Years of Change
Life's Continual Changes
As the oldest daughter, born before World War II had commenced, mother and I bonded lovingly while dad was in the Navy, fighting in the Pacific. When she died at age eighty eight, I was almost retirement age, still raising my sixteen year old daughter, who was born when I was forty four.
That year was filled with tragedy. Mother was diagnosed with lung cancer and was in hospice when my oldest son was in a horrific motor cycle accident. He attended his grandmother's funeral in a wheel chair. Months later his right leg was amputated just above the knee as it would never heal properly.
Several things happened concerning mother's funeral that I have never been able to understand: I was completely ignored during the planning of the funeral. My younger sister and dad made all the decisions and did not contact me about any of the arrangements.
Was she trying to protect me, knowing how close mother and I had been over the decades and considering the fact that I was in my sixties and she was still in her forties?
Since I was in my sixties, I chose not to work any longer in the insurance business, with the constant problems, unrealistic goals. and the possibility of my commission being "charged back" if the client died before the life insurance policy was a year old. I applied for my social security benefits. I was divorced, but the nice customer service lady checked to see if I would receive more monies by making a claim on my ex-husband. My own personal income was the best choice.
I am thankful that I had a strong belief in receiving help from 'the other side". Due to numerous dreams about my guardian angels, including realistic conversations, I depended on guidance from my three angels who told me to always "ask for help"
I was led to join a local gym for ladies only. After attending for eight weeks, I volunteered to work from four in the afternoon until closing at nine o'clock at night, Due to the laws concerning the amount of earned income a retired person could receive, I was only able to make $10,000. per year.
As the weeks passed, I noticed that there were several ladies who came every day to work out.
As I talked to the ladies concerning the use of the gym equipment, I decided to get to know each person on an individual basis, then to introduce them to each other.
The woman who impressed me immediately had recently moved to Georgia from Oregon. She had no family in Georgia except for her husband who traveled the southeast. As she told me these things, I could not help but offer her a hug. When she returned my hug, she started crying tears of joy that she had found a friend. Her name was Tanya Nesmith, was in her late thirties and came to the gym to lose weight. She sooned referred to me as her "Georgia Mom'.
The lady that ran on the treadmill for the longest time reminded me of a Barbie doll that had come to life. She was in her thirties and introduced herself as Ann-Louise Martin from Illinois. She was in the gym to maintain her size six and keep her energy high. Ann Louise worked full-time, was married to a local fireman, and had a son in high school.
Ann Louise's friend was Mindy Cooper, a single brunette, five feet tall and was all about endurance. She was in the gym to train for the 5-K runs held in the nearest city of Savannah. She and Ann-Louise arrived each afternoon around five o'clock, according to the traffic. They both changed into their modern work-out attire, then worked out on the equipment for two hours.
The friendliest lady was Bain Barnett, originally from Atlanta, Georgia. When she spoke I thought of a Gemini with her ease of using words and long, lean limbs. She was very slender with blond hair and soft brown eyes wirh yellow specks. Bain was in her early fifties, married to a short man twelve years her senior, who had retired early. Bain was in outside sales and had the "gift of gab" that many folks in sales seem to be born with.
Then there was Dorothy Barker, who was a para professional with the elementary school system. She had multiple-sclerois, but tried very diligently to "keep up". Dorothy would come each day as soon as school adjourned and we would be the only ones in the gym for a couple of hours. Dorothy had a calm personality and was trying to lose weight as was I. She was in her forties, the mother of three. She and her seventeen year old son lived near the gym; the two daughters had moved out after the death of her second husband.
After getting to know the ladies myself I introduced them to each other. They started talking with one another and the hours spent at the gym were very pleasant.
When my birthday came around, the "girls" wanted to take me out to dinner. Since my birthday was in January, this began a friendly tradition. Ann Louise's birthday was in March, Mindy's in April, Bain in July, Dorothy in August, and Tanya's was the last day of December. Each month we would get together at a favorite restaurant and for several years we laughed and enjoyed one another's company.
When the New Year arrived, the gym's owner conducted a membership drive. We had many new women to sign up, then only come to work out for a few months. One of the new members was a supervisor of a local paper mill. When she asked if I would be willing to work on the weekends from five in the evening until five in the morning. I thought it would give me a chance to earn some much needed funds but yet would allow me to continue to open and close the ladies' gym Monday through Friday evenings, keeping my exercise routine on track. My energy was still very low due to the tradegies that I had gone through, and I knew I needed the exercise to maintain my health.
I started working every weekend, Saturday and Sunday night shift, at the local International Paper plant when I was in my sixties, still raising my eighteen year old daughter.
Lauren, my daughter, graduated from the Arts Academy High School with many allcolades because of her grades and outstanding performance. She began dating during the summer before college. Before graduation, Lauren had been in my life on a daily basis, but she told me when she was eighteen, "I have a life now, and it does not include you". Because of her rude attitude, she knew not to ask me for any type of "allowance". I found out years later that her dad was giving her $100 per week to help pay for gas and insurance costs for the silver Z-280 Nissan that he bought for her. Her dad and I had been divorced since Lauren was six years old.
After high school graduation, Lauren began to resent my interest in her life. She called it "interference". She moved in with Randy, her first real love when she was a freshman at a local college. Although seven years older than Lauren, Randy was lazy and immature. He said that he worked for his father's company, but he stayed in front of the computer playing games most of the time. His mother's position at Berman's Beautiful Diamonds enabled him to give Lauren an engagement ring. She admitted later that she knew in her heart she should have never accepted that ring.
After months of crying about the mean way Randy treated her, she began talking with an on-line fellow that was the "leader" of the clan in her on-line game. She moved back home with me.
The on-line conversation soon turned to romance. At the age of twenty-one, Lauren moved to Canada to live with her current love interest, Landon.
Lauren moving to a different country came as a complete surprize to me! I prayed for peace of mind to accept the decisions that my daughter made without taking anything personal. I was happy to have the job at the gym and the weekend clerical work at International Paper, helping to keep my mind and hands busy.
Tanya Nesmith came to the gym as soon as I opened the door at four in the afternoon. As the youngest daughter of six, she missed her family in Oregon, especially her parents. I was the same age as her mother and she called me her "Georgia mom". The other four regulars who came to the gym had nine to five jobs. As time passed, Tanya and I enjoyed each others company for lunch, shopping, and "playing tourist" in beautiful Savannah. I did not have to open the gym until four and Tanya's husband worked out of town much of the time. Tanya was a devoted wife who was married for the third time to a six foot three fellow, named Ken, who reminded me of a "Viking", with his blond hair, large build and take control manner.
Thanksgiving Day came and I volunteered to work at my second job at the paper mill so that the person who worked full time could be with her family.
Because my mom had died, my only daughter was three thousand miles away, my youngest son had recently divorced, and the other two sons celebrated with their in-laws, I was not ready to be all smiles during this stressful time of the year. So working for time and a half was my choice.
I'll always remember sitting at the desk out at the plant, looking up and seeing Tanya with a plate of food that she had prepared. How thoughtful! She took her time to drive out to the paper mill, away from her husband and friends, to bring me Thanksgiving dinner.
When I was working on Christmas Day, she and her husband brought me a surprise gift. I opened it find a delightful assortment of bath products packed in a lovely copper container. I have used that large container, filled with ice and bottles of wine, every Christmas since then. Of all the friends I have had through the years, Tanya was the only one that went out of her way to think of me when I was working on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and also New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
As the years passed, I realized that Tanya was happy being married to a man who required that she be the "dutiful wife", putting his need for prepared meals, clean clothes, and a fun filled sex life first and foremost. Tanya had been raised by a father who brought his military background into the way he raised his six children and she felt completely at home with a husband who always made the decisions and "ran her life". They were a happy couple with no children, who enjoyed and helped each other.
Several years had passed when Tanya's husband found permanent work in Colorado. Ken moved out west immediately, leaving Tanya in the south with the responsibility of packing all their belongings and renting a moving truck. Bain Barnett, one of the ladies from the gym, met me and Tanya and we did the packing. The night before Tanya moved, the ladies who had worked out at the gym together for three years, met to have dinner. Ann-Louise and Mindy became upset when Tanya had too many margaritas and became loud and very emotional. They got up and left. I felt badly about the situation,as Tanya was leaving the next day. I did not understand their lack of patience.
Tanya's husband, Ken, came home to drive the truck to Colorado while Tanya followed in their black Ford Taurus. Their cross-country trip was uneventful and they settled into their new home close to the Colorado Rocky Mountains.
About a year later, Tanya called, crying and very distraught. Ken had been very sick. After numerous tests, the doctors determined that he had cancer all within his body. I promised Tanya that I would come out for a visit as soon as I could save the money.
The "ladies' only" gym had closed its' doors shortly after Tanya moved, and the former "work-out" friends all went their separate ways.
I made arrangements to fly out to Colorado after I was laid off from International Paper. Tanya's husband only had a few months to live. Family members were there helping to pack up for the final move back to Oregon. I only stayed a few days, then took AmTrak train through the Rocky Mountains, Chicago, Washington DC, and finally home to Savannah. I took advantage of these quiet hours to pray for peace of mind and strength of purpose for my precious friend Tanya.
Ken went home to be with the Lord within three months. I called Tanya to invilte her back to Georgia to stay with me whenever she wanted to come. I welcomed her in the Spring.
My Friend Bain
Bain Barnett is a lady with "southern charm". During the years at the gym, she ran on the treadmill effortlessly, maintaining her slender figure and high energy. She was the top sales person in her district, earning well over $100,000 for many years. When the company, which sold paper advertising, down sized, her earnings dropped in half with a slow but sure decline each year.
I suggested that we both go to work in the insurance business so we could maintain a comfortable life style. Bain studied diligently and passed the state exam the first time she tried.
I had my insurance license for over twenty years, and found that being back in the field, working with a friend, was fun and profitable. I was promoted to manager within two months. A manager's duties in the insurance industry means making cold calls, teaching new agents all that is required, plus making enough sales to satisty company quotas.
During the weeks and months that Bain and and I worked together, I noticed that her husband would expect her to be home by a certain time, and would get very upset when she did not comply with his wishes. He was in his seventies, retired, and would be drinking heavily each night when Bain got home after working all day in the hot Georgia weather.
After he would go to bed, Bain would call me, lamenting about how unhappy she was. We both agreed that she had to make a hard decision before anything would change. She finally had enough one full moon weekend and moved in with me.
Our path led us to call on some local business establishments in a quaint part of coastal Georgia. After talking with the owner, he suggested that we speak with the general manager.
The general manager, Matt Porter, was a former acquaintance of Bain's. They talked for a few minutes, then agreed on an appointment time to write a personal insurance policy on Matt and set up times to speak with the other employees.
During this time, many changes were taking place in Bain's life: she and her husband were getting a divorce, trying to work out the many details. He wanted to live in their home, using all of their furniture and belongings. She wanted to sell as soon as possible. Finally, the lawyers agreed that he could live there, but Bain had to pay half of the mortgage until a buyer was found!
Months passed without a sign of a buyer. The recession had effected the housing market and the selling price steadily declined. Finally with some pro-action on Bain's part, a contract was made to rent the house with an option to buy. Mr. Barnett, now the "former husband", moved out leaving a huge mess for Bain to handle.
Bain's friends, including me and Matt, helped move furniture and clean the house to "move in ready".
During these life changes, Bain and I resigned from the insurance business as there were too many cold calls within the company's requirements. Our commissions did not match our energy and time spent in the field.
Bain's personal energy dropped and her friend, Matt, took her to the emergency room. After a couple of basic tests, the doctor told her to quit drinking anything with caffeine and sent her home. Bain was used to "feeling good" and sought another's doctor's opinion.
On Easter weekend, I accompanied Bain to the hospital for various tests. The results showed a small tumor within her colon...and it was cancerous.
A BRAVE WARRIOR
I have observed that anyone who overcomes cancer is a valiant warrior, and much of the fight is mental. The medication delivered once every two weeks through "Infusions" had numerous side effects on Bain, including lost of appetite, extreme fatigue. and loss of hair, but she never lost her brave and positive attitude.
The chemo therapy treatments went on for ten months. During this time frame, Bain discovered the "Caring Bridge" on-line site, and documented her life during her battle. She was so detailed and looked forward to writing things out. Her family and friends were able to keep up with her progress without being too nosey, and without Bain having to write individual e-mails. The internet has been a blessing to so many people for so many unexpected reasons.
Bain's long time friend, Matt Porter, fell in love with Bain despite eleven years difference in their ages. I was happy to rent out my duplex to them during the year that Bain received chemotherapy for stage four colon cancer. Having a man to care for her truly helped Bain to overcome cancer. Her energy was still high, and she painted the interior of the fifteen hundred square foot apartment during these months. We both believed in the adage "Busy hands are happy hands".
Bain had hoped that the family living in her former home would buy it after the first year, but they moved to North Carolina instead.
What a positive this turned out to be! Bain and Matt discovered that they could qualify to purchase her beloved home after meeting with a mortgage lawyer. So with plans to move back in, this time with a new love, Bain painted the interior of this seventeen hundred square foot space, using the same soft yellow and light aqua paint colors that she had used in the duplex. I was happy to help with the walls and was very impressed how pretty and fresh everything looked!.
I hated to see my closest friend move, but it was best for her and Matt.
Then the best news of all: Bain and Matt's wedding would be in their yard under the grape arbor with family and close friends attending. I had so much fun listening to all of the details before the big day. We ladies do love to plan get togethers with attention to what to serve, what to wear, what type of entertainment, and on and on. What a truly happy time!
The wedding was wonderful =
with Matt saying "the best of life comes to he who waits"
in his up to date vows that did NOT include
the traditional "til death" - impossible to keep vows.
Bain looked radiant in ivory silk with red roses,
her two sisters stood with her and Matt's only brother with him.
Everyone had such positive comments about the beautiful, yet simple ceremony.