I’ve loved Vancouver, B.C. since I first saw it in 1989. I love it more today than ever, because in 1993, Christina Bell came to a workshop I was co-facilitating in Burnaby, B.C., a Vancouver suburb, on a Friday night early in the year.
She didn’t want to be there. Her boss insisted that she attend. When the workshop ended at 9:30, Christina was more than ready to go home. However, she was forced to go to a nearby restaurant with the event sponsors, the speakers, and a few other hanger-ons, by the same boss who had insisted she attend the workshop, the one who had picked her up in Vancouver and drove her to Burnaby.
I was never happy about socializing after speaking. Three hours of maximum energy expenditure never left much for conversation. It was only natural that Christina and I talked quietly at the end of a long table while the rest of the party paid homage to each other at the other end.
We talked about a lot of things our first hour together. I remember two of them like the conversation occurred last night. I am a Vietnam Veteran. I volunteered to serve there and had to extend my service obligation sixteen months in order to go to Vietnam. Christina was a Vietnam War Protester. She wasn’t a wave-a-sign on a sunny day protester, but rather a protester who gave up her family, her position in a doctoral program, and her country for her convictions. When she finished telling me her story, she waited for my reaction. I looked in her eyes and said, “You were right, you know.”
The second thing I remember from that first conversation is inviting her to Sunday’s workshop. Not only did she attend, she sat on the front row.
We became pen pals. Over the next two years we filled seven large journals with our correspondence. We had three of the books in play at all times. We each had one, which we made entries in, until the one in the mail arrived. At that time, we had twenty-four hours to send the one we had been writing in.
Late on a July afternoon in 1996, I pointed my red Jeep west and left Alabama – my destination, Vancouver. I took a slight detour in Iowa to visit the bridges of Madison County. Because I couldn’t wait any longer, I asked Christina to meet me in Missoula, Montana. She didn’t have a problem with that.
Two days later we left Vancouver with a large U-Haul trailer behind the Jeep. We drove to Edmonton, where Fred, Christina’s ex, hosted a going away party and we picked up Christina’s great dog, Tigger.
That happened almost seventeen years ago. Today (Sunday Feb 26,2012), my wife, Christina Carson, is celebrating her sixty-sixth birthday. Nineteen of those years have included me – every day of each one of them has been special.
Happy birthday, my love…