I’ve been trying to find the right words to describe what happened in our lives for a couple of weeks now. Let me start by saying that I didn’t get my first real six-string, maybe that’s because I already have one. My fingers didn’t bleed, my heart did – and it still does occasionally. I think those were the worst days of my life. And I’m sad to tell you that I’m not alone in this. Ironically, it would have been much easier if I were alone here.
This summer was meant to be a slow one, with time to catch a breath for our whole team; to recharge the batteries before we resume the deliveries in September… well, we got the exact opposite – once again, the Universe had different plans for us all.
I still am trying to catch a breath, we all are. As for our batteries, surprisingly, they are still working. How? ‘I don’t know, it’s a mystery’ – to quote another great classic.
Before I begin, I’d like to let you know that THIS STORY HAPPENED FOR REAL. All of it. And since there are a few stories here, every one of them will have its own subheading. And it’s only fair to let you know, that it’s going to be extremely personal and emotional. Definitely the most difficult piece to write for me, not only here on the blog, but generally. In a way, it is my way of dealing with all things that happened – my therapy. So, are you ready to take this dive with me? Let’s go, then!*
(*apart from the first and second story here, the rest is written in the chronological order)
The Red Riding Hood
Many of you probably know the story behind our red four-wheeled friend, the indestructible crafter which we owe big time for hanging around for such a long time with us. It’s his second year with us, and that crazy bastard did over 100 000 km worth of deliveries! *applause*
Wherever we went with our flooring, at least one of our clients would ask: ‘oh, this thing is still running!?’ And my reply to that always is: ‘hell yes, why wouldn’t he?’ And once again, the great pal that he is, he picked the perfect spot to break down. This happened at the end of July when we were returning from another successful trip around the UK, in the 40-degree heat, on something that could have been a road about 30 years ago, the road which leads through a beautiful forest. Exactly 17 km from our warehouse in Trzcianka, Poland. And not only did he break in the beautiful circumstances, he sent out a warning before it happened. I drove all the way from the Netherlands with no issues, and once we got to Poland safely, crafter did his most recent trick. Again – everything electronic switched off, while the engine kept running. He did it for the first time a few days before, when we were leaving Poland with another batch of flooring. As always, Maciej found another way (apart from fixing the malfunction) and it’s as crazy as we both are; when it switches off, the driver needs to pull the key out of the ignition (and preferably on a straight road -guess why) and then put it back again and start the car again. Maciej has mastered this technique to perfection, me – not so much. I can do it, but very reluctantly so. Anyway, when he did it, we switched places, and thank God for that! Right when crafter decided he can’t go on any further 17 km from our destination, we were on that road I mentioned above. Maciej was driving it up the hill, and from the opposite direction a car appeared, speeding head on to us. To add some spice, right before us there were two cyclists doing what cyclists do. If Maciej didn’t do some sudden breaking, it’s very likely that I wouldn’t be writing those words today. Apparently, that wasn’t our time to exit just yet.
Speedy Gonzales swooshed right past us, the cyclists were fine. Maciej started to accelerate gently, and that was the end of the trip, preceded by the most horrific sound I’ve ever heard this car make ever since we got it. As it later turned out, the bearing in the rear wheel was completely finished, and there was something else that came in the package. We rolled down the hill softly, slowly, got out of the car when it was safe and… we did a happy dance (well, okay, just me! But I’m sure Maciej did one too, on the inside) and we both said the words so well known to us: adventure time!
Swell girl that I am, I did what swell girls do in that sort of situation: I hitchhiked to Trzcianka with a very nice couple who happened to be en route to this charming shithole of ours (separate post incoming) and who gave me the lift right to our (ware)house. I rushed to get the keys to my car which has an ‘expect miracles’ in chrome letters stuck to the boot door and went right back to ‘our’ spot in the woods to rescue crafter, Maciej and Rita, and to get a new experience to add into my collection: the towing experience!
As you can imagine, I was relieved to see them all still in one piece – well, three! And surprisingly, I was more excited than terrified at the thought of towing our plus size red beauty, thinking that it’s going to be so easy, since everything is fine with the engine and that Maciej will have power steering to steer it right back to our safe haven… well, I was very much mistaken there! To this day we have no idea why, but the battery died during that 30-minute period while they were waiting for me. Despite the 40-degree heat, we kept our cool. It took us nearly an hour to get back, we went at the mind-blowing speed of 25-30 km/h. I honestly felt like kissing the fucking ground when we finally got to the finishing line. And right there, at the end, was the final twist of this great adventure: I moved too fast, and the belt connecting crafter with my car went bye-bye, leaving the van in the middle of our road. Maciej got our forklift, lifted some pallets of parquet, re-attached the belt and towed crafter safely onto our driveway. There we had help from our employees, Patrycja and Patryk, who came over to help – mind you, it was a Sunday afternoon, so they came over straight from the lake with their 4-year old girl, Lilliana; our Rita’s best pal from the nursery. The angels that they are, they took Rita for a playdate so we could ‘get some rest’ while unpacking everything from the car. I didn’t see it then, but now I know that it was the best thing that happened during the summer. Just like crafter rolled down the hill upon its spectacular breakdown, it all went downhill from there…
Rich News, Poor News
Just a few days before the towing adventure, exactly on the morning of the 22nd of July which marked our 7th anniversary this year, I’ve received a text from one of my favourite friends whom we’ve met in London on the occasion of buying our second UK car in 2018 – the very same car that I towed crafter with only a few days later. I felt something was wrong, so I rang her to ask if something happened… she told me the saddest news about her husband’s passing and we both started to cry… To this day, I still cannot believe that he’s gone from this dimension. And at the same time I’m 100% sure that he’s out there somewhere, watching over all of us, sending us his warm smile and strength. It may seem strange when you don’t know the full story behind all this, but to us Mehmet was one of the Angels walking the Earth and I know for sure that if our paths wouldn’t have crossed, our lives would be looking very different right now. One day I’ll tell that story too, hoping that it will do at least a fraction of the good for someone reading it as meeting that man did for us. So that evening me and Maciej were celebrating the both of us getting thus far in our life as well as the life of the man who at some point made this possible for us. It was both a happy day for us personally and one of the saddest ones considering the circumstances of his sudden passing. Rest in Peace, our Dear Friend…
‘There are no good-byes, wherever you’ll be, you’ll be in my heart’ – M. Gandhi
The Month of The Falling Stars
After the Sad July came the Heart-Crushing, Brain-Numbing August. It came and went ten times faster than any other month. The bright side is, that it started off nicely – despite our red friend breaking down. For the first time in my life I got to witness a proper shower of falling stars – I counted nine that night! It came one week earlier than NASA announced it would. It was the night of the 7th to 8th of August. Sunday night of what was meant to be a very pleasant Sunday morning and afternoon – sadly, it really wasn’t.
On that day my mom informed me that her mum, my beloved grandmother went to a hospital after having major respiratory issues – she was in a very poor condition. It may seem pretty normal for people in their eighties, but it wasn’t so in my gran’s case. She’s never been ill in her whole life. During a 47 year long career at Polfa Pharmaceutical company, she only took two sick days – and that was in the years 1964 and 1972, when she was giving birth to her two children, my mum and my uncle, her younger brother. The emotional creature that I am, right after I finished talking to my mum, I started crying hysterically because I couldn’t get rid of that one horrifying thought, that she might die soon. Thankfully, Maciej was right next to me – he started comforting me and at the same time we began talking about the possibility of her being ready to go… It happened a few days before our trip to the UK with another delivery. During that time I spent more time talking on the phone than in the last six months – talking to my mum, my brother, my grandpa… I was praying for her recovery but at the same time preparing myself for the worst. If it wasn’t for the sick hospital ‘no visitors’ policy, I’d have driven 500 km from Trzcianka to Warsaw to see her. Unfortunately, that was not possible – even my grandpa was banned from visiting her.
On a Friday afternoon that week he told me the good news that they’re going to transfer her to another hospital on the following Tuesday where they’ll be able to offer her better help. I’ve decided to hold on to that thought no matter what. On a Saturday afternoon we started packing for our trip. Patrycja and Patryk came around to help and to wish us a safe journey. I didn’t mention this before, but at that time Patrycja was 6 months pregnant with their baby boy who was due to arrive on the 31st of October. She was feeling really unwell before they went home, I told her to rest as much as possible until she gets better.
I remember that around 3 am on Sunday the 14th of August, so a time when normally I’d be one grumpy asshole, I suddenly felt the jolt of energy, it went right through me, from head to toes and back. It was a very strange, but also an amazing sensation – then I said to Maciej: ‘You know what? This is going to be our best trip thus far’! About two hours later we were on our way, with Rita sleeping in the back, not minding the winding bumpy roads. At around 9 am we stopped by a lake not far from the German border. The weather was beautiful; with its blue sky, sun shining right upon the crystal-clear water of the lake. Life was great. But then it was time to go. We stopped to get the petrol and then I received a message from Patrycja – she sent me a photo of her hand connected to a drip. At 3 am Patryk rushed her to the hospital. My only thought was: ‘no-no-no-no-NONONO, too soon, NO, not this’!! I thought that the baby came early. She messaged me saying that she’s not in labour, so my knees bent right under me... She promised she’d keep me posted. Shortly after I rang my grandmother on her mobile to ask how she was feeling, but it went straight to voicemail – I thought that she’s probably on the phone with grandpa and that I’ll try her again later.
And so our journey began – very quickly the temperature reached 35 degrees which felt like at least 60, especially that we didn’t have A/C in our van.
We nearly reached Holland when my mum rang to tell me, that my gran passed away… Once again, I started crying – and this time it was turbo hysterical. All of a sudden I felt icy cold. If someone could see me then, they’d have me admitted into an asylum. We stopped near a small town called Melle – talk about the odds. I smoked about ten cigarettes before I managed to calm down. The calm phase didn’t last long. Rita asked me why am I crying, so at first I told her straight that my grandmother, and her great-grandmother Ewa died. We’ve been having the ‘death talks’ for about a year, so she knew what it meant. At first she burst into tears like I did, but then I told her not to be sad that gran kind of moved (to another dimension), and Maciej added that she moved from our minds to our hearts, and now she’s closer to us than ever. Only one thought away…
Rita accepted it very quickly, and to my own surprise, so did I. I looked up the sky and I thought: ‘well, now you’re up there, Ewunia. I know you’ll be watching over me, my family and everyone around me, I just know it.’ Still in shock, but a bit calmer, I got in the van and off we went. We stopped in Holland later that evening, so Maciej could get some rest and put Rita to sleep. Given the condition I was in, it was clear as day that I was unable to drive the car. So I just sat there, staring at the sky and the stars, crying, laughing, trying to wrap my head around this whole new situation. At some point another thought hit me: the words I said to Maciej before we left Poland were not my words – that was my gran speaking through me. It truly was the best trip thus far, but not for us, for her!
The next morning we’ve arrived in the UK and went to our first client with the delivery. On our way we stopped by the ‘big blue water’ as I like to call it. We got in the water and on our walk back to the car I picked up this massive stone in the shape of a heart. I got the message – I truly was not alone and gran was letting me know that everything is fine.
When we arrived at our house in West Norwood, I knocked on my neighbour’s door – somehow, I’ve lost my house keys, and since they have a spare copy, that was a no-brainer! I must admit, they are the best neighbours in the world. When we’re away, they always keep an eye out on things, making sure everything is OK. And whenever we come back, they are always very happy to see us! We’re very lucky to have them.
She opened the door and asked me how things were – so when I told her about what happened, she started to cry; their son passed away the year before, so that week was the first anniversary of his death. He was only three or four years older than me. He was a great guy, just like his parents are. Anyway, the following morning I woke up with a massive hangover, as we ended up drinking gin until 4 am in the morning. After that we went to do the rest of the deliveries. Meanwhile I was chatting to my mum about the funeral, the obituary – all the sad stuff.
On Thursday Patrycja told me that she’s taking things slowly, she got out of the hospital on Monday.
On Friday night we were on our way back to Poland. We were late for the ferry, as we had to go back to fetch a few things we forgot to pack – and once again, I thanked my grandma for looking after us. Here’s why; when we’ve arrived at the ferry terminal, it turned out that the ferry we were supposed to sail on was turning around! The nice lady at the window informed us, that it was due to some sort of medical emergency. I made a (stupid) joke that maybe somebody went into labour. We got our tickets, went to the docks and got in our lane.
While we were waiting for the ferry, exactly half an hour from our arrival I got hit with another shocking news… Patryk messaged me that Patrycja just had the baby and that it’s a boy! I almost fainted there. I don’t know how much you know about the healthcare in Poland, so let me tell you one thing: IT’S A FUCKING NIGHTMARE.
The next morning Patrycja told me that she almost died there. They rushed the baby to a hospital in Poznan (90 km from Trzcianka) because he was very close to dying as well. Maciej was driving and I was sending Patrycja the recordings of me singing, to comfort and distract her from this whole horrifying experience. As it turned out, it was no flu the week before – it was the prelude of a premature birth! And the hospital staff didn’t notice…
On that day I also spoke with Maggie, my cousin – her grandmother who’s been unwell for over 5 years was also in a very bad condition. She was like a second grandmother to me as well. In the evening Maggie messaged me again that she suffered a stroke and that she was taken to the hospital in an ambulance. At this point we were both praying for her not to suffer anymore…
We’ve arrived back in Trzcianka on Sunday/Monday. On Monday morning my cousin informed me that her Gran passed away the evening before – so exactly a week after mine went. Within a week, I’ve lost both of my grandmothers whom I loved very, very much… At this point, I was completely numb.
On Tuesday we left Rita with Maciej’s ex wife in Poznan (she’s Rita’s favourite aunt) and we went to Warsaw to see my grandpa and to help him and my mum clear out gran’s stuff. It was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I got to keep a lot of her clothes and keepsakes. The most important one for me was her ashtray – that thing is at least 15-20 years older than me! My grandpa bought it for my gran on one of his business trips and one of my earliest memories from their home is this ashtray sitting on a kitchen table or the worktop – wherever gran happened to be doing something. And it reminds me of her every time I look at it. It sits on my desk now.
My mum was joking that this is the heritage she isn’t too happy about – at the moment I’m the only smoker in the family.
The next day was her funeral. That was the day of Maggie’s gran’s funeral too – it felt totally unreal if you ask me. I never would have thought that both of our grans will go almost simultaneously. Neither have Maggie.
The service was beautiful. My grandma’s wish was to be cremated, so we respected that wish. Her urn was placed in the grave where my great-grandparents are resting. She’s now reunited with her parents.
My mum made a beautiful collage of gran’s photographs. When I was helping her pick, I could not stop smiling as in most of the pictures Ewunia had a cigarette in her hand.
So naturally, before we left, I placed a cigarette and a crystal on her urn – for the road.
The crystal was amethyst – and it was ‘our’ crystal. She was a Sagittarius just like I am – her birthday was one day before mine.
She was a very special lady, and I miss her very much. I talk to her every single day, and I know I always will. I tell her about the good and the bad, and whenever I ask her for advice or help, the answers always come.
As for her obituary, here’s what it said:
“It is with great regret that we announce that on August 14th 2022, Ewa Kryśko suddenly passed away at the age of 82. She was a bright light to all of us, pure love and kindness, a person with the purest heart. Beloved wife, the best mother, grandmother and great-grandmother in the world.”
And that she truly was and always will be.
Recovery mode (not)
We welcomed September with a great relief. As we were slowly recovering, another news came… Our landlord’s wife here, in Trzcianka, came over to see us and to inform us that… her husband, Mr K. passed away. All the work and energy I’ve put into recovery from the summer months – flushed down the drain. Another meltdown for me.
Mr K. was about the same age as my gran. He even reminded me of her in a way sometimes. He was a very kind, calm man, and he’s another person we have a lot to thank for. But that’s a story for another time. The news of his passing hit me even harder, because he died five days before my gran did – and the night after the falling stars.
Our address in Trzcianka is under number 9 – and that night I counted exactly nine of the stars falling… One of my all-time favourite sayings goes: ‘we live our life forward, we understand it backwards’ – and this is so very true!
Here and Now
If you’re still here in your reading, I’m very much impressed! But most of all, I’m grateful – for your sticking around and that we made it through hell and we’re all still smiling.
Now here are some good news as of today: the first one is, P&P’s little boy is doing great – he’s still at the hospital in Poznan, where they are taking good care of him. His birth weight was 880 grams, and now it’s 1900 grams! He’ll be coming home this December – I really am looking forward to meeting that little fella, he surely knew how to enter this world with a bang!
The second one is, our beloved red friend is retiring from doing the distances – at least for quite some time. Now his main role will be collecting parquet around Poland.
As some of you probably saw on our Instagram profile, we welcomed a new member of the wood_job family and I’m proud as fuck to let you know that I drove in it back to Poland all by myself! :D We now have a few weeks to adjust it to our needs (Maciej’s department, of course), but the first thing we’re getting rid of is definitely the 70 mph speed limiter. Ah yess – I did the whole 1300 km at the maximum speed of 70 miles per hour! It’s a true miracle that I made it back in one piece – if you’ve ever driven on the German autobahn, you’ll know why.
Anyhow, the new van is blue and his name is Smurf! And just like crafter, he has a soul. He is the sun that comes out after the storm.
Here’s to the better times! And may this time be now.
Thank you for reading.
With Love and Light,