The day to leave had finally arrived and I felt like I had been released from a torture chamber.
We had sold the Volkswagen, so we packed up the old blue truck and got ready to hit the road. As we were pulling out of the driveway, I wanted to lean out the window and scream…..”goodbye, you miserable excuse for a human being” but I didn’t.
It was a long, hard trip, especially with two small children but we made it. We talked and laughed and smelled stinky diapers all the way there but we were headed for an adventure so it was okay.
Living arrangements had already been made for us by the foundation. We had an apartment that was created from several rooms in the back of a large house. It didn’t have nice furniture and looked much like something that you would have rented in college but we didn’t care. There was a telephone and it had already been put in our name.
We had just gotten there and were bringing things in when the phone rang. I thought it was probably the foundation welcoming us, so I answered it with excitement. When I heard the voice on the other end, I thought I had suddenly been catapulted straight into the arms of Satan.
It was R***. She said “hey, P**, how are you doing?” It took me a few seconds to respond with “well, I WAS doing fine.” She said “you mean, until I called?”
She and J***s’ daddy were at the airport ready to come visit. It was unbelievable. I handed the telephone to J***.
The conversation obviously didn’t go very well. When he hung up, I asked him if they were coming and he said “NO. I told them they couldn’t.”
Telling them that they couldn’t come visit must have been the hardest thing he had ever had to do in his life.
He had been forced to choose me. It was the first time he ever had and it was the only time he ever would.
He was clearly mad and started walking away. I sat down in a chair to unpack some things and made the mistake of saying something about R***. He turned around and almost at a run, came up and slapped me so hard that he almost knocked me out of the chair.
I remember how much it hurt but mostly I remember how determined I was not to cry. He didn’t apologize. He didn’t tell me that he felt bad about it later. He never even mentioned it.
He may have chosen me but I paid a price. I guess at the time, I thought the price I paid was worth the freedom from her.
The foundation had been set up so the fellows could take courses and it extended to the spouses. I tried to get into an art class but I wasn’t successful.
J*** started out with great determination but it waned in favor of sitting at the N***** house, talking and drinking all the free beer he could hold.
Sometimes I would hire a college student to watch the girls for a few hours, while I explored. I had become quite intimate with the subway system and could go anywhere for a quarter on the Red Line.
I had discovered F****** Basement and over the course of several months, I had gotten J*** several really nice suits. It was my favorite store.
We were going to a function and I needed a dress. I was tiny and it was hard to find clothes that fit. I didn’t want to wear something “homemade” so I went to the “Basement.” I found a dress that in later years would become known as the “famous, famous blue dress.”
There were fancy dinners at fancy restaurants and we just seemed to be in a different world. At night, we would walk down the street, holding hands, trying to get to the restaurant before we froze to death.
J*** spent most of his days doing whatever he was doing and would come home with his coat pockets full of beer. I was amazed at how many beers that coat held. I think he was really enjoying himself and I was having fun doing what I was doing.
There were opportunities for great experiences, such as meeting famous people. The biggest thrill for me was having breakfast with Ted Kennedy. He had broad, almost mountainous shoulders and was as elegant as you would have imagined.
One of the fellows was a photographer and he took some pictures of us. Ted was very gracious and we chatted for quite a while. I had one of the pictures framed and after we had returned from the program, I hung it on the wall. That pleasant memory turned ugly when R*** saw it and said “he’s looking at you like he’s thinking ‘man, I’d sure like to get in her pants’ .” J*** heard her say it but never said a word.
I took the picture down and never put it back up. Her trashy comments never ceased to amaze me.
Winter was brutal but the apartment was always warm. We had those old silver registers and they really got hot. One day, B***** rolled over onto one of them. It burned her entire upper arm. As a result of that, she had to go to the hospital every day for debridement.
At the same time, an invitation to the fellows had been extended from Canada.
J*** had one of the fellows, who was actually from Canada, come over to tell me how important it was for J*** to get to go. I was being talked to like a woman who needed to be reminded that she was subservient to her husband and should surrender to his wishes.
J*** was hiding in the kitchen and didn’t come out until he left.
I had been set up again…..and once again, J*** apparently thought I wasn’t intelligent enough to know that it was a setup.
All of the other fathers were staying behind to help their wives with the children…..but not J***. Getting to go to Canada was far more important than helping me with his injured daughter.
Thankfully, the other fathers stepped up and did his job. They took turns coming to get us and taking us to the hospital.
That experience became anecdotal in time. The first day, L******* and I walked in with B*****. The nurse asked if he was her father. I told her no. The second day, D******** and I walked in. It was the same nurse, the same question and the same answer. The third day, M****** and I walked in. Again, the nurse asked if HE was her father and again, I said no. The fourth day, the nurse didn’t bother to ask. I think maybe she thought that I didn’t know which one of these men was my childs’ father.
J*** went to Canada and came back with tall tales and pictures. B*****s’ arm was almost healed and life continued as usual.
I had started making quilts and made one for the photographer fellow. He paid me two hundred dollars for it. He had decided that the fellows should have a t-shirt commemorating their year and he asked me to design it. It was a pretty simple but effective design.
Sadly, the year was coming to an end and it was time to think about going back. Of course, that wasn’t going to happen without a hitch.
Now, the Japanese government had invited the fellows to visit. I was going to be left to my own devices to get the move taken care of. J*** knew he would need a way to get back when he returned to the U.S. so he took me out and bought me a brand new Mercury Zephyr station wagon.
At some point, we had been informed that J*** wouldn’t be returning to his hometown and was instead being sent to a “bureau” in another city……so I would not be headed to a familiar setting.
I had made arrangements to take one of the college students with me to help with the girls. She had never seen mountains or been any further south than where she was. I would then fly her back home.
We said our good-byes and we were off into the wild blue yonder in a brand new car!
There was no GPS then and I had to rely on a map. I ended up going about three hundred miles out of my way before I knew I was lost. I finally made it to the New Jersey Turnpike and while I was stopped at the toll booth, the clutch fell out of the car. The cars behind me were blowing their horns and yelling at me from their windows but there was nothing I could do. Finally, a bunch of men came up and pushed me over to the side of the road. I had no idea what the hell I was going to do. I braved the angry traffic and made it to the toll booth and talked the attendant into calling a tow truck. It took five hours to get to the Ford place, have them fix the clutch and then get back on the road. We were all exhausted. I drove as long as I could and then stopped and got us a room in a seedy motel. It was all I could find.
I had my twenty-ninth birthday on the road. No fanfare. No cake. No card. Just turned twenty-nine. J*** was going to turn thirty just four days later. He had said earlier that one good thing about turning thirty was that he was going to do it in Japan and the fellows would help him celebrate.
We finally made it. I took the baby sitter to the airport and set out to find a place to live. It took several days but I finally found a house. I got the furniture out of storage and got everything unpacked. All I had to do now was wait for J*** to come home.