The Dilemma

Vince has mentioned in his blog that he would like to write about his brother, so I should probably get out ahead of that.

It was 1979.  Nine-month-old Vince and I lived on the 18th floor of Skyline Towers, a subsidized 24-story high rise overlooking Interstate 94.

I had just started my second year of college.  In the spring I would earn my two-year Occupational Therapy degree.  I would be able to get a job and get off welfare, maybe even move out of public housing into a quaint little brick four-plex with wood floors and a stained glass window.  That was my dream.

Here was my routine:

5:30 am: Get up, shower, feed baby Vince

6:00 am: Strap Vince into the collapsible stroller, put on the old beaver fur coat I had found at the Salvation Army and the moon boots I bought new after saving all summer.  Sling my backpack full of text books over my shoulders, and head down the hall to the elevators.

Moon Boots

6:15 am: Exit the front door into the winter morning darkness.  Cross the parking lot, then the pedestrian bridge over I94 where the wind was always biting.  Push the stroller across the athletic field on the other side of the freeway (extra hard if there was fresh snow on the ground), then walk two blocks to drop Vince off at daycare.

6:30 am: Pry Vince off me, ignoring his crying and screaming.  Ignore the guilt.  I had to do this to get ahead, to better our lives.  Walk two blocks to the bus stop.

6:45 am: Catch the 21A to Minneapolis.  This is a slow bus that stops at every corner.

7:30 am: Catch a second bus that drops me off a block from school.

8:00 am: First class.  Study and go to class all day.  Pathology, Anatomy and Physiology, Abnormal Psychology, Medical Terminology, and Fundamentals of Occupational Therapy.

4:00 pm: Repeat above, only backwards.  Sometimes necessary to stop at the grocery, which slowed things down considerably because I had to haul the stroller and one of those little-old-lady shopping carts.


6:00 pm: Arrive home, make dinner, feed Vince, clean, pay bills, make phone calls, etc.

7:30 pm: Put baby to bed.  Thank god he is such a good baby and loves to sleep.  But I still like our routine of reading books, singing songs, and rocking.

8:00 pm: Study for a couple hours, in bed by 10.

Then I found out I was pregnant again.  I had been using birth control and breast feeding.  Taken together, these were supposed to protect me against getting pregnant.  Lucky me, I was one of the one out of a hundred or whatever who did.

I’ve written about the guy Vince and I call The Creep.  Why had I let The Creep anywhere near me after Vince was born?  Because I felt obligated.  He was Vince’s father, after all, and my boyfriend.  Even though he was terrible at both, I was a doormat.  I can hardly believe this was me—it feels like it happened to another person.

I loved being a mother.  But how could I keep up my schooling with two babies?

I loved babies.  But how could I be a good mother to two of them?

I loved college—I was the star pupil in my class.  But how could I keep it up with two kids?

I told The Creep.  He looked like a badger caught in a snare.

“I spose we have ta get married then, huh?” was his response.

I don’t know what I had wanted from him, but it wasn’t that.

I told my mom.  She was furious.

“This will kill your grandma,” she said, and she wasn’t exaggerating.  My grandmother had run into the bathroom and thrown up when I’d told her I was pregnant the first time.

I told the head of my school program.  She looked so disappointed.

“What are you going to do?” she asked, not expecting that I’d have any answer.


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