There are moments in life that we appreciate more so than others. It was just after sunrise and I was gazing at the majestic view of Perce Rock and the rolling cliffs of this small town. I realized that this was one of those precious moments. Serenity fills the air, while the scent of the salt water and the swishing sound of the fishing boat’s scaling the water stirred my appreciation of where I came from and where I am today.
I remember sitting by that same water over twenty years ago. Life was so carefree. I was fourteen when I returned to my hometown of Gaspe, Quebec, after living 11 years in Ontario. Sitting by the water was surreal to me as I could write and think without disturbance.
I was the new kid in town where I had several hurdles to jump to be accepted. Eventually, I was compelled to express how I felt through a class speech. I advanced to the school competition, but I didn’t win. However, I rejoiced my personal achievement as my voice was heard and I was accepted one of them.
I was the youngest child of a medium class family. I was spoiled by everyone in my family. The first loss that I experienced was at 13 years old where I lost my brother Darrell to his bride. I sincerely thought losing my brother would kill me. My other brother Hoyt, who was 10 years older than me, was single but heavily involved in drugs and alcohol. Clearly, both of them had moved on but both were an intricate part of my life’s journey. One gave me turmoil, where the other gave me joy.
I married my high school sweetheart after a 6 year courtship. It would be unfair to say that our relationship was easy. At fifteen, we continually argued about even the smallest things but the love was there. I know that many people questioned our engagement in 1993.
My parent’s threw the most beautiful wedding and all of our family and friends attended. There was one significant person who did not make an appearance; my eldest brother Hoyt. I couldn’t help but feel distain as I felt that his absence that day was the reason for my mother’s tears.
Our first year of marriage was far from easy. We bought a home which required a lot of work and love, I got pregnant almost immediately, and we had a record 21 feet of snow that winter. My husband worked in snow removal and was gone most of the winter. I spent most of my first year of married alone and feeling uncomfortable while running a house with a pellet stove. I recall arguing even more than we did prior to our marriage.
Our beautiful baby Christina Patricia arrived in April. She avoided a snow storm and he was there with me. Her labour was tragic. I realize today that I was a petrified young girl who caused most of my own misery. I did not prepare like I should have. A few days after our arrival home, she had her days and nights mixed up. She was a happy baby and I was certain that her spirit alone would take her many places in life.
My first true experience of death happened exactly eleven days after Christina’s birth. My favourite Aunt decided to visit Gaspe to see the baby and spend some time with my Grandmother. That morning, I recall going to the local department store to purchase a new outfit for the baby and upon my arrival at my Grandmother’s house, my father beckoned me to be quiet as I opened the door.
“Aunt Shirley died on the train. She died of a heart attack through the night. She’s in Chandler, Quebec and Mom and I have to go down there.” my father informed me.
I entered the kitchen where the priest was reciting prayers with my Grandmother’s hand in his. It was a very sad moment for everyone.
My husband was juggling two jobs and we didn’t spend much time together. In fact, I spent my first Mother’s Day, which was also our First Anniversary, alone while he worked. It was at that moment I realized that things had to change.
By February, I was pregnant again. It was not a planned pregnancy but that didn’t thwart my delight. On July 7th, 1996, our old tattered house burnt to the ground. It was tragic, but I was thankful that it didn’t happen while we were in the house. Some people would state that this incident would be the most tragic event in their lives but in my eyes, it was a lesson in life. Things can always be replaced, people and tangible memories, such as family photos, can’t.
Brandon Tobias came into our world on November 1st, 1996. He was a delight. He had the most excruciating cry and I was thankful that he didn’t cry often. He spent his days sleeping and eating.
After the birth of Brandon, life took a drastic turn for the worst. We moved into our new home which, from the outside, was replica of the old home. I hated driving over the hill only see the new house that my husband spent so many hours working on. Despite its beauty, I didn’t appreciate it.
January 1997, my best friend and her family moved to Ontario. She was the sister that I always wanted ,my maid of honour and Christina’s Godmother. It was a huge loss for me and I cried freely when she left. My loneliness did not subside until I finally had the opportunity to visit her in April.
During that visit to Ontario, my husband was offered a job as a Trailer Mechanic with an International Trucking Company. After much discussion, we decided that this was a wise move for the future of our children. We returned to Gaspe to pack his bags. He returned to Ontario immediately after the Easter Weekend, while I stayed to pack and prepare our house for sale or rent. Our family was not very supportive of our new adventure and I was bearing most of the headaches. Toby flew down the next month and we left Gaspe for good on May 3, 1997.
Our journey to Ontario was expensive and with several repercussions. We were still awaiting the remainder of our insurance money to pay our debts to contractors and finance companies. Money was very tight and we were quick to learn that a family cannot survive on fourteen dollars an hour and expect to live in a good neighbourhood. Our arguments escalated more and more every day.
Within a month of our move, my husband’s father was also diagnosed with Lung Cancer. This was a very trying time for Toby as he lived and worked with his father until the day we wed. He continued to work for him until we moved away. This caused a lot of turmoil between us and eventually, working nights and stress caused my husband’s health to deteriorate. That winter, he was diagnosed with Crone’s Disease.
While he worried about his health, his family and his father, I worried about us. The growing number of bill collector’s escalated and my stress level increased. I had one child who was full of energy and her desire to destruct was making our home a catastrophe. I was working, taking care of the bills, and raising two children and I didn’t know how to handle it. I recall yelling and screaming a lot and Toby responding in the same tone. We were fighting with one another, but two different battles.
One year later, our situation did not change and I realized that Toby and I had to separate. Our children did not deserve to live in this environment. Toby moved out on May 15th, 1998. We did not celebrate our fourth anniversary the day prior. The separation was very hard as I kept trying to understand where we went wrong.
Nothing prepared me for what happened 6 days after our separation.
My brother was found dead in a Salvation Army in Hamilton, Ontario. The autopsy, many months later, proved that he had died from Methadone poisoning. His journey through life could only end in one of two ways. His life ended the way most drug addicts do. In one way, I felt a sense of relief because for as long as I can remember his drug abuse affected my world.
I also felt very sad as he had so much potential in life. He was a genius who could give any scholar a run for his money. He was an acclaimed hockey player who would have made it to the NHL. He was the reason we moved to Ontario in 1975 and he was the reason we kept moving around for the first 3 years. His personal ambition was lost after he was beaten up by his team-mates, after receiving the Player of the Year Award, in Cambridge Ontario. It was his choice to end his career and he immediately started doing drugs with his high school friends. He was fifteen and I was five.
To this day, I still remember those days in various arenas in Ontario. At a very young age, I made the conscious decision that I would never marry anyone who was involved in drugs or was an avid hockey fan.
My parents were on their way to Ontario when my other brother received the news about Hoyt. After making the necessary arrangements, we returned to Gaspe to prepare for the funeral. Toby made the trip with us. He visited with family but he also carried the cross at my brother’s funeral. I know that Toby was very upset with me, as it was my ultimate decision to separate, but he was still there for me.
Upon my return to Ontario with my parent’s in tow, life was difficult. I felt that I was reverting back to my childhood as I was living with my parents but with my two children.
Toby and I were like a yo-yo that summer. We both didn’t know what we wanted. One day, I wanted to start a new life on my own while he wanted to try again. The next day, he agreed with my thoughts but, in the meantime, I reconsidered and wanted to try again.
Fall passed rather quickly and Toby had an operation for his Crone’s disease. His family was there and he was blunt in stating that he did not require my assistance. Time passed and I invited Toby to spend Christmas Eve with us. We never separated completely as I was always thinking of him alone in his apartment, while I had the advantage of having the children.
During this time, I started counselling as I was still having very hard time dealing. I held so much anger inside.
Despite many arguments with the counsellor, I walked out of my final session realizing many things about myself. I have always been the peace maker, the controller of good things yet to come. However, when I lost control of the situation, I snapped and could not handle it. Control, whether bestowed through good or bad intentions, is still control. I had to let go of the anger from within and accept the fact that I cannot change anyone’s personality or feelings on my plight to make things better. The only thing I could control was my actions and how I handle situations.
I could not change my husband’s feelings towards me, but I could ultimately decide if I wanted to be with him despite it all and accept him as an individual with his own thoughts and feelings.
Both Toby and I had to ignore comments and opinions provided to us in good faith by family or friends. The only voices that mattered were our own.
I could control the situation in my own home and in my life depending on my choices. I shouldn’t get back together with my husband because I felt that needed him, but simply because I wanted him as my lover, friend and partner.
After this enormous personal breakthrough and after much thought, I chose Toby. I wanted him in my life. He was the father of my children, the only man who would love them as much as I did. We had history. We have known each other since we were teenagers and he has stood beside me and has loved me despite my faults.
Almost one year after our separation, Toby moved back into our townhouse. Our family of four was very happy with the reunion. Life was different, we grew up and we knew ourselves better than ever.
Since our reunion, we’ve lost his father to cancer, three grandmothers, and one Grandfather. We have witnessed family turmoil from afar. We have consciously decided to live in our world. We are not accommodating when family and friends decide to sporadically provide their opinions about our family and the upbringing of our children.
Christina was diagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities. However, I look at Christina as a breath of fresh air with a spirit that most kid’s today do not possess. We also bought a home, in a great community, to raise our children. I have even turned a blind eye to my feelings about hockey and have allowed Brandon to play road hockey every Sunday.
“Yes, life has had its ups and downs.” I say to myself.
As I sit in solitude taking in the majestic view of Perce Rock and the rolling hills of the town, I hear a voice.
“Trina, are you coming? We’ve got a lot to do today before we head back home.” my husband bellowed. I look back and see him with my two “tweens” anxiously waiting for me.
“I’m on my way!” I say as I rise from my perch. I provide myself the luxury for one last deep breath of the salt air as I wipe off my pants and prepare for our twenty-two hour journey back to Ontario. I realize that we could never live on the Gaspe Coast again but it was our home. It was the beginning of us; our Family.
After fourteen years married, twenty years together and ten years since our separation, I am eager to return to my family. There are days when I still wonder if he’s the one, and I’m sure he thinks the same from time to time. I am quick to realize that this is normal and it happens with most couples.
The story of us is not complete and I’m sure we will have to deal with more hurdles in our life. Whatever happens, I’m certain that there is no one else in this world who I would want to share them with. Good or bad, it has always been him.