When I was twenty, I lived in Langley, BC, in a little duplex on Fraser Highway, just down the street from my friends Bruce and Patti, who lived directly across the street from the A & W. We had very little in common, except that I had boarded with Bruce's parents for a while, but we all liked each other.
It didn't start off that way between Bruce and me. I first met him shortly after I moved in with his parents, Bud and Ruby Beasley. They were away when he dropped in with his girlfriend one Sunday. Bruce and I clashed at first. He was very challenging about my beliefs and, being a fairly new Christian, I was quite defensive. I didn't know how to defend my beliefs, so I got snotty with him. His girlfriend thought that whole thing was a hoot. Patti sat there smirking while Bruce ruffled my feathers and, in return, I made smart remarks that got Bruce worked up into a lather.
Then Bud and Ruby came home. By this time, Bruce was so mad that he didn't want to hang around any longer. When his mother asked him to go to church with them that evening, he told her no. Afterwards, he said, "I would have gone, but that woman made me so mad!" I really didn't feel too bad about it, though, when Ruby told me this. Bruce intended to provoke me, taking advantage of the likelihood that a baby Christian couldn't stand up to his harassment. I didn't know how to deal with him in a mature, "Christian" way, which he must have also figured on, so he couldn't really complain when he got provoked right back. I think he expected me to get rattled and back down.
I don't think he really meant it that he would have gone to church; I was probably just a handy excuse to spare his mother hurt feelings. One good thing the encounter did, though, was show me the need to develop a deeper understanding of the Scriptures and a closer walk with the Lord, so that I would know how to deal better with people who challenged my beliefs.
It was odd how, after having got off to such a bad start, Bruce and I ended up being friends. Steve, his youngest brother, took me to visit Bruce and Patti one day. Bruce didn't pester me anymore about my beliefs and I wasn't looking for a fight, so we got along fine.
I enjoyed talking to Patti, too, though she came from a very rough background and liked to putter around with witchcraft. I didn't like her interest in the occult, but I liked Patti. She adopted a sort of big sister stance towards me, which I didn't mind. In a lot of ways, she was like my older sister Pat, minus the sibling rivalry. I became a steady visitor after I moved into a duplex a few doors down from Bruce and Patti.
Bruce didn't make any issues about my beliefs anymore, but he passed comments on my clothing choices. He particularly detested my coat. It was teal, of a velvety material, and had a white, rabbit fur collar. He said it looked like an old lady's coat. I didn't care. It was a pretty colour, had a lovely texture, and the collar was soft.
He went on to tell me that I was a stuffed shirt. I just sat there primly, not disturbed at all. I figured that since he was a worldly person, it was only natural that those would be his opinions. He had plenty of opinions, but that made for lively visits, though we didn't get into any more fights. I never felt bored when I visited Bruce and Patti.
Patti had a little nine–year–old daughter named Kim. A couple of times, I had Kim stay overnight at my place and took her to church the next day. The first time that happened, as I was collecting clothes for Kimmie to wear to church, I asked Patti for a slip for Kimmie to wear. She smiled and said, "I'm not the kind of mother that you would be, Lanny." I stared at her, both flattered and flabbergasted. I couldn't imagine going anywhere without wearing a slip under my skirt, or shorts if it was a mini. My mother had four, little girls, but she always dressed us well and did fancy stuff with our hair.
I had a very embarrassing experience before I learned to wear shorts under my short skirts. When I was seventeen, I worked at the Pizza Hut in Surrey. One evening, the Assistant Manager, right in front of the rest of the staff, said, "Lanny, there's a guy out there who said that if that little girl bends over one more time in front of me to wipe a table, I'm going to goose her." Clueless. I would have been sufficiently mortified if he had said that to me in private. I had no idea that anyone could see my undies when I bent over slightly. On either side of me stood a row of waitresses and guys who worked with us, and they were all smirking at me.
I went shopping the very next day and found a black, three piece outfit with white polka dots that included a matching pair of shorts. That night when the Assistant Manager saw me wearing it with my red and white checked, bibbed apron over top, he said, "You're hard to look at." Yeah, well, whatever. At least I wasn't likely to get molested now.
Kim liked to go to church with me because I didn't insist that she sit still and do nothing but listen to the sermon. I knew from my own experience as a child that kids take in a lot more than adults tend to give them credit for, even if they appear to be absorbed in drawing or other activities. I brought crayons and a colouring book with us. All I required was for her to be quiet, which she was.
One night when she was staying over and tucked in bed with me, I led her in the sinner's prayer. I was so happy that she received Yehoshua in her heart, but then afterwards she asked, "Lanny, what sign are you?" My heart sank. I wondered if she really understood what it meant to get saved, but growing up with a mother who was attracted to the occult, it was only natural that she would absorb that sort of thing and need some teaching about its dangers. Many years later, after Bruce and Patti had moved to Edmonton, Kim told Ruby, Bruce's Mom, "Lanny might think that I forgot about that time she prayed with me, but I haven't forgotten it." Praise the Lord!
Steve, Bruce's brother who still lived at home when I boarded with their parents, visited me in my tiny duplex that cost $100.00 a month for rent. It was sparsely furnished, but clean and neat. I had an oil heater that I had to buy fuel for, and that place needed to be heated all year round. It was so cold that, even in June, my breath hung in the air in the mornings. Steve looked around, noticed some mini muffins I had made, tasted one, scoffed that they tasted gross, and then scarfed the rest of them down. Well, everybody doesn't have a natural talent for cooking.
The first night I moved into that duplex, I heard crashing sounds next door, but I didn't wake up. I was glad that I didn't, when I learned later what the noise was about. The previous tenants had returned to trash the place. I would have been scared if I had been awake. My guardian angels made sure that I stayed asleep.
My landlord's sister–in–law lived in the duplex next to me. She was elderly and rather nosy. One day she eagerly asked me who the men were who had been around to visit me. I had no idea who she was talking about, but when I learned later that one of the visitors had been my stepfather and the other my uncle, I wanted to gag. I wondered why on Earth she thought I would date men old enough to be my father? Actually, I did use to date men who were almost old enough to be my father, but God sure was a–changing me. I no longer felt a need for boyfriends who were father figures. When my brother Jim visited, I took him next door to introduce him to her, so that she wouldn't think I had a boyfriend spending the night at my place.
My brother gave my address to one of my cousins, who visited me. This cousin had recently been released from jail on a drug charge. He had a very flat personality and I don't think he had a lot upstairs in his head. My cousin brought along his former cellmate and tried to fix me up with a date with him. I politely declined. Inside, I was thinking, "Wonderful! You want to fix your cousin up for a date with a jailbird! What are you using for brains?"
Guys with that kind of self–centred mentality seem to think that women can be handed around to win them points with their buddies, and with some, it doesn't matter to them that their buddies could be potentially violent towards women. In my cousin's case, I think he was just clueless. His friend was very young, too young to interest me even if he wasn't a criminal, but I sensed that he wasn't too young to not be a problem on a date.
Newlyweds moved into the other half of the duplex I rented. The husband was a chump. He gawked at me through his window when I sunbathed in the backyard. That ended my sunbathing in my yard when he lived next door.
I chatted to his wife sometimes. She had a sad story. The guy she was now married to had gotten her pregnant when she was fourteen and her parents forced her to get an abortion. She was heartbroken about it. When the same guy got her pregnant a couple years later, her parents decided she might as well marry him. She said she didn't think the marriage would last more than a couple years. I was stunned at her statement. I figured it must be really depressing to be married to a guy who you didn't care enough for to want to be married to him forever, especially when they had just gotten married a only few weeks before.
Her husband's cousin used to visit them a lot. He was a good–looking, blond–haired guy and had a tall, beautiful, blonde girlfriend who was deaf. Her boyfriend was such a cad. My neighbour's husband and his cousin used to joke with each other about the girlfriend's deafness when she was in the room with them. I think they also talked about other women that the guy was seeing on the side. It was too bad the girl couldn't read lips; her boyfriend was poison and she needed to get out of that relationship. The wife told me some things about those guys that made me wonder how she could stand to be around them.
My Dad, that is my natural father, and his wife, a Catholic lady named Ann, came to visit me on Easter Sunday when I lived in Langley. As soon as she saw my place, Ann squealed with delight about how clean it was. That one compliment meant more to me than anything either of them ever had to say to me in my entire acquaintance with them.
They took me to their apartment in Vancouver. Dad video taped me while I ate dinner because he wanted his relatives to see how much I looked like his mother. I wished he wouldn't film me when I was eating, but I didn't know how to assert myself with a parent back then. Actually, I didn't know that I could assert myself with a parent. I usually just avoided them, if I felt that they disapproved of me or were too much trouble because of their personality problems.
Actually, I still do that, if it is too draining for me to be around someone, though sometimes I attempt to get them to be reasonable. If I can't influence them towards better behaviour, I "love them from a distance" by praying for them. I know what it is like to go through a nervous breakdown, and I don't want to go through another one from keeping company with people who stress me out too much because they just want to dominate me, and are not open to what God has given me to offer them.
When I told my Dad that I liked to draw, he enthusiastically urged me to draw a picture of him. Bad move. I could draw women's faces out of my imagination, but I wasn't good at drawing men's faces, and not at all good at drawing real people's faces. I draw what I saw, and it was not flattering. Even if it was a good drawing, it would not have been flattering. My father had been a handsome man in his youth, but I would have found that hard to believe, except that I saw some old pictures of him. The years had not been kind.
Dad eagerly took my drawing when I finished and handed it over to him. Then his brow furrowed and his lower lip pouted as he looked it over. He asked in disappointment, "Is that how you see me?" I nodded, he drooped, and his wife giggled as she passed through the room.
It came back around many years later when my oldest grandson was five. When he was over for a visit, he decided to draw a picture of me. I cheerfully said, "Make it nice, now." He looked me straight in the eyes and replied in a no nonsense voice, "I will draw you how you look. You know how you have bags under your eyes and lines in your forehead and lines in your neck? And how when you get older, your cheeks slide down?" I burst out laughing and thought to myself, "If I didn't have a good sense of humour, I could be really depressed right now!"
My Dad pecked away at his typewriter that Easter day. He was apparently drawing up a will. This was supposed to make me tractable in the hope of an inheritance. My Dad was so obvious when he tried to manipulate. I didn't get my hopes up; my father did not have much, and I had vast doubts about how faithful he would be about following through on anything he said he'd do.
As it turned out, my instincts were right on, but it didn't matter. Ann died of cancer and he remarried. I loved my new stepmother very much and she deserved anything she could get out of the deal for having put up with him. He put Betty through the wringer, they divorced, but she remained a friend to him and still helped him with various things after their divorce.
Dad and Ann drove me back to Langley that afternoon. I went to the Langley Pentecostal church in the evening. By the time church let out, a windstorm was blowing. On my way home, I heard a cat mewling in some bushes near a restaurant. I hunted through the shrubs and found a white cat lying among the junipers, her huge sides heaving, as she was about to give birth. I wrapped the cat in my scarf and ran the rest of the way home with her in my arms.
After settling the cat out in the wash house in a cardboard box lined with a blanket, I ran over to Bruce and Patti's house. I rushed in and told Patti what was happening and exclaimed, "Patti, what should I do?" She smiled in amusement and said, "Lanny, you don't have to do anything. Cats have been having kittens for a long time and they don't need anybody's help." Feeling calmer, I returned home and stayed in the wash house with the cat. I was twenty–years–old, but this was the first time in my whole life that I had ever seen animals get born, except for chicks hatching.
My favourite kitten was the runt, a little, black male that I named Othello. He died a couple days later, but I believe that I will get to have him for a pet in Heaven. It creeped me out to have to lift his stiff, little body out of the cardboard box. I buried him and wondered what to do with that cat and her kittens. My friend Jeannie took them off my hands, but she couldn't find homes for them either, so she took them to the SPCA.
I got a job at the A & W, but before I got hired there, I looked for a job in stores, mostly in the Surrey area where I grew up. On one of my job–seeking days, I afterwards visited a buddy from school and her new boyfriend. He was about the same height as Janet, had blond hair like her, and his personality even seemed like hers. He was very likeable.
Janet had gotten into modelling. I was blown away at how she could spend $200.00 on a pair of boots. Nowadays, that would be like spending $1000.00 or more on a pair of boots. Back then, $40.00 could buy a decent pair. Janet needed classier stuff for her job, though, and later went on to model in New York, Paris, and London.
I was standing in Janet's apartment when she started plucking at my hair, which was short. She asked me, "What is this stuff in your hair?" I looked in the mirror to see what she was talking about. The ends of my hair at the back were coated with a sticky, white substance.
I replayed in my mind the last few rushed moments before I left my house. My deodorant was in a pink can and my hairspray was in a purple can. Suddenly, I realized that I had sprayed under my arms with the purple can and used the pink can for my hair. I was horrified that I had gone looking for jobs with muck in my hair. Janet's boyfriend said it was okay; he thought that the slight gray tinge in my hair looked classy. We all had a good laugh.
When I turned to look for a job in Langley, I applied at a ladies' clothing store and got blasted by the owner. He took me to task for not having graduated from high school, telling me that no man who earned good money would want to marry me, except maybe a plumber. He talked to me like I was utterly worthless because I had not graduated from high school. He said that if I wanted to marry an educated man, I had better get an education. He got way too personal, which was very unprofessional of him.
He meant well, but all he managed to achieve was to make me mad. Shame has never worked very well at motivating me. If he had said, "Oh, I see you haven't graduated, but you are probably pretty smart. I doubt that it would take you very long to finish school and qualify for university. If you go to night school, I would like to see you again after you get your diploma, in case we need someone at that time. But I hope you won't settle for making a career out of being a sales clerk. There is so much more that a girl like you could do. I can see you married to a wealthy executive, but you will have to upgrade your education in order to fit into that kind of life. I hope you will have a go at it. You never know what you can do until you try."
In a place where women normally went to get help to dress up, I got a dressing down and it made me furious. I didn't make any reply to the store owner, but I inwardly returned scorn for scorn. I figured that I would prefer to marry a lively man who did physical work, than some boring, pencil pusher who worked in an office. I didn't have a low opinion of white collar workers until then, but that gave birth to it, and I didn't change my mind for a lot of years.
I include this story as an example of what NOT to do, if one hopes to help motivate young people to improve themselves. The people in my life who helped me the most were people who had the approach that I was wonderful and could become more wonderful, not the ones who were domineering, critical, and heavy–handed.
I enjoyed my yard. It had a wisteria that smelled heavenly and roses covered one side of the wash house and part of its roof. I didn't have to mow the lawn, but I looked after the flowerbed in my yard. For the first time in my life, I felt grateful that my stepfather had been so picky about our yard and made us kids trim the grass around the house, along the fences, flowerbeds, and sidewalk, and do weeding. Things I learned as a child were not hard to do when I was older. It was the things that I had to learn as an adult that were hard to do.
I never thought I would think this way, but I suddenly wished my parents had made us do more chores. Certainly, it would have been better if my Mom had taught us more about cooking. As it was, by the time I left home, all my mother had taught me to cook was fried and boiled eggs, pancakes, and porridge. I could bake cakes and cookies because a friend of my mother's taught me to how to do that. I learned a bit in Home Economics, as well, but the only things I made there that turned out okay were baking powder biscuits and the Waldorf Salad. There were tunnels in my muffins and my chocolate fudge turned out to be chocolate sludge.
One of the things I enjoyed about working in restaurants was getting a meal for free on my lunch or dinner break; it was one less meal that I had to cook each day that I worked. Actually, I lived mostly on toast and cereal the rest of the time. I was good at cleaning, but I avoided cooking whenever possible.
When I lived in Langley, I received a really sweet letter from my mother. I don't know why I didn't keep it. It must have gotten lost when I was moving around. When I first became a Christian, my mother wasn't too happy about it because I got saved outside of her church. She thought that her church was the only true church. I knew that I was going to get some flak from her sooner or later.
It came four months later. We were talking on the phone and I told her how I had come to receive Yehoshua as my Saviour. She listened and then flatly stated, "Well, Lanny, I feel sorry for you because you're going to a false church and you're damned to Hell." I wasn't surprised by her response, nor put off. I knew where she was coming from, but I also knew she was wrong.
It did bug me, though, that she couldn't be happy for me that I behaved better after I got saved. But now, she finally told me in this letter that she and Dad were proud of me for how I was living. It was so precious. Mom and Dad broke up shortly after that, but it was good to have that one last memory of something they agreed on as a couple to take its place among the treasures in my heart.
I got a job at the A & W and it was fun to work with a lot of other young people my age. I liked working the same shift as one girl in particular, though I didn't get to know her well. She was a beautiful blonde named Liz and was rather aloof. The other girls griped that Liz was "competitive". One of the girls sneered and said that Liz was always trying to work faster than the rest of them. My interest was piqued.
Far from being put off by this complaint, I decided that I would see if I could serve more customers than Liz. It was fun to work with her; it made a game out of the work. I don't think she was competitive. She was just a hard worker who cared about doing a good job. It sure beat what the other girls were doing. A customer complained that one of the other carhops whom I worked with seemed to be in a coma. He was only slightly exaggerating. Customers got served really quickly when Liz and I were on the same shift.
I liked my boss. He was a young guy named Ken. When my little brother came to visit me that summer from Edmonton, Ken took a shine to him. My parents had recently split up and Ken thought Johnny looked like he needed a Dad. Johnny was fourteen at the time and such a little cutie. He has a very sweet nature. He stayed with me for a week and each night when my shift ended, he came over to the A & W to help me clean up. Ken gave him free root beers for his help.
Johnny was always good at anything he tried his hand at. He particularly liked carpentry and he liked to ski. He went with me to the staff picnic and tried water–skiing for the first time. When he got up on the skis right away and went around the lake with no problem, my friends asked me wide–eyed if I was sure that he had never water–skied before. I replied doubtfully that I thought this was his first time. I was so proud of him. Afterwards, he told me that he made sure he didn't fall off the skis because he couldn't swim.
Johnny brought a little portable TV with him when he came to visit me. I thought, "Now, that's an insult. Does he think I am so boring that he has to bring a TV when he comes to see me?" But there were several hours in the day when I was at work, so it kept him entertained.
One evening, I got caught up in watching TV instead of watching the pork chop and chicken that I was cooking in the oven. I wanted to impress my little brother with my cooking skills, but I got interested in a movie. The next thing I knew, smoke was pouring out of the oven. The meat was absolutely charred to cinders. Johnny wasn't impressed with my cooking.
My mother stayed in contact with one of my former foster mothers, who also had my brother Jim live with her for a short time, and she even took my stepfather in as a boarder after my parents split up and Dad returned to Vancouver. Pauline and Dad didn't get along. Pauline was normally a peace–loving person, but she could speak her mind when she was pushed to do so. When Pauline learned that Johnny was staying with me, she called and asked if he would do some yard work for her, in exchange for dinner. Wow! That's just what every fourteen–year–old boy wants to do when they are on holiday – chores!
Johnny turned down the offer. He wasn't even tempted by the invitation to dinner. That was the funniest part of the deal. Pauline was a terrible cook. She was a career woman before she retired and never developed any appreciable cooking skills. After that first ghastly meal at her place, I never again ate anything she cooked, except occasionally I would eat a few slices of her blueberry pies, in spite of how they always had huge chunks of sugar in them. She put pearl tapioca in her blueberry pies to soak up the juice. The tapioca pearls bloated up to big, chewy bubbles, but I like chewy stuff, as long as it can be broken down and swallowed.
There was a guy who was attending Trinity Western University who hung around the A & W sometimes. I sensed that he fancied me and was working himself up to ask me for a date. He was good–looking, but I had a feeling that he wasn't a Christian, though he was attending TWU. I wanted to be careful about that because a fine, Christian lady I knew met her husband at Bible college, and discovered after she married him that he wasn't a Christian. It was many years before he came to the Lord, and he gave her a bit of a hard time in the meantime.
I pointed this guy out to Johnny and asked what he thought of him. He wrinkled up his nose in a sneer. That was all I needed to steer away from that young man. My brother Jim had liked my former boyfriend because he thought he was fun with his extroverted personality and joking around, but Johnny had detested him. The guy turned out to be really bad news. I trusted my younger brother's instincts more than the older one's.
It was a bit of a risky job working at the A & W. Weirdos came in sometimes. There was a man in his fifties who scared one of little cooks half to death. I think he was a pedophile. This cook was really short and looked younger than her age. This strange man would hang out at the counter and try to engage her in conversation.
One time when she was walking past the school next door, he was hanging out at the school and tried to coax her to come and talk to him. A short time later, we heard that the police picked him up for questioning. There had been some young people murdered in the area. He may not have had anything to do with those murders, but he must have had a police record.
I sometimes had a customer who gave me the creeps. He was in his thirties and there was something about his eyes that bothered me. He gave off vibes that he was a weak, needy, controlling, possessive person. I became even more cautious after he told one of the other carhops that he thought I was beautiful. I didn't want him to take an interest in me. One evening when I was sitting with my uncle in his car, that man pulled into a parking spot across from us. I told my uncle what that man had said about me. He took one look at him, shivered and said, "You better look out for that guy or you might end up in a ditch somewhere." I thought so, too.
Most of the customers were rather tame, but one time I waited on a high school kid who was quite the cut up. He was really cute, had curly, blond hair, and was Mr. Personality. He pulled into the lot with three of his friends. Another guy sat beside him in the front of the car and their girlfriends were sitting in the backseat.
This blond kid flirted like mad with me. It was all for a joke; neither of the girls in the back seemed to mind. They thought it was entertaining. I did, too, but enough was enough. After several minutes of his kidding, I decided that I had to get on with my job, so I primly stated that they needed to give me their order.
That was when the blond kid replied, "I will have two breasts." My jaw dropped open in shock and I angrily retorted, "You will have a fat lip!" His mouth then dropped in shock and he desperately protested, "No, I meant two chicken breasts!" The two girls in the backseat sniggered as two faces went very red. I stood there wishing the ground would swallow me up, as I recalled that the kid had been squinting at the menu board just before he gave me his order. I frantically cast about in my mind the possibility of leaving the country, changing my name, and getting plastic surgery, so that these kids would never recognize me again. That was so embarrassing!
My sister Pat and her husband Larry came to visit me one day. Pat played a prank. She got me to sit on the floor and answer some questions for her. The whole point of it was to get to the last two questions where she asked me my birth date, and then asked how old it made me. When I said I was twenty, she laughed and said, "Then why don't you grow up and act your age?" I blithely sniffed that I was grown up, then leaped to my feet and ran across the street to play on the swings at the school. Pat and Larry had a good laugh about me playing on the swings, after saying that I was grown up.
Playing on the swings is something that I still have not outgrown. When I approached my fortieth birthday, I thought I had better give up playing on the swings until I got to be so old that people would assume that I was in my second childhood, and then I could get away with it again. Up until I was forty–five, I could pass for someone in my twenties, especially when I wore my hair down. Young people can get away with doing kid things, but I figured that it would be pushing it after my fortieth birthday. I wandered in a park one day, wearing a business suit and my hair in a bun, shortly after reaching that sedate and respectable age. When I came to the swings, I suddenly decided I really didn't care what people thought of me playing on the swings. It's good exercise and it's fun.
When I lived in Langley, I received a visit from a Flying Irishman. I went on a date with Patrick once, after meeting him at an office supply store where I worked. He had an accent, but it was an English one. I told him that I was part Irish. My paternal grandfather was English and my paternal grandmother was half English and half Irish. With an air of amused superiority, Patrick replied in Irish brogue, "There's two kinds of people in the world; the Irish and them that want to be Irish." I felt like knocking him on the head and tightly replied, in an English accent, that I had always wanted to be English. Which is true. When I was thirteen–years–old and found out that I was English, I was thrilled. I had always loved stories about brave knights and fair ladies, which were usually set in England.
Patrick sold airplanes and he offered to fly me to Edmonton to see my family. My parents and younger siblings had moved there two years previously. I declined. Again, he invited me on a trip to Oliver. I thought, "No thanks, fella. I ain't going anywhere that I can't get home in a taxi, if you get out of line!"
Finally when he invited me to take me on a short flight to Vancouver, I considered his offer. I sized him up and asked him, "Are you married?" He grinned with delight and said no. I lifted my chin and asked him with arched brows, "Do you have a problem with going out with Christians?" He grinned even wider and said that he didn't. I agreed to go out with him, seeing as he knew in advance that hanky panky was not welcome and seemed to be okay with that.
It was my first time in an airplane. I didn't find it very exciting. I don't think that we spent more than half an hour in the air both ways. But it was okay and I didn't have to take a cab home. Patrick behaved like a gentleman.
He eventually met my Uncle Tommy in the course of his business and sold him an airplane. When he asked for a referral, Uncle Tommy gave him my father's name, though Tommy knew that my father didn't have a feather to fly with. My Dad knew that I knew Patrick because I had told him about my flying date. My father kept bringing me into the conversation when he was talking to Patrick, but he called me Earlana. I didn't use that name back then, but eventually Patrick realized who Dad was talking about. He then asked my father for my phone number, as I had moved since the last time he saw me. Dad refused to give it to him.
I was really annoyed about that. He was behaving like a twit. If he didn't want to give Patrick my number, he should not have mentioned me. And there wasn't any reason to not give him my number. I had no complaints about him and my Dad knew that. Patrick called my old number and Ruby gave him my address.
It was the middle of summer when he visited. I was sunburnt to a crisp. I had blisters on my chest and cold sores on my mouth, but I think Patrick thought I was pretty cute anyway. He hinted around that he wanted to date me again, but he didn't want me to think that anything would come of it. He said that he thought that he wanted to wait another ten years before he married. I stated that I thought I would like to wait only one more year before I got married. I didn't mean married to him, though. He wasn't a Christian. After hearing my aspirations in regards to nuptial bliss, he realized that we were on different roads. As he took his leave, he leaned forward with a grin and kissed the end of my nose, and that was the last I saw of him.
My lips broke out again with cold sores later in the summer because I got too much sun. It was a really bad case. I felt miserable and looked it, too. My mouth resembled a deep–fried onion ring; blisters stretched from one side of my lips to the other and I had a sore throat. I went across the street to the A & W and asked Ken to get someone else to cover my shift.
Ken fiddled with the schedule and changed my shift, so that I was working in the evening instead of the morning. I went home wondering, "How did that happen? I didn't want to work at all today! I'm supposed to get better in a few hours?" Ken was a hard guy to deal with because he was so nice.
I went to work later, my lips still looking a mess and itching like mad. A couple of men in a convertible pulled in to order some food. The driver was an extremely handsome, dark–haired man in his early thirties, but shallow, insensitive, and rude. His eyes fastened unflinchingly on my mouth as he ordered for his friend and himself. He summed up by saying, "And if you're really fast about getting our order, my buddy here will give you a kiss."
My pen paused its busy scribble as I froze. The men in the next car stared at me, obviously wondering what that guy had said to make my back stiffen and my face suddenly grow so cold and grim.
When I brought the order, I accidentally spilled root beer on the driver's sparkling white tennis shorts. It truly was an accident, but it would be a lie to say that I was sorry about it. Now it was his turn to be frigid as he stonily asked for a cloth to wipe it off.
I smiled serenely as I returned to the restaurant and found a cloth as clean and white as what his outfit had been before it got root beer on it. I didn't want him to have cause to complain that I had given him a dirty cloth. He glared at me as he furiously wiped away at his shorts, but I kept a polite smile on my puffy, crispy–looking lips that he had been so eager for his buddy to kiss.
Thankfully, it was rare for me to run into people who were crass. I continued to work at the A & W with no thought of leaving until Johnny had to go home. I dreaded his departure. I doted on my baby brother. When I visited Edmonton the year before, Johnny and I hugged each other and cried and cried when we had to say good–bye. I was not looking forward to another scene like that, and neither was he. Suddenly, on the spur of the moment, I decided to give my notice and go to Edmonton to spend some time with my family.
Johnny was relieved. He said that he could feel happy about leaving because he knew he would see me in two weeks. Before he left, he stopped off at the A & W and hugged and kissed me good–bye in the parking lot. The girls I worked with thought he was just too cute.
It wasn't normal for boys his age to be so openly affectionate towards their sisters, but Johnny didn't care what people thought of his tender heart. He grew up bathed in warmth and affection, the youngest of six kids with two older sisters who used to fight over who got to feed him and change his diapers; he was our living baby doll. He never made it a secret that he loved his sisters a lot. He used to give us money on our birthdays, until he got a steady girlfriend and didn't have so much of it to throw around. And he always bragged to his friends that he had four, beautiful sisters.
The next two weeks flew by. I gave furniture I no longer needed to one of my neighbours, a guy named Burt. He and his younger brother helped me move my stuff. I cooked dinner for them that day and it turned out all right. The younger brother, though, was a bit of a trial. He was into Eastern religions and wanted to sell me on that stuff. I told him I knew all about it because I used to be into it, but I was no longer interested. He just would not stop yammering; he kept talking a mile a minute, not in the least interested in hearing anything I had to say as a rebuttal. Finally, when he was talking about what he thought happens after people die, Burt sternly told him, "You better shut up or you're going to find out pretty quick what happens after death!" He clammed up instantly. I breathed a sigh of relief and the rest of the evening was pleasant.
Everything got tidied away and then I took a bus to Edmonton. I loved going through the interior of BC and seeing our beautiful mountains and the majestic Rockies. As I looked at the mountains I thought, "It is so amazing that the God who made those big mountains is able to live inside of me!" It is such a miracle to be saved and have the God of the whole Universe living in my heart, interested in me, loving me, and teaching me step by step how to be what He created me to be. I have stumbled a lot, but, by His grace, I'm going in the right direction.
I had an eventful visit in Edmonton. My youngest sister was expecting a baby and her baby was born while I was there. She had what could be called a shotgun wedding. When Lydia, her boyfriend's Portugese mother, found out that her son had gotten Lorrie pregnant, she slapped his face and ordered him to marry her.
I went to People's Church with my friend Linda Palenchuk, whom I had met there the first time I visited Edmonton, and attended a wedding that was held during the service. I thought it was pretty neat to get married on Sunday during church and decided I wanted to do that when I got married some day.
I met my sister Judy's new boyfriend and was happy for my sister that she had found such a good guy. He was my new brother–in–law's brother. His Mom had been trying to get him fixed up with Judy for ages, but he never paid attention when she kept telling him that he should meet Lorrie's sister. He figured that any girl his mother approved of would have to be a dud. He did wonder, though, why his cousin always seemed to be irked when Lydia talked about him meeting Judy. Then John met her at Lorrie's wedding, they instantly fell head over heels in love, and John finally understood that his cousin had a crush on Judy. They were only eighteen when they married, but John and Judy are still together over thirty years later.
I met Lydia, my sister's mother–in–law, in a supermarket when Judy and I went to meet up with her and Lorrie. She exclaimed that I was beautiful. I am sure that she wished she had another son, so she could fix me up with him and get another daughter–in–law. Lydia was such a sweetheart. I think she must have always wished that she had some daughters, and now she had two very pretty, dainty girls, who were also really kind to her.
One of my cousins took me to the Natural History Museum. I found the dioramas interesting. When we were looking at a display, my cousin started to boast about having met some rowdy, bad dudes in a bar in Vancouver and what a good time he had hanging out with them. He, however, mispronounced the name of one of his acquaintances, who was probably the worst of the lot. I corrected him and authenticated my knowledge with the information that I used to date that guy. My cousin's eyes nearly popped out of his head with shock and he was lost for words. He couldn't reconcile the quiet, lady–like, Christian, bookish cousin standing in front of him with the kind of girl that would go out with that kind of guy. Praise the Lord! He had done some changing in me! My friends at church told me that they couldn't believe I used to hang out with those types of people, and that made me feel really good.
I ran on down to Stettler to visit relatives on their farm, attempted to milk a cow, and helped pluck and gut what seemed like a million chickens. Yuck! There were trestle tables set up in the basement and my cousins and I worked all day at that job. One of my cousins, who was training to be a nurse, found a tumor in one of the chickens and held it up for everybody to see. Gah! She had the biggest smile on her face as she marvelled at it. (I am not cut out to be a nurse.)
After I returned to Edmonton, I continued to fend off a younger guy who had developed a crush on me (Lydia's nephew who had formerly had a crush on my sister Judy), and I got frightened out of my wits by some creepy teenager who tried to pick me up.
I thought I might stay in Edmonton, so I headed downtown one day to look for a job, but I didn't know what bus to take. I asked a kid with acne who looked about sixteen–years–old if he knew where to catch a bus downtown. He said he didn't know. I looked around some more and saw a bus stop. I went over and stood waiting for a bus to show up. The kid followed me to that stop and lay down on the grass nearby. I wondered at the back of mind why he was waiting there, since he didn't know anything about the buses. Then he drawled, "You have nice legs, you know." The nerve of him down there on the grass so that he could goggle at my legs! I replied haughtily, "You're rather bold, aren't you?" He said, "I suppose I am. Do you want to come to my house?"
I was absolutely shocked at being so directly propositioned. Some of the guys I knew before I was saved were a lot more crass, but three years of being away from uncouth company had made me unused to it. I wanted my Mommy and I wanted her quick! She would have settled that kid's hash. I headed back to her house, but panic made me confused and I could remember only the general direction where she lived. But even if I could remember clearly, I didn't want to lead that kid back to her house where I had two pretty, little sisters. This resolve was confirmed when I saw that boy running parallel to me through some yards, keeping me in his sight. Then he crossed the road and passed a few feet in front of me. My throat felt paralyzed with fright; I could not have screamed if he touched me; the best I would have managed was a squeak.
I was really disappointed in myself. I had imagined that if I got into that kind of situation, I would boldly say, "I rebuke you in the Name of Jesus!" and the guy would fall over backwards, as I had heard tell of in other people's testimonies of God's deliverance from attack. There was no faith the size of a mustard seed at work here. You would have needed a microscope to see my faith. It was very humbling to realize this.
My face felt frozen; I kept on walking and went to a house nearby. As I knocked at the door, the kid ran away through someone's yard. I told the guy who answered the door that someone was following me. He ran outside in the direction where I saw the kid last, but he was gone. The people in the house let me borrow their phone. My mother wasn't home, but Judy's boyfriend came and got me. He was proud to escort me home, his chest puffed out like Superman's.
I played around a while longer with the idea of staying in Edmonton, but God drew me back to the Vancouver area. My mother's boyfriend, who later became my new stepfather, had me figured out pretty well. He said I would head back to the coast before it snowed. I have never experienced a prairie winter and can't say that I feel I have missed out on anything in that regard.
Johnny and I looked at each other with dread when it was time to say good–bye, but we managed to hold our tears back. Later on the bus when I had a headache and felt like throwing up, I realized that I should have just gone ahead and cried; if we don't let our emotions out in a healthy way, they can make us sick.
When I returned to BC, I found an apartment to rent in Surrey. Several years later, after my divorce, I lived in Langley again, in a boarding situation with a wonderful family that had moved there from Alberta. It was still a fairly small town even in 1988, but I don't think I would want to live in Langley now. It is no longer the cozy, little town that it used to be. Too much pavement, too many big box stores, and too much traffic have taken it over.
Copyright © 2010, Lanny Townsend
Page modified by Lanny Townsend on May 14, 2010
Scripture references on this website are closely paraphrased from e–Sword's King James Bible.