Gordon and Mary

This is the story of Gordon and Mary.  A fairytale love that’s hard to find.  But will it last?

Gordon was 37.  He had run away from home when he was 14, and had been on his own ever since.  Working his way West across Canada, building giant electrical towers, he then hopped a lumber boat from Vancouver to Australia at age 19.  A few years later was New Zealand.  Nearly a decade later, he returned to Canada, and he worked construction.  A few years later again, he began to ply his trade in the U.S.

On his travels, he had his many adventures.  His stories usually began with him walking down the street, and a lovely woman on each arm.  Both ladies were likely redheads.  The details might get a little fuzzy after that.  One had been a farmer’s daughter.  Her father wanted Gordon to marry his daughter, with the promise that one day the farm would be his.  Another was a merchant’s daughter.  Her father also wanted Gordon to be his son-in-law, and one day the business would be his.  “Stay here with me,” a lovely girl would plead.  No.  He wasn’t one to tie down.

Mary was 23.  A shy girl not long out of teacher’s college.  Classrooms of students ages 7 or 8 suited her well.  She had taught Sunday School for years, too.  But “Miss Peer” wasn’t so comfortable talking with unknown adults.

She had had a romance or two in her young life.  One was tall, dark, and handsome – his father owned the local hardware store, and his mother was an elegant Indian woman from the high plains.  She accepted his proposal.  Her mother had visions, though.  She saw scenes of her daughter crying and crying.  The engagement was called off.  Another man entered the scene.  He had been married before, and he had two small children.  He whisked her off on a dazzling trip to California.  Took her to Disneyland.  He brought his children, too.  Seems he was more interested in her taking care of the children.  Then, come to find out… he was still married.

She had taken a job miles and miles from home to teach Grade 2 in a small community.  When she had first started there, it was mostly well-behaved farm children.  This year, though, the classroom had more and more wild children from the city that had been sent to live with their grandparents – in the hopes that they might tame them somehow.  Her only friends were her fellow school teachers.  The pastor the next town over, she had known from his previous post in her home town.  She had supper with him and his family one night every week.

A dark, cold, and rainy January night.  The quiet, boring day after New Year’s.  She went out to eat – alone – at a buffet restaurant.  Afraid to talk to anyone, and sad to be so alone.  She hadn’t been able to go home for Christmas that year.  She had been praying to God for the gift of companionship.  Going through the buffet line, looking over the food, but nothing seemed appetizing.  Coming up next in line behind her was this smiling, energetic man.  He had dancing, sparkling hazel eyes.  He started to talk to her.

What?  No.  People didn’t just approach her like this – let alone men.  She shouldn’t talk to him.  But those eyes.  And his smile had something like a dimple.  They were both there to eat alone that night, but ended up sitting together and chatting.  But didn’t he have the most amazing stories from all over the place?  And an exotic Australian accent.  He was too good to be true.  Was this what she’d been praying for?

Listening to his stories, of where he’d been and where he planned to go next, her response was, “Take me with you.”

He stopped.  That caught his attention.  This tall, quiet woman with dark hair, blue-white skin, and clear green eyes was pretty, but…  Out of all the times he’d heard women say “Stay here with me”, this is was first time he’d ever heard “Take me with you.”  He’d been praying for this, too.

They got together for a meal and a chat again the next night.  And the next.  And the next.  She took him with her for her weekly supper at the pastor’s house.  And again.

They dated for 3 weeks.  Then they were engaged.  They would only be engaged for 3 weeks before the wedding.  Only six weeks from the day they met to ‘til Death do they part.

He phoned his parents outside Winnipeg to let them know their oldest son was finally getting married.  His mother asked him in Plautdietsch (a very old dialect of Low German) if she was a maiden.  He had been gone from home and the language for a long time.  He missed her meaning.  Of course she’s a girl – yes, she’s a maiden.  He didn’t realize the translation in that sense should have been “virgin”.

She phoned her parents in Idaho, in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, to let them know she was getting married.  Only 3 weeks away.  “Do you have to get married?”  She loved him.  She couldn’t imagine living without him.  Of course she had to get married.  She missed their meaning.  She didn’t realize her parents were now preparing for a shotgun wedding.

That mid-February day came, bedecked with yellow roses and white calla lilies throughout the church.  Gordon in his best brown suit.  Mary in a simple lace eggshell dress and netted veil.  Family and friends with a lot of questions.  The pastor happily married the couple.  He said that they had fit in more time getting to know one another, as well as chat with the pastor, than most couples fit into six months!

One of Mary’s fellow teachers at the school was so enthralled with this whirlwind love affair, that she began dating one of Gordon’s co-workers from the construction site, too.  They, too, were quickly married.  That did not end well.

40 years of ups and downs; trials and tribulations – Gordon and Mary still loved each other.  They both still thought of one another as the answer to their prayers.  Raising children and enjoying grandchildren.

Gordon died of lung cancer in late 2006.  Mary didn’t last long without him.  She died in early 2008 of colon cancer and a broken heart.  They’re together again now.

This is a true story.  The best ones often are.  If only we could all find a love like Gordon and Mary.  My parents.

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Love Lost in Maine

ImageStepping into the sacred space was like a portal back in time.  No one specific time.  More of a plane open and safe for all ages to comingle at once.

The mist in the air grew thicker as I stepped through this old graveyard.  The grass wet around my tenni-shoes.  Searching for old Colonial names linked to my own family.

As the search continued, my clothes became more soaked with moisture.  The weather progressed to a full drizzle of rain.  Nothing on my person was safe from the wet.  Even my camera clasped in my hand inside my jacket pocket had small droplets smeared away as much as possible.

I had met such a lovely man today.  One in the flesh.  Intelligent and sweet.  We learned a lot about each other in a very short period of time.  His girlfriend had died of cancer.  Young.

He was working.  Captain of a small foot ferry.  Between stops on the route, I was the only passenger on board.  He gave his deck hand a turn at the wheel while he took a chance at visiting with me.  I’m glad he did.

The rain is now dripping from my hair.  Dripping off the end of my nose.  I push on.

Putting myself in the shoes of both the deceased and their loved ones left behind.  The poetry inscribed upon stones.  Some of these are from an era so long gone that any mourning survivors have surely also passed on.  Was there a joyous reunion?  Or were there still matters to be settled?  Why is it so much easier for me to make connections and establish relationships with the Dead rather than the Living?

That dearheart of a man is only a couple of blocks away from here.  He’s on the dock in the harbour.  Waiting for his next scheduled run across the saltwater.  He thinks I’m long gone down the road to a more urban locale.  He has no idea that I’m just up the hill behind the thick swath of evergreens.

Does he know?  On some level?  That I am still so close by on this damp summer day on the mid-coast of rugged Maine?  Is there something tugging at him to come after me?

This narrow cemetery seems to stretch on and on in length.  Just when I think I’m nearing the edge, I see another section peeking out of the trees around the bend.  I can’t get any wetter.  I push on.

He said he has trouble finding a girl with his same interests.  He described a simple life.  Building boats out of milk cartons.  It sounded nice.  He expressed an interest in travel.  Says he wants to see the coast in Washington and Oregon.  Says he might be out this Fall.  So he has my number.

His eyes told me not to go.  I offered we could go to lunch right then if he had some free time.  He said “sure”, but shuffled his feet and never suggested a place.  I offered we could go warm up over some coffee.  His eyes danced and sparkled, but his mouth did not cooperate.  He still did not take the next step in the dance to move us across the dance floor.

So here I wander through the varying slabs of rock.  Doing a slow dance alone.  Finding company in the shadows of souls that once were.  Spinning thoughts and hopes in my mind.

He asked where I was headed next on my journey.  Westbrook.  Yes, near Portland.  He said it’s a nice area.  I’ve never been, but there are more pieces of myself scattered there.  I have to go see.

He says he wishes he could come with me.  I wish he would, too.  Yes, we just met.  Yes, he has to work another run this afternoon.  So instead I try for a smooth and sexy exit.  Hoping he calls.

My phone is charging in the car – and staying dry.  At the end of each section of the cemetery, I go back across the street to pull my car up further down the path.  Checking my phone for missed calls or texts from an unrecognised number.  Preferably with a Maine area code.

The call never comes.

I reach the end of the cemetery.  Giving up on hope, or so I tell myself, retracing my steps back across the narrow unlined road.  Effectively a one-lane road that is carefully used as a two-way street.  My car only fits halfway onto the hint of a shoulder.  Cars pass by me now.  Probably looking curiously at the drowned rat walking upright.

Turn on the truck.  Turn the heater and vents all the way up.  Hang my jacket backwards on the passenger seat to dry.  Driving away, there is a sign for Webb’s Cove.  Pull over and take another picture in the rain.  I have to keep going, though.  Will just have to come back this way another time.

This is only my first time through here; not my last.