* * *
Continued from Part I
Heart: That’s awesome, you approached him?
GD: I did. And he had never played tennis in his life. And he came and played it like he had been playing it all his life. (Laughs) So, that kind of started the relationship.
Heart: Tennis or gardening, which one is your biggest passion?
GD: Gardening. Always has been. I think I get that from my mother and father, they both were great gardeners. Despite the fact that he was mentally unbalanced, my father was a very talented man. And he was always experimenting. He would graft things, like a pear onto a peach or something. I think he used to think he was going to the be the next Luther Burbank. (Laughs)
Heart: I will send you an article about a new variety of apples that California farmers are growing. I heard about it on NPR.
GD: I’d like to see this because I am a real apple freak. I drive up to South Carolina and pick my own apples. I like different apples for pies, different ones for sauces and not everything is available in stores.
Heart: Is gardening your meditation?
GD: Yes, I love gardening. When I was suffering with Trigeminal Neuralgia, the only way I could get away from the pain was to go out and work in the garden. And it would take my mind off the pain. Its a wonderful therapy, I think. I love to grow things, I love to see things grow. (Long pause) I’ll show you my seed bed when we go out, I am trying to grow some annuals from seed. I’ve got Zinnias, Marigolds, Asters, Cosmos, all kinds of stuff.
Heart: Did you quit your job to travel all around for your husband’s work?
GD: When we got married, the company put me on a leave of absence and when we came back, the company was in the process of being sold. The tractor division of the company was bought by Fiat, an Italian company. I kind of got caught up in that, so they hired me back temporarily but they never reinstated me. So, when my husband got transferred to England, they just rolled me off. Had I gotten 30 years of service, I would’ve had better pension. Unfortunately, I was there only for 27 years and 8 months. The company moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania and I helped transfer the accounting department down there. They would fly me down in the company plane for a while, and that was interesting.
And finally moving to Lancaster was interesting too. The place smelled a lot like manure. Because the Amish people don’t use commercial fertilizers, they used horse manure, so the whole place permeated with its smell. (Laughs) Thank goodness, we got transferred to England after 9 months. Hurray.
It was a dream come true to live in England. We lived in an old 18th century flat, built in 1723. Let me show you. (GD opens up her email to pull out a link to the house which is on sale now) My best friend from England sent me this link. Its a grade 2 listed building, that means it will never be torn down. In England, you just can’t tear stuff down. A builder has now converted this into flats. Initially we lived in the flat downstairs which had a conservatory (sun room) in the back and then we moved into a bigger flat upstairs.
I re-landscaped the whole place which you can look out of the drawing room. So, I changed the land lady’s “view” when she looked out into the lawn. They had a aga stove in the kitchen. The Brits have refrigerators which are little old dinky things back then. But the kitchen is fantastic otherwise. There was a moat around the property and I planted daffodils all along that moat. The house was called the Huskargs, with magnificent hydrangeas and lilacs all around it. Its on the market now for a million dollars, just one apartment, and there are 4 like these in the building. The beauty of this little town is that you can walk to the train. And anytime you live in England in a town that you’re close to a train, the property value sky rockets.
I would take the train to London, and once there, I would take the tube or a bus or a call a cab. We were in a hotel in London for the first few days and then I saw the ad for rent in the newspaper and we drove up there, and the minute we were on that street, I said to my husband, “I’m going to live here.” Because I loved it.
Heart: Did he take the train to work?
GD: No, he would drive, because Ford was located in the area and they would call it the Ford Ghetto. (Laughs)
Heart: If you moved so much into these unknown places and cultures, how did you survive? How do you have the motivation to step outside and seek new experiences?
GD: I think it comes from inside. Because I’m not afraid of very many things. I mean, I went to Singapore to live, I am thrust into a culture that I’ve never seen or heard of. And there are all these funny things going on like “The festival of the Hungry Ghosts.”, you know. And my husband’s boss took him right out on a field trip for 2 weeks after we had arrived there. And here I’m in a hotel room, and there were a couple of guys in the office who felt they had to look after me. And I said to them, “You don’t have to look after me. I’m fine, you know.” And so, I ventured out every day down the street and they have these open markets where you can just order all kinds of crazy foods. So, I would look at the menu and just point at something I wanted to try. I’ll say, “I’ll have that today.” So that way, I went down the menu and I had diarrhea for 3 weeks, because I was trying out oyster omelets.
And my real estate guy who was looking for an apartment for me was like, “You’ve got to stop eating these fruits, its the fruit that’s doing it.” Because I would tell him, I can’t be too far away from the bathroom.
Heart: Was it the sanitary conditions maybe?
GD: Oh, no, no. Singapore is the Switzerland of Asia. It was just the food and I was trying everything. (Laughs)
Heart: You are just not afraid of anything, are you?
GD: Well, anybody who goes to India on their own is not afraid, right?
Heart: You went on your own? That’s crazy.
GD: My husband was like, “I’ve had enough of the third world, I’m not going. If you want to go, you can go by yourself.” So, I did.
And I remember one of the guys in the office, I think he was a single fellow, he called me up one morning and said, “What’re you doing today?” And I said, “I’m going to the Jurong Bird park.” I’ve always loved birds, and he said, “I’ll go with you.” And I said, “You don’t HAVE to go with me.” They just felt obligated to look after me and well of course, he hated the heat and the humidity. He was British and said, “Gosh, I wish they did something about the weather.” And I said, “OK, let’s just go to the Hilton for a drink.” You know, and a few days later he called again. And I said, “I’m going to the Midnight orchid garden and you’re not coming with me. Because, I don’t want you to complain about the weather or whatever.” (Laughs) I mean, I knew its going to be hot and I was used to playing tennis in that weather, you know, almost everyday.
There’s not much to do, except play tennis and eat. The food is out of the world. I used to go to an Indian market and there was a coconut guy at the end of the street. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience.
Heart: So, you just try to be there, where you are?
GD: When I’m there, I forget the fact that I’m an American. I don’t seek out Americans at all, in fact I avoid them like the plague. (Laughs) I try to learn everything about the country I’m in. I try to make friends with the locals. And I stayed away from the Americans because we called them “The stitch and the bitch.” Because, all Americans do is, complain about all the stuff that they can’t get.
And I don’t care about that, you know. Oh, in England they don’t have any Ziploc bags, oh, they don’t have Saltines, you know. (Laughs)
Heart: (Laughs) First world problems. My kids are like that.
GD: I remember, when we were first going to England, a guy from the office came to me and said, “GD, I had one advice to offer you. Don’t get all hung up on housing. Its not like how’s its in America. You’re not going to have the same kind of house, the refrigerators and the washing machines are little bitty, the stove is little bitty. They don’t call it the stove, they call it the cooker. If you get hung up on those things, you’ll make your life miserable.” I took that advice and stuck by it. So what if the refrigerator is little? You know.
The stove is funny. I’ll tell you a funny story about the washing machine. They didn’t have tumble dryers. They prefer to dry their clothes on a clothes line outside. Outside, in this weather? They had these drying racks inside their home and I was not going to have any of that. So, I ordered a tumble dryer and the problem was when it came, how do you vent it outside? This 18th century home had no way to vent anything, and you know what I did? I got an extension and put the vent out of the window. (Laughs) You’ve got to make do, and it worked. Everybody laughed about it, but you know what, they borrowed it.
When I lived in Singapore, I told my Chinese land lady that I wanted a larger washing machine. And so she got me one. And it had a heater in it, because they don’t have the kind of hot water we do. I had a king size bed and so I had a king size comforter to wash and if I had to use a smaller machine, I would be washing clothes all day. So, this machine was from Australia and guess who borrowed my washing machine? All my friends. (Laughs)
Heart: This is too funny. What year was this?
GD: 83 to 86. We got married in 1983 and we moved to Singapore for 3 years. We came back to Michigan in 1986 and then went to England in 1989 for 6 summers. My husband stayed there until 1999. But, I was going back and forth to look after my mother in North Carolina.
Heart: What gives meaning to live?
GD: Well, that’s a difficult question. But I would say, Happiness. Happiness.
Note: Before you rate this episode, please consider if you would’ve been so open and authentic about your own life. Earlier episodes available at The Anonymous Manifesto™.