“I still love professional wrestling,” Winston said leaning back in his Lazy Boy and reaching for his pipe and tobacco. It’s been about twenty years since my last match but sometimes I still miss it. I mean I don’t miss waking up and feeling like I’ve been run over by a semi or all the hours spent travelling, but I do miss the pure adrenaline rush of performance art.”
“Tell me more about your career as a pro wrestler, Winston,” Garry said while petting Winston’s dogs. “Life as a pro wrestler is certainly much different than working a nine to five job,” Winston said. “You spend a lot of time on the road. I only had a handful of matches in the WWE. For most of my wrestling career I worked the independent wrestling circuit.”
“What was the biggest difference that you found between the WWE and the independent wrestling promotions?” Garry asked.
“That’s easy,” Winston answered. “The money. The second thing would be the lack of job security in independent wrestling organizations. And then there was the travel. Professional wrestlers spend a lot of time travelling whether they work in the WWE or for the independent promotions. The fact is you spend a lot more time travelling between wrestling gigs than you actually do wrestling,” Winston said packing some high grade pipe tobacco into his Sherlock Holmes meerschaum pipe. “
Winston owned five pipes that he kept in a wooden pipe holder that his ex-wife had given him as a present for one of his birthdays.
“We almost always car or van pooled as wrestlers. The big difference was that in the WWE the wrestlers could afford new, roomy SUVs. Some of the top talent even had Hummers. In the independent promotions the wrestlers usually travelled in an uncomfortably packed van or a rusted out car that was at least twenty years old. Vehicle breakdowns between gigs was common. It wasn’t unusual to have to leave our stalled car and thumb a ride the rest of the way to a wrestling show.”
“Wow, That doesn’t sound like too much fun,” Wally said.
“Actually, it was, most of the time. You see when I was a much younger man I used to work factory jobs. That kind of work is total drudgery for eight hours per day.
When I first began my wrestling career, you never had a boring day. There was no way of accurately predicting what was going to happen on any given day or night,” Winston said.
“Plus, you have to remember, we were young then. We could tolerate a lot more physical and mental abuse. I could go on for days telling you guys wrestling stories from my past. But let’s continue with that tomorrow. Friday Night Smack down is just starting.”
The two boys and Winston had a good time watching Friday Night Smackdown. Winston provided an entertaining and educational running commentary on the matches, and explained the differences between present day wrestling and old school wrestling.
Winston Standfield arrived at The Kelowna Mental Health Center promptly at 7:00 PM on Friday evening. Wally and Garry were waiting eagerly for him and ran out to meet Walter who was inside his 1994 white Ford Tempo. Winston had bought the Ford Tempo at a rather shady looking used car lot two years ago. He managed to buy the car for two thousand dollars. Winston had always liked old Fords but had no idea why. It certainly wasn’t because of their reliability. He also owned his beloved white 1997 Ford Taurus. This car was constantly in need of repairs but Winston knew had to do most minor repairs himself. He would go to Canadian Tire and pick up the year and model for the car’s repair manual and would figure out the rest from there. Winston opened the back passenger door for the two young men.
“Hi Grandpa this is my friend, Garry Phelge.”
“Pleased to meet you Garry. Are you related to Lionel Phelge, the professor of marine biology?” asked Winston.
“Yes, he’s my father,” answered Garry.
“What a small world. Lionel and I go back a long ways. We’ve known each other since our university days. We’ve kind of lost contact the last few years, but I would certainly like to meet the old boy again. We have a lot of catching up to do.”
“How’s your dad doing these days?” asked Winston.
“I really can’t say,” answered Garry. “My dad and I really haven’t been in touch for about two years now. Around this time I foolishly stopped taking my meds and caused my family a great deal of embarrassment in the neighborhood where they live. Since that time my mother has passed away and my father doesn’t want me staying with the family anymore.”
“I’m sorry to hear that son. I also knew your mother. She was an esteemed scholar of English literature.”
“Yes, both my parents were very educated people. I, unfortunately, could not carry on the family tradition when I became ill with my first episode of psychosis.”
“I know something about that illness with Wally being my grandson.”
“Gramps also knows a lot about schizophrenia as he has researched the disease extensively,” Wally interjected.
After two long days of traveling, John, Ryan and Stephanie finally arrived at Aunt Meg’s place in Kelowna, British Columbia.
“Well, we made it here in one piece,” said John. “I told you that the old Taurus would get us here.”
“Yep, miracles do happen,” said Ryan grinning.
Aunt Meg owned a large beautiful house that resembled a log cabin. It reminded Stephanie of the main lodge at Camp Woodlands. There would certainly be plenty of room for everyone. The house was surrounded by trees on all sides except for the gravel road that led to it. The place was very peaceful and secluded with Lake Okanagan was very close by.
Meg heard the car coming and was already outside waiting to greet the family. The two dogs, Scruffy and Skippy leaped out of the car and ran up to greet Meg. They are both friendly dogs that like people.
“You’re just in time for lunch,” said Meg. ”You guys must be hungry and exhausted.”
“We haven’t been eating very healthy the last couple of days,” said John. John, Stephanie and Ryan all loved junk food.
“Yeah, you should see our dad on car trips. He drives ten to twelve hours per day with very few pit stops,” said Stephanie.
“That’s right. Dad just stops for gas and we run into the convenience store to buy potato chips, chocolate bars, coffee and soft drinks. Around suppertime he’ll stop at some hamburger place along the way to have dinner,” said Ryan.
“It sounds like your dad hasn’t changed at all. That’s exactly how I remember it when I went on road trips with him,” said Meg. “Which hotel did you stay at overnight?”
“Motel 6,” said John.
“That’s just like you, too. John. Always trying to save a buck,” said Meg.
“That’s right. I’m not making the type of coin I used to when I was teaching public school full time,” said John. “Subbing pays poorly and writing fiction pays worse.”
“I thought you told us that your cousin Ronnie left you a substantial inheritance,” said Ryan.
“It was a pretty large chunk of money but I didn’t win the lottery. I’ll need to use some of the inheritance money to pay the bills that my subbing and writing efforts don’t cover,” John answered.
After the family finished breakfast Ryan and Stephanie washed and dried the dishes and John went outside to start loading suitcases and bags in the back of his white Ford Taurus station wagon. John’s two dogs ran out to the car with John and quickly jumped in.
It was fortunate that John had purchased the station wagon model of the Ford Taurus as it was able to accommodate all of the family’s luggage. As they started down the road Stephanie said, “It’s sure good to be with you again Dad. I really miss you when I’m living with Mom.”
“Yeah, me, too, Dad. We think you’re awesome,” added Ryan.
John started to get choked up and felt a tear trickle down his face when he said, ”I love you guys, too, and I miss you terribly when you’re not with me.”