Monday, August 25, 2008

I Once Lived *The Dream* In Aspen... The Final Days

Aspen... Part One
Aspen... Part Two
Aspen... Part Three
Aspen... Part Four
Aspen... Part Five

By the time the snow was beginning to fly once again, the Summer was becoming just a memory to me. We were busy with updating our ski equipment, ski clothes, and preparing for Winter's arrival. I had already received my letter from the Ski Corp. about being a Snow Hostess again, and I was pumped and ready to go. Michael was ready for another year of search and rescue, looking rested and feeling better than he had in quite a while. We made it through the holidays with minuscule amounts of *Mountain Drama*, cruising our way into a lovely Spring season.

On January 12th a young woman named Caryn Campbell went missing from The Wildwood Inn in Snowmass and yet another full scale search was conducted in trying to locate her. After an exhaustive night of searching the mountain, authorities called off any further search and she had still not been found. All of the available ski patrolmen had taken part in the search, which sadly turned up nothing. After that, local law enforcement and volunteer parties continued to search, once it was determined that she had not gotten lost on the mountain.


It was frustrating for everyone involved and heart wrenching for the family of this young woman, not to mention her fiance. One month later she had still not been found and we were beginning to hear rumors that the responsible person might be a man named Ted Bundy, who was allegedly the suspect in some murder cases in Washington and Utah. The MO's were very similar at any rate. The FBI was called in to help.

The presence of the FBI was apparent everywhere, since in a ski town setting, they stick out like cat poop in potato salad. A month after the woman's disappearance, the FBI was still interviewing people who had been in Snowmass Village that night. For a while they thought the woman's fiance had done something to her, but ultimately realized he was innocent. She had only returned to her room to grab her purse before dinner, which should have taken less than eight minutes. It was all so insane. Everyone in The Village and In Town were talking about it and how we just couldn't believe something like that could happen in such a perfect place like Aspen/Snowmass. Still, it had happened right under all of our noses. The overall mood was, shall we say, guarded. No, it was also very grim. It was like a big black cloud had come to hover and decided to stay.

On February 17th her body was finally recovered just off the Old Snowmass Road, not far from the Aspen Country Day School. I know this because we had a friend who worked for the Pitkin County Sheriff's Department at the time, and he told us. Her name was Caryn Campbell, rest her soul. She was only 23 years old. The same age as I, at the time.


This left Aspen and Snowmass reeling and rethinking security measures left and right. Ted Bundy was still on the loose and no one knew where he might turn up next. Women were terrified, including me, since I fit the profile of Ted's victims. Twenty Something. Long Brown Hair, parted down the middle. Always willing to help. I can't begin to express how scary that period in time was for me.


That year, I was so ready for the end of the ski season. It had been a difficult year all around and I just wanted to move on to the next phase. I wanted to erase everything that had occurred, from my mind. I just wanted everything to be normal again. I needed it to be. I had to settle for allowing time to heal the wounds.


Summer would find us once again fishing and backpacking in our favorite areas, as life seemed to be returning to normal. Michael decided to not take the Alaska trip again because he didn't want to leave me alone. Ted Bundy had been found and arrested but escaped while out on bail. Again, he'd escaped authorities and they couldn't find him.

Autumn came quickly and the local buzz turned from Ted Bundy murdering a tourist named Caryn Campbell to the anticipation of the upcoming ski season. Michael attended Avalanche School again, scheduled to arrive home just two days before his birthday. He and an Ajax Patrolman named Kjell Gustafson were driving back from Denver together. That was when it happened.

I don't know any other way of telling you this other than to just blurt it out, since I have seldom spoken of it over the years. Michael was killed instantly by decapitation. He and Kjell stopped to change drivers. I still just can't envision this happening. There wasn't much shoulder to pull over on the side of the road. The next thing was, a car swerved and sideswiped their car, killing Michael instantly when the door he was standing inside, was hit. Thankfully, he never knew what happened. He was spared any pain and I was so grateful for that.


On the other hand, there was me. I felt every bit of the pain that he was spared. I felt it every day and I was falling deeper and more dangerously into some sort of emotional crevasse. I was numb during The Wake (which was a standard among ski patrolmen), then had to fight his parents over what would be done with his remains. I eventually won that battle and was able to finally lay him to rest, scattered to the winds up on Aspen (Ajax) Mountain. It wouldn't have been right for him to be any place other than there. We were married up on Aspen Mountain, after all.


After that, I went into a Death Spiral Tailspin, headed for the depths of Hell. Trust me. I was doing a fair amount of drugs, trying to kill the sickening pain inside me, which only served to make my situation worse. First, I lost the house sitting job and then I quit working for Lucille Ball. Lucy urged me to go home to my family. If you know anything about me, you know that wasn't an option. So, I moved in with a couple of girlfriends as a temporary thing and started working nights as a Hostess, then later as a waitress at Phillipe's (French restaurant) in Snowmass Village. I drank more and did more drugs but nothing seemed to get the job done. I was just so lost. So alone. Friends started not wanting to be around me. I felt as if everyone was thinking terrible things about me. I was scared about where I was going to wind up. Fear, as we all know, makes strange creatures of us.


My life was a complete mess and my heart and soul were empty. I stood on a precipice in my life, teetering back and forth between living and dying, not knowing which way I really wanted to go. I was getting worse and going deeper into my depression, trying to figure out who I was without Michael. I felt like I was no one without him.


The Ski Corp. didn't fire me because they felt sorry for me, I suppose. I knew they wouldn't be *inviting* me back as a Snow Hostess the next year, since I'd lost my *sparkle* and *creativity*. My Life. Then, an acquaintance of mine who'd lost her husband a few years earlier, sat me down one day for a chat. It was the best chat I'd ever had with anyone. Ever. With her infinite wisdom, she was able to help me see that I could not celebrate Michael's life with my own death, which was something he would never want. She basically gave me the old "Pick Yourself Up. Dust Yourself Off, and Start All Over Again." speech. It worked too.


As part of my recovery, I found it necessary to leave Aspen. Being there was just too painful, no matter where I went or what I did. I'd let things fall apart dreadfully in my everyday life. It was time to leave. Time to close an old chapter and time to begin a new chapter in my life. That was when I moved back to Texas, where the most important chapter of my life laid in wait for me. I've only been back to Aspen once in all these years and probably won't ever be going back again in this lifetime...

I wouldn't trade those years for anything, but I also wouldn't trade anything for what I've got now either. Mr. Snooty and our children are the whole world to me. I believe Michael was the one who catapulted me to this place I am now. Yes. He was like that. Whatever it was, I'm certain that Fate had a great deal to do with it too. I was supposed to be here, when I was here. To meet Mr. S. To have our children. Perhaps Michael was in cahoots with Fate, on my behalf. I rather like thinking of it in that way.

20 comments:

Flea said...

Oh Snooty. How painfully sad and beautiful all at once. I'm so sorry about Michael. I kept thinking, "this story's too perfect to end in divorce," but this ... I'm so sorry. And so glad for your life with Mr. S and your children.

Thank you for telling your story.

noble pig said...

Oh my, I never expected things to end this way. My heart goes out to you and the painful memories you have deep-sealed into your heart. I am so glad you found happiness, you deserve it.

I only hope someday, I will get to meet you becuase you are truly an inspiring woman.

Janie said...

Wow. I, too, was shocked by Michael's death in the reading of this story. How sweet of you to share this with us.

elizasmom said...

Oh Snooty. You know, from the love with which you wrote about the people and the time you lived there, I had this sinking feeling from the beginning that you would lose him not to a divorce or something like that, but due to a tragedy. I am so, so sorry that my premonition was right. What an awful thing to live with. I am glad that you found Texas and Mr. Snooty.

Mental P Mama said...

What a horror. And I totally think that Michael guided you exactly to the place you needed to be. God Bless him.

Treasia said...

Aww Snooty my heart aches for you and what you went through during this time. Something about your writing had already prepared me for his death. Not sure what, just a feeling I had. And I also think your right in his guiding you to where your life went. May Mike be forever blessed.

Philly said...

#1 and #2 were just talking last night about Michael, wanting the rest of the story. Sorry for your loss, but what a wonderful family you have now.
Did they ever connect Ted Bundy to Caryn's death?

#1

Anonymous said...

I've been reading your blog for quite some time and have never left a comment....this entire series of stories has led me to drop you a comment and thank you for letting the world in on your corner of it. Fate is forever in all of our lives....it is how we live. Thank you for showing others what fate has done for you. My heart aches for your past.....

Asthmagirl said...

I also wondered how it would end and I didn't see how it could be a divorce. And yet I didn't expect this. I'm so sorry for your loss. Even though it was all those years ago. Thanks for sharing your story with us. It was an amazing journey.

QueenofPlanetHotflash said...

Ms. Primadona,
I waited until the end of your story to comment, though it was hard for me to do, I had to wait to read the whole thing and know the whole story.
Now I can say, Wow !!! Thank-you for sharing this. You have lived such an interesting life and you are so inspiring. I am so very sorry for your loss with Michael, you do know he is your guardian angel and is with you always. From the first day that I found and read your blog I knew you were a special lady and I look forward to the day when I can meet you and give you a hug. Such a life so far...

thevinylvillage said...

my word...
Ive read the story of your life in Aspen and was wondering all along what happened to Michael...I figured it would be a story of young love that grew apart...I never imagined this was where it ended. Im so sorry for your pain and so glad you were able to pick yourself up...I cant imagine!

Pleasing Procrasinator said...

This is not at all how I pictured this story to unfold.
You are such an amazing lady for all you have endured and overcome. Too have someone so special taken from you has to be awful.
I too believe Micheal was and has been your guardian angel.

*HUGS*

Snooty Primadona said...

Yes, Caryn Campbell was one of the victims claimed by Ted Bundy. You should read the book called "The Stranger Beside Me". It's a total page turner, which I finally read about 10 years ago.

Thanks everyone. Really, I didn't tell the story for sympathy. Instead, I told it to show that no matter how low the human spirit can sink, it also has the ability to recover and move on to even greater happiness. Life can't kill you. Yes, tragedies and accidents happen as twists of fate. But, you can kill yourself because of an inability to cope with the curves life throws you. Or not.

Kareer Woman said...

I've posted my final blog entry. I wanted to thank-you for becoming one of my readers every now and again over the last few months, your comments have always been a highlight in my day. Cheers!

Keeper Of All Things said...

I'm so sorry you had that kind of pain........it seems to have made you stronger......
How rich your life has been and just think it's not even close to being over!!!

Keeper Of All Things said...

Does my comment sound heartless?......I meant how rich your life is to have had 2 Love Of Your Life.........

Keeper Of All Things said...

That doesn't sound right either...... Really I'm just going to quit now.

Insane Mama said...

I didn't expect this kind of ending... And Ted Bundy lurking around. Wow, what a story, I'm glad you found your way to Texas!

scargosun said...

I didn't cry when I read this. I think it was because of what you said in the last couple paragraphs that made my heart feel 3 times it's size. I am so glad you had your time with Michael. I am glod to 'know' you now with Mr. Snooty. I am so glad you chose to share this part of your life with us. Thank you.

imbeingheldhostage said...

I just came home from my friend's funeral (yes, it takes THAT long between the death and the funeral), and with a numb brain, I thought I'd catch up on my reading. Needless to say, I am stunned. I had no idea this story was leading to this and I'm so sorry. I love your insight on it all and wish you were here to give that talk to my friend's wife.

 

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