The life story of Ted and Vickie

Time moves slowly when you’re not having fun, but it does move.

Photo of Keystone Heights beach

Keystone Heights Beach

Fast forward to two years later. Macho Park Ranger Guy and I had been married for 6 years – 6 totally wasted years of my life. Since our move to Keystone Heights I had been working multiple jobs again. During the day I packaged hamburger in the meat department of the grocery store, at night I served drinks in the local bar.

Meantime, Macho Park Ranger Guy was a park ranger through the day and had bought a boat with a rotted transom in partnership with another park ranger. The two of them planned to repair this boat and use it to import and sell pot. I’m not sure where they were going to get the contacts or how they were going to evade the authorities.  He had built a greenhouse on the back of our trailer right in the park living compound and was growing pot there. Maybe he thought he could sell enough home grown pot to afford repairs on the boat? Not that it mattered, mostly they sat around drinking beer, smoking pot, and talking about how rich they were going to be when they sold the first big boat load of pot. Oh well, I never said he was bright, only that he was a park ranger.

For the first time in my married life, I believe it was November two years after the move to Keystone Heights so I had been married for six years, my parents came for a visit. Of course they saw the pot plants. Later Mom let me know that Dad had changed his mind. Rather than see me go to jail as an accomplice, he wanted me to move home.

FINALLY!! I had somewhere to go so in November I packed my stuff in the van, wrote a ‘Dear Macho Guy’ letter, and headed for ‘home’. At that time I was 5’2″ tall, weighted about 89 pounds, and for the next week my stomach hurt so bad I couldn’t stand up straight. I think it was the first time I had let myself relax in years and I was having muscle spasms.

After my stomach settled I got a job in a pharmacy as a cashier and worked through the Christmas season – a job that actually lasted until the first of January. An job where I didn’t come home smelling of blood or like an alcoholic. The first week of January my first and only nephew was born. Since he was delivered by cesarean section and his mother had complications, I moved in with my brother and took care of the baby until my sister-in-law came home from the hospital. My first child. I never realized there was so much to keeping a baby: sterilizing bottles and nipples, changing diapers, heating formula, changing diapers, giving baths, and did I mention… changing diapers. By the way, for some of you who are really out of touch with babies and think you want one…diapers REALLY STINK!

photo of Gold Head State Park

Beach at Gold Head State Park

I was only back at my parents house for a few days when Macho Man called and said he loved me. He promised the sun and the moon and that he would change, then said he wanted me back. Great timing. No Christmas presents required. I guess he forgot my birthday was the following week. Anyway, I thought, “Maybe he realizes what a prize I am, and has decided to be a man and change his ways.” So….OK, maybe I’m not the brightest light on the planet….I moved back in with him. In self defense, I was still naive enough to believe love can change people. Of course, they have to actually be in love for that to happen.

Within an hour I knew nothing had changed and it wasn’t going to work. What was my first clue? His statement, “By the way, I talked to the owners at the bar and told them you’d take your old job back.”

My response, “I don’t want to work there any more. I think I’m going to take some time off.”

Over the next few weeks he started following me around the house yelling at me for no reason. I would go to the bathroom and he would follow me in, beer in hand, to yell at me. Once he grabbed me and shook me so hard my head almost flew off.

I moved my things into the spare room, and that night he moved in with me. Imagine my surprise. In the middle of the night I moved back to the master bedroom.

At one point I was cooking. I had cut potatoes for french fries and had to leave the room for something. When I came back I sat on the sofa and he took a scoop of potatoes from the frying pan and slung them across the room, hitting me across the face with them. Fortunately it was a fair distance so the grease cooled enough before it hit me that I only had red marks and not blisters on my face.

The following and badgering got worse. He even did it to my dog until the dog finally bit him, then he took the dog out to the woods and shot it. I was living in a horror story.

Finally he pushed me too far, I grabbed something off the counter and hit him across the face with it. Busted his nose. Surprise! He stopped bothering me for a few days, and during that time……

Ted showed up again.

Tune in next week for the continuing saga of Ted and Vickie…

We Meet Again….

March 1, 2011

The story of Ted and Vickie

The second time Ted and I met came as a bit of a surprise to me. After all, I was married to a state park ranger and living in the Florida Keys. I had long ago lost count of the people we met who stayed in the park and promised we would see them again. Of them all, I don’t recall more than five that returned for a second stay in the years we were there.

The first visit by Ted and Sharon had been in the summer, and had lasted three months. That was two years ago. Since then my relationship with Macho Park Ranger Guy had deteriorated to living in the same residence. No real love lost between us. More like a co-tenancy of the residence. I was on birth control pills and really didn’t even want to be touched. He was on Macho pills and wanted his marital rights twice a night. It was a match made in hell. I took sleeping pills so at least he didn’t wake me up for his pleasure.

So, you can imagine my surprise when Macho Park Ranger Guy came home one day with Ted and Sharon in tow! They were on the verge of break-up and had decided to visit the Keys again to try and kick-start their relationship. Macho Park Ranger Guy and I were still living together, mostly because we had no place else to be and because he couldn’t afford to live by himself – even in the park compound. 

I was still working multiple jobs and needed some sleep, but since I had the evening off Ted and Sharon invited us out to dinner in Marathon. I don’t off the top of my head remember the restaurant, but it was on the bay side and at the time was a landmark for boats in the area. It was painted green and stood out from all the other lighter colored buildings, making it easy to spot from the water. I do remember it was one of the best restaurants in the area.

Midway through the meal I felt another leg rub mine, looked up and caught Ted looking at me. His face was deliberately expressionless.  I was intrigued. Why was he doing that? I felt and looked like something a train had run over me. Was he making a pass at me? Was he teasing me? Was it an accident? I moved my leg away and a little later felt his leg against mine again. OK…maybe it was a pass. Maybe he was near-sighted. I know I was nearsighted, but even so I could see that he had put on some weight and gained some…. presence. He was definitely more attractive than he had been the last time I saw him.

I excused myself to the ladies room and after I returned he ignored me and didn’t touch me again. I don’t remember much of the rest of the conversation at the table or on the way home. My brain was beating me up: ‘Why did you have to choose that moment to go to the ladies room?’ ‘What do you think that was all about?’ ‘Does Sharon know?’ ‘Was she touching Macho Park Ranger at the same time?’ ‘Was this some kind of weird sex invitation?’ ‘Should I just pretend it didn’t happen?’

In the end, I did nothing. The evening progressed as if it never happened. They were staying in a hotel in Marathon and the next day they left for Miami, and from there took a flight back to Canada. I knew I would never see them again, so what did it matter anyway.

A year later, still with no way out, I left for North Florida with Macho Park Ranger Man when he was transferred to Goldhead State Park just north of Keystone Heights.

Tune in next Tuesday for the continuing saga of Ted and Vickie – 35 years of Life, The Universe, and Everything.

I could start this story with the moment we first heard the word ‘cancer’, but that isn’t really the beginning. If there is to be value attached to what was lost, then there must be knowledge of it. I guess this is a romantic tragedy. Therefore, the beginning will begin much earlier than that. It will be the true beginning….no, not back as far as my birth – or his. Perhaps the best place to start is when we first met and our lives began to intertwine.

It was long ago and far away (about 40 years) in the subtropical paradise of the Florida Keys. A lazy sunny place of gentle ocean waves and salt-scented breezes; of warm salty beach water and the smell of rotting seaweed; of knee-high Key Deer and almost invisible no-see-ums that I’m sure resemble a set of poisonous flying fangs if seen under a microscope.

I lived in the midst of all this with my first husband, the short park ranger with the Napoleon complex who liked to drink a lot, smoke a lot – not necessarily cigarettes – and strut in a way that a larger man finds unnecessary.

I already knew my marriage to him was a BIG MISTAKE, but was still young and stupid and had no idea of how to get out. Since my Dad told me when I eloped with Park Ranger Man that, “You’ve made your bed, now you have to sleep in it,” I didn’t think going back home was an option.

At that time we lived hand to mouth, I had three jobs, and on just his park ranger salary we qualified for food stamps. I had learned in the first year of our marriage that if I wanted any money to spend on personal items we would have to have rules about spending. The only rule that worked was to split all the bills down the middle, what was left in his hand was his, what was left in my hand was mine. He mostly drank his salary up and ended up borrowing money from me at the end of the month for his share of the rent.

At 7:00 am I went to work at a convenience store in Marathon, at noon I went to another convenience store between hotels on the beach, changed into an orange bikini, and worked as a cabana girl for the afternoon. That was a fun job and I’ve had my photo taken with more couples in matching flowered shirts and shorts than I can count. At 4:30 I changed again and spent the evenings on Duck Key working as a waitress in the Ship’s Inn until 1:00 am.

It sounds terrible so far, but it wasn’t really. We had a 23′ sloop with a roll-up keel and births for 6 that we sailed around the islands on our days off. Sometimes we would join up with other sailing friends – each couple had their own boat – and would tour around the islands for the entire weekend. The Keys were very laid back in those days and I usually managed to work my shifts so that my days off fell on the same days.

One night I came home and there was my husband sitting in the living room with a tall, skinny, dark-haired man, an exceptionally tall (well over 6′) woman, and a shorter pretty woman. I was introduced to Ted and his two traveling companions. The shorter girl was Sharon, his girlfriend, and the taller girl, Candy, was a friend who was traveling with them.

To tell the honest truth, I was not impressed. It was almost 2:00 in the morning, I was exhausted, Ted was too skinny, Candy was too tall, Sharon was too pretty and I was too tired so I said hello on my way through the house to the bedroom and collapsed to the bed, but couldn’t sleep because they sounded like they were having such a good time.

The following day was a day off so I climbed back out of bed, dressed, and joined the party in the living room.

Now, as a ‘hand to mouth’ household, we didn’t have a lot of stuff in the cupboards so Ted offered to order in something. Order in?? This is the Keys. The nearest open restaurant was in Key West – 79 miles away. So…..we all piled into his car and off we went to the donut shop in Key West! Through the course of that drive we learned a lot about each other and became friends. Macho Park Ranger Man was impressed by the fact that one man was traveling with two women, and was overwhelmed with Candy’s stature. I was mildly amused by the whole thing, and Sharon was stand-offish.

Back then gas was $.39 per gallon so a drive of 79 miles cost almost nothing, but within the next few weeks the gas shortage would hit with drastic consequences for driving in the Keys. For one thing, gas stations would only sell a customer three gallons of gas at a time. This meant that a person driving a Monte Carlo and pulling an 18′ travel trailer couldn’t get enough gas to get to the next gas station, much less back to the mainland. Our new friends were stuck in the Keys!

Over the next three months the five of us spent a lot of time together, sometimes sailing, sometimes bar-hopping, sometimes partying at home, and sometimes at dinners out. As we got to know each other I could see that Ted and Sharon were barely hanging on to a relationship and I guess Ted could see the same about Donny and me.

At that time the knowledge of their relationship problems was merely a point of interest. I was dealing with work, a failing marriage, money shortages, lack of sleep, and a myriad of other less urgent problems and felt no draw toward Ted. He was tall and kind of cute, but too skinny, and seemed like a wimpy kind of person.

All good things come to an end eventually, as did the gas shortage, and soon enough it was time to wave goodbye to the Canadians and for life in the Keys to get back to normal.

If you have a comment or a story about your first meeting with the love of your life, please post it in the comments section. I would love to hear from you. Each week the top story will be posted on the Comments of the Week page.

For those who haven’t met their True Love yet, hand in there. The best things come to those who wait. Until next week……Vickie

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