Tag Archives: Terry

…And What Happened There

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Trying to get materials for our house, struggling to pay for things like septic system, plumbing and electricity, Terry and I both put in a lot of hours at work when we moved back to Beaver Island. At one point, in the first summer we were back, I was doing laundry at the Beaver Island Lodge, waiting tables at the Shamrock and helping with a small gallery on the harbor. Terry worked for Cashman, then took side jobs helping at Wojan’s Mill and left the island to work down state when the money was right. It would have worked, still, if we had worked as partners.

Our marriage was in a state of disrepair most of the time. Many times, Mary Therese would come up the stairs from the apartment below us, under the guise of asking for rent but generally because she heard our arguing. Terry was a big wall-pounder and door slammer; harder to admit is my own part in it. I was the worst-tempered of all my mother’s children. I thought I had out-grown it…but then we’d have an argument. Terry’s rages were fueled mainly by alcoholism, whether by drinking or wanting an excuse to drink. Mine were just meanness and self-righteous indignation.

In his defense, Terry was always one of the most kind-hearted people I’ve ever known. Now, sober for many years, he has a nice wife and a good life. He’s a devoted father to all of his children. Alcoholism is a disease that affected both of our families. Though my mother was a teetotaler and I have never been much of a drinker, I’m sure my reactions to Terry’s problem hurt more than it helped most of the time. I hesitate to bring up a past that can’t be altered…but this is my history, too.

The night I made these drawings of my girls, I was working the closing shift, from 8PM until 3AM. Terry was supposed to be home with the girls. He left them to come out to the bar. When he left there a few hours later, he assured me he was going home. At two in the morning, as I was locking the doors , a friend stopped in to tell me she had our car. Terry had driven it to the south end of the island for a house party. My friend lost her ride and wanted to get home. Terry told her to take the car.

I finished my closing duties and walked home. There were my girls, alone in the apartment as they had been all night. Jen was on the couch, Kate on the floor beside her, where they had fallen asleep in front of the television. Their sweet, innocence brought me to tears. What were we doing? Where was this leading? When did work and drink replace bedtime stories? These were the thoughts that filled my head and broke my heart as I wound down with a cup of tea while I sketched my precious daughters. Then I went to bed.

I woke up the next morning to Terry telling the girls, “Do not – under any circumstances – wake up your mother!!” Then, under his breath as he went out the door, “I’ve gotta find the #@(%$!# car!”

What Brought Me Here

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What was it that drove me, with my young family, to leave relatives  and friends, to quit jobs and leave college, to take my children away from their home and their grandparents, to move to a remote island in northern Lake Michigan?

I had history on Beaver Island. My father and my grandfather had been raised there. I’d enjoyed many wonderful family vacations there. I always cried when I had to leave.

Still, surprisingly, it was my husband who suggested it.

We had come to the island together in 1970, at age seventeen, before we were married. I had managed to get a weekend off from my job at the hospital. My parents were on the island, on vacation with my brothers and sisters. We decided to drive up to join them. When we called to let them know we were coming, my mother gave us instructions, “When you get to the Boat Company, be sure to tell them who you are,” she said, “and they’ll be happy to help you with parking and everything.” What she meant was that I should let them know who my family was, so they’d know I had island connections.

As instructed, we walked in and Terry introduced me as “Bob Ricksgers’ daughter.” Before we had a chance to ask about parking, the man behind the desk said, “I don’t care who she is, don’t come in here with that long hair and a cigarette, with that attitude…” It was a poor start to a sad weekend. My Grandpa George was an old island gentleman who always put on his good clothes to go to town; Grandma Florence always wore a dress, even when doing farm chores. Her only exception to that – in her entire life – was when she had put on overall’s one day to help with haying. They both thought Terry’s patched up bell-bottomed blue jeans were a disgrace, and didn’t mind saying so. They found him a place to sleep in the barn. The Homecoming Parade – that I had sold pretty heavily when planning this trip – consisted of (this is his assessment), “one beat-up pickup truck, a few kids carrying signs, a manure spreader and two Indians on bicycles.” He was glad to get away.

The next time we came to the island was in  1976, for my grandfather’s funeral. He had died at the beginning of the year, in Chicago, but the funeral was planned for spring on Beaver Island. My sister Brenda and I each left our children in the care of in-laws, and brought our husbands. With all of the family gathered, it would have been a good time for Keith and Terry to impress on everyone what good husbands we had. Instead, they went out to the bars together, and left a different impression entirely. We were embarrassed, and furious. We hardly spoke to them all the way home.

So, my husband’s history with Beaver Island was much more lackluster than my own.

We had talked about moving away from Lapeer. We could both see reasons why a fresh start in a new location might be good for our family. We had discussed other locations in Michigan. We had researched opportunities in Yakima, Washington. We looked into jobs associated with the new pipeline in Alaska. We had not considered Beaver Island.

One day, while Jen was at kindergarten and Kate and I were visiting my Mom and Dad, I happened to pick up Dad’s most recent issue of the Beaver Beacon. An article talked about a coming visit to the island by recent Nobel Peace Prize winner (with Betty Williams), Mairead Corrigan. What an opportunity!

I made arrangements to go to the island at the time Mairead Corrigan would be there. My friend, Linda, came with me. We stayed two days. It was a wonderful trip for a hundred reasons, not least of which was hearing a wonderful, inspiring talk by a woman working for peace in our time, and dancing the Irish jig with her later, in the bar. I came home with lots to tell about the good time I’d had.

I was happy to be back home with my family, though, and anxious to get back to classes. Life settled back into a normal pattern.

But then, my husband did something to make me very angry. He broke a promise, quit a job, wrecked a car…or some combination of those things. I was really mad. I’d been giving him the silent treatment for a couple days. In an effort to get back on my good side, on a whim, he threw out the suggestion…”What do you think about maybe moving to Beaver Island?”

Well, that was that!

Before I Move

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It seems I’m having difficulty moving from one address to the next. Once I pull up all the memories of a place, from wherever they’ve lay hidden, it’s hard to move on. I want to linger there, with the young person I was and with all of her unreasonable dreams.

We got our first stereo system when we lived at Charbridge. Before Terry and I got married, I spent way too much money on a nice radio. It had all kinds of special features – or seemed to at the time – all enclosed in elegant dark wood. My mother had always had a radio, for news in the morning and music through her day. A radio seemed necessary.

In college, in a discussion with other students, something was said that caused me to say I didn’t have a stereo. The looks of surprise and pity  elicited by that comment caused me to realize it was a music system that was necessary. We went shopping that very weekend, and put one on lay-away. It had a turn table, an eight-track tape player and a recording feature with two little microphones. Somewhere, still waiting to be converted to compact disc, I have old eight tracks of my little daughters playing Donny and Marie. Jen sings, “I’m a little bit country…” to which little Katey responds, in baby talk, “…an’ I a idda bit wock an’ wo-o-ooh!”

Mrs. Baldry took care of my daughters when I was attending classes. She had a daughter, too: Lara – named for the character in Doctor Zhivago – was just a bit older than my Jen.One year she knit sweaters for each of my girls. Jen’s was red, white and blue ombre’ yarn; Kate’s was in shades of pink.

Jen went to Schickler School for kindergarten. She brought home more songs for our repertoire: “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt”  and the Schickler song (“S-C, that’s the way I begin, H-I are the second letters in…C-K, those are the third…L-E-R is the end of the word…”). In classrooms set up at the dining room table, in the basement playroom or on the living room floor, she tried to teach Kate everything she learned.

My sister Brenda and her family moved back to Lapeer during the time that I lived there. She often visited me at Charbridge. We’d play games while we visited. One time, her tire went flat on the way to my house. It would be difficult to stop, on the highway, to deal with something like that. Her husband was at work, so she couldn’t call him, even if she could get to a phone. I was expecting her. Maybe it wasn’t so bad. She continued to my house. There, we could see that it was, in fact, a serious flat tire, and pretty mangled by the time she parked in front of my house. Obviously, she couldn’t drive it back home. Without a second thought, we got out the backgammon board to entertain ourselves until our husbands could deal with the problem. Turns out, that wasn’t the best course of action…according to the guys, anyway.

I got my own car, when we lived at Charbridge, so that I could drive to and from my college classes in Flint. It was an old Volkswagon Beetle. Most of the floors were rusted away; the gas gauge didn’t work; the windshield wipers were missing; there was no heat. It was a standard transmission…and I didn’t know how to drive a standard transmission. The price was right; we decided it was perfect. Terry spent a few evenings trying to teach me the particulars of driving a stick shift, then gave up in frustration. “Just drive it,” he yelled, “you figure it out!”

So, that’s what I did! Lurching and stalling, swearing profusely, shivering to beat the band, I drove it to and from Flint to my classes all winter long. I’d dress in layers: with no heat, and all the gaps and holes in the car, driving on the highway was like standing in 70mph winds. I’d pull off on Oglethorpe Drive to pick up my friend, Linda. She’d come running out with afghans, scarves and her son’s ski masks. And a big grin.We’d be off again, jerking through the gears, pulling off to chip ice from the windshield as needed, hoping not to run out of gas.

The future seemed huge, in those days, and anything at all seemed possible.