Tuesday, June 07, 2011

When we first got to Carbondale we lived on Short Street, on the far northwest side, and I walked Justin to the bus mornings when I could; that was about three or four blocks away. He had a long bus ride way across town to the southeast side, and the bus was riotous and anarchic, but he was a trooper, even as a first-grader, and did well. My wife did not do well at home with the little one or at times when she had them both. She moved out within a few months of our arrival.

My memory is unclear about the exact timing, but it took until 1997 for the divorce to be finalized, and by that time we were so eager to have it over with that we agreed to do it on the only available date, Valentine's Day. As for the time from August of 1994 until that date, what I remember is this: I left after a water-throwing incident on a frozen night in January, probably 1995; I moved to Almond Street on the north side; she moved to Cedar Creek Road, south of town; we split custody of the boys until she insisted on having it, but the divorce settlement gave me half custody which more or less kept us both in Carbondale for the next sixteen years or so.

I liked Carbondale from the moment I got here, except for the weather, which is steamy and oppressive in the summer. Most of the year I can walk or ride my bike places, and I do; I've come to know the place well and enjoy being well known around town. Lack of good buildings to look at is an issue; I don't mind lack of restaurants, or lack of cultural events; actually it has more cultural events than I've ever been able to attend. Lack of proximity to big city (we are 2 hours from St. Louis) is a problem too but not so big for me, really; I don't even feel the need to go to a city regularly, though I enjoy it when I do.

At work the infighting and notorious infighting of unhappy faculty started immediately and carried on for many years. But I was happy to have a full-time job in a place where I hopefully wouldn't have to move again, and could just live somewhere without my eye on the horizon. The divorce and everything that went with it was acrimonious, heartbreaking, and painful, but I felt that I'd done what I could and what remained was to make a stable, consistent and loving home for the children and pick up the pieces, which I did. I became a single father. I had them half the time; I drove them to Unity Point, where they now went (by 1997 Noah was five; there was a time when we had him in daycare on the SIUC campus). Part of this time I had a 1963 Plymouth whose whole job was to make it up Unity Point's hill. Then there was a 1984 Accord that had over 200,000 miles on it.

Somewhere in there, twice in fact, the Indians won the pennant but not the series. I remember one time on Short Street, but I was sure that would be 1995; maybe we lived there that fall. The other time, I was on Almond Street and had to catch the World Series on the radio; by this time, I was somewhat bitter about everything and didn't give them much of a chance, and sure enough, they blew it, though I'm not sure I caught that exact game. I would often leave home, on nights when I was single, and walk down to the coffee shop, and drink a long slow coffee and maybe watch the train go by. I became well known at that coffee shop in those years; it helped me by giving me a place to complain and find other parents in similar condition. I was in no hurry to find a girlfriend.

In 1997 my brother got married in England and I took the two young boys, and the banjo, and the luggage, to Chicago, Newark, Stanstead Airport, and by bus up to Stafford, England. It was an enormous trip and I remember being stuck in the Newark airport on the way back; that was a thirteen-hour leg at least, but I might be mistaken on that. I summoned up a reservoir of strength to deal with the little children who basically were very good. Another time we took the train down to New Mexico; I remember these as the good times. Our neighborhood on Almond Street provided them with several friends when they were around; we played baseball with a whiffle ball in the back yard and went camping more than once. We became regulars at Quaker meeting where the boys would act in plays.

In 2000 I bought a house on the south side, out by Arnold's, on West Park Lane, and tried to fix it up; but, the same year, I met my present wife, Jen, and now I was distracted and didn't quite finish the job. In 2001 we were married; this was at Giant City Park and was completely organized and arranged by the Quakers. So began the modern era, which I don't have to retell, because we are in agreement that it least it was good for both of us, at least up until the present (2011), as I write this. She had three children already (Natalie, Eric, and Kylie), while I had Josie, Justin and Noah; Kylie was still with her, but I still had Justin and Noah at home. She moved into West Park Lane; Elias was born in October; we adopted Corey in 2005, and moved to South Lark Lane, on the west side, right around then, or perhaps right before that.

I apologize for leaving out all the personal details. I include all the names simply because the whole story is so complicated that a simple account might be useful to a whole variety of people. In that case, sorry to put so many travel stories in amongst the facts. But I didn't start this out to lay out a personal account of relationships, romantic or parent-child; and I didn't ask their permission, so I'll leave out those details. I want to include those things that are indisputably true, and that anybody, child or ex-wife or whoever, will agree with.


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