TBT – Kamikaze Friends

J&K wedding

I remember this day so clearly. It was the summer of 1994. My dear friends Karen and Jeff got married in the Rose Garden in Stanley Park. There were only four of us there. Karen, Jeff, me and my ex-husband. (We were married at the time). It was a beautiful sunny summer day and we were young and happy and had no cares in the world.

My ex-husband met Jeff through a friend of his. They were going sailing one day and his friend asked if his cousin could come along. When I got home from work that day the three of them were all hanging out in the front yard drinking beer and laughing at Jeff’s titanic impression on the boat that day. “I’m the king of the world” he screamed as he hung onto the front of the bow.

Jeff and Karen met purely by chance. They were both extras in a movie being shot at Nat Bailey stadium. Karen spied Jeff in the crowd and surreptitiously maneuvered her way a little closer to him. Okay, maybe not so much a “chance” meeting. We met Karen a short time later and the four of us hit it off right away.

We had a lot in common. We all loved tennis and played doubles any chance we got. We all loved to travel. We all loved cooking and good food and spent many evenings cooking and drinking wine together. And then there were the Kamikazes. Frozen vodka and lime cordial shooters. I’m not sure why we thought they were a good idea but they were present at every occasion. How many times we headed out to the tennis courts with wicked hangovers I can’t recall. Oh and did I mention that we ended up living right beside each other?

Karen and I were die hard Martha Stewart fans. This was before she went to jail…Martha not Karen. I still have the Martha Stewart cookbook they gave me on my thirtieth birthday. It’s a bit torn up and stained but every time I open it I think of them.

On the day they got married in the Rose Garden by a justice of the peace there couldn’t have been a happier couple. So in love and so happy to have found each other. Both had been married before and endured difficult divorces. As we drank champagne in a horse-drawn carriage we toasted their good fortune in finding each other. And then we did kamikaze shots. It was kind of our thing.

J&K spoons

The horse-drawn carriage took us along the edge of lost lagoon and down the path to the Tea House. That’s when the picture was taken. Karen and I on the lawn across from the restaurant, overlooking English Bay. Considering it was mid nineties I had some awesome 80’s hair going on. Karen, of course, looked fabulous in her wedding dress.

A couple of years later, 1996, the four of us all went to Mexico together. I had just found out that I was pregnant and Karen discovered that she was pregnant while we were there. I still remember how the two of them giggled when they told us how they had gone into a pharmacy in Cancun and quietly tried to find a pregnancy test that didn’t have instructions in Spanish. Our sons were born two months apart.

J&K hammok

In February of 1997 my husband and I split up. Jeff and Karen were in a difficult position. They were still living beside my ex but found it difficult to accept the things he had down that ultimately ended our marriage. They were both there on the day that I moved into my new home but shortly after moved to Calgary. That was 1997. In 1999 Jeff passed away in his sleep.

Our carefree days were over and the realities of a different life set in. Karen’s birthday is coming up next month. I might just need to go out and by some vodka and lime cordial. The Best Thing in Life is beautiful memories and life long friends.

Michele

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A few years back I was part of a group of women who would head out onto the cross county biking trails of the North Shore mountains as often as we could. We were all moms of varying cycling and fitness abilities but we enjoyed each other’s company, the exercise and the time away from our angelic children. Typically Sunday morning we would meet at about 8:00am and ride for a couple of hours or until the need for coffee kicked in. It was on one of these Sunday morning rides that I met Michele. Michele is a police officer.

Recently Michele and I got together for a drink with the purpose of talking about divorce for a piece I’m writing. We did talk about divorce, but we also talked a lot about her career, relationships and parenting teenage boys. What I took away from our conversation are some great additions to my piece on divorce, some excellent parenting tips, but more importantly, I learnt about the life of a female police officer and how her career has been instrumental in her personal growth.

When Michele and I first met, she had just recently moved to the Vancouver area and was looking to get hired by a local police force . She was going through a separation (potential divorce) but totally seemed to have it together. Having been through a divorce, I admired how rational she seemed to be when it came to talking about her soon to be ex and their relationship. Was I assuming that as a police officer she was probably pretty tough and could handle herself in any situation? I guess I was, because I know now that in her own words she was a mess. Living in a new city, no job and a failing marriage. Yipee!

Things did turn around pretty quickly for her career though. She was hired by the Vancouver Police Department and started to settle in. When I asked her about harassment on the job she said that it has never been an issue, mostly because of the way she has handled it. She told me a story about how, as a new member of the VPD, a fellow officer had made a sexual comment to her after a drunken Christmas party. The next day when she figured out who had said what, she didn’t get mad, she got even. She walked into the morning briefing with a sealed envelope in her hand. Looked the guilty culprit in the eye and told him that she didn’t take these things lightly. She put the envelope down in front of him and said. “You’ve been served” implying that she would sue him. Inside the envelope was a picture of a huge set of hooters with the caption “Next time you want to look at a set of boobs, look at these.” Classic.

Dealing with the end of her marriage proved to be more difficult. She was seeing a therapist but still struggled with feelings of failure and self-doubt. At this time Michele was working with the domestic abuse unit of the VPD. While on a follow up call to a battered woman’s home she suddenly realized that she was saying all the same things to this woman, that her therapist was saying to her. It’s not your fault, you are a strong person who can do anything and do it on your own. The lightbulb not only went on for her, but it made her realize¬†what these women were dealing with¬†and how best she could help them. I’m pretty sure that this is what Oprah refers to as an “ah ha” moment. As she continued her work, not only did she get stronger herself but her ability to empathize and help the women she worked with grew immensely.

After a few years Michele moved out of the domestic abuse unit and into homicide. How cool is that? She is confident and knows that whatever life has to throw at her she can deal with it. Her sons are in university now and she is venturing into a new relationship. She is grateful for the time she spent with the domestic abuse team and knows how much it taught her about life and handling adversity.

I truly have a new respect for police officers and how they approach their work. Michele became a police officer to help people and ended up helping herself. How is that not one of The Best Things in Life?