So we began our careers together as young platoon commanders and it was busy – the learning curve was vast and challenging and not without sweat and tears. We attended daily meetings and orders groups. We went to gun-camps and field exercises together. We did physical fitness tests; challenges like rappelling off the jump tower (where my friend Dan, with his ultra confidence in me and enthusiastic persistence locked eyes with me until I took the step to certain death and / or broken legs) and out of a helicopter (ditto); and long marches. We had TGIF gatherings and formal Mess dinners together and soon we started hanging out as friends. We would drive to neighbouring countries, cities, towns and villages. We would check out various restaurants and go for hikes or to a soccer match. We would find English movies to watch in various Movie houses. One of our favourite places to go was Strasbourg, France. It was so beautiful and medieval. We also loved going to the baths at Baden-Baden.
We would stay at the baths for a few hours and walk on the crooked cobble-stone lane ways until we found a little bistro. Famished from the baths.
At Christmas time, feeling that I had just finally settled in, I thought I may not go home back over the pond. I would just stay and catch up on work and have a quiet time, solo. My apartment phone rang. When I answered it my eldest brother Matt’s unmistakable voice asked my why I wouldn’t be coming home. In his deep, slow drawl he said, ‘Marnie, I almost died a few months ago. I’ve just re-learned how to walk. You really need to come home. We’re going to have a big Family Christmas party. You can stay with us. Come home, okay?’
My biggest brother had had a near fatal car accident outside of town up at the lake. He was driving his new convertible and somehow it flipped, throwing him a distance. He landed on his head and was knocked out for days. When he came to, he couldn’t speak properly and he couldn’t walk. He and June persevered, as they would, being who they are – tough and hardworking. They pulled through. June ran the business while Matt did physio and recouped mentally. He would later tell hilarious stories about his time in the hospital. How he would jumble his words and meaning and sayings. Of course, all the nurses loved him. He made everyone laugh.
So, of course I went home and I enjoyed every minute of the catching up and the hyper-ness of being with all the personalities of my big, wonderful family. Silently observing as we all fell into our various roles: the little sister (that was me), the big brother, the joker, the musician entertainer, the nurturer, the best friend to all…we all had a place in the woven fabric of our big family.
Out on a field exercise once we had to do the Junior Officer Challenge. It was twenty-four hours and 75 km with eighteen mini-competition posts along the way. Fifty Junior Officers started out. We nick-named it the Okey-Dokey Challenge. The other female officers and many of the male officers dropped out — mostly due to wicked blisters and injuries. Dean and I did the whole thing together. I was the only woman to finish. The picture here is of us at the last ‘competition’ – wine tasting. Dean and I were seated on a bench, side by side. Luckily, I got to do it again the following year but, not Dean. He had been posted to CFB Baden as the Quarter Master of 3RCR. So, that year, I did most of it with Scott Spinner, also from Walden.
All this time we were spending together though, didn’t turn into romance. Then I found out that my Dean had a girl-friend back home in Newfoundland. Geez. What would I do about that. I was in love with him.
Then it hit me: make him jealous.
That is what I did.
I started dating gorgeous specimens whom I would meet around base or at the Officers’ Mess. Each hunk I met and dated, I made sure to introduce to Dean: Pete, Greg, Chris, Fraser – all nice guys. Dean would prickle slightly when I would bring a new guy to him to meet. This went on for about eighteen months.
One Friday, I had made a date with Fraser — a gorgeous, sweet-natured, blue-eyed, muscled helicopter pilot and I was to meet him later at the Mess. Mid-morning, I was in my office when in walks Dean and sits down. He then did something he had never done before. He asked me to go to a soccer banquet with him later that evening. Bristling, I asked him if this was a date. ‘Yes’, he said.
What?! I was so mad. I called him an asshole.
He looked at me with shock of his face. I asked him if he thought I had nothing going on on a Friday night. I told him about my date with Fraser and that no, I couldn’t go to his silly banquet. I was seething.
Later I was with Fraser all I was doing was talking about Dean and how much he angered me. How could he really expect me to be just available to him, just like that. I went on and on. Fraser looked at me and gently but firmly said: ‘M, go to the banquet. Don’t worry about me. Just go.’
Off I went. The banquet was in a restaurant just up the street from my apartment. After the banquet, Dean and I walked the cobble-stone street to my apartment, arm-in-arm.
We have been together ever since.
That was 1990. It is now 2020 and we are about to celebrate 28 years married. I am the luckiest girl in the world.
After we started dating, we began to go away on weekend or week-long trips. We went skiing in the Swiss Alps, staying at a chalet. The Alps were beyond belief. We would ride various lifts up to the peak, spend a couple hours skiing up there, then ski down to a chalet for lunch and a beer – the scenery from the chalet was enough to bring tears to your eyes. Spectacular. After refreshments, we would ski for a couple more hours in the middle of the alps and then ski down to the base where we would find the lodge and end our day. It was blissful.
Another trip found us in the Austrian Alps on Officer Adventure Training. Well subsidized. The Austrian Alps were also spectacular. This time we were staying in a quaint village that looked like something from a painting or a Christmas card. So picturesque with its crooked, old stone buildings, shutters, balconies, cobble stones, wrought iron and of course, the layer of pure white snow on every surface and not a flat roof in sight.
Another trip we went on together though was to Corfu, Greece. We had two weeks at an all-inclusive resort and we had an amazing trip. The trip ended with the two of us exchanging identical rings on a hill in an olive grove. We were now engaged to be married. Oh happy day!
In Greece, we met an older couple named Mary and David from Scotland. They made the mistake of inviting us to their home to visit some day. Well, we went. We flew into London on a military air craft. We saw Les Miserables, a Tottenham soccer match and we walked and explored all around parts of London. We went to Harrods and stayed in a B & B. Then we took a bus north to Glasgow. Mary and David handed us a shot of whiskey as we arrived at their house. For the next couple of days, they toured us around the countryside to see ruins of Castles, Inverary Village,
boutiques and tea shops. In one shop, I bought a lavender coloured kilt that I later wore to be married in. Dean bought a deer-stocker hat. We went to the pictures one night and then it was over. We headed back to London and flew back to Germany. One regret is that we did not get over to Ireland. To date, we have still not been to Ireland and we would truly like to go.
Somewhere in there, my younger brother Luke came to Germany and stayed in my apartment with me for a number of months, sleeping on my roll-away cot. I look back on that time with regret because I feel that I didn’t spend enough quality time with him while he was there. My attentions were focused elsewhere and I was sometimes rather stressed with pressures at work, which came out in tetchiness with him. Luke was able to pick up a serving job and use my bike to get to the Caserne where the cafe was. One nice time we had was to head down to the Bondensee in Switzerland where we had a bit of time together by the water. I was doing my dive licence at that time and needed to conduct a deep dive. Because the visibility at depth was about nil, it was fairly intense and I had to talk to myself the whole time to stay calm. After getting my SCUBA licence, I never dove again. It just wasn’t something that I liked doing, after all. While I was deployed on exercise for several weeks, Luke went home to Canada. I missed him bitterly after he was gone. He had met a very sweet lady who herself was ready to head home and I thought they would be together forever, but, alas, one never knows.
It was about this stage in our young relationship that Dean and I started to discuss the idea of getting out of the army. We would make our own way out on civvie street. We had no real idea what we would do for jobs, but, we knew for certain that we did not want to be ‘in’ any longer.
We were honourably discharged from the Canadian Forces in March of 92 and moved in with Dean’s parents into their 800 square foot house in Newfoundland. A few months later we started another adventure…travelling all over Canada and into Alaska in our 1976 VW Van named ‘Betsy’ that we brought home from Germany.