a working mother & a daughter

May 1980

I had recently returned to work after my first maternity leave was over.  In those days, maternity leave consisted of just 17 weeks.  Trae was probably about 4 months old.  Finding a babysitter in those early days was somewhat of a nightmare!  I will go into that at a later time.

When I had returned to Toronto from London in winter, 1976, I had called my friend Di who still was working at Sick Kids Hospital.  Di and I had become good friends when I started working at Sick Kids after my graduation in 1974.  She like I was single, and we spent more than a few nights in the swingle bars in the mid seventies.  She had her own apartment, car, and really was a lovely human being.  We both worked on 4C, the infant medical ward, where we nursed babies from newborn to 24 months.  I gained a lot of experience there as our little patients suffered from a wide variety of medical ailments:  congenital heart defects, failure to thrive, seizure disorders, fevers, croup, brain damaged babies in for investigation, acute asthma, cystic fibrosis, liver and kidney dysfunctions, to name but a few disorders.  I had intended to work as a paediatric nurse at Great Ormond Street Hospital, the original Hospital for Sick Children in London.  However when I arrived in London in 1975, I kinda lost my nerve when I discovered that the wages were the pits compared to Toronto standards.  I decided that I would forego the immense stress and responsibility of paediatric nursing for a less stressful job.  It was one thing labouring for reasonable pay, but not for lower pay.  So I was walking along one of my fave shopping sources, Oxford Street.  I walked into a Jean boutique, (there were loads of them) and asked if there was any jobs going.  I got a job as a cashier at Jean Junction.

I called Di to let her know I was back.  She had actually come to London for a visit when I was living there.  That was a real trip! (at another time).  I was expecting that I would have some trouble finding a job at Sick Kids as Ontario was in the grip of a nursing glut!  Di told me that Joan the head nurse would love to hear from me, especially as there was a brand new vacancy that she was trying to fill!  I must say that I was somewhat disappointed when Joan asked me to come in for an interview tout de suite!  I got the job, and I guess that I was flattered that Joan wanted me back!  Not because I was not a good nurse, I believe that I was an excellent nurse, more because my self esteem was never the best!

When I became preggars with Trae, I knew that I would be guaranteed a job when I returned from mat leave.  As I had worked on 4C for a number of years, I prayed that I would return there.  As it turned out, there were no vacancies there when it was time for me to come back.  I had an interview on 5F, a small (up to 16 patients) neurological ward which catered to infants up to 18.  The head nurse, Barb seemed very nice and told me that I had the position.  I was nervous and had not an iota of an idea of what to expect.  It was a blessing in reality.  Much fewer nights and better blocks of days on and off.  The ward was actually less stressful than 4C which catered to up to 32 infants in varying degrees of distress, and the staff were really nice and more laid back.  By the way, Diana had left for California a couple of years before this, and was nursing adults, some even relatively famous, and enjoying the sun.

So I have filled in a few details in getting to this segment of my life.  I had been working on 5F for a couple of months and was feeling quite at home there.  I never had personal phone calls during day shift, because it was not my way, unless it was an emergency of course.  However this one morning I was called to the nursing station on the intercom.  My heartbeat quickened as I knew that my family would not call me at work for anything trivial.  I took the phone and strangely enough, it was my dad, and in case I have not yet made it clear in my writings to date, much as I loved my dad, he was a very distant figure in my life.  The reason for this distance toward his whole family, wife and kids, was his choice.  He still lived with my mother, but always came home late at night from work, claiming a heavy load, and he seemed to be away most weekends!  He was in fact living a double life which I was later to discover had started even before my mum and sister and brother and I had arrived in Canada in 1967.

This is what I do know, its accuracy may never be fully verified!  My dad emigrated to Canada a year before we, his family did, so he could find a permanent job and set things up for us.  He stayed with his brother, Peter, who had been doing well as an entertainment director / producer at the xxx.  Peter had many friends then, a lot of Brit expatriates from the UK television world.  One such fellow was named Phil (more on Phil at a later time) and he and his wife and 2 sons had moved to Bimini, which I believe is one point of the Bermuda Triangle.  Phil opened a British type pub/eatery there.  Peter and his cronies vacationed there from time to time.  Peter was single after a rocky divorce from the love of his life, a lovely London dancer named June.  He was apparently very unhappy and drowned his sorrows with drinking and gambling.  Anyway, he invited his bro to join him and a bunch of buds on a trip to Bimini.  This must have been wonderful for dad, who at this time was only 36 (how young!)  In this group of buds was one of Peter’s enduring friends, Greg (involved in TV, not sure how) and his girlfriend Lola.  Lola as far as I knew back then was a fairly ‘big’ (K B) photographer’s assistant.  Oh and on that same Bimini holiday, my uncle Peter actually gambled away his Toronto house, to where my family were supposed to live on our arrival in Canada!

I don’t know when, but Lola and Jeff hooked up and my dad kept up this relationship until his death in 1990.

I never discussed my dad’s long-term persistent absences with my mum.  I think I was too embarrassed or else kids just don’t want to think of their parents breaking up!

“Dad, what’s up”??, I asked in alarm.  To which he replied “I just wanted you to know that the shit has hit the fan!  Your mother has discovered there is another woman!”  or word to that effect.  I was somewhat stunned, but managed to say, “thank you for letting me know”!

What a bizarre phone call to receive from my father.  I cant remember what I did when I finished work.  Did I call my mum?  Probably!  I must have sought solace in Liam who by that time was living with me and baby Trae in my tiny 2 bedroom Barton apartment.

My mother told me later that she gave Jeff another chance.  She told him that if he gave up that woman, then he could come back home.  He said he would and moved back in.  It was not long until his old habits of coming home late each day and being away for weekends gave him away.  My mother told him again to get out.

My father never divorced my mum.  There was a nasty time with the family law lawyers, and my dad often had trouble keeping up with support payments.  In 1982, the bungalow with the swimming pool was sold and the proceeds divided equally.  My mother and sister then began the difficult task of finding a new home that they could afford and that would be accessible to Xtine’s ever worsening physical condition.

They did eventually find a downtown suite, a stone’s throw from where we as a new immigrant family lived.  It was a brand new co-op 8 floors with spacious units, some on the ground floor with little gardens.  This co-op offered housing units at full and subsidized rents.  It also had ‘handicapped’ accessible units on the ground floor.  My mum and Xtine managed to snag the best 2 bedroom unit with the biggest garden.  Xtine lived there until she died 10 years later in her own bed.

23.4.06 12:03  

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