A Posting to Germany and a Lifelong Romance, part 4

…it is the belief that there are no coincidences but that rather, everything in life has a pattern and that a coincidence is simply the moment that the pattern becomes briefly visible. 
~Anthony Horowitz

During our training at CFB Borden, Ontario in logistics and field army tactics called Environmental Specialty Land, almost all of my ninety or so classmates were officially asking for a posting to Germany following successful completion of their training.  Germany was considered one of the best postings for a young officer.  Living in Europe had its pluses: travel, good food, amazing souvenirs, clocks, chocolate, schnapps and furniture, it also came with an overseas allowance, separation allowance, if applicable and, it was more prestigious – there was even a medal out of it: the NATO Service Medal.

This seems unbelievable now, but, unlike almost all of my colleagues, I did not ask for a posting to Germany.  When interviewed, I told my career manager to send me anywhere.  I am 22 with no strings and I have no wishes in particular.  In my head, it would be a new adventure wherever I was sent.  I was excited to really start my career and, it was a big wide world out there.  Location wasn’t a big worry to me (although I would be sad to be sent away from Dean but, knew that that was inevitable).

I’ll never forget the day of the decisions for our postings.  I kept seeing classmates exit the interview office with red-rimmed eyes, like they had been crying.  Others were quiet and sullen.  Others were frantically calling their spouses from the pay phones (there were no cell phones in 1989) and arguing loudly or discussing quietly.  Finally, it was my turn to go in.  I had no idea that what she was about to say to me would shape my future: bring me my true love, a wonderful son and the happy, contented life I now enjoy.

My career manager remarked about my comments about send me anywhere.  ‘Hmm,’ she said, ‘you’re doing well on your training.  I like your attitude.  How about Germany?  Would you like to go to Germany?’ My answer was simple: ‘Sure’, I said with a shoulder shrug.  I was truly feeling like this was just another one of my adventures in life.  I was feeling fortunate but trepidatious.  It dawned on me that I shouldn’t walk out of that office and announce it to my classmates.  I put a button on it and walked out looking down, like everyone else.

Then began the screening process for Germany.  There were a few steps.  The Canadian Forces wanted to ensure that healthy soldiers were sent overseas.  Mine was easy.  Good health. Good teeth. No family.  No spouse.  My no-strings life was likely the reason I was to be sent there.  Much cheaper for them. I was still very much secretly in love with my Newfoundlander classmate, Dean, the first person I met on training in Borden, Ontario but it was one-sided.  Me toward him, not both ways – not even close.  In fact, I walked around like a love-sick calf and could barely speak whenever he was about.  It was crazy.  I had never before been so affected by a prospective date.

So, I kept it on the low-down about my posting to Germany.  So many others had so wanted to go there, I thought they would hate me if they found out I got it.  Our training continued and I said nothing.  One day, that I will never forget as long as I live, I was sitting in the common room of our barracks spit-polishing my boots.  There were a few classmates in there too, chit-chatting.  Walter says to Randy: ‘did you hear that Dean is going to Germany?’

My head came up.

I dropped my boot.

Oh my god.

OH…MY…GOD!

It was meant to be.

It would only be a matter of time before we would be together.  I knew this in my soul.  This was another one of those pivotal times in my life when it seemed that the fates took over and steered my life in a certain direction.  I was just going with it.  I have since come across something in a novel by Anthony Horowitz…it is the belief that there are no coincidences but that rather, everything in life has a pattern and that a coincidence is simply the moment that the pattern becomes briefly visible. With the way that my entire being was vibrating with joy at the news of being sent to Germany at the same time as my secret love…surely this was the pattern being briefly visible.

A few months later, I arrived in Germany and moved into my barrack room.  It was a short walk to the Black Forest Officer’s Mess – one of the most beautiful messes in the Canadian Forces due to its German architecture, interior design and beautiful surroundings – forest and lush grounds.  Canadian Forces Officers were treated well.  I was in the common room, meeting up with some of the other folks who were in the same barracks.  Hearing the tapping of cleats on the floor, I looked up and saw Dean walking toward me…

Be still my heart.

He was in his soccer gear and covered head to toe and long strong, muscled legs, in mud.  He was so athletic, fit, boyish, gorgeous and delicious looking.  I was tongue tied.  With stars dancing in my eyes, I asked him what he was doing there.  He told me he had heard I was arriving today and he thought he would come and meet me.  Yikes.  I was so in love.  I was shocked that he was there for me.  I remember feeling quite surprised but pleased that he was there…for me.  (I found out later that he was ‘tasked’ by our Company 2i/c to meet me and ensure that I got settled in and shown around, oh well.)

The next day Dean picked me up and we went to meet our new Commanding Officer.  I was given ‘A’ platoon in Supply and Transportation Company of 4 Service Battalion.  Dean had Supply Platoon, same company.  So, we would be working closely together on a day to day basis.  I got that same warm feeling of anticipation.  There were so many other units that we could have each been sent to, separately, but here we were side-by-side.  Coincidence.  The pattern was showing.

Again, it was being reinforced that we would be together.

….Continued — A Posting To Germany and a Lifelong Romance (part 5)

 

I’m In the Army Now … part 1

I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.

D.H. Lawrence

After a great summer of fun and foibles at the camp, I went to Waterloo University for part of first term when I was told by my father that he would not be helping with the expense. He had always told me that I would be the only one of seven to go to University and that he would pay my way. Well, he was wrong on both parts of that sentence. My little brother Luke finished with a degree or two, with no financial help. I made it to University but was left high and dry when he refused to help with the fees. I even called my Grandfather, whom everyone knew to be well-off and with whom I had always had a strong relationship. He flat-out refused me saying that all his money was ‘tied up’ in certificates. So there I was, nineteen at a huge University, two hours from home, with their accounts receivable people hounding me to make a payment. I had worked the previous summers and had plowed every penny of my savings into the first payment for residence and for my books. I had no money left. I tried to find a job but that too fell flat, as jobs were not meant for first-years. Thinking very, very hard about my current options, and not wanting to just walk away without a plan for my next move, I sat down to contemplate…then an idea struck…THE ARMY.

Pte BRecruiters had come to my high school the previous year with posters and glossy pictures of the kind of life you could have in the army. (It was just like that scene in the 1980 comedy Private Benjamin when Goldie Hawn looks at the glossy pictures of what she thinks of as military yachts and she is SOLD on joining the US Navy.)  I had been told, after an aptitude test result years before, that I would do well in uniform. Hmmm. That caused pause for reflection. I pulled out the phone book for the city of Kitchener-Waterloo and found out the location of the recruiting centre. I put on some nice clothes and smoothed my curls into a braid, hopped on the city bus and made my way there. I walked in to find a young man in uniform sitting behind the desk. He asked me all about my high school life and extra-curricular activities. When he heard that I was active and sporty and had good marks, he told me that I was, in his words: Officer Material.

‘Wonderful,’ I said. ‘What next?’ He told me to come back with a thousand word essay about why I wanted to get in the forces. He said there would be an aptitude test when I returned. I went back to residence on a mission. From there, I wrote the essay, took and passed the test and checked out of Waterloo University.

The week I arrived back in Barrie, I moved in with my Mom and her alcoholic, ex-navy boy-friend, Earl.  We would call him Earl-the-Pearl. I had no bedroom. I slept on the couch. I found two jobs serving tables. One at a five-star restaurant and the other at a bar on the opposite end of town. Living in this way brought me down. It was a tough winter. All my high school friends were away at Uni except Kelly who was at the Georgian College. Thankfully I had a good steady job to go to every day.  My boss at the five-star was a womanizing prick from North Africa, who would lean in to talk to me just a little too closely, and constantly comment on the breasts of female customers.  Creepy.  At least I had a steady gig and it got me up and out and talking to people and making a bit of money every day. The chef at the five-star restaurant taught me one or two things about the joy of good food. He was extreme in his thinking and very sharp in his opinions.  He always had a hot lunch set aside for me.

In April, at the restaurant, just after lunch when it was quiet, the landline phone behind the bar rang.  A voice told me, ‘You have been accepted to the Regular Officer Training Program of the Canadian Armed Forces.  You will need to swear in downtown Toronto.  We will mail your instructions to you.  Do you understand?’

Holy shit.  I got in!  My mind began to race…what will this entail???

Earl-the-Pearl let me use his red pickup to drive down to the recruiting centre.  On the way down the multi-lane highway something terrifying happened.  On a dirty-weather day with all kinds of slush and dirt on the highway, I ran out of windshield wash.  My windshield suddenly became dark brown and opaque.  I couldn’t see a thing and I was in the middle lane.  I rolled the windows down and while praying, white-knuckling and sweating, moved over to the shoulder.  Sweaty and breathing heavy I realized that I had just escaped a very bad situation.  I sat with my hood up and waited for a few minutes, thinking.  Just then, a good Samaritan came along and filled my reservoir with windshield wash then helped me clean my windshield with a handful of snow.  I vowed to one day be as kind as this man.  I made it to the ceremony on time and met some folks who are still my friends today, thirty plus years later.

Next was Basic Training which would begin in June and last for six weeks. At that point, I didn’t know where I would be sent, after basic, but had been informed that the Canadian Forces would be sending me to University and that I would also receive a salary while at school. So they would feed, dress, house and educate me, as well as pay me.  Geesh.  That sounded promising!

Basic Training took place in Chilliwack, BC at the Officer Candidate School. The six weeks went by in a blur of early morning running, push ups, inspections, weapons training, map and compass training and combat field training: marksmanship, marching with rucksack and the beginnings of how to issue Orders, amoung many other things like: combat first-aid, introduction to code and de-coding, bed-making with sharp corners, folding shirts into an exact square, sock-rolling, knot-tying and more. I found it fascinating, most of the time, and did well on this training, passing in the top third of my platoon: Nine Platoon – DOGS OF WAR!!!

Next: Army Part 2