Fifty-two and newly divorced. Sounds like the symptoms for something fatal. I moved to Cathedral Hill and started going to Nina’s Coffee Café for daily dialysis. Out goes the old, sad blood, in comes the new, highly caffeinated stuff. Some of my friends said, “Why don’t you date?” And other friends said, “Forget about dating. Get com- fortable with being alone.”
I wake up from a deeply sedated sleep; I am scared. I don’t understand my surroundings, nor how I arrived here. I search for a glimpse of familiarity, the eyes of my loving mother, my adoring father’s warm hands. There they are. They tell me they have not left my side in two days. I have given everyone quite a scare. Bacterial tracheitis killed numerous children in 1980. I was among the first in the state to survive. As a mother now, I can almost understand the terror that my parents felt those first forty-eight hours.
In 1952 I became an O.L.P. girl by default. On the day I was to get measured for my Derham Hall uniform, Mother and Dad told me that I couldn’t go there after all and they immediately took me, in tears, down to Our Lady of Peace High School to register. It was a financial decision. Grudgingly, I joined the 190 girls who made up the second graduating class at O.L.P., which quickly had been dubbed the “Old Ladies Prison” by the boys at Cretin.
The first thing I saw when Dad turned our car down Grandma’s street in Merriam Park was the sky-high catalpa tree in her front yard. It was the only “cigar tree” on the block, and when I spied it, I knew we were almost there. It was a beautiful tree, with frilly white flowers in the spring that magically became long, brown seedpods in late summer.
My Hamline-Midway neighborhood is the kind of place where childhood memories are made. Sure, Wisconsin Dells, a Caribbean cruise to the Bahamas, and Disney World all have their fair share of excitement and joyous wonderment. But nothing can compare to the warm feeling you get as sticky chocolate ice cream drizzles down your fingers, while you watch your sister try to feed the dog some of hers.
We had only been living in Saint Paul for a couple of months when my husband told me he’d found somebody else. “Someone from work,” he said. “Can I keep my stuff here until I find a new place?” I put off telling my mom for a couple of weeks, not wanting her and my dad to worry about me and my one-year-old son. When I finally did tell her, I had to repeatedly assure her that my freelance work was actually bringing in enough money to live on, even though it was far from true.
I was living on the street . . . had used up all my clean undergarments . . . and did not have any money or place to wash. One day I was taking what is called a “sponge bath” in the White Castle on University and Lexington, feeling really low . . . hours passed, 2 p.m. . . . traveled down to the Loft Teen Center and filled up on penny candy, sitting on the corner of Oxford and Carroll Avenue. A grey four-door car pulled up slowly . . . right next to me . . . my head was down, very close to the street gutter entrance . . . I could smell the stench of whatever was down there. I heard a deep, smooth, radio personality voice saying, “What’s the matter, man?” I was like, “What?” I couldn’t believe it. “I need some clean draws . . . and socks!” I answered. This voice replied, “Get in.” Wow! My angel on Earth. Steve bought me a pack of clean boxers and socks. Then he allowed me to shower at his house so I could go to school . . . clean.