I thought about not telling the whole story, especially where other people’s lives tumbled into mine half a century ago, because this blog is about my life, and I have no wish to hurt people who were young when they lived alongside of me in the early seventies, people who probably had no more idea of how things would unfold than I. But the truth is the truth, and hiding it would make my life inexplicable.
In the early seventies, I was a young working woman and looking for the love of my life with whom to make a family, so when someone suggested that I go to a dance at a half-way house, I said, “Yes, I like to dance. I would like to meet someone. What is a half-way house?” Being naive and perhaps too kind, I accepted their explanation that it was a group home to assist people who had had minor run-in(s) with the law to transition out into society. I had had the pleasure of working as a houseparent in a Lutheran group home for about a year, being housemother to ten mentally challenged little boys, and I whole-hearted approved of the group home concept. At that dance I met Ryan (pseudonym), who was a quiet and beautiful man.
The group home was pleasantly comfortable and smelled of good home cooking. The small crowd was mostly young men who looked sad and yet hopeful. I was dancing disco with someone when Ryan danced up to us and won me away. He wore a wool tweed suit that was a little too big (borrowed), and a gentle smile. His eyes twinkled. He had amazing auburn hair, astounding freckles, and the lean, strong body of an athlete. We fit together well.
Ryan was the most beautiful man I have ever seen, those freckles covered him entirely, my spotted leopard. I wish I could convey how happily we made love, but that is too private. He moved in with me, then as time went on we had a quarrel, and he took off in my car. I waited a day or so, and then went back to group home to retrieve it, him, there is some confusion in my memory of this event. I excused myself from talking to the group home director to go to the toilet as I felt very strange and unwell. I felt the loss leave my body, and immediately I knew that I had lost a child, even though it was too tiny to see hidden in the unformed mass, maybe two months if that. I would have given my life to have it protected back inside of me. I immediately went home, and Ryan returned latter that day. I cried my heart out, and he tried to comfort me, “Don’t worry, we can have another child.” He told me it was probably his fault, because he had been sprayed with the toxic chemical herbicide Agent Orange while in military service in Vietnam. It was terribly kind of him to try to shoulder that guilt for me. I thought my tipped uterus was to blame because I had understood doctors to say that conception would be difficult for me. At the time I had never smoked cigarettes or done drugs so that would not have been a factor. Ryan found a new home for us, moved me into it, and told me to try to be happy as he would provide for us. But I took a new hard look at our circumstances, and saw that his lifestyle (marijuana, hash, a history of writing bad checks, an immoral family which was not his fault but was his problem) was not my lifestyle. When I told him I had to leave him we did not quarrel. He and I wept as he put me on the train to somewhere else where I worked and started life anew. I heard from him many years later. He was doing very well, with employment that pleased him, and a very nice home on a northern Minnesota lake. I never answered his idyllic letter.
In the next few years I avoided sex (and men because I learned they sometimes did not take “no” for an answer) because my contraceptive intrauterine device hurt too much to use, but then oral contraceptives were developed. I took “the pill” meticulously so as to avoid any more heartbreak, despite the depression, weight gain, and whatever other pernicious health effects it had on me.
Years later, old friends of my sister contemptuously told me that my father, who was a research chemist, had worked in the pilot plant that created Agent Orange. If true, and if I wanted to fault someone for the loss of the only child I ever conceived, perhaps in a roundabout way I could fault my father. But I remember my father complaining bitterly to my mother that he did not want to work at the pilot plant, that he did not want to be part of creating war material but that all the scientists in his team were being forced to take a turn at the pilot plant; and she cut him off by saying, “Do you want to keep your job?” I remember when my father saw images on television of napalmed children caught up in the Vietnam War, he broke down with grief.
Feeling sad and lost in memories today, I comforted myself by creating a beautiful remembrance for the child I miscarried. Weeping does not change the past.
Caption: Tears Frozen In Time
remembrance by Annmarie Throckmorton 2018