I have the next two weeks off. Lucero was sick the past couple days, so I kept her at home, and today she’s back at preschool. I ran all my errands. I want to have a quiet break. I hired a babysitter for Lucero, so now I am out, on Friday night, alone, and having my crème brûlée. I’ve been fantasizing about this moment for a while..
It takes forever, to start a new life. However, nothing is ever.. truly forever..
The first time I was 24, it was Spring, and I was at a conference in Maryland. He must have been 46. He is 22 years older than me. He asked me who my advisor was, and told some people at the coffee break that his wife had helped edit his most recent paper. He was married, and I was just falling in love with my husband-to-be. I remember me thinking two things: I also want to get married; this man has a very distinctive voice. He has no recollection of meeting me at that conference.
The second time I was 28, it was spring, and I was at a conference in Philadelphia. I was giving a talk, married, and 4 months pregnant with Lucero. He came to me after my talk, shook my hand, introduced himself to me, said he really enjoyed my talk, and he is happy to have me and my husband join the department at Michigan. We moved from New York City to Ann Arbor a few months later.
The third time I was 29, it was summer. I was walking with my (ex)husband near the department in Ann Arbor, and nine months pregnant. He was sitting at a coffee shop, and he stared at my huge pregnant tummy as we walked by, then stood up to welcome us. We chatted shortly. I have no recollection of what he and my ex husband chatted about.
The fourth time I was 30 and it was summer. I, my ex-husband, and him had a meeting to discuss potential projects together. We never followed up.
I had two random dreams about him that year, and I woke up after each of them appalled, as I had never interacted with him, saw him, or thought about him. The dreams were so vivid.
The fifth time I was still 30, it was Fall, and we were at a conference in Chicago. I was carrying Lucero, and walking in the city with my ex-husband. We ran into him and another person, so we had a brief chat, and went our separate ways. I had lunch that day with a group of people, he may or may not have been with us.
The sixth time I was 31, and it was Fall. I had just separated from my ex-husband. I was going to my Pilates class, and I stopped to get some coffee. He was sitting in the coffee shop and told me that the department fire alarm went off, so no one could go in there. I sat down to have coffee with him. I only remember two things from that conversation: That he is so picky about the meat he buys, and that he swims a lot- when he was at a conference in LA, he swam in the ocean with a bunch of younger guys, and he was the fastest. I remember thinking I want to swim in the big ocean too.
The seventh time I was still 31, it was winter, and I was in the middle of my divorce. I was climbing the stairs at the department in Ann Arbor. He and another person I knew were walking down the stairs. I told them I just got a job offer in Virginia, and I will take it. They congratulated me.
The eighth time I was 32, and it was summer. I was happily walking on the street in downtown Ann Arbor, on my way to a French speaking group at a nice coffee shop. He was on his bike, coming back from swimming. When he saw me, he waved at me, and came to my side of the street. He stepped down from his bike, and we chatted for half an hour, on the sidewalk. I left to my French group, thinking, and a bit surprised: this was such a random encounter, and a nice conversation.
The rest, is history… until…
The ninth time I was still 32, and it was Spring. I had just moved from Ann Arbor to Virginia. I drove to Ann Arbor, one week after our breakup. I entered his classroom, after he finished teaching (yes.. I did a taboo thing.. going to his work place). He looked at me and said, “You came, you are so beautiful, it’s been horrible!”, and he sat on a bench, and covered his face. We chatted for fifteen minutes. I only remember some phrases from that conversation, as everything was a blur: He said that what’s in his heart is the same, but there is no point; he had been crying, not eating or sleeping; his life fell apart; he came this close to fixing his life, then it all fell apart. I drove back to Virginia, with my heart shattered.
The tenth time I am 33, and it is winter. I went to Ann Arbor to visit friends, and to see how I feel about the place. I was looking for peace. I heard he hadn’t been doing well. I knocked at his door, and he did not open the door. I sent him a message, that I was there. He did not reply. I knocked at his neighbor’s doors, and finally some opened their door. They were very welcoming, as I asked about him, and they volunteered all the information they knew, to a stranger woman, about a stranger neighbor man. I later saw him randomly, far from his house, on his bike, with a long unkept white beard. I did not stop to talk to him, but I crashed my car into the sidewalk! He did not see me, or maybe he did. I’ll never know.
The eleventh time I am 33, and it is still winter. I got a message from him, in the middle of the night. His situation has worsened, but he was angry I went there. He said hurtful things, and they worked, because I hurt.
It is incredible how life unfolds. How people are strangers, then they are not, then they are strangers again. How we encounter people at different times in our lives, at wrong, right, and not-yet times. And somehow life is always beautiful as it displays itself out.
I want to go back to that time, when I was 24, and he was just another married stranger to me, with a distinctive voice. He must have separated from his ex wife around that time. I wish he never had.
Update: The man I loved died on September 15 2015. I never stopped loving him. I will miss him forever.
My heart was always yours…
(Photo: New York City, right after my visit to Ann Arbor)
Today, I woke up at 6:23 a.m., took a shower, got dressed, made my coffee, dressed Lucero while she was still sleeping in my bed, carried her to the couch, fed her yoghurt and gave her a small cookie in a Ziplock bag, carried her to the car, with my books and coffee in the other hand, dropped her at school, and then was at my office, working, at 7:23 a.m.
I feel like super mom. Good morning single moms of the world. We are awesome!
(Photo: Single momming in New York.)
I have not traveled for work since I became a single mom. In our domain, we travel to conferences and workshops, present and attend talks. We must always stay up to date in our field.
I have not attended a single conference since more than two years. Mainly, because Lucero was too young, and I had no one to watch her in a foreign city. The divorce and moving took a huge toll financially as well, so I could not afford paying for her plane ticket and babysitting.
I decided to put that part of my career on hold, until Lucero was older, and our finances stabilized. I thought that I will eventually catch up, and if I don’t, my daughter’s safety, happiness, and stability are more important.
This coming summer, Lucero will be close to five years old, so I will take her on a work trip to Finland. I am nervous, but this is how it is going to be from now on, and I bet it will only get easier, and more fun- even for her- as she grows older.
I just learned that our department has a policy that if a family member travels with us to a conference, they only reimburse half of the hotel costs. To say I am sad is an understatement. I am already paying one thousand dollars for her plane ticket, and at least four hundred dollars for daycare in Helsinki.
What am I supposed to do? Have another year pass without attending any conferences, or giving any talks? I do not have any family here to keep her for a whole week, plus I have never been away from her, except for three days during the holidays.
I will go to the conference, I will take Lucero with me, and it will cost a fortune. The upside: I will be with Lucero, in Helsinki. After the conference, we will travel to Belgium, and roam around Europe, for two weeks. We will travel cheap, very very cheap, and have tons of fun.
Lucero was learning about China at school the whole past week. She told me she wants to wear red, for the Chinese New Year. I immediately remembered that my brother had gotten her a Qipao from China, so I dressed her in it, and she was so excited! She couldn’t wait to go to school, to show her friends and especially her teacher, her ‘real’ chinese dress!
We got out of the door faster than anytime I remember.. She ran to her classroom, took her jacket off, and stood there with a huge grin on her face, waiting for her teacher’s reaction. Even I was waiting for her teacher’s reaction for her over excitement!
But then, her teacher had only this surprised look on her face. It was then that I realized, that the kids were supposed to wear red for China, the day before! That’s what her schedule said. The only thing is that, the day before is the day I pick Lucero up from the bed, sleeping, and take her to school, since I have to go to work so early. I remembered her schedule said something about the kids wearing red, but there is no way I could dress her a Qipao while trying not to wake her up, that, assuming that I had remembered, while half asleep myself!
It broke my heart.
Lucero stayed very happy, and did not notice what I noticed. She wore her Qipao for two days in a row. I told myself that is all that matters, and, they were, after all, learning about China the whole week. Plus, even though all her friends wore red the day before, Lucero, the next day, wore an actual Qipao.
It still broke my heart. I am sorry my dear.
I was woken up Thanksgiving night by Lucero shaking next to me, not talking, whimpering and groaning. I tried holding her she was still shaking and not responding.
I called an ambulance and 10 minutes later we were at the hospital, with Lucero’s 106 degrees fever.
We spent the night at the ER, and were discharged in the morning. Lucero has pneumonia, and I am keeping her at home, heavily medicated, for the next few days. She was having a seizure, and I am so thankful I woke up to realize that, and for the mere existence of 911.
I had never had to rush Lucero to the hospital before.
When the paramedics were leaving with her little self wrapped in blankets and cuddled in their big arms, I was running around trying to grab some warm clothes for her. I told them I will drive behind you, because we need the car to come back. They were surprised, “there is no one else here?” I said “No. Actually, I cannot drive, I am shaking.”
The nurses were asking me many questions, I had them repeat most of them, more than once. I was in shock. I had no idea what time it was, what time this started, what my last name was, or her date of birth.
When Lucero was finally responding and declared, “mama I was shaking! It is because my white blood cells are trying to kill the virus in my nose!”, I collapsed in tears. I then realized that my feet were freezing, because I wore my wet boots without any socks. I had also forgotten Lucero’s shoes. We left the hospital in the morning, in a cab, with two pairs of cold feet.
Lucero had been sick since Tuesday, but I had promised to go out sledding with her and her friends on Thanksgiving, after dinner. We did, it was a blast, and this was the result.
Speak of bad single mothering…
I convinced Lucero to wait for me while I throw the trash away. The trash container downstairs is huge, closed, and has a window on the side to toss the bags inside.
Well, I tossed my keys with the trash.
They settled on the bottom of the container, with all the disgusting bags.
Horrified, but composed, I stood there staring at the trash. I took my jacket and almost everything I was wearing off, climbed the window and leapt into the container, with all the trash, and my keys.
I tried to not think of what was happening and exit as fast as I entered. But no, there are moments in life when time seems to freeze and everything proceeds in slow motion.
I tried to climb out the same way I came in, but my hands slipped and I fell back. I hurt my knee! Now I really had to jump out! (I have already deleted from my memory that I made a trash-step to actually be able to get out.)
I gathered my clothes and as I walked up the stairs Lucero was calling on me, “mama are you back?”.
“What is that stinky smell?”
Yup, your mum was in a trash container today.