I find a beautiful old house between Fort Lewis and Seattle that has been converted into apartments. There is a panoramic view of the Puget Sound. I’m in one of two second story, two-room units with a large kitchen and French doors leading to a small deck.
Not by any conscious decision on my part, my heavy drinking and sexual promiscuity begin to wane. New people fill my life, and I have oodles of fun. I date officers, defying military regulations.
External appearances would indicate that all is hunky-dory, right? I review my late-life, iffy developmental chart, and discover that it’s still blurry. Forcing myself to concentrate and focus, I see that it’s all screwed up. I’ve gone from Pocatello student-status, to alien Army status. Now I’m in Fort Lewis masquerading as a professional adult when the painful truth is I’m hovering between late teen and mature adult. My outward actions may portray a grown-up, but my gut telegraphs otherwise. Frequently, I’m still the restless adolescent wondering: Who am I?
Mother’s voice, What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you be like everyone else? Who would that be, I ponder? This nebulous identity stymies me, threatens to pull me back down the rabbit hole, so I decide to drag out my familiar rose-tinted glasses, scrub the lens’ and march forward. This pleases Big D: Those glasses fit her to a ‘T.’
Each summer when my daughters come to visit, I am reminded I’m still a mother—but what kind? By now, my daughters are ages fifteen, eleven and nine. My interest in their lives, and my parenting, is put under a different microscope. However, the consequences of my leaving and my self-imposed flagellation have rendered punishing effects on all of us.
I don’t let Denial dominate my life like it did, but it still has a strong presence and comes around regularly, serving as a veil—sometimes a pink veil when I’m wearing the rosy glasses. We’re doing just fine, thank you very much. I march on. I make plans.
Portland State has accepted me into their MSW program and in the summer of 1977, I move to Portland.
The excitement about moving to Portland is overshadowed by leaving Bill, the officer I fell in love with, behind. My out-of-sync developmental chart continues to misfire. I am significantly younger than Bill in age and relationships, but the Big D fans the spark of “true love” into a full-blown, heart-shaped fire. I pined for months, pretending Bill would jump on his white horse and gallop all the way to Portland. He didn’t. I took this breakup like most teens—I moped, I drank, I boo-hooed. One day after a particularly long wailing jag, I went into the bathroom to splash my face with cold water and caught sight of my mug in the mirror. Big droopy, puppy eyes stared back at me. I recoiled, knocked Big D off my shoulder and announced: Okay, that’s it.
Time to move on.
Stay tuned for next episode: Moving on – Back in school