Arthur and I left for Philadelphia the summer of 1984. Zigzagging across the country is fun. My excitement is high when we arrive in that beautiful, historic city. Arthur had flown out before the car trip and found us a place to live, so we rounded up some used furniture at the Salvation Army, and I set about securing my place at school. I love Penn, the campus, my classmates, the faculty, and Arthur.
We drench ourselves in the Philly experience. We go to New York frequently, explore the Pennsylvania countryside, travel often to the Jersey Shore, go to the theater, and discover magnificent eateries. The hype doesn’t last long.
We are in Philly for less than a year when Arthur becomes disillusioned. He can’t find a fit for his rogue, bad-boy persona, though not for want of trying. My studies require more and more of my time and energy. The Pacific Northwest tugs at him, as he grows more despondent with each passing day.
In a last ditch effort to help Arthur regain some of his previous endearing qualities—love of laughter, joy of life—I suggest we go abroad.
I apply to the London School of Economics and Political Science. Initially, Arthur is wild about the prospect but his enthusiasm wanes and deep depression grips him in a choke-hold. He decides that what he really needs is to return to Portland; familiar territory.
He won’t hear of me quitting my studies, and he leaves for Portland dejected and even more depressed. I am deeply saddened, and miss him, but know there could be no other way for either of us. We don’t break up exactly, but it is the beginning of the end. I take a leave of absence from Penn, and one month after Arthur leaves, I fly to London.
On my way to England, I stop in Portland to spend some time with my daughters and a few friends. Marilyn, a long-time Portland friend, and I are catching up on one another’s lives and wondering about our future. Then I say, “I feel like there is a big piece missing from my life, like a puzzle with a hole in the center.”
“I think what’s missing from your puzzle is God,” Marilyn says.
“I can’t imagine that is what’s missing. I’ve never felt any kind of a God in my life. It must have something to do with me leaving my children, don’t you think?”
“I’m thinking the two might go together.”
Something vaguely resonates in the way she hints that the puzzle might have to do with God. I feel a weensy internal shift. So I began by experimenting. Surprise, prayer didn’t feel as alien as I thought it would.
What I came to learn:
- That period of time in my life, as I drenched myself in learning how to be a full-bloomed independent woman, was critical in paving the way for my growth into the motherhood I strived for.
- It would take many more years in the making. Stay tuned for a “surprise” post.