That mound of humanity had been a desire of mine for years, and fear of being so far away from everything I had ever known lured me, and so I spent 6 years within that gigantic multicultural opportunity driven metropolis until I met Tim.
What he found was a sad and lonely drunk wallowing in her grief, I was an easy mark, and so began those 4 years I spent with him up at his lake.
It is a time of my life that in many ways I am ashamed of, in other ways thankful for. The learnings were hard and painful, both financially and emotionally. The manipulation was easier as I was out of my bubble, beyond the sheltered life I’d had. I left London after mom died, left everything I’d known and moved east to Mississauga, outside Toronto – the GTA, or the anthill as I think of it.
Back then I didn’t have any idea what a narcissist was, other than some vague myth of ancient Greece, but none of its effects when you get caught in a narcissists web of deceit.
Yet, it is those years I apprenticed my gardening skills under the tutelage of his parent’s beautiful cottage garden, I became its caretaker, where I took walks in woods so enchanting I miss it still to this day, and profoundly. I kept a bit of it, in bits and bobs, like the gnarl at my door, but little more is left of those Grey County wilds, but photographs and memories.
Now, about that pain I mentioned and what happened with Tim, now that’s a bit more difficult to express.
I will say this first off, that when I watch the 45th president of the United States, I hear and feel the same sense of frustration I felt with Tim, and god help anyone who ever argued about anything with him, it was a futile exercise of trying to pin him down to anything he said, trying to get him to admit, trying not to scream and pound your fists cause he was impossible. A term I would now use was gaslighting and Tim was a master manipulator, of events, of words, of getting what he wants, was almost, well, magnificent – when you were not the target – well, and lots of distance, in hindsight.
Today, most of Tim’s words and actions are well on their way to being forgotten, and little of the details remain, just the consequences and triggers that still shock me out of my almost Vulcan vein I often find within, a part of me that would prefer to mask my true feelings and the complicated mess that defined those 4 years at Irish Lake with him.
Yet I suppose it all started from that desire to go east, to experience first hand that metropolis, the big smoke, one of the pillars of Canada’s cultural universe, with Montreal and Vancouver being the other destinations for those seeking to be at the centre of the universe (well, least for some).
Mom had died, I’d spent my first year after her death back in Dodge where I grew up, and it was a good year of healing and being close to those who shared my sadness.
Moving to that anthill had originally been a means to get my foot in the door, as at the time I was still designing websites, and even though I’d moved for another job I was still doing that part-time – I wanted to go full time. Toronto seemed to offer more opportunities than I would get here where I grew up, or, so I thought.
Yet, I let life get in the way, lost my nerve and threw all those dreams aside and sunk into this morass of grief and loneliness, doing the 9-5er in corporate land eventually almost drained me of my will to live. So, in a real concrete way, Tim offered me just the escape I desired.
I wonder where I would be now if, well, I had not moved east if I’d not met Tim, if,if if.
Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
However, whether by fate or fluke, I did and that has made all the difference.
It completely changed me. It stripped me of some long-held illusions, on people’s motivations, their addictions, and many I met up in Grey had moved there for similar reasons, all of us escapees from the big smoke and all its lures of wealth and greed and fantasy and being at the centre of the anthill. Some had grown up there, some had moved there early in their life. All had moved away in order to silence the anxious go, go, go that permeated the superhighways and byways, of noise and crowds, and miles of big box stores, outlets and retail giants licking their chops at the multitudes willing to be separated from their cash, if only for a peek, a piece of the financial pie that oozed, of jobs and opportunities and the lifestyle it invoked.
I really thought I wanted all that, I wanted a piece, maybe. Or, at least I wanted to throw caution to the wind and take my chances. Tea towel in the wind that I am, I had never lived anywhere but Dodge or London, and I felt it was time to rectify that, to get out of my comfort zone once and for all.
It is illuminating to look back and see this winding road I took in order to be right back where I started, though closer, like dead spot at the centre of where I’d wanted to be, why I had left, and what I had wanted for myself since my early 20s – living some boho life in the village, artsy-fartsy and free.
I stayed with him, even though he stole from me, lied to me, almost got me addicted to Cocaine, but I stayed. Oh, sure, I tried to leave. I went running one night down that dark and lonely rural route that went past the lake, after a brutal fight where he had taken my Grandmothers piano bench and smashed it in a coke rage. I left. But where? Out there in the wilds where all that I had known was more than 3 hours away, I was trapped – mentally as much as physically.
Today, actually, is the anniversary… of when I left for the big smoke… and the anniversary of my last day at that job I’d escaped to from grief, from the frying pan into the fire I went, tea towel in the wind, and I still have the scars from that. Funny that the first day and last day ended up the same, just 6 years apart.
The year was 2003 and everything I thought was ahead, this new me, this new place, these new experiences, and I loved the view all the way up there in the sky, eagle eye gazing down at that place on the outer rim of the anthill.
Today that feels long, long ago and seems very far away. This anonymity I enjoyed, had so longed for, I got. Yes, be careful what you wish for is indeed one of those learnings that one can only get the hard way.
But back to Tim, ah, Tim. The devil in disguise he lured me away, forked tongue and his marching powder, snorting up those white lines one by one, day after day. Let me tell ya when you want to spin and grin and think and bounce around and forget those woes, that’s the stuff. Tim whirled me into his backdoor guy lifestyle, following after the band, being on hand, going here and there. Sitting in studios while they recorded or out back of the bar between sets, so they could get a quick “bump”.
All that waned though, exhausted me, being constantly up or down and on the take and following these night owls of blues around, it wore me down.
My corporate inside sales life I had for those 6 years ended in 2008, four months after I met Tim, coincidence? Nope. I was part of a group that was laid off that year, sure, but I was extra baggage all the year, late for work, and really feeling like I was chained and shackled to something I had come to hate, and that February day they let me go, in the end, ended up for the best, though it hurt like hell.
So, Tim and I eventually made our way up to “his” lake at the heart of Grey County, and down that Pine tree lined drive draped in snow, I traveled to the place I will carry with me for the rest of my life, and quite frankly the reason I guess I put up with all Tims sh!t, if I’m honest.
Sure, leaving for me was an almost insurmountable thing as I have never had a drivers license, and I guess if I’m fair to myself that was a large factor of my imprisonment, and Tim knew that, banked on it.
I mean, it was a quaint little cottage by a lake, with yellow siding, with that tacky duck decor my mom was into from the ’80s everywhere. Yet, it was the garden that swept an arch and radiated charm at the heart of an enchanted wood that I fell deeply in love with, and the day I left it behind I wept inside as we drove away.
He died of Pancreatic Cancer in October 2012, I stayed to the bitter end. I stayed in the end for him, as I knew in my gut, I don’t know how and why or what exactly, but something inside me said….just stay, what more can he take?
That winter after his death I spent all on my own, well, Irish and I. Long walks around the block in the late fall occupied my days, and that was when I first started this blog, to pass the time, maybe heal, write, connect.
In the end, I guess you could say it was like a higher learning, of how it feels to be manipulated by someone like that, innocent as I was, so naive, I didn’t see that quiet, gentle and subtlety of his grift, the interest he showed though genuine, was always tainted with what he could get from me. If I am completely honest, if he had not died I don’t know if I could have left him, or the place.
Another thing I have of him, is some of his ashes, that I was supposed to spread at the lake, but could never bring myself to do, and I’m still not sure why. Though, lately, and for the last couple years I’ve thought about what to do with them, as I feel… in my gut… that it is time to do something with them but I just don’t know what. How do I be both respectful to what remains of him, but also get that sh!te gone, I don’t know, I really don’t know.
There are other smaller things, like the ring he gave me in the last days, a peace offering? I still don’t know what purpose it served – please remember me? Yeah, he knew I was looking towards his passing, and after, and that I was conflicted. He knew.
I would never take those years back though, not if I would have to forget that lake, those woods, the garden, which in time became my garden, my secret garden. That place taught me magic, tapped into what lay inside me and whispered to me of what could be, what had always laid inside. I saw things, like the hairs on the back of my neck at dusk that night when I knew something lay off in the woods to our left that wanted us to keep moving, as we heard it low growl. Or the elf shoe, or the shaman’s staff, or the feel of real woo woo that lay behind us at the heart of that forest. Of those tall grasses that looked like 3 spirits that made their way towards us in those last weeks of Tim’s life, around the lake, day by day I watched them from the kitchen table, and both dreaded and longed for the end they foretold.
Deaths have always meant for me more than endings, they have always brought beginnings, and this is something Tim never really understood, about my inner discord, I looked forward to the new beginning his death would bring, that is all.
For, why else would I have stayed if I had not loved him? In the end, I had every opportunity to leave, like at the hospital back in London that spring when hope was still in the air, and he was getting radiation treatment at the New Vic Hospital.
In those weeks I could have left, easily left, just abandoned him there if I had wanted to.
But you know, I never once thought of that, as it was only afterwards, long long afterwards that I realized not once had I thought of abandoning him during that time.
Yes, I loved him, even if he was a lying scoundrel, he was a human being and flawed as he was, by the end, in those last couple years, his effect over me had greatly diminished. I had seen past his masks and bullshit manipulation, and stayed anyway, in the end for him, more than for anything. Well, and the lake, and all that, too.
We hadn’t done coke in ages and ages by then, or if he did I never knew. I suspected he was up to sh!t, even at the end, but I never found out what the heck he was up to, but he was always up to sh!t, so I had gone blind to it after a time.
Oh, yes, in the end, the end came, as it always does, and he left this world and I cried. I grieve still, but it is a very complicated grief. Mixed with shame, but also with all that I saw, and felt and learned at that place. Of the wild and the wonderful and the magic it tapped inside me, I am forever grateful, thankful, and blessed to have known, even for a short while.
You know, when I started this post, I’ll be honest, it had not occurred to me the relevance of this day, these days, as so many things have begun for me at this time. I am sensing another of those new beginnings, or the possibilities are in the air.
The seasons are turning, spring is on its way, and after all that, after him, and the place, the best of times and the worst of, I suppose this is all on my mind for a reason, guess it is time for it to be left behind, once and for all.