Mary-Lynn and Dean: love on the street
Dean: We’ve been together for 12 years, almost 13, but that’s bad luck so we’ll just say 12. We met in Edmonton on Christmas Day. I was living with my mother and went out to the Mac’s on Christmas Day to meet my dealer. I was working full time and doing crack. I’d been doing it for about 20 years. I couldn’t call my dealer from mom’s place because she’d kill me. My mother was a saint.
Mary-Lynn: I was there at the Macs. The liquor store wasn’t open so I went in for a Slurpy instead. And there he was, wearing some very nice Levi’s. He was rugged looking. I’d only done crack once, but I went with him to the only place open 24/7, West Edmonton Mall, and we smoked some rock together, and then went back to his place at 4 am. We were laughing and being noisy. We woke up his mom, and she wasn’t pleased. I said to Dean I felt like I was back in grade 7 the way she talked to us. Anyway, next thing Dean went up north to work as a cook in a logging camp, and he phoned me and I wasn’t home. Then he phoned his mother and she wasn’t home. His brother told him we were out at a bar together! Dean thought, oh shit, now I’m in trouble!
Dean: My mom was crazy about Mary-Lynn. She said she was the daughter she never had. They were inseparable. They’d go grocery shopping together…they were Superstore super shoppers. Early in the morning, with two carts, one would break left, and one would break right, and anything with a 50% off sticker went into their carts.
Mary-Lynn: Eventually we knew we had to get out of Edmonton to get away from the dealers. Dean knew lots of people and hooked them up to get drugs. Then the dealers would give Dean crack for free. The only way to get off crack was to leave town. So, we sold my condo for $150,000.00, bought an RV for $22,000.00, and drove around for five months. We spent all the money we had, and ended up in Hope, completely broke. We went cold turkey off crack, but there were still liquor stores there.
Dean: I’d rather have a drinking problem than a coke problem.
Mary-Lynn: We’ve both been asked to speak to groups of high school kids about the downside of addiction from our experiences. We were kind of overwhelmed, but we’d do it again in a heartbeat. The thing is, and what we told them is, when you are in the moment, drinking or doing drugs, you feel you are having the time of your life. But you are damaging your life, permanently damaging relationships and everything you have, until you hit rock bottom.
Dean: We’ve hit rock bottom several times and bounced back. I feel like God is saving me for something special.
Mary-Lynn: I think the truth is that God knows what I am capable of withstanding and he protects me from anything more than that.
Dean: I’ve stayed close to my mother. I am a mama’s boy, and talked to her 3 – 4 times a week. She passed away on April 4, 2016. I was there when she died. My dad passed away on June 19, 2012, so I’m a 50 year old orphan.
Mary-Lynn: At his mom’s funeral we were each given a scarlet runner bean to plant in our own garden. We each brought one home and gave them to Chris McGrath who is growing them for us. I hope they are still alive.
Dean: My mom’s garden was her favourite place, and she taught me all sorts of things about plants. I remember she had those scarlet runner beans on a trellis, kind of arching over and the flowers were red and there were always hummingbirds. Imagine that, hummingbirds in Edmonton.
Interview and photograph by Lesley-Anne Evans