It was the fall of 1969 when I met Paul. I was 18 and a freshman at college, majoring in art. I loved to sing. I mean, I LOVED to sing. I would go for hours at a time, singing along with my record albums. Trying to mimic their style, or to reach the high notes... ouch! I loved my art classes at school, too, because it gave me a chance to be creative. To draw or to paint, in my opinion, what could possibly be better than that? I was on top of the world! Even though we had scattered somewhat, our close-knit, five-some from high school kept in touch. My classes were going well at college and then... the phone call that changed my life!!!
We met in the most unusual of circumstances. Over the phone!!!! Paul was 18 and a freshman at a local college, in Toledo, OH, majoring in Electrical Engineering. He had found my phone number in his wallet, written on a small, folded piece of paper, not knowing how it had gotten there. Out of curiosity, he called the number and guess who answered? Me. After a two week marathon of phone calls, exchanging pictures and getting to know one another, we decided it was time for a date. One date led to another and after a year and one half of *constant togetherness* and *falling in love* with one another, I found myself pregnant, with the anticipation of marriage looming. It was not to be. You see, I was a Protestant girl and Paul was a Catholic. I was from the city and Paul was a good ole boy from the country. [I never could figure that last one out?] He was the oldest of 7 kids [and therefore, set the stage for the rest of his siblings] and his parents were very strong people. (VERY strong) Little did I know how their strength and influence over Paul would affect ME for the remainder of my life.
What do I do now? I spoke with Paul and the talk of marriage was discussed. He led me to believe that things were going to work out for us. A short time later, Paul went home on a break from school and talked to his parents. When he returned to Toledo, and we met once again to discuss our plans for a future together, he told me that his parents thought we shouldn't get married. Alone and with my emotions right at the surface, I determinedly drove the 40 mile trip to his parents' home to try to convince them otherwise. What a disaster THAT turned out to be.
[i remember thinking, while in the car on my return trip back to toledo, how i NEEDED to remember what happened during that encounter with paul's father, [his mother refused to talk to me] how he belittled me, how he destroyed my well-being, and my faith in myself, how i COULDN'T forget how i was made to feel, so i WOULD NEVER do that to anyone else] I went to my parents and told them of the new development of Paul and I not getting married. At that point, there was ABSOLUTELY no support coming from either of them. Oh, in the beginning, when the *possibility* of marriage was still in the talking stages, my parents offered a room at their home for Paul and I, help with babysitting, help with groceries, etc., while Paul finished school. But, when I received that final, "NO, we're NOT getting married", from Paul, my whole world fell apart. What do I do now? Where do I go? Oh, the disgrace and disrespect my parents felt towards me was overwhelming... "You've ruined your reputation, how could you do this"? "How can we ever face the neighbors"? "How could you be so thoughtless"? The look of total disgust from my Dad was probably what un-nerved me the most. To a certain degree, I had always idolized him. And he made me feel like I was *letting him down* in the worst way. Or, more accurately, that I was letting them BOTH down. They each asked, "What are you going to do now"? i don't know? "Get an abortion, I suppose"? NO!!!!, i could never do that! "Go through
with the pregnancy and then adoption"? no, i don't know, i don't want to think about this, i CAN'T give my baby up, it's part of me, i love it... i still love paul, oh, damn it, paul, why?, why?, why? couldn't we have just gotten married, then i wouldn't be faced with all of these horrible decisions on my own"Well", my parents said, "you know you can't POSSIBLY live here"? why?... you said i could before? oh... ONLY when there was the possibility of marriage?... i see... but it's not fair. You know... this is your grandchild, too? "No, it's not"! For the simple fact that we won't acknowledge it, if you're not married! We'll go check out the Maternity homes and see what they have to offer. I'm sure they'll cost a fortune, but, we'll figure out something... oh, Denise, how could you let this happen"?
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