MANNING A GAS STATION
While I was looking for a full time job, I worked at a gas station with a convenience store. After 4 hours training, I was put on the cashier station right away. I really enjoyed that job. Although I was on my feet all day, the job was so much easier than when I worked in Chinese restaurants, as I was out of school and had no homework to worry about, I got to observe all kinds of Americans and learn about things you would not learn from universities.
The store was at a busy intersection and had very heavy foot traffic. There were 8 gas pumps with continuous cars going through. The pumps were positioned two pumps in a row, with each row going further from the store windows. This made fourth row difficult to monitor while minding customers in the store. When people try to pump gas from the pumps in the fourth row, we would wave to them then turn on the gas. This was to let customers know we were aware of them and customers didn’t have to come inside the store to pre-pay for the gas before pumping.
On one busy weekend, all 8 pumps were occupied. I was busy taking care of customers in the store when a heavyset middle aged man walked in. He was upset. "Why wouldn't you turn on the gas for me?" he shouted. "I was waiting at pump eight and waving at you, but you didn't even look. If you can't do the job honey, go back to where you came from."
On another day, a young guy was filling his blue car at pump one, which was closest to my window. After he finished pumping, he got back inside his car, looked around inside his car, and then opened the glove compartment, like he forgot where he put his money. I had an inkling this guy might be trying to skip out on his bill so I caught his eyes to let him know he should come in and pay his bill. He avoided the eye contact with me and just kept looking down, turning around to look at his back seats, opening and shutting his glove compartment. I had a line of customers in the store to mind. I kept an eye on him when I worked the cash register. As I scanned the items for a heavy set woman, she was watching closely to see the dollar amount for each item shown in the little window of the cash register. When I scanned a large bag of chips, the cash register showed $2.49. The woman immediately yelled the price was wrong. She proceeded to show me a small price sticker on the back of the bag that read “$1.29”. At our job training, we were told that occasionally, some customers might take a paper price sticker off an item and stick it on a more expensive item. So when the scanned price was not matching the paper price sticker, we were to get another of the same item to see what the paper sticker say. I hesitated for a splitting second and glanced at the line of customers, then I manually entered $1.29 to not dwell on this. As I continued to scan the items, from the corner of my eye, I saw that blue car was gone.
That guy's bill was $18.34. I wondered if this woman and that guy were together and scammed me. But I had no way of knowing. The store policy was that if you came up short at the end of your shift, you made up the difference with your own money. Apparently employee theft was rampant. So at the end of the shift, I put in $18.34 of my own money. That was my pay for around 4 hours of work.
WE WANT MORE OF YOU
My first full time job was in a small, local data processing house for market research companies. The main job function was writing codes to cross tabulate market research data. I had never done this work, and was unfamiliar with market research.
Back when I was home in China, we didn’t even have the concept of market research. In a state owned and operated economy, the government opened and closed factories, stores, services. The government set all prices, down to each item. The government controlled all merchandize distribution channels. Factories made what the government directed them to make, to government-decided quantities. Stores sold what the government distributed to them to sell. Consumers had no brand selections, and factories and stores had no incentives to do better. There was no market competition, no branding, no advertisement. There was no need for market research.
For the first couple of weeks at my new job, all I could do was to ask questions and study other people's work. I simply did not know how market research data was collected, how the data was used, and where data tabulation fit in the research cycle. But I caught on quickly, with the help of my training in economics and my experience in data modeling. Thanks to the goodness of the company owners, Georgia and Tom, and their confidence in me, I ‘fell’ into market research and started a new career.
A couple of months into the job, one of the bosses asked me: "Do you have any friends who are looking for jobs? We want to hire more of you." This was the kindest compliment I could ever have and I loved it. The same would happen again, multiple times, with other companies I worked for. Every time, it flatters and humbles me. I hope, that in a small way, I earned respect for my compatriots of my motherland, China, especially for my disabled compatriots.
CARRYING BABY ANNA
Before I got married, I always thought I would never have children. I didn't know what to do with children. I didn’t know how to take care of them. Babies always cried when I held them. Sometimes they’d cry just looking at me. In fact I was a little afraid of children. Afraid I didn’t know how to speak their language. Afraid they would not like me. Afraid I’d turn out to be an unfit mother. I just thought I didn’t have in me what was required of a mother. Fortunately, I would learn with happiness that I did have it in me.
After Alan and I settled in, It didn't take long for me to get pregnant. We found out we were expecting a girl. We named our baby Anna.
The amputation of my left leg left an extremely short stump. To hold my prosthetic leg in place, a wide belt was tightly wrapped around my waist. My doctors told me my tight belt shouldn’t harm the baby, but I was constantly worried it would compromise the baby’s development.
As I gained weight, in all the wrong places, the fit of my stump into my prosthesis became tighter and tighter. At around six months of my pregnancy, as my baby bump grew larger and larger, I decided to lose the belt. Because of the tighter fitting to my stump, the prosthesis stayed on without the belt. It wasn’t a firm grasp, and the prosthesis could fall out anytime. I started using a pair of crutches when I walked, hoping to put less pressure on my stump and prosthesis, so the prosthesis would stay on.
My doctors recommended I stop working and stop wearing my prosthesis until the baby was born. I thought about it, and knew I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I stayed home all day. I also read somewhere that it would actually be better for the baby if the expectant mother kept active. I thought the most sensible thing was to work until the last day, probably going into labor at work, as depicted in movies.
I was careful when I walked, making sure I didn’t carry anything in my hands except for the crutches. I fully took the advantage of the situation and asked Alan to tote everything for me, everything. Alan complained happily. “How many more times of waiting on you should I expect?” he asked with a twinkle in his eyes.
Things went smoothly without incident until I was 8 months into the pregnancy.
One busy day at work, as I got up from my desk to walk to the printer, I decided to use just one crutch under my right arm, so I could hold the printouts with my left hand. It was a very short walk, with only maybe 5 or 6 steps, so I didn’t worry too much. I thought I would go and be back in a jiffy. As I walked, I continued my conversation with a colleague. I lost balance and fell. Instinctively, I stretched my left hand to reach the floor, to support myself and brace the fall. As I went down, I heard a sound from my left wrist, and this excruciating pain overwhelmed me.
My colleagues rushed to me and asked me if I was OK. I said my left wrist was probably broken but it was fine. I just hoped I didn’t hurt my baby. Someone called 911. Before the ambulance took me away, I asked a colleague to call Alan and tell him to meet me in the hospital.
I indeed fractured my right wrist. The ER doctor told me they would need to put a cast on, but my wrist should be able to recover fully. I told him that I didn’t care too much about my wrist, but I was worried sick about whether the fall had hurt my baby.
The doctor told me not to worry. He made arrangements with the pregnancy care department to check on the baby. I was soon wheeled into the Neo Birth Unit. The young doctor, Dr. Lincoln, assured me that a few tests would find out quickly if the baby was hurt in any way. If anything was wrong at all, they would do a cesarean section on that day, as the fetus should be mature enough now.
She first gave me an ultrasound. When I heard my baby’s heartbeat, I felt a dark cloud had just lifted. Dr. Lincoln then examined me. She said the fetus and my womb both appeared healthy and no injuries were observed. She then asked me how many times the baby had moved since my fall. I told her only one time. Dr. Lincoln said she would do a non-stress test to make sure the baby wasn’t impacted by the fall and was getting enough oxygen.
Dr. Lincoln explained, that, the non-stress test was very safe and nonintrusive. It would record the baby’s movement and heartbeat. It notes changes in heart rhythm when the baby goes from resting to moving. The baby's heart should beat faster when active, just like the mother’s. She asked me to lie down on my back. Two nurses came in secured two devices with belts around my bump. They told me one device would measure the baby's heartbeat and the other would measure my contractions. When the baby kicked or moved, I would press a button on the devices so the doctor can see how my baby's heartbeat changed while moving. The nurses said they’d come back in about 30 minutes to check on me.
I chatted with Alan aimlessly to pass the time, my right hand resting on the button, ready to press. I watched the clock facing my bed to move past five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes, thirty minutes. The baby did not move once. One of the nurse came in and asked: “Have you been pressing the button when the baby moved?” I said no, as my baby hadn’t moved at all. The nurse hmm’d. “Let me go check with the doctor,” she said and left.
Alan could see the worries came back to my face. He told me to not get too stressed out. “You are in a hospital, the safest place to be right now,” he said to me gently.
The nurse came back in. “The doctor wants you to do another thirty minutes of the test. Make sure you press the button if the baby even just move a little.”
I stopped talking to Alan, focusing on my belly. Thirty minutes came and gone. My baby hadn’t moved. The nurse told me Dr. Lincoln was consulting the other doctors and I shouldn’t worry. After what seemed like an eternity, Dr. Lincoln came in with an older doctor with grey hair. “We don’t believe your baby is hurt,” he said. “We think you just have a very lazy baby!”
The doctors changed my bi-monthly checkup to weekly. They gave me two weeks off as I couldn’t really type with my right wrist in a cast. They asked me to stop using my right crutch so not put pressure on my right wrist, They asked me if I needed a wheelchair. I told them it would take a lot more than this before I would sit in a wheelchair.
I was getting bored at home without working. I asked Alan to take me to a movie. Alan said that, with a prosthesis, a crutch, an almost full term pregnancy, and now adding on the arm in a cast, it probably was not wise to go outside at all. But I wouldn’t listen. So he gave in and took me to the movies. At that point, no pants could fit me anymore. I put on a maternity dress. Pants, especially fitting jeans, could give some help in holding my prosthesis in place. Wearing a maternity dress would lose that layer of protection. I figured I would just be careful.
That day after the movie, Alan and I walked to the parking lot among the crowd. All of a sudden, without warning, my prosthetic leg came undone and just flew out from under my dress. I heard screams before I even realized what happened. I hang on to Alan’s strong arm and hopped over and sat down against the wall.
If this happened in Beijing, hundreds of people would immediately surround me staring and watching, but probably no one would reach out to help me up. But that day, in Atlanta Georgia, several people immediately stopped to help, and the rest of the crowd just kept going, no stares, no murmurs, no turned heads, just like this was the most natural thing in the world. Such was the difference in two cultures.
Another incident happened around this time that didn't end very well. In my condition, with the prosthesis, the crutches, the pregnant belly, I still went shopping, alone. One day when I came out of the store, I saw a red sports car was parked sideways at the tail of my car, blocking my car. No one was in it. At first, I couldn’t figure out what was happening. Then I realized I forgot to put up my handicapped placard while parked at the handicapped spot. I understood what this person was doing, but annoyed nonetheless. It was a very hot August day. With my pregnant hormone flowing, I could not appreciate this good intention.
This was before the cell phones. I waited in the car for about half an hour, crying, when this young guy came out of the store. As he was walking to the red car, and me, he yelled "I hope you learned a lesson today". Then he got closer, and he saw I was very pregnant, with crutches in my car. He realized his good deed made someone else miserable. Naturally, he felt bad. He went on and on he did that for people like me. He wouldn't move his car so I couldn't leave. He was waiting for me to say it's ok. I understand. But I just couldn't make myself to say that. I guess I didn't want him to feel better. He really had no right to intentionally block someone's car, regardless anything else. How could he just took for granted that my car’s driver did not deserve the parking spot. I said he could have waited in his car until the person comes out. So he wanted to feel good doing a good deed, but he didn't want to spend his time to wait in his car. I decided he had no regards to anyone else.
The due date came and went. I had no signs of going into labor. It appeared that baby Anna was not in a rush to come out.
In China, the common belief was that it's a good thing for babies to be overdue, as they have more time to absorb nutrition from the mother. So we are not too concerned.
At this point, the doctors had us to go to the hospital everyday for observation. That was during major league baseball world series. Atlanta Braves were in the series and the whole city was on fire. Everyday the doctor would say, "The baby is not coming out today. You won't have to miss tonight's game!" Alan and I would go from the hospital to our favorite sports bar to watch the game with a crowd. Yeah, with baby overdue, my artificial leg threatened to fall off anytime, I still went to sports bars to watch the world series. This went on for days.
On the day of game 6, at the hospital, after the nurse examined me, she had a concerned look on her face. "I need to go talk to the doctor for something. I'll be right back." With that she disappeared into the hallway.
The doctor and the nurse came back together. The doctor re-examined me. "The baby turned herself into a preach position,” he announced. “It's strange that you never felt the baby move.” Then he said: “I suggest I give you a cesarean section today. Natural birth with a preached baby who’s’ overdue for two weeks now would be very difficult, if not dangerous.” It was just fine with Alan and me. I nodded to the doctor in agreement. In an instant, I was in the surgery room.
Baby Anna's was born. 2 weeks overdue. She was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. She had a full head of hair and bright big eyes. She was perfect. My mind was filled with the thought that after she went through so much inside of me, the fall, the tight belt, the lack of support from my body, she came out a very healthy baby. My daughter got my sturdiness. She will be OK.
The minute she was gently placed in my arms, I knew my life changed forever. Up to that day, I had always fought for myself, trying to survive all the hardships. From that moment on, I knew I'd be fighting for her, with all that I've got,
What I didn't realize at that moment was that she would fight for me.
Mom came from China to stay with us for six months and help with the baby.
Anna was an ‘easy’ baby. She pretty much slept through the night since day one. She rarely cried insistently.
Despite my earlier fear that I wouldn’t know what to do with a baby, it all came naturally and instinctively.
I went back to work three weeks after Anna was born. That was the extent of paid time off after a child birth. I could have used saved vocation days to continue to be off, but I needed those vacation days to take Anna to go visit China.
In Chinese tradition, a new mother would stay in bed rest for a month. Otherwise she would not recover fully from carrying and delivering the baby. The baby would not go outside until she was 100 days old, when there would be an huge party for the baby to be presented to the world. So for a new mother to go back to work three weeks after delivering the baby was a no no to Mom. I told Mom three weeks is almost a month and it really should be OK.
I told Mom I had a friend who went to swim the day after going home with her baby. Nuts, Mom said.
The third day we came home from the hospital, Alan was going to buy some baby supplies. I’ll go too, I told Alan and Mom. Alan said OK. Mom said No. You can’t go outside yet. You would get sick. Think about Anna. If you got sick how would you take care of Anna, she asked me. I went anyway, and of course I didn’t get sick.
Working full time and caring for a baby was not easy, even with my wonderful mom helping me. It eventually took a toll on me. I started to argue with Alan a lot. His quality of light heartedness and laid back attitude to everything was what attracted me to him, but now I realized it wasn't enough to raise a family. He didn't care too much about finding a real job and earning a nice salary. I was the main breadwinner in our family. Our marriage was in crisis. Like millions of other couples, we focused on our baby, leaving our relationship to chance. We did not give our relationship the tender loving care it needed.
After Anna turned three, a headhunter named Tom called me. He told me he was working on an opening for an experienced market research data processing programmer for a company called Intersearch and someone referred me to him. The job was in Philadelphia. The company was a well established, full-service market research company. This was unexpected, but with a good timing.
I loved A&B and my colleagues, but because it was a data processing outfit, there really weren’t opportunities to expand my career. There were very few other market research companies in the area to move to.
And, the potential new job’s pay would almost double what I was earning. As I was the main breadwinner for our little family, this was a too good of an opportunity to pass.
I also had been thinking if the South was fitting environment for raising Anna. From my three years of living there, I liked the earthiness and unpretentiousness of the South, but I also felt some closed-mindedness. Growing up in Beijing, I had the best culture life China had to offer. I wanted Anna grow up in a place with more culture. I wouldn’t mind relocating to Philadelphia, the original capital of the United States.
The biggest factor, though, was if Alan would be willing to relocate. I had occasionally brought up the idea that it would probably be better to raise Anna somewhere in the North. Alan always said he wouldn’t want to leave the South. “Them Yankees are crazy,” he would jokingly say.
That night, after I put Anna to bed, I told Alan about Tom’s call, and my inclination to seriously look into this. I think Philadelphia would be a really good place to raise Anna, I told him.
Alan was quiet for a long time. I felt this bad feeling rising inside of me. Finally, Alan told me that he’d known for a while that I didn’t want to raise Anna in the South and wanted to move out of the South, but he knew he would never leave. He said our marriage had been thriving since the baby was born, and he doubt we’d make it. It would make sense for me to check out this potential new job.
I went to Philadelphia for a day’s of interviews. I liked the people, I liked the city, I liked the company. I guess they liked me too. I got hired on the spot.
I learned later that I got the job because of Ian, the manager of our Data Processing Department. It turned out that before coming to Intersearch, Ian worked as software consultant at Quantum, the developer of the software both A&B and Intersearch used for cross tabulation. At A&B, when we had questions and run into difficulties about certain codes, we would call Quantum to get help. On one of those calls, I worked with Ian on a relatively rare issue that no solution was readily available. Through several calls and exchanging files and codes, we came to a satisfactory solution. Afterwards I told my colleagues at A&B, that if they called Quantum, they should make sure they asked for Ian, as he was that good.
It turned out Ian had similar impressions about me. I didn't know how lucky I was at the time. I owe my whole career to Ian. A&B gave me a lucky start, and Ian afforded me an opportunity to blossom.
After I went back home, Alan and I had a very long night of talk. We came to an agreement that I should accept this job and relocate to Philadelphia, without him. He knew if I gave up this opportunity and stayed in Atlanta, I would sure grow to resent him. Accumulating resentment would surely further disintegrate our already unstable marriage. Anna would be the one to suffer. It sounded like a cliche that a family with constant fight and argument is much worse to children than a divorce, but we believed it was true. We still have a lot of love for each other, and got along well. It would be healthier for Anna and Anna would feel it, as children always do,
It would suck big time that he wouldn’t see Anna as often as he would like, but Anna would benefit from seeing us civil to each other and respect each other.
We decided that I would move with Anna and Alan would stay in Atlanta. We would see how we feel more clearly after a while, and we would go from there. Meanwhile Alan would help us to move and settle in. He would fly to Philadelphia once a month to see Anna
We moved to Philadelphia a month later.
We didn’t have a lot of possessions at the time. It took us no more than a week to settle in and familiarize ourselves with the town.
So the single mother's life of a toddler began, in a new city, with a new job, a toddler, and the collapse of the marriage. I would admit it was very tough. What got me through was my amazing baby, Anna.
wanted to proje mgr won’t let me need good coder found another job and relented
The hardest part was that I didn’t know anyone in the new city. It was very difficult to get a babysitter. So I took Anna with me everywhere I went. Any mother would know sometimes, you just couldn’t bring your child with you to every occasion.
Over time though, we made friends with other kids and their parents. I would throw a big birthday party for Anna every year, I felt guilty Anna didn’t have grandparents or uncles and aunts or cousins to spend time with, so I tried to give her good birthday parties at least to make her feel loved by many people, not just me.
Anna got sick all the time. I got calls all the time from daycare: “Anna has a fever and needs to be taken home.” All the time.
One of the big cultural conflict was that Alan spent money he didn't have, I saved with the money I did have.
Alan wasn't making enough to send me child support. I never asked him for any. I did not want to have ill feelings between us. I didn't want Alan to have the slightest resentment toward Anna. I wanted Anna be close to her dad and feel loved by her dad.
Anna and her dad remained very close even though we lived so far apart. They spoke on the phone all the time. Alan came to Philadelphia every couple of month to see Anna. Then Anna started to fly solo to and from Atlanta to spend time with her dad since five years old, the minimum age to fly unaccompanied minor, where you paid additional fare for flight attendants to watch them and deliver them to the adult on the destination.
On one of those times I went to the airport to pick up Anna after visiting with her dad. This was before nine eleven and people were allowed to go up to the gate to wait for theirs. As I was sitting at the wait area by the gate, I saw flight attendants started to trickle out, I knew Anna would be next to come out. I stood up and got closer to the gate. A flight attendant took one look at me and said: "You must be Anna's mom." I nodded yes. "She did very well. She kept me company and told me stories the whole flight.” I thought Anna probably talked her ears off.
A little different from a 'typical' Asian mom, I didn't push Anna to learn instruments or sports. My philosophy for raising my daughter was that if she had talent for anything, I would go live on the street to make sure she thrived on her talent. But I would not force her to practice piano for hours a day if she was not interested. My parents did not force me to a particular direction. I pretty much figured out what I wanted to do by living my life. I wanted to give my daughter that freedom too. In the same vane, if Anna was aspired to go to Harvard, I would sell my home to support her. Otherwise I didn't push her. She's got my stubborn streak and the more I pushed her to do something, the less she would want to do it. She liked to figure out life on her own.
For example, when Anna was not quite three years old, Alan and I decided to take Anna to an advertising agency to see what would happen. Friends told us the agency was looking for Asian Caucasian mixed kids for clothing advertisement for department stores. Being in Atlanta, the Asian population was very small.
We sent in Anna’s photos. The agency quickly responded asking to bring Anna in.
When we got there, the woman behind the desk asked Anna: “What’s your name?” Anna clearly said her name. The woman then asked: “Can you tell me your parents’ names?” Anna didn’t miss a beat. “My mom is called Dandan. That’s her Chinese name. You can also called her by her American name, Dana. My dad’s name is Alan. Alan is his middle name. His first name is Wendell.” Anna said without breaking a sweat. “Anna is my middle name. My first name is Wesley. So I have the same initials as my dad, WAT. And we both go by our middle names.”
The woman listened with great interest. She told us that generally, small Asian kids who went there would be very shy, and would not answer questions so clearly. She said Anna had what they were looking for, and handed us some paperwork. She said she was definitely interested in signing Anna. If we are interested, we could call her back and we could talk through how it would work.
After we got home, I sat Anna down asked her: “Do you what a model does?” Anna said: “Mommy, of course I do. Models wear new clothes to show people to sell them.” I asked again:
“Would you like to be a model?”
“Do you mean when I grow up?”
“No. I mean now to model clothes for children of your age.”
“No. I don’t want to be a model now. When I grow up I might.”
That was that. I asked Anna every a couple of years after that. She did not want to be a model. I never pushed her. I heard many stories that mothers push their kids to model even when their kids did not have any interest in it. I thought some of those mothers were doing it for themselves, perhaps to realize the dreams they had when they were young. Or, perhaps to have the glamorous lifestyle through their children. I did not want to be a parent like that.
Even from Anna was a toddler, I could see I wouldn't need to worry about her navigating life. She was super smart in relations with her little friends, always the leader of her circle, wasn't afraid to interact with grownups. She reminded me that 7-year old girl went to school and swimming training by herself by squeeze in between grownup legs so they could carry her up to the crowded bus in Beijing.
I know some parents are afraid of letting their children even to play on their own yards without constant supervision. In fact, some might think letting a child going across one of the busiest city on a public bus everyday is close to child abuse or endanger the welfare of a child. I raised my daughter in a somewhat middle of road as I still strongly believing in teaching children to be independent from an early age.
The year Anna turned 4, Philadelphia had a uncommonly snowy winter. It broke the record of snowfall in a single snowstorm, with thirty inches of snow. The snow accumulation was taller that Anna. A state of emergency was declared. Schools and offices were all closed. We could not open our front door for two days as the city clearing crew simply could not keep up. We did not have electricity in most of two days as snow knocked down electricity poles. Repair crew couldn’t get to the poles. We couldn’t cook but Anna and I ate all the ice cream in the house without feeling guilty, as we did not want it to melt and be wasted.
Those two days were easy days. After the storm blew over, the city worked in full capacity to dig itself out, and the real hard part began for Anna and me.
The accumulated snow would gradually melt during the day, and refreeze after sundown. In the mornings and evening, during commute hours, it was ice everywhere. To make things worse, some of the ice was ‘black ice’, which made the ground looked more like wet than icy. The black ice was deadly as unsuspecting drivers wouldn’t think to slow down when driving over it. Cars went out of control all the time.
It was almost impossible for me to walk over the ice without holding on to someone or something. On my way to take Anna to the daycare, I would put thick big socks over my shoes to provide some traction on the ice. Yeah it looked strange and was embarrassing, but it really helped. After I picked up Anna from daycare, I would ask to hold Anna's little hands for support to help me walk over the hardest part of the parking lot and sidewalks.
In our apartment complex, our apartment unit was situated lower than the parking lot. There were 6 steps of stairs from the parking lot to our front door. In those days, slipping and falling on the steps was unavoidable. I would sit down on the top of the stairs, move my legs down a step, than move my butt down using my hands on the ice to support myself. Anna didn’t need to do that but she sat down next to me, we went down the steps together, giggling.
We really went through some tough times, through which we got very close.
PICTURE OF ANNA IN SNOW TUNNEL
Anna never stopped to amaze me. She pretty much potty trained herself, somewhere between 2 and 3 years old. One day she just told me she didn't want wearing diapers anymore, and that was that. She taught herself how to ride a bicycle, without training wheels, when she was 5 years old. She left the house with her new bike, and came back riding the bicycle. Of course she fell a few times, but she just picked herself up and got on the bike again.
Looking back, I could bring Anna up in that rough period was mostly because Anna raised herself. She seldom complained. Seldom cried.
I was at McDonalds having dinner with Anna. Pointing to a table next to us, Anna whispered to me: “See that baby? Her mom is there and her dad is there.” It broke my heart. I blamed myself for not giving Anna a 2-parent family. And, we lived in different cities so she never had times where both of her parents were together with her. I felt so guilty about that. People always say it’s the way of life now. So many children are being raised by a single parent. That doesn’t really pacify my guilt. I was putting Anna in the ‘less’ category. I want Anna to be in the ‘better’ category with a complete family. It really wasn’t that much to ask for. I couldn’t give her the most basic thing of a childhood. Both parents, together.
Alan and I split officially. We agreed to start seeing other people. Sometimes, Joe would come to my mind and I had the urge to talk to him. I wasn’t sure why. I wasn’t regretting my decision to leave him to marry Alan, as the marriage with Alan gave me Anna. I thought I just wanted to hear his voice and how he was. I made a conscious decision to not dig into my subconsciousness.
One evening I impulsively dialed Joe’s home phone number. A woman’s voice came on. It caught me off guard and I hang up in panic. After a while, I called again. This time Joe answered. When he heard it was me, he said it occurred to him I might be the one hanging up earlier. Joe told me he got married about a year after I left. They had a lovely boy, and another one was on the way. They were moving to Dallas for a job transfer. I updated him about my life, that my marriage did not survive the cultural clashes, but we had an amazing daughter.
That was the last time I spoke to Joe.