1. Why did you write this book? When my mom died in 2001, I wanted to write, “The Book of Vi” but I realized that I didn’t know enough of her story to write it. I didn’t want this to be my children’s and grandchildren’s fate. This sparked an urge in me to write my own memoir. In writing my story, I told my mother’s story from age seventeen, when she had me, to age sixty-seven, when she passed away from cancer.
2. How could you forget you were raped? I don’t know. I’ve been told a few times that, because it was such a violent act, and I was only thirteen, my brain repressed the event, because it was too much to handle. I didn’t have the personal resources. When I was twenty-two, I recalled it in my kitchen in Salmon Arm. Even today, I have very sketchy memories about it. I’m thankful for that. Every once in a while, I’ll remember something else. Then, I just give it over to the LOVE in the Universe to deal with. But, what did impact my life was my immediate change in my behaviour. I was no longer the helpful and positive person I had been. I became depressed, wanted to bathe every day (we only bathed once a week in that era), and cleanse myself. I became boy-crazy – looking for love in all the wrong places and trying to prove that I was still lovable. I had always loved snow, but I became afraid of it and the ozone smell in the air. I was super-sensitive to everything around me and grasped at the details, committing them to memory. The least little sound would make me almost jump out of my skin. Some of these things calmed down over the following few years. But, then it happened again when I was seventeen; and again at age thirty-three. Those I remembered right from the time they happened to today. When I was twenty-two, I was put in psych ward and saw a psychiatrist for a few times. He used talk therapy and gave me several types of pills. He told me that I needed to take them and they would help. It would be years later that I was diagnosed with PTSD by another psychiatrist in New Westminster. I’m working through the result of all of this to this day.
3. Why did you still love your grandpa? Again, I don’t understand it either. I loved my grandpa because he had travelled and told great stories; he taught me how to play the piano; and he gave me a bigger allowance. He also had a great love for elephants and big cats and it was through him that I began to love those very large and sometimes fierce animals. I hated him because he abused me; told me to keep silent or he would hurt my mom; and he yelled a lot. Looking back, I can see that many of my relationships suffered this same dichotomy: mom, dad, grandma and grandpa on my mom’s side; a few teachers, and so on. I was always walking on the edge of love and hate.
4. Did you have any fun at all as a kid? I remember baking as being fun. Playing canasta with mom was a great time. Being with my dad singing or in nature was wonderful. So, the short answer is yes.
5. What was your favourite part of the book to write? The chapter called, “To Have and to Hold” was wonderful to write. The words just flew off my fingers. I was writing about all the love in my life: for Norm, our kids, our first granddaughter, my sister and her husband, my mom and step-dad. There was so much love that I was always on a high with it.
6. Why do you feel your story is important? My mentor, Louise Silver, described me as a ‘soul who has climbed more ladders and reached more heights than is usual or probable in one lifetime’ in the Foreword of Fragments. It’s true, I’ve been through a lot. For some reason, I have the capacity to share my story without a lot of fanfare, then get onto the solution with the person I’m with (if that’s what they’re looking for). I don’t know why this has all happened. I don’t know how I’ve come to be this kind of person. It’s just the way I am. It’s exactly because of these multiple experiences that this story is useful. Many types of people will be able to identify with me as someone who knows the deal. This means they might be able to get something out of the Made Whole part of the book to use for their own recovery process.
7. Why did you wait sixteen years to publish your story? I actually self-published this book as a .pdf in 2002 and sold several copies of it at the time. Over the ensuing years, I’ve sold a few more copies. This was like a testing ground. I have never had a bad review on the content of the book. When my husband was alive, I really just wanted to be with him. I didn’t want to put out the kind of energy it takes to publish then market and promote a book. As well, all the players in the book who may have wanted to cause me trouble, have now passed away. I feel freer to be myself and let myself out into the world in this arena.
8. What was the hardest chapter to write? A House of Cards was the hardest chapter to write. Norman and I fell hard for each other and literally lost our thinking caps in the process. All of that was wonderful, but the effect it had on our children was not. His daughter was struggling to come to grips with the end of her parents seventeen year marriage, and the subsequent move of her father to the mainland. She was so tender-hearted and lost. We didn’t see it. My two were in grief, because their dad had suffered an aneurism the year before and they had been ripped apart and put in separate foster homes because their Nana had told the social worker they were sexual together. They weren’t. They were just clinging to their only remaining security – each other. Writing this chapter brought into stark light the damage that was done when Norm and I tried to pull it together after only knowing each other for three months. What were we thinking? That’s the problem. We weren’t. It was difficult to admit and own what I’d done in my part of it. But, it had to be said.
9. How did you know when to stop writing your story? At some point, in everything that I write, I take a deep breath in and sigh. (This is what I call shifting the energy.) That’s when I need to stop writing because it is completed. Then the editing begins.
10. Did you feel any different after your wrote your story? Yes, I did. I felt like I’d finally woven together all the worn and tired threads of me into a cohesive whole. I could see where I’d come from, what I’d gone through, and where I am now. No longer did I feel like the outsider in my own family or various groups I belonged to. I felt whole. It was as if a path opened before me and, at long last, I could be who I truly was. For me, that was a mentor, an energy healer, and a guide. I’d learned so much along the way, and writing the book pulled it all together. Whenever we put paper to pen, it is healing.
11. If the book were being adapted to a movie, who would you want to play the parts of yourself and Norman? That’s a no-brainer – Meryl Streep and Harrison Ford. Meryl Streep is noted for her diversity of characters. She basically becomes who she is playing at the time. She’s a method actor, and is very versatile and believable. Harrison Ford is a renaissance man, just like Norman was. He is a carpenter, aviator, actor, stagehand, and camp counsellor. I love seeing him on the big screen with his rugged good looks and personality to spare. Like Meryl, he becomes the person he’s portraying. The term, ‘affable’ would describe Harrison Ford as well as my late husband, Norman Ayre. I think that both of them together would produce a great movie about the story of my life, and our lives together. Plus, if I do end up writing, “Always”, there’d be a sequel in it for them. :,) This book goes from my age fifty to seventy, and includes Norm’s passing.
Photo: Book Club, free art graphic