorce final, after over one hundred days of not drinking, I dressed up, took myself to town, sat outside at a bar table and had a great big cocktail. I made a choice to end my abstinence on that day…but will get back to it. I am like that.
Learning to be alone has been a gift in a tough package to unwrap. I’m still unwrapping....but now seven months into my craziest-of-all-COVID events I am enjoying MY space. In the late spring, business at the Inn picked up and I got very busy. I pushed myself out the door all summer for walks, flowers, gardens, lawn-mowing, to operas, on adventures with my son, but I never quit worrying about Bill. Just last week he moved into his own apartment and is taking better care of himself. I am so very glad and relieved.
In our humaness, particularly when driven by fears such as the COVID-19 pandemic, we more easily obsess with one thing or another, seeking comfort in alcohol, drugs, a lover, while we try to be comfortable in our own skin with the choices we make. Or maybe we just tune-out. I choose to tune-in and in doing so, see strings of learned lessons trailing behind me. Tin cans, empty-of-forgiveness and apologies, jostle along clinking and clanking as I continue moving ahead on my journey. I forgive the others and myself for what happened. I struggle with my desire to sit in bars, preferably with details of mining’s past days around me, and drink. I tell my story so others can know about fear, hurt, betrayal, substance abuse, loss and to somehow find a way back to wholeness of spirit.
So...as Barbara Walters used to say..... “This is 2020!”
“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
Invictus: William Ernest Henley
Author’s note: Bill is aware of me writing about him in my column and says,”You have earned it and it will be empowering.”