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Genesis of a Historical Novel

Monday, October 31, 2005


We move into the last week of Kimmie's vacation. It's a rainy Halloween. It was 22 years ago today that Kim and I first met. We were both new trainees in a class of insurance-processing clerks at the Insurance Corporation of B.C. I was one of four men in the class of 14. It was my first white-collar job (I was 24) and I considered it to be the easiest working gig ever: sitting in a classroom, mainly full of young women, learning how to complete auto-insurance forms and such, and being paid a decent (union) wage for it.

Kim and I went out for the first time the following year, just after Mother's Day. I took her and her 3-year-old daughter Robin to the Vancouver Aquarium. Next I asked her retired mechanic father, Fred, to take a look at the disintegrating Mazda station wagon I'd bought. (His words to Kimmie: "I didn't want to tell him, but I think he's bought a lemon." Too right.)

More months passed, when we did not go out, but saw each other each night at work. In February 1985 Kim invited me and another (female) coworker to a curry dinner at her apartment, and that proved to be the date that cemented a relationship. She became my girlfriend. After some other adventures and misadventures, I suggested that we move in together, and Kimmie invited me to join her and Robin in their two-bedroom apartment in North Vancouver, a short walk from our work (I was living across the water in Vancouver at the time). In late September 1985 we became a household.

In 1987, while driving up the hill to Safeway to buy hotdog buns, we passed an "open house" sign outside a newly built townhouse building, and decided to look in. There was one three-bedroom unit left in the nine-suite woodframe building, palatial compared to our old creaky apartment down on 2nd Street. We had no money. I bought a book of mortgage tables, did some figuring, and we put in an offer on the place. We were accepted. We cobbled together financing from our credit union, my friend Harvey Burt, and a final $5,000 from Kim's dad, and became homeowners. The interest rate on the first mortgage was 11.5%.

In May 1989, while I was on a one-month group-meditation retreat in the Colorado Rockies, it became clear to me that I wanted to marry Kimmie. Despite the warning of our retreat director not to make any life-decisions as a result of our meditation, I returned home and, in the parking-lot of The Cannery seafood restaurant in Vancouver, proposed. Kim accepted, and in August we were married at a festive wedding in our own house.

We're still living in the same townhouse, and we're still married. It has not always been smooth sailing, as any couple who's been together 20 years can no doubt attest. I'm not sure how much of the...unsmoothness has been due to my vocation of writing, but it must have been some. Certainly, the life of a writer is risky and strange, the more so if he leaves paying employment from time to time, as I have, to follow his avocation. We have fought about money from time to time over the years, although things are calm now, and we have owned our house since 2000.

The last real upset in our relationship was at the end of 2001, when I was making up my mind about whether to follow a longtime dream and spend some time at a Buddhist monastery. Not only would I not be earning, I would be absent--for a full year. Eventually Kim accepted my decision, and I left on Valentine's Day 2002 for Gampo Abbey in Cape Breton. In late July I ruptured my Achilles tendon in Sackville, New Brunswick, and had to return home early. The gods had sent back, I felt.

While I healed, I got to work on my opus. Afraid of its size and ambition, I found it hard to commit to it completely, and searched for other, easier things to work on at the same time. But gradually I dropped other ideas to focus only on this. I realized, as I did at that meditation retreat in 1989 about my relationship with Kimmie, that I was already married--I just hadn't acknowledged fully yet.

Now I have. For better or for worse.

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