To Be Single, or Not To Be Single — Chapter 3

20131018-152334.jpgBeing a single mom when I graduated restricted the jobs that I could take. It was almost impossible for me to take a regular veterinary job because you were required to be on call. How could I possibly leave in the middle of the night when I had a baby in the house and no one to take care of her? I looked into sales jobs, research jobs and veterinary practices that had an emergency clinic in town, meaning that there was no on-call required.

As it turned out, I ended up getting a great job as the staff veterinarian for a feed company that also raised its own calves, thousands of them. I bought a house and moved with my daughter to a city not that far from the university town. Bob had gotten a job at a local daily newspaper over an hour away and had moved there with his girlfriend.

I hit a low point here. I was a twenty-six year old single mom that was already on my way to a divorce. I was living in a city where I knew no one except for the people that I worked with. I only saw those people at work. I was terribly alone and I was not sure what to do with myself.

I remember doing groceries with a blinding headache, my daughter in the shopping cart not in such a great mood herself, and just feeling like I had hit bottom. Bob would often say that he was coming to get his daughter and then he would simply not show up. Or, when he did take her she would come back on Sunday and have milk diarrhea for a day or so and a diaper rash.

For those people that have not raised a baby, when all you feed your child is milk, they get soft, greyish white poos that are not normally formed. This was neglect. As far as I could tell, he would just give her a bottle of milk every time that she was hungry or upset and that would be all that he would feed her. She was over a year of age by now and basically could eat anything that he was eating, assuming that he was eating. His girlfriend would have been about 18 by then so she was not all that equipped to deal with having a toddler around either and the diaper rash that my daughter had when she came home was a testament to that fact.

Then a strange thing happened. A good friend of mine, who also had a daughter, separated from her husband and came to stay with me. Things were great. We had the same level of responsibility but we also had the same understanding of what needed to be done. When you are living with someone that already knows how to manage a home, it actually splits the work in half.

We had meals together, played with our daughters together, had ample time to talk and discuss our failed marriages and our lives. She was only there a short while. I’m guessing a couple of weeks, but it set me up. When she moved out there was a gaping hole in my life.

I had more or less adjusted to living on my own and now I had to readjust to being by myself. I had experienced how nice it was to have someone there. The loneliness that followed her stay was bottomless.

Then Bob stepped in. He explained that he had panicked when our daughter had been born. He was scared and acted inappropriately. He was sorry for what he had done and he had learned his lesson the hard way by being separated from his family. He wanted to be married. He wanted to be a family. He had realized that he had acted inappropriately and regretted his mistake.

Looking back now, I’m almost certain that he had fought with his girlfriend and she had thrown him out. I recognize that the lines were probably lifted, if not word for word, at least the theme of them, from a romantic comedy, but I hadn’t been watching a lot of movies. He had brought a wedding band with him and presented it to me. He wanted to get back together; the question was, did I?

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What’s a Girls to do?

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Crazy Stairs — Chapter 3

IMG_2812It is much colder out now. We are into the fall colours, but most of the trees still have their leaves. The temperature is supposed to be between 50 and 70 F over the next couple of weeks. I have left the pool open because next weekend is Thanksgiving. It is earlier in Canada because we have an earlier harvest. It is nice that way because it is separated from Christmas by over two months.

My dog is incredibly restless. As a whippet, he has an inborn need to run. He had surgery a few days ago to help deal with the fact that he started to mark his territory on my carpets and I’m not supposed to walk him off leash for another few days. This is the worst thing for him. He does not understand why he is not getting to go out and he is unhappy.

As I write the stories about Bob and how bad things were back then I find it easy to be very hard on myself for not putting it all together at the time but I must remember that things always look different in hindsight. I have described a couple of events that stick out now when I look back, but the fact of the matter is that there were still some nice bits in our lives. We still rented movies together. We would walk to the grocery store together and then walk back with our bags of provisions. We had found our own rhythm.

Part of our strength as a couple was that we were both independent. So, not being together every moment was not seen as a problem, before the baby came. If I wanted to do something different from Bob, I just would. The problems arose when we had shared responsibility. Suddenly, one of us had to be taking care of the baby all of the time. That meant that if I wanted to do something that precluded taking care of the baby and so did Bob, one of us did not get to do what we wanted. Bob always won.

I had heard rumours that he was taking her up to the University Centre, the same building that had the ‘fish bowl’, and basically entrusting her care to all of the young female university students that wanted to hold her and feed her and otherwise indulge their desire to be mothers themselves. So, he was providing “day care” by just having her where there were a lot of young women that would entertain her.

An interesting tidbit comes into play here. Canadian law does not allow underage individuals in bars. The idea is that there is no way to ensure that they are not drinking alcohol, because even if they are not served directly, they could be drinking. When Bob was at the bar on campus, I could not go in with the baby. She was underage. This meant that if I made the trip up to campus and he happened to be in the bar, I could not reach him.

I had a choice at the time. I could drive myself crazy keeping track of where he was and who he was with and what he was doing or I could just live my life the best way that I could manage. My friend suggested that I drop out of final year and focus on just taking care of the baby but my instincts would not allow me to do that. There was no way that I could take care of a baby without finishing university. At least I knew enough to not rely on Bob to take care of us. That is saying something. It may have been harder to stay in school at this point, than it would be to delay for a year, but I may never have finished if I had left school at this time.

A repeating thing in my life is the appearance of the drawing “Relativity” by Escher. For those “Family Guy” fans, it is referred to in an episode as, “crazy stairs”. It is a black and white drawing that shows staircases going in different directions. If you follow one of the staircases you will see that they are optical illusions. The top of the stairs at one end of the stairway is not the same at the other end. It is quite interesting to look at.

The first time that I had seen this drawing was during my first week at university. It was not lost on me that this was a major point of change in my life. As it happens, each time I see this drawing, my life seems to change dramatically. I just looked up the drawing now to make sure that I got its name and the artist’s name correct, but I think that that is different from seeing it randomly in my life—I hope.

Bob’s “friend” that came to the house on occasion, because they were “friends” gave me this drawing as a Christmas present. I did not keep it. I told Bob to take it with him. He left with her before Christmas that year, so I did not feel like keeping the gift that she had given me. To say that my life changed dramatically is probably an understatement. For the second half of my final year of veterinary medicine I was a single mother.

Read the entire book, now available
Read the entire book, now available

To Be Single or Not To Be Single

www.wendypowell.ca