Thursday, June 30, 2016

A limitless Mennonite gift



While George and I sat there quietly and Sharon typed on the computer, I thought over everything that had just happened. I thought, “Soon there will be windmills yelling at me, I am going to fall off a swing into the water and jump up in my bed with lots of tears about it when I realize that it was just a dream.” But I didn’t. When I looked at George I knew that I was awake and that I had basically just won the lottery. 

Sharon got up from her chair, shook my hand and said, “You are all set, Anna. I look forward to seeing you in three months. Good luck.”

I thought up many sentences in my head that I wanted to say to her so that she would know that she made the best thing that could have ever happen to me, happen. But I couldn’t bring myself to say any of that and instead I just said, “Thank you” as I shook her hand.

When I walked out of Sharron’s office, everything I looked at was so beautiful. I felt that knot that had lived in my stomach for so long coming up as George jumped in front of me. He opened the door and when the sun and fresh air hit my face at the same time, I felt like screaming my face off. George took one look at me and said, “Anna, remember what I told you about not holding things in?”

“Yes.”

“Well, show me what you got,” he said.

I screamed, jumped up in the air and George scooped me up and spun me around.

When he put me down, I felt weird because people were staring at us and he said, “Anna, sometimes you just have to live in the moment and not care about what others think. I can guarantee you that most of the people that are staring at us right now are jealous as they wondering ‘what the f#ck is she so happy about?’”

It was too much, I couldn’t handle all that and a tear made its way down my cheek as George turned away from me to grab the helmet. When he turned around to face me again, he just gently wiped the tear of my cheek with his thumb, almost as if he had expected to have to do that. He hugged me, slipped the helmet over my head and said, “Let's get the f#ck out of here and go for a real ride.”

I got on the back of that motorcycle, not knowing where he was taking me and snuggled right up to him as he took off leaving all those people standing there staring at us. As I thought, “okay George, this really is a long ride” I saw a sign that said, “Welcome to Port Dover”. He parked the motorcycle in front of a restaurant and as he helped me take off the helmet, he said, “Let's go in and have breakfast.”

After the waitress brought us coffee she took our orders of bacon, eggs, hashbrowns, and toast. George explained that Port Dover was the place thousands of bikers come to every time a Friday falls on the thirteenth.

While we ate I said, “I can't believe that won't have to worry about looking for a job and I get to just go to school. It feels like a dream and I’m going to cry when I wake up.”

“Anna, it’s not the kind of dream that you wake up from, It’s a real dream, it’s a gift.”

“A gift? Wow! Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me, I am just the lucky person who happened to have had the pleasure of watching you unwrap that gift.”

“Okay, who would I say thank you too then?”

“Well, it's not so much as to whom you say thank you too, but what you do with this gift.”

“Okay, what would I do?”

“I think the best way to say “thank you” for a gift like this is by giving it back to others, by being an example of how you overcome incredible odds and still get up every day and make the best of what you have. Starting from wherever you are, no matter how far you might have to go, or how hard it might be. That’s how you turn this gift into more gifts. That’s how I think you say thank you.”

I just stared at his teeth and thought, “I am not sure about what you are telling me but please don’t stop talking,” as he continued.

“I wouldn't worry about that too much yet. I’m sure you will figure it out, now that you have time to focus on school. There are endless ways to give back, just trust that it will come to you.”

“I hope so.”

“I just know that with your braveness, determination, and desire to learn, you will do great things with this gift. Who knows, you might even get to use it to help our own people that are in the same situation as you were. Something tells me that there are many people that could use your help to figure out just how limitless that SIN card really is. I think that that would be the best way to stick it to them, not by telling them how wrong they are about you but by showing them.”

I just stared at him in a daze, smiled and said, “That sounds perfect when you say it.”

“Ah shit, I’m sorry, I am just babbling on and on.”

“It’s okay, I like listening to you babbling on and on.”

“Anna, it's really none of my business but I’m so curious about your visit with the nurse, how did it go?”

“Well…”

“Ahhh, you don’t have to tell me about it if you don’t want too.”

“No, It’s okay, I want to tell you about it. She said that you were right, that my nerve problems were the biggest load of crap that she had ever heard, but she just used different words to explain it to me than you did,” I answered and started giggling uncontrollably.

“When I thought about it, later on, I regretted telling you that,” George explained.

“What, why?”

“Because it was irresponsible of me to tell you that in my moment of frustration. It's not fair, no one has the right to tell someone that what their illness is a load of crap.”

“Ahhh, yeah you did kind of leave me sitting there under that tree wondering ‘what the heck? George.’”

“I’m sorry…”

“No. it’s okay… She told me that I had been feeling sick because I had experienced extremely high levels of stress and anxiety about my new life away from everything that I had ever known. And that it was perfectly normal for me to think that there was something seriously wrong with me. She said that it was serious, but most people can live a happy healthy life while having nerve problems by finding meaning and purpose and focusing on that instead of the nerve problems.”

“Wow, perfect! What a relief.”

“I know, I thought that I would have to take medication for it.”

“Well, some people do need medication for their nerve problems. That is great news, Anna. I am so happy for you. Thanks for sharing that with me.”

“No, thank you for being frustrated and telling me what you thought about it. It made me think about it in a different way.”

“Well, in that case, you’re welcome. I'm glad that me being a moron helped you figure it out,” he said, we both laughed and continued drinking our coffees.

I put my cup down and asked, “What time is it, should we go? I don’t want to be late for work.”

“We still have lots of time and besides what are they going to do, fire you?” he asked and we both laughed.

“Don’t worry Anna, I will get you to work on time.”

“I will miss my job.”

“Me too. It does kind of suck that we all have to look for different jobs right now, but in a way, it's good that we are forced to change, that is how you grow and learn about what else you can do. Even though it's not easy and I could think of way better things to do with my time, but if we weren't forced to change, I don’t think we would and life just becomes a boring old routine, like a robot.”

“Ahhh yeah… have you figured out what you are going to do?”

“No, not really, I am thinking about becoming a robot who does only the things I like to do. Sleep, ride my motorcycle and draw tattoos. Oh yeah, and eat. Speaking of riding motorcycles, shall I get you to work?”

“Okay,” I answered as the butterflies started jumping around in my stomach with excitement about riding on the back of George’s motorcycle again.

He took me for a long ride on the way back and still got me to work on time. At lunch break, I told Sam my good news of being able to stay in school and not have to worry about finding a job.

“That is awesome! Congratulations Anna, I am so happy for you. I have some news too.”

“Okay, what is it?”

“I got a job offer in Alberta and I am considering moving there.”

“What? Wow, that sounds really far away.”

“Yeah it kinda is, but it will be good for me, I can always come back here if it doesn’t work out.”

That’s when the reality of how much change was happening hit me and it made me really sad. All that change was scary for me, especially starting grade ten on Monday and the pressure of delivering passing grades to Sharron.

Eight hours of sitting at the sewing machine with no distractions got me thinking about George. The kind of deep thinking that my mother would tell me to stop, which I concluded might be because that was what causes nerve problems.

I thought about my conversation with George, about the gift that had been given to me including the biggest gift, I had ever received, George himself. I wondered who I could thank for that gift and I remembered that he told me to trust that it would come to me. I decided that I would look out for that and wait for it to come to me too.

On our way out at the end of the shift we all got another envelope. It scared me because it wasn’t even payday. I decided that I would wait to open it when I got home, just like I did when I got that pink slip. It made my night when I opened it and saw that there were two cheques in that envelope, a bonus and my final vacation pay.

I put the cheques on the pillow next to me and went to sleep, just to see what kind of dream I might have. That night dreamt that I was wearing a new green pleated dress and before I started to float onto the water toward Posen Land again, I grabbed my dictionary, my sandals, climbed out of the boat and started walking down a long country road. I walked until my feet hurt so much that it woke me up.

Saturday morning, though my feet hurt from walking so far in my dream, I woke up feeling strange but rested, like a new person. I made myself a cup of instant coffee and drank it while I stood on my balcony and watched the sunrise. I thought about what George told me about growing and changing being good for us and I knew that I was on my way to adulthood.

I just knew that it was time for me to do what I did in my dream. Take my CANADIAN EDITION WEBSTER’S ENCYCLOPEDIC DICTIONARY OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE and go forward, while keeping in mind that that body of water that I could so easily drown in at any given moment was right there behind me and that it would always be there. I imagined that I left my nerve problems and my deceased grandfather in that boat beside the windmill floating on the waters of Posen Land as I went back inside my apartment.

I put on my Enigma tape, remembered the hard times I had endured to get where I was at that moment and decided that I needed to go shopping. Not for that VCR that I had dreamt of buying for so long, but for books to learn about what my dreams really meant, what they were trying to tell me and material for a green dress at the Mennonite fabric store. Even if it meant that I might have to face some of the people that were against what I was doing and gossiping about it. After I cleaned my apartment with pine sol of course… Click here to continue reading my story.

Green dress image courtesy of Nan Peters
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