I’m sitting with 82 year-old June at the Care facility where my mom lives. Unlike most of the demented residents, June is with it, spunky, on top of life, acerbic, intelligent and a no-nonsense kind of gal. She’s also survived cancer in her 60s, lost her husband six months ago and has one arm. She jokes about being ‘the one armed bandit’ after a discussion on Las Vegas.
We drink vodka and 7 up in the Penthouse on Saturday afternoons before she goes down for the ‘dreadful’ dinners served. “I’ve had something with chicken in it, no less than three times this week,” she says rolling her eyes.
She tells me about growing up in Regina. I tell her that I worked in Regina for 103 weeks one year. And, yes, I counted each week oﬀ every Sunday afternoon before arriving at work the following day on Monday.
But it is Regina that is the jumping oﬀ point of her love story with her husband, Richard.
“We used to travel to Hawaii for holidays and then we got married there.”
“How long were you married, again?”
“We married just in the last ten …but we were together for fifteen before that.”
“Why did you wait so long?”
She pondered whether or not to respond. But I could tell by her expression as she shrugged her shoulders, in a what the hell motion, that she was going to tell anyway. After all, this was her sixth week of going through radiation on her skull for a cancer that had returned. So, really: what the hell?
“The first fifteen years it was on and oﬀ again until I moved to Vancouver.”
“You mean, you had to force the issue whether or not he was In or Out by moving over one-thousand miles away?’
She smiled an illicit smile to herself - Illicit smiles being the first cousin of illicit love aﬀairs - the most tantalizing of arrangements according to some.
She added, smiling deeper, “because he kept changing his mind.”
“Was he married?”
“Oh yes…” she demurred
“Really?” I broke into a smile for her, “Dorothy Parker said, marriage is necessary for children, great for taxes and lousy for romance.”
June laughed, “Until marriage is the right one.”
Hearing this story about someone - yet again - being on the Sisyphus Trail in Love Land made me think of the Come Here - Go Away Dance women….and men face.
,,,Of course, that’s just something I’ve heard about…
“Yep. And when I did move here, it kind of snapped him to attention.”
Her still blonde-greyish bob shook a bit as she glanced up to the heavens, telling me that it finally all worked out when she was 54 years old.
“Yep. I put up with a lot of him going back and forth going back to his wife, even when he was here and still went back to her when she was over in Langley.”
“But, it was worth it to you.”
“Yeh,” I guess it was,” she said, “he finally divorced her.”
“You really loved each other?”
“Yes, we did.””
“Men,” I said, “They have to have two.”
“Yeh!” she brightened, “You’re right.”
And then with a sanguine glint in those blue eyes, “…but when men get older, most men don’t have two in ‘em.”