After Paddy’s had the fire and I was instantly out of a full-time job, I painted most of the rooms in our house and felt the freedom of deciding what to do with my days. Every day, after walking my son, Leo, to school, the day would stretch out with all kinds of possibility.
It wasn’t long before Dean and I were kicking around the idea of starting up our own business. We had noticed the need for a driving school in town, and one thing led to another, and before long we were up and running. This was ironic due to me having been a Transportation Logistics Officer in the Army. I had taken courses in military driving, off-roading, convoying, forward delivery points in the field and had even helped set up a heavy trucking school in Germany, teaching the Service Battalion soldiers how to drive the HLVW , (Heavy Logistics Vehicle Wheeled). These bad boys, as seen below (creds to the guy who signed the pic).
I also had all the office-related knowledge: payroll, payables / receivables, customer service and the like. Dean would be an instructor: he loved to drive and he was both laid-back and had great reflexes.
Just prior to opening doors of our new driving school in June of 2006, while awaiting a few details to solidify, we realized we still had two flights to anywhere in Canada due to cancelled trips of earlier that year. Dean and I brainstormed over where to go and we finally settled on Calgary with the idea that I would take Leo to The Bad Lands and to see the Dinosaur museum. I had my old and dear friend, Layla out there and could possibly stay with her for a few days in High River.
Off we flew and rented a car at the Calgary Airport, driving to High River and seeing Layla was amazing. It had been decades. We smiled and hugged, and I said, ‘we look the same, just weathered.’ Now, she was married with three boys. Leo, who was close to seven, was so excited about three instant new buddies. We walked to meet them after school and Leo was instantly enjoying his new mates as Layla and I got re-acquainted.
I began to notice that Layla was a bit distant. She didn’t meet my eyes fully. She didn’t have all of her normal energy. She was tired and she was keeping me somewhat at arm’s length. We went up in her sons’ tree house and saw a robin staring us down from her house’s rooftop. We put words in its mouth and then laughed and laughed because we had both been thinking the same thing: ‘Get the fuck out!’ That’s what it was saying to us. ‘Get the fuck out!’ There she was. Her old self had surfaced briefly.
Later that evening I had the pleasure of meeting her husband. I immediately sensed that this guy was off. It was all about him. She was in a bad marriage and it was all about him. I felt bad. (Thankfully, it ended a few years later and now she is rid of him. They had met in a religious cult which Layla was in for a few years, because of him).
The next day, Leo and I hit the road out to the Bad Lands and finally getting there, were astounded at the beauty of them. The striations of colour in the sand-stone were incredibly artistic. We took a walk.
Later we went to the Royal Tyrell Museum which was literally out of this world. We couldn’t do it justice though as Leo was feeling a bit sick from being in the car. In the town of Drumheller, Leo climbed up the inside of the steel T-Rex and he was giggling to the whole way.
Later we went to a pool which was the nicest and biggest and funnest pool we had ever been to. There was a huge foam floating climbing structure to jump off and ropes to swing from and slides to go down. This must be Alberta, I thought. At the time, it was very wealthy compared to Nova Scotia.
That night we stayed in a hotel with a Jacuzzi in our room (the clerk, seeing Leo, gave us a free upgrade – he was the cutest!). We put bathing suits on, got in the tub with the new movie ‘ELF’ on the big screen tv. We giggled and giggled and this is a fond memory for me because Leo had been feeling some nausea. He was better and that was a good thing. I loved to hear him laugh.
The next day we were back at Layla’s, staying in a house of an absent in-law of hers and I made a simple supper for them all to come and enjoy. I looked out the window to see all four boys on one bike. Leo was having the time of his life!
We went for a hike in the mountains and had a picnic lunch. The mountains were spectacular! The gray jays were everywhere. We visited a friend of Layla’s with a trampoline and once again, Leo was out there and all the children were laughing and having fun on the trampoline while Layla, Beth and I visited and had coffee. Later Layla made us pate chinois and it was delicious (earlier, I had reminded her that it was my favourite childhood meal that mom would make. I would get home, famished from gymnastics or basketball practise and sit down to Pate. Scrumptious!)
We then played foosball and watched a doc. Foosball was a scream, because I was screaming and because I was screaming, so was Layla who also kept looking at me to see if I was for real. Yep. I get into it a bit much.
The next day, we walked down by the river and all through the little downtown. We had lunch at a wonderful diner.
Layla told me she had received a call that her Gramma was on her deathbed in North Bay. Layla would accompany us to Toronto where she would rent a car and head north. Sitting on the flight, during the safety briefing, Layla made a face in response to a curt instruction from the flight attendant. Oh my god, I nearly peed. She can make me laugh like that and it is just so stupid and funny that there is no rhyme or reason to it. Layla wasn’t able to rent a car because it was her husband’s credit card (and he wouldn’t allow it). She took a bus and made it to her Gramma who died just after seeing Layla. She had made it to say good-bye.
Upon returning to Nova Scotia, we began the driving school and it is still running today, twelve years later. It has been great undertaking with three or four employees whom we generally have a great time with. Driving instructors tend to be folks retired from other professions. We have had a retired school principal, a retired teacher, a retired scientist, an ex-airline worker and a retired engineer. They have taught me a lot over the years and I appreciate them immensely.
I also truly appreciate my old childhood friends. They are the ones who know you. Where you came from. How you were raised. What you are made of. Your values. A genuinely good friend is one you can just pick up with from where you left off. Even decades later. I have several of these people in my life and I appreciate them with all my heart.