I found myself telling an anecdote at a BBQ the other day.
It felt pretty innocuous to begin, a story about us having a daughter and how unlikely, in genetics and probability, it was.
And as storytelling, and speaking from the heart has a way of doing, before I could catch myself, at the middle of a dinner table, I was telling the story of a woman I was lucky enough to know.
Let me start at the beginning.
I was 21, finishing up my degree, away from family and friends, and expecting a baby.
My husband now- still fiancé at the time, had just graduated RCMP depot, and was posted to a little place in the middle of rural Saskatchewan. We were to live at the house attached to the now mostly-decommissioned detachment. A relic of a recent past, it had become the satellite of a bigger city detachment 30 minutes north.
My fiancé was assigned a trainer that lived in that city. He was a thoroughly solid guy.
He looked the part of the seasoned, wise policeman, and he took my fiancé under his wing and did so much more than merely teach him ‘the ropes’. He never indulged in gossip, instead telling proverbial old bull/young bull stories. He did his job well, and went home to a happy family. He talked to my young, about-to-be father, about his own beautiful wife, their great kids, and never waivered on his commitment to them above all else.
We were invited over to hang out with their family, and as time marched on, in the spring after my fiancé became an RCMP officer, we became a family of three.
And naturally, we had no idea what just happened. We were so inexperienced, and so overwhelmed that I think we spent the first day just staring at this little orange creature ( he was Jaundiced to the point of David Hasselhoff).
As luck, or as I prefer to think of it, divine intervention, would have it, my fiancé’s field trainer’s lovely wife was a nurse on duty in the days after we had our baby boy. She swung by after long shifts to snuggle him, change him, but mostly to reassure me as she helped comb through my lion’s mane (it was quite the job…).
She became my go-to for questions after we were sent home, and the very first person I entrusted my first-born to other than my mother. When our son was 5 weeks old, we had to head out of town for a day of marriage-prep classes (as if having a newborn was wasn't marriage-prep enough). She took my baby boy and snuggled him, hauled him to multiple sporting events with her own kids, and didn’t think I was crazy when I dropped a fifteen-pound diaper bag on her entry room floor, full of useless crap she knew I didn’t actually need.
In short, she was our angel in the trenches of new parent-hood, new career-hood, and being nowhere near our family. It felt so right to get our wedding photos back, and to see her holding our normally colicky five-month old, happily drooling in her smiling arms.
But, as this RCMP life would have it, new posts came calling, and before long they were moved a few hours away.
Shortly after, we got the news that devastated us, and our small community.
I remember stopping in and visiting when things were tough. You wouldn’t have known it from her. Instead she asked about our little guy, and I confided in her that we were trying to have another one and it wasn’t going as fast as we’d hoped. I can’t remember her exact advice, although I’m sure it was delivered with a smile and sage words that reassured me it would happen soon.
I never did get to tell her she was right.
Instead, the day the moving trucks came to take us to our second post, the phone call came, our hearts broke, and the rain pouring down matched the tears on our face.
And then, three weeks later I found out I was pregnant. We visited when we could get back south again, and through more tears we told her husband the news and he was so happy for us.
Then, 16 weeks after that, I found out I was having a baby girl.
The first one in over fifty years on my husband’s side. Genetics and probability were not on our side.
But, I couldn’t help but know she was.
And so as I finished this story at the table, my friend, a fellow RCMP wife looked at me and said “Oh my God. You’re gonna make me cry!”.
And, while it still does make me cry, when I sit down and remember all the stories, and the wisdom she shared with me. All the grace she possessed in this insane lifestyle we live, and all the ways the small window of time we spent together has carried me through 11 years of this life. And, I feel so blessed.
I feel blessed to have known her, and lucky to have met all the people we have met, and had the relationships we have forged, that without this crazy life, we would have never been afforded. And while I still feel a little angry that she didn’t get the pot of gold that I hope comes at the end of this adventure, thanks to her, and the years that have passed, I have begun to see things from a slightly different perspective.
For me, telling these stories, recalling the way she mentored me, and the many lifelong friendships I have acquired along the way, are yet another reminder that the gold doesn't always lie together at the end.
A reminder that perhaps the treasure is to be mined bit by bit, piece by piece, in such a way that if you’re not looking, you can’t always see it.
And if she taught me anything, it’s that in THIS life, sometimes you have to work really hard to try and see it.
But sometimes too, if you’re as lucky as I was, you might hit a jackpot your first trip out.