Non Fiction Archives

Dreams, A True Love Story [Part 3]

[Click here for part two]

After we got over the initial surprise of finding out Amanda was pregnant we settled into something of a normal routine.  It wasn’t quite the same as before of course because now what was and was not good for the baby became a factor in a lot of things.

The first thing Amanda did starting the next Monday was spend three days after work in the public library.  She read everything she could find about pregnancy, delivery and the general care and feeding of babies.

She found out that, contrary to the popular belief at the time, she didn’t have to act like an invalid and stay home doing as little as possible and that a certain amount of exercise & walking was actually a good idea as long as she didn’t overdo it.

She also did some counting.  We’d found out she was pregnant on May 15th, 1980.  The doctor said that she was about three weeks along which meant conception had been around April 17th.  Counting nine months from that date gave her an expected delivery date sometime in the middle of January 1981.

During that time I spent at least a half an hour every day going through the employment section of the classifieds looking for a job that paid better.  The time was coming soon that we would need a lot more money.

Not only to pay for Amanda’s monthly doctor visits (which she had grudgingly agreed were necessary), there was also the hospital time involved for delivery and in a few months we would have to compensate for her not being able to work anymore.  Last but certainly not least was the expense of things we’d need for the baby.

We started saving money. We cut back on almost everything, putting every cent we didn’t absolutely need to spend into the bank.  I also started doing some saving of my own.  I cut back on what I spent for lunches at work and saved the money.  Amanda’s birthday wasn’t until July 13th but roses were expensive and this year of all years I was determined to make sure she had a full dozen of them.

The job search wasn’t going anywhere.  Times were tough all over.  Unemployment was at all time highs and it seemed like every day you heard about another company either closing it’s doors or laying off most of their employees.  Job security was rare and to many people “Reganomics” was a curse word.

Amanda was happier than I’d seen her in years (which is really saying something, she was almost always happy).  She’d determined that she was going to be the best mother that she could.  One of the things she did to that end was to spend more time talking to her older sister.  She had been in the habit of calling her once a month or so but she started calling once a week.

As I said before we didn’t have a phone nor did any of our neighbors.  Making a phone call meant using the payphone outside the grocery store.  We didn’t make many calls during winter.

Amanda’s sister Patricia (who didn’t like that name and insisted everybody call her “Trish”) was three years older than her and had two kids of her own.  Every Saturday (payday was Friday for both of us) she would call Trish.  They’d talk about her pregnancy, comparing Amanda’s with Trish’s two times, experiences with babies in general and newborns in particular and so on.

Amanda dutifully kept her June appointment with the doctor who pronounced her perfectly healthy and said that everything was going as expected.  The only problem she had were occasional bouts of morning sickness.

I’ve never understood why they call it that because more than half the time it could start at any time and easily last all day and even well into the night.  It varied in severity from mild nausea to “don’t even mention food or physical activity”.

I woke up on my birthday and found her in the bathroom throwing up.  Obviously that this wasn’t one of the milder days.  Not only was she throwing up, she was crying.  The roll of red ribbon on the sink gave me a pretty good idea why and I was right.


It was 1974.  On the morning of my 15th birthday Amanda called me and asked me to come over.  “my folks and Trish are spending the day at the flea market so when you get here just come in.  I’ll be in my room. Oh, and be sure to lock the door.”

She only lived a few blocks away so I was there a few minutes later.  I cautiously opened the door and looked around.  I’ve never been comfortable just walking into somebody else’s house without knocking but as she’d said, nobody else was home.  I locked the door and headed for Amanda’s room.

I walked into her room and froze.  She was stretched out on her bed, wearing nothing but a bright red ribbon with a bow on it.  I had seen her naked a few times before (with her consent I should add) but this . . . All I could do was stare.

“Well silly, aren’t you going to unwrap your present?” she asked with a giggle in her voice.

Being physically normal teenagers with the usual load of hormones driving us we had a healthy curiousity about sex.  We talked about it a lot and had agreed that it was obvious that our first time would be with each other (niether of us could imagine being with anyone else).  The only thing we hadn’t figured out ahead of time was when.  Amanda had decided that it would make a perfect birthday gift.

It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what happened next so I’ll skip the details.  Suffice it to say that we “celebrated” my birthday four times that morning.  Two weeks later on her birthday we “celebrated” several more times.

After that it became an annual tradition that means a lot to both of us.  Regardless of how “active” we are the rest of the time, Birthdays are always extra special.

[End Flashback]

She told me she wasn’t going to be able to give me my birthday present this year and that she hated herself for being so sick on this of all days (We had not missed a birthday since we were 15).  I told her that while it meant a lot, her not feeling good couldn’t be helped and that we could make up for it when she felt better.

She protested that it wouldn’t be the same but her stomach was turning in too many circles for her to argue any more than that.  She let me help her back to bed and ended up sleeping most of the day.  The next several days were varying degrees of bad and worse.  That Saturday however she was feeling good enough to make the trip to the pay phone and call Trish and that helped a little.

It seemed like the closer her birthday was, the slower time passed.  Finally it was the 11th, the last workday before the 13th.  It was also payday.  I was so anxious to get the day over with and get those roses I’d been saving for that I actually showed up at work ten minutes early. 

The day dragged on like few before it had.  In the late afternoon, about half an hour before quitting time the foreman made the rounds delivering pay envelopes.  I stuck it in my pocked and started trying to get ahead on cleanup so that I could leave the instant it was 5pm.  When it was finally time to go I wasted no time getting out of there.

The flower shop was on the way home about a block from the grocery store.  I went in and got a dozen long stem roses.  For the last several days I had skipped buying lunch entirely and added that to the money I had saved.  It was a good thing I’d done so because that dozen roses cost all but a dollar of what I had saved.

I went from there straight to the grocery store to get a box.  Yeah, the roses came in a box but it’s the kind of thing that you can tell by looking at the package what’s in it.  I didn’t want her to know what it was until she opened it.

The large box that had originally held laundry soap was perfect.  I also bought a couple of newspapers and some tape.  I wadded up the pages to line the box.  First filling it halfway with newspaper, then adding the roses, then filling it the rest of the way.  Then all I had to do was tape it shut and wrap it with the few pages of newspaper I’d saved for that.

It was perfect.  The box was big enough that if I carried it right I could make it look like it was really heavy even though it didn’t weigh very much at all.

Normally I would stop at the bank and drop my check in the night deposit on the way home but I decided I’d deposit it the next morning (our bank was open Saturday morning until noon) while Amanda called Trish.

When I got home and Amanda saw the box and the way I carried it like it was really heavy she said that I shouldn’t have gotten something so big.  At the same time her curiousity was running in overdrive.  Especialy after I asked her not to touch it until Sunday morning.

The next morning while she was talking to Trish I went to the bank to deposit my paycheck.  When I opened the envelope I saw that the check wasn’t the only thing in it.  I got out the second item and my heart dropped into my stomach, which immediately fell into my bowels and threatened to dribble down my legs.

It was actually typed on pink paper.  It started out “We regret to inform you”.  It was a form letter, the essense of which was I had been laid off for an indefinite period of time and that they’d call me when they could afford to have me back.

This was, to say the least, a disaster.  The last thing we needed right now was for either of us to be out of work.  I deposited the check and put that cursed pink page in my wallet.  Normally I don’t keep anything from Mandy but her birthday was the next day and I didn’t want anything to ruin it.  I would tell her Monday.

I did my best to act like nothing was wrong, hoping that if she noticed anything out of sorts that she would think it was because I was worried she might not feel good Sunday (which I was).

Fortunately Sunday morning she felt great.  I forgot all about troubles for the rest of the day, concentrating instead on celebrating her birthday.

For that one day, nothing in the world was wrong anywhere.

The next morning I was up at six as usual out of habit.  Around seven Mandy came out, got some coffee and sat down at the table with me.

I got out my wallet and retrieved that pink note.  “I didn’t want it to spoil your birthday but I got this along with my paycheck Friday.” I told her as I put it on the table in front of her.  “I’ve been laid off.”

[To be continued . . .]

Dreams, A True Love Story [Part 2]

[Click here for part one]

Have you ever noticed how easily your entire world can be turned completely upside down?  How it kind of sneaks up on you quietly and then wham, you get hit with something that changes everything.

For most things the details about most things in life tend to fade over the years until most of what you remember is just the fact that they happened.  Well this day is something that I’ll remember the details of if I live to be ten thousand years old.

The day started out like any other.  It was a Thursday and I was up at six to get ready for work.  By seven thirty I was ready to leave and Amanda wasn’t up yet.  She’d been really tired for the last week or so and had been sleeping later because of it.  I went in to let her know I was leaving and found her sitting up in bed looking like she was about to lose her lunch.

“Hey, you ok?” I asked.  “I don’t think so.” she answered.  “I’ve felt awful for days now.  Yesterday I traded shifts with Casey so I can go to the clinic today.”

This got my full attention.  Mandy didn’t like doctors and avoided them like the plague.  The fact that she had decided to go see one meant that she was feeling a lot worse than she’d let me believe.

“It’s that serious?  Maybe I should go with you.” I said.  She shook her head (and quickly regretted it) “No. I’ll be ok.”  I didn’t like this.  I had an uneasy feeling that left me tempted to call in sick and go with her anyway.  The only reason I didn’t was because I knew she wouldn’t let me get away with it.

“Alright but I want you to promise to call me as soon as you find out what’s going on.”

“I will, I promise.  You’d better go or you’ll be late.”  As if I cared about that when she felt bad enough to see a doctor.  “They’ll get over it.” I said.  “Really, it’s ok.  I’ll be fine” she insisted.

I kissed her goodbye and told her “ok, but I’m expecting a call from you today.”  “I promise” she said “now go.”  I reluctantly left, still feeling uneasy about the whole thing.

The one good thing about walking to work is that you don’t have to talk to anyone along the way, it gives you time to think.  Of course that can also be a bad thing and today it was.  I couldn’t get the image of her sitting there, looking like she was about to hurl, out of my mind.  When somebody who really hates going to the doctor decides on their own to do just that . . . Well, it’s cause for worry to say the least.

Work wasn’t any help either.  Factory jobs aren’t exactly what you’d call mentally demanding.  Most of the jobs are the kind of thing that you could train a Chimp to do.  They just use humans because they don’t cost as much to train as Chimps do.  My job was operating a punch press.  I put a piece of aluminum plate in it, actvated the press, then took out the part and put it in a bin.  Not only could a Chimp do it, they could easily have automated it entirely.

This left me with eight hours of time to think.  Normally this is good.  It let me work out problems and ideas.  Today all I could think about was all the things that could be the problem.  It could have been anything from something she ate to a bad case of the flu to who knows what.

What bothered me even more than thinking of all the possibilities was that she didn’t call.  The problem was that I couldn’t call her.  We didn’t have a phone, nor did any of our neighbors, we used pay phones instead.  Remember, this is back long before everybody had cell phones, they hadn’t been invented yet.  Oh, there were “car phones”, really expensive big clunky things that you could pay a fortune to have mounted in your car but that was it.

The saying goes “Time flies when you’re having fun”.  However when you’re worried about the love of your life, it drags like molasses flowing uphill in a New England January.  Eight hours seemed more like eight days.  When quitting time finally came I did a quick half ass job of cleaning up my area, clocked out and got out of there as fast as I could.

Even walking as quickly as I could without breaking into a run the trip home was interminable as well but finally I was there.  The door was locked and suddenly I wondered if she was even home yet and why she wouldn’t be.  I unlocked it and went inside.

A wave of relief flooded me as I saw her sitting on the couch staring at the tv.  “Mandy? You ok?” I asked.  Then I noticed it wasn’t turned on.  Things were definitely not ok.  That wave subsided quickly.

When I sat down beside her I saw the tears running down her cheek.  This was serious indeed.  She didn’t cry easily and the fact that she was meant she was really upset.  “Hey, what’s wrong?” I asked.  “Nothing’s wrong” she said quietly.

If there is one thing that I have learned about women it is that when they say “nothing’s wrong”, you can bet your last dollar that it’s not even close to “nothing”.

“When you didn’t call I was worried.” I said.  She looked up at me with an apologetic look and some fresh tears. “oh, I’m so sorry.  I forgot.”

Another red flag.  Amanda never forgets anything, she’s got an eidetic memory, computers forget more than she does.

“Don’t worry about it, it’s ok.  What’d the doc say?”

I could see her holding back the tears as she looked at me.  “I’m pregnant” she said and then all but collapsed in my arms as she started crying again.  “I’m not ready to be a mother.” she said haltingly through the tears.  “and how are we going to take care of a baby when we’re always broke?  Even worse, I’ll have to quit my job.”

I held her, trying to offer whatever comfort I could.  “We’ll manage somehow.” I told her “We always do.  You should be able to keep your job for a while anyway. and Mandy, I can’t imagine a better mother than you.”

She looked up at me “You really mean that?” she asked.  “Absolutely.  That’s one lucky kid you’re going to have.” I assured her.

Slowly the tears subsided as we spent the rest of the night talking.  Before we realized it, the sun’s first rays were shining through the window and we heard the sound of the alarm clock in the next room.

“Oh no!”  she exclaimed.  “I’ve kept you up all night!”  “That’s ok” I replied “Just knowing that you’re not only not sick but that you’re the mother of my kid is worth it.  I’m tired but I’ll make it.  Tonight however we sleep.  We have all weekend to talk.”

As I walked to work that Friday morning I was thankful for the time to think and that my job gave me all the thinking time I needed.  Suddenly it wasn’t so bad having a boring job a Chimp could do.

[To be continued . . .]
Click here for part three

Dreams, A True Love Story

Do you dream in episode format?  I’ve never heard of anyone else doing that.

I have had episodic dreams since I was ten.  They’ve been continuing over the years.  Each episode picks up where the previous one left off.  Even if it’s months since the last one the next episode covers the time since then.  In a very real way, I have two lives.  One in the waking world and another that I’ve been living in dreams.  Guess which one I prefer.

Over time various things about them change just as in “reality” I have changed over the years.  However there is one constant.  One person that is always in them.

Her name is Amanda, sometimes I call her Mandy. she is one class act from the word go.  She could show up one day penniless wearing some cheap perfume and dressed in rags and still be pure class.

When I’m “awake” I find myself missing her terribly.  Especially when there’s a month or three between the “dreams”.  I have *NEVER* known anyone even remotely like her in “real life”. Nobody has ever understood me the way she does. Talking about this is literally like telling a whole life’s story and there’s times when the events of the so-called “real life” and those of the “dream life” can blur together. 

Part of the reason that can happen is that we talk about what happens in “real life”.  You see, when I’m with her, THIS is the dream (usually a nightmare to be blunt).  Anyway, we talk about the stuff that happens on this side of the dream.  She’s fantastic about that, she’s never doubted how real it seemed to me.  Probably beause she also sometimes has very real-seeming dreams about another life, which we also talk about.

As I said, we met when I was around ten years old.  She was a lot like me, a loner, kind of apart from most people, never quite fitting in with so-called “normal” people.  Like me, kids gave her a lot of crap in school.  We understood each other a lot.  We laughed at each other’s jokes, like me she loved science fiction books and movies.  While we shared interest in a lot of things, in spite of what you may think, we did have our differences.

She liked Top-40 music and I couldn’t stand most of it.  She loves to dance and I always had two left feet and so on.  I think our differences were just enough in just the right ways to bring us closer together over time.

We went though the rough times of our teenage years together and when we were 19, we got married.  Yeah, I know, In “real life” when I was 19 I was a LONG way from even being close to almost ready to even think about marriage (I also didn’t have a girlfriend, let alone the ultimate girlfriend from heaven Amanda was).  However in the dream things were different.  We’d been in love for years and we had just kind of always known we’d be together that way.

Anyway, we’d gotten married.  In 1979 when we were 19 we decided to pack up our things and start our new life together fresh in a new city.  We were in love but we were also too clueless for words.  We had no idea how difficult things could get (though we found out really fast).  Our first apartment was a dingy little two room third floor walk up in East St. Louis.  We both agreed that the only really cool part of it was that we could see the Gateway Arch from our bedroom window.

We ran out of money not long after paying the first month’s rent on that hole we lived in.  We both got jobs in local food places.  I slaved away in a McDonald’s making burgers while she waited tables in a small mom & pop restaurant.  Niether of us made much money but the two of us together, along with her tips, managed to get by.

We didn’t live fancy at all. We never had much more than just enough to pay the bills and keep ourselves fed and clothed.  For us, a weekly “night out on the town” consisted of going to someplace cheap (that neither of us worked at), having a meal that cost maybe five or six bucks tops for the both of us, and then just walking around for a few hours talking.

In a way in spite of our poverty it was perfect.  We had what we needed which for the most part was each other.  We could talk about anything.  We found humor in all kinds of things.  Many of which had people looking at us like we were lunatics from Mars.

We lived there for almost a year.  Then I was looking in the paper for better jobs (we both did that pretty often.) when I saw a listing for a factory job.  It paid almost twice what I was getting at Micky D’s but the thing is it was quite a ways away on the other side of the river on the west side of St. Louis.  We talked about it and agreed I should go for it.  Just in case I got the job we started looking for a place in that area.  It wasn’t easy because the rent was higher there.  Then I got a call, the job was mine and I started the next Monday.

That gave us like four days.  We scrambled like crazy, selling everything we didn’t absolutely need and borrowing from friends to get the money to take the first apartment we could afford.  Times got really lean for a couple of months there.  I had the new job that paid better but she had to find a new one.  Then we had to pay back a bit over three hundred bucks to people that’d helped us move.

Then about six months later when I came home from work one day, she told me something that changed our lives forever.

She was pregnant.

[To be continued . . .]
Click here for part two