You see, I was in Kingston one summer, visiting family and friends. One evening I phoned Sue from my cheap motel room. This room had a hole under the sink just the right size for a fat rat, and one night, I heard munching and the smacking of tiny, moist lips while I was half asleep.
Anyway, during our chit-chat, she informed me she’d set up a web page. For little old me. Not only that, but she’d ordered business cards. A thousand of them. I didn’t have to lift a finger. How easy was that?
Sue is my super editor and writing champion. And that’s besides being my partner, confidante and friend. Sue can edit anything and do it in her sleep. No kidding. I’ve heard her parsing her dreams. Ha!
Every writer needs an editor like Sue.
Stephen King, On Writing
One of the traits I most admire in Sue is her concern and empathy for those who need understanding and help in finding their way through the layers and layers of boundaries, imposed prerequisites and class expectations society confronts us with. And Sue understands how these social separators operate and could have, if she’d been so inclined, slipped easily into one of these societal comfort zones.
There are, in this world, well-off, self-satisfied people who don’t understand the complex realities behind their good fortune. These folks can make life quite hellish for those who aren’t so blessed, because many of these lucky ones are found in places of power, and some, regrettably, use their positions to negatively affect the lives of the less fortunate.
Sometimes, their jobs are to actually help the disadvantaged and so, if they lack humility, empathy, intelligence and the emotional smarts, they can be quite destructive to the well-being of those requiring help.
Sue, who possesses a kind and stalwart heart, has spent much of her life trying to help struggling individuals learn how to cope in this full-speed-ahead world. Often on her own time. Listening to people and helping them to regain their self respect and find fulfilling positions. And it isn’t an intellectual cause for Sue, or a makes-me-feel-nice-inside thing. It’s her passion.
An example. Can you imagine going to a job interview, with your teeth falling out because you have no money for dental care? What’s the chance you’d get the job? This was actually one of the many concerns that deeply affected Sue, as one of her adult students faced this situation.
I remember, one sunny afternoon, standing under a large oak tree and chatting with Sue. During this conversation, Sue told me a sad story about a little Aboriginal girl who’d drowned on the northern reserve where she had been teaching. I could see that she’d been greatly affected by this tragic story. I have some tragic stories of my own and I could feel my tears threatening to do a belly flop onto the soft earth.
That was actually the conversation where I experienced that scary flutter in my stomach. When I thought, “Oh, oh! A new relationship beginning here. A whole new world approaching. Dive! Dive!”
I remember visiting a school where Sue worked. I was particularly struck by two older students. There they were, sitting behind a long wooden table. They may have been in their fifties or late forties. They were struggling with math problems. When I’d been introduced to them, the aura of friendliness and acceptance they’d returned was humbling. What stories could they tell me?
Her hair slicked back standing on the street
One stockinged foot toeing the sidewalk
Her shoe in her hand. Looking intently into it.
She pulls out the paper insole to find the nail
That has been hurting her.
William Carlos Williams, “Proletarian Portrait”
And there was Sue, washing the classroom’s dishes and I remember thinking, as I observed her dignified and caring movements, that I was witnessing a touch of saintliness. That this classroom was more spirit-filled than many well-dressed-parishioner-stuffed churches.
Believe you me. I know many of Sue’s stories. And I know that most of her life, the choices she has made were honest, tough, necessary and caring responses to what the universe had tossed at her. I have no doubt.
polished the journal page
as my pen sought immortality.
I whisked away a faded piece of thread,
disorder where I demanded clarity.
A pen for my eternity.
A pen for his fecundity.
Lily pads clinging to purity,
the bog’s mist pulling the curtain on us all.
But my pen is loaded with hope.”
Larry Gibbons, “Seminal Dreams”
One April day, I drove to the forested area where Sue lived. I didn’t know Sue at the time. She wasn’t even a glint in my truck’s headlamps. Anyway, I drove my old truck up the dirt road and parked on top of a hill. The road was mushy from the spring thaw and I only went up one hill because I was afraid I might get stuck. I then hiked into the Frontenac Provincial Park.
When I returned to my truck there was a note stuck behind my truck’s windshield wiper. It basically said that this note-writing person was very upset and blamed me for digging up the road. Apparently this letter-person had worked hard and long to get the road graded and gravelled and then along comes this yahoo, me, who’d torn up the road.
I was miffed at this note and thought it had been penned by a guy whom I didn’t particularly like. So, later on, I wrote a letter to this letter-writer.
Well, I won’t go into everything that happened, but suffice to say some strange and coincidental things occurred. The kind of happenstances that don’t, I think, occur so often in the mass dating services. So, as the two of us fired letters back and forth, we came to an understanding. Partially because of my non-edited letters. Which proves you can get your point across by using many different grammatical concoctions.
As a result of our pen-palling back and forth, I eventually found out it was Sue who had written the letter and she found out it was Larry who had written back. At one point she emailed me and invited me to drop around some time, big boy. Ha!
I did drop in at some later time. I didn’t want to look too eager, plus I was a little shy. Like who was this woman who lived in a cabin in the woods?
And I ended up with a super editor to boot.
Oh, and by the way, it turned out it hadn’t been my truck which damaged the road, but a Ministry of Natural Resources truck.
Anyway, one day in the early winter, and after a light snowfall, I decided to hike into the park. I was now living with Sue in her cabin and because of the weather we’d begun parking our vehicles a half K down the road. That’s where we stockaded them in the winter months because our road didn’t get snow ploughed.
So, I threw on my winter clothes and hiked to the park gate. When I got to the gate I saw a four-wheel-drive truck parked by the gate and three fellas hiking out of the woods towards this truck. I knew the one fella, but not the other two.
The man I knew, shouts, “Oh, there’s the ass-hole!”
I was a little taken aback. I didn’t have a clue what he was talking about.
He knew he’d confused me, so he explained to the others and to me what he’d meant by that rather rude statement.
“This is Larry, who was called an asshole by Sue, the woman he’s now living with. He’s the guy who wrecked the road by driving over it in the early spring.”
Now I knew what he was getting at and I didn’t bother arguing about who was guilty and not guilty.
The walk to the gate was a long enough hike, so I took up his kind offer to give me a ride back. His truck, as I mentioned, was a four-wheel-drive, so he had no trouble navigating the rough road. And I couldn’t help but notice that his truck was carving some fresh gouges into the partially snow-covered, but muddy road. I was sensitive to this fact because of the earlier conversation.
That evening, Sue and I had to get ready for a Christmas party with my co-workers. So, Sue’d made a big feed of devilled eggs. I love devilled eggs.
It was kind of a big deal because I believe this was the first party that Sue and I were going to attend as a couple. Sue was, obviously, worried about meeting these strangers and so, I’m sure she took extra care with the devilled eggs.
Later on, we hiked down the dirt road towards our vehicles. It was dark and we had to use head lamps. We hiked toward the top of the first big hill. There were two steep hills we had to deal with on this road.
We carefully walked down the first hill. It was slippery and Sue hung onto her precious devilled eggs for all she was worth. Suddenly, Sue slipped or tripped over a fresh gouge in the road. Down she went, valiantly trying not to flatten her devilled eggs.
And then I heard, echoing through the forest and across the nearly frozen lake, “Who's the asshole who made this mess on the road?”
Sue survived, the eggs survived and the party was a good time. However, I couldn’t wait to get back to work and tell my friend he’d now joined the very elite, ‘Asshole Club’.