"The Art of Grieving", a Workshop, Sept. 9, 2006

Difficult Choices - Part 2 of 4

Going back to 1965, a history: Part 1 of 4

Part 1 of 4: The good bad old days ...

Generally I stay away from discussing the estrangements between former lovers in my blog. People break up all the time and the breakups often result in estrangement. We are not surprised when the ties between people not related by blood break. Often the formerly passionate lovers decide that their previous partner is not worth the time of day. But people related by blood, their relationships tend to withstand all kinds of annoyances, quirks, weirdnesses, bad behavior, and abuse much more so than the relationships which began as a romance or a friendship. I haven't seen any studies on this but that is my observation of folk in general.

People will go for Christmas to the homes of people who make them uncomfortable, who are abusive, who drink to the point of being aggressive, who have all kinds of bad habits. Their only reason for going is because they have been invited to the home by the people to whom they are related by blood. They will turn down the invitations of friends whose company they enjoy to spend it with people whose proximity gives them migraines. We call this love, this loyalty to family. I don't dispute this. We often give more slack to our blood relatives than we do to our lovers and friends and we even take it for granted that we do this.

So ... I don't usually talk about the estrangements between former lovers. It could be a whole blog all to itself, the estrangements over divorces, affairs, custody disputes, money, sex, lying, various incompatibilities. There are a zillion movies on the topic as well as books, articles, studies, jokes, short stories, TV programs. So much has already been said by others who can say it better than I can. I've never wanted to talk at length about the estrangement from my ex-husband who is my daughter's father.

Did you see the movie, Riding in Cars With Boys, with Drew Barrymore? The beginning of our marriage had similarities to the beginning of the marriage in that movie as well as similarities to the response of the girl's father to the news that she was pregnant. I found a lot to relate to in that movie although my ex certainly was nothing like Barrymore’s husband. Nothing at all. Compared to that person, my ex was a prince!

The thing was that we married because, of several options that occurred to me at the time, getting married seemed like the most sensible option. I was pregnant. We did not have a lot in common. At the time we married, I did not want to marry nor did I love him. One of the goals in my life prior to that wedding was that I NOT marry young. I was 19 years old as was he. I had disappointed myself already at 19. It is still hard, forty years later, to forgive myself for this.

The reason why I married him? He knew this. I had no money. I had loony toons for parents. I wanted to be a mother to my child and I saw no other way to accomplish that unless we married and raise her together. Why was I pregnant? Well, of course, the usual except that the pregnancy was practically an immaculate conception. I was a VERY unlucky young woman. At the time it was very hard to believe what had happened. Such is life. Some things just surprise the heck out of you!

Why did he marry me? Well, it appeared that he did so because he thought he should. His parents were tremendously disappointed in him. I can't speak for him and he doesn't   speak to me, so I can't give you a more accurate report on his reasons. We both got along back then reasonably well and we both were good kids, with the emphasis on KIDS. We thought it would all work out and we'd be okay. So we married. We were scared shitless but we married.

While pregnant, I worked as a laboratory technician for 6 months to pay for our overpriced junky but new furniture that we moved into the tiny apartment that we rented from my parents. Before moving into the apartment, we lived in a bedroom of his parents' house.

The apartment was located on the second floor of my parents' house which was a small house. Thus we had ringside audio seats to their loud violent arguments which I had been witnessing since I was small enough to need a stepstool to look into the bathroom mirror. I'm not complaining, just describing the situation.

Five weeks after my daughter was born, I went to work as a waitress to support us while my ex went back to finish college. Why him and not me go back to college? At that time our families were of the opinion that he, being a male, should be the one to become educated as a priority. I supported us by working for Howard Johnson's Restaurant for the next two years. I walked to work as I couldn't drive a stick shift at that time and we owned a car that had a stick shift. I was paid 93¢ per hour plus tips. I worked nights so that I would have the days to spend with her.

After we moved into a bigger apartment on the other side of the city, I went back to college and also took a parttime job to pay for a babysitter to care for my daughter while I went to classes which I walked to. I still didn't drive. The tuition was paid for by a scholarship from the state. Later in graduate school I got an assistantship to pay for tuition. The money from the assistantship was saved and it was what paid for the downpayment on our house that we bought a couple of years later.

While my attitude about my wedding and marriage was negative, my attitude about my daughter was not. I adored her. I was happy to have her in my life, regardless of the circumstances, regardless of my age and what I needed to do to support us and to be a mom. I didn't want to put her up for adoption. I wanted to be in her life and be her mom.

(To be continued)

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