I didn’t ever plan on getting divorced. That wasn’t how I’d intended for things to go. I didn’t know what to expect, from myself or others. “Divorcee” had never seemed like a particularly flattering term, and I was uncomfortable with it. That first winter, my girls and I lived in two rooms at the Erin Motel. They walked to school, came home, did homework and chores, and struggled with the state of our family. They missed their Dad. I walked back and forth across the street, from home to work. Sometimes, after my morning coffee drinkers left for their jobs, I’d weep in the empty restaurant until it was time to pull myself together to serve the lunch crowd. I was constantly worried, always broke, often lonely. We just kept going through the motions…until we couldn’t stand it any longer.
In the middle of February, we moved off the island, and back to North Branch. My in-laws had helped me find a house to rent there, and they would put me to work in their restaurant. Though they weren’t happy about the situation between me and their son, they never abandoned me. They were always helpful, always supportive. The house I rented, on Huron Street in the town of North Branch, was listed for sale; it was only available for rent until a buyer came along. Before I left the island, my in-laws bought it, so I’d be renting from them and wouldn’t have to worry about losing my home if it were to sell.
The house was an older structure on the sidewalk lined main street, just a few blocks from the shops and restaurants downtown. It was not far from the railroad tracks, and across from a small park. The front door led into a small foyer that opened into the living room. There were windows on the left, that looked out onto a driveway, alley or side street (I can’t remember!). On the right were two doors leading into bedrooms. A doorway at the back led into the kitchen. I believe there was a back porch, possibly screened in, and a basement, too, though I don’t think i ever used either one. We only stayed until spring.
The girls were able to see their Dad on a regular basis. It did them good to be closer to grandparents and other family, too, to ease the transition. My in-laws owned a restaurant that specialized in pizza, but served three meals a day. My mother-in-law ran the business. She put me right to work, and was a great boss. I walked to and from work. When I had a dollar or two to spend, I’d stop at the flower shop on the corner and buy a single carnation to brighten my day. When I could get a ride, we’d go to my Mom and Dad’s house for Sunday dinner. That winter, I completed registration and other paperwork to start at Michigan State University. My plan was this: we’d spend the summer back on Beaver Island, getting things in order there, then move to a family housing apartment on campus in the fall. “That will be our last move,” I told my daughters, “we’ll stay there until you finish school.”