Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Story telling about my daughter's life of 19 short years, I started a recollection thread, a series of posts looking at my life with Angel that ended twenty years ago - May 31, 1989.
Continuing from our Winter of Discontent 1979, the following year demanded a maturity and independence from Angela and her brother. My wasbund lived in a duplex we owned right next to the elementary school and our home was just a few blocks further. My mother and the babysitter's family was just a few more blocks in another direction. In this way there was a lot of support, it was just spread around, scattered. They had to pay attention to what day it was and where they needed to go and when. Mobile phones, answering machines, voice mail, email or even pagers weren't a part of our lives. Getting synchronized with children was critical.

The worst part of 1980 for me was finding out that Angela was expected to completely care for her brother when they were at her father's. Because she was so very competent, she handled things without complaint and I didn't even know. I didn't know, that is, until she called one weekend night in the middle of the night. I ran over to her father's to find her alone with her brother and she had a high temperature and a sore throat. Her father went to a concert and left her in charge. I seethe to this day thinking about how self-involved and immature he was. Very tough . . .

This entry is more background for another year following the previous one that brought dramatic change to all of our lives. I completely forgot that I'd quit my job as a chef the previous August and started taking a full course load at University of Nebraska at Omaha.

I gave up my car because I couldn't afford it. I walked or rode a bus. The separation and divorce plunged me into poverty as I'd begun university classes the year before. I loved school with the fire of a hundred suns. I was amazed at how easy it was compared to life. At the beginning of the semester I was told (via the syllabus) exactly what was expected and when. It was easy to get a 4.0 when I compared it to life, to parenting, to working. I met so many different people at university, like the young lesbian couple. One of the women was in my Women's Literature class and at coffee she told me one week how she and her lover had been raped and were terrified - wanting to move. I let them move into my 4 bedroom home and live in the downstairs dining room, we made the living room a common study room com dining area. It augmented my income and I had more caring people around to look out for the kids with me. Besides, the kids loved having these young women around to play with and to tell their stories to. And they loved their music. (Note all of our vinyl records in the bookcase behind me.)

Little did I know that 1980 would be the beginning of alternative ways of living that would last for the rest of my life. Never again would I live in a Midwest single family home with a husband or a dog and 2 cars. That was a relief because the lifestyle didn't suite me, despite my giving it my all. I had thrown myself completely into my socially mandated (and much anticipated) role as housewife, mother, PTA board member, Bluebird leader, practicing Christian, conscientious daughter-in-law, etc. It wasn't that any of this was bad or heinous - it just felt like someone else's life.

I can't stress how powerfully the opportunity for change was being felt in the country. Similarly, like now, there were more haters, more threatened people making noise like now. And having the lesbian couple move in - especially when I found out my friend from school had a crush on me - let me know I wasn't gay. But I did emphatically learn that politically I was a lesbian and that I didn't want to live in a patriarchal relationship. The 1980 presidential election had me deeply depressed and I was finally able to be more militant as a feminist. In May of 1980, I took Angela with me to Chicago to march for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). We found someone to let us ride from Omaha to Chicago, plus a place to stay with others. It was a very thrilling time. It was Mother's Day weekend and my mom let me know she was very proud of us both.

Ultimately I realized I didn't even want to live in the Midwest, in Omaha. I made the decision to move to Colorado Springs. I had 3 semesters under my belt and another 2 from an Iowa college I'd attended briefly after high school. And, though my original plan was to finish my degree in creative writing - I had no more patience. I wanted to start my life over and leave the shadow of the wasbund's big family. I wanted to be close to my supportive friend who seemed to understand me and feel more like a sister than my sisters.
I hated disappointing my mom by telling her I was moving. And, I was moving from my sisters and their families too. That was the hardest. Mom came over and helped me pack, we spent a lot of time with her at her place too. But, the minute I'd taken my German final that cold grey December day1980 - my my school friends helped me load the truck. Strange as this may seem, I had never heard Bruce Springsteen's music before that day, but this is the album that a friend played as we loaded that truck. I drove the truck full of belongings myself (though I had a friend as a passenger for most of the trip) and left the kids with their dad for the holidays (until they would fly out at the first of the year) while I moved in at my best friend's home in the Black Forest.


Beany said...

I love that you're sharing this story with us. And I love your hair in the pictures!

I've been wanting to say how much Angel looks like you. So very beautiful.

katecontinued said...

How very kind of you to say these things. I just know I must tell this story . . . or at least the highlights. I loved my hair here as I had a permanent (the one I never got as a kid) to make my natural wave turn into curls. When I first got it I sobbed as it was a disaster (see previous post). As it grew out it became more flattering and less Zimbabwe wannabe. Alas, perming wasn't a style I could afford to maintain although I did it again a decade later. When it failed to please me the next time - I gave up the notion. I have kept short hair ever since because when it gets too long the curl is gone.

Angela had some of my features (especially around the eyes) when she was little, but when she started maturing she took on some of the beautifully Arabic features - like her dark brown eyes, hair and her full lips - from her father's bloodline.