Born on Borrowed Time

If you have read the earlier posting Our Stories Intertwine Like a Kitten’s Yarn, you know about Patrick and Donna’s trip to Cuba in 1955. In October 2014 during our trip to Prescott, we had a longer conversation about it, recorded in two parts. Here I’ve combined the two transcriptions into one. In this conversation he summarizes the trip, then goes beyond to talk about what he knew about our time in the orphanage and afterwards.

Both recordings (initially transcribed by Christine) are available at the bottom of this post.

JP: Okay, tell me again about my surprise and how you guys were going to deal with it and the side effects and all that other kind of stuff.

Patrick: Wow!

JP: It’s a loaded question, but why not, huh?

Patrick: Yeah. Okay, so your mom and I met and got involved and she climbed into the back window of my apartment on Jefferson in Tallahassee and that was our first night and she was a virgin. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but I saw afterwards because I was using Danny Revenaugh’s blanket and he was really pissed off because it was covered in blood. So, that was, I think, the night that it happened. [Donna got pregnant.]

Patrick: That summer, I went in the Oldsmobile convertible to New York with David Wade. The idea was that we would get a job on Long Island working at a hotel as waiters, which didn’t happen. You had to be experienced and all the college guys with experience already had all the jobs, so I had to hitchhike back home and came through the Tallahassee, where she told me she was pregnant.

Patrick: I think that was the first and only time that we made love. And, okay, so we had to decide what to do. We discussed it with a lot of people, including I think Dr. Martin, the…

JP: The one that married you, no?

Patrick: No. He’s the one who had the Sunday afternoon coffee hours where we did string quartets, or maybe readings from Finnegan’s Wake, or discussions about Cuba and Castro and all of those people. He was our counselor at this time. And, I may have the order a little out with that.

Patrick: Anyway, George Sikorsky asked if we knew what we were doing but he said, “Okay, you can borrow my car.” [It was] a white Chevy coupe. David Wade was in the backseat. We started driving towards Tampa to get on the airplane and fly to Cuba, because we had the name of a doctor who would perform an abortion and then we could both finish college and then we could have the kids – or not, if we broke up, of course.

JP: Right.

Patrick: We weren’t married.

JP: Right.

Patrick: So, leaving Tallahassee late at night, I fell asleep at the wheel. We went off the highway on the left-hand side into a pine forest and I woke up. The horn was blowing. David Wade in the backseat had bumped off the ceiling and back onto the seat two or three times and Donna bumped the dashboard, but nobody was seriously hurt. I had to back out of the forest to get on the highway and continue on to Tampa.

Patrick: We got on a plane, doctor saw us as per scheduled and she came out, down in the mouth, and about then I knew…. We had some money to spend so we went out a bought a statue of Don Quixote.

JP: So, what time frame was this? Let’s see. I was born in the end of March and it was up in the summer, so was it just before classes started that you went to Cuba, or…?

Patrick: Let’s see. It was in the fourth month of pregnancy.

JP: Oh, okay. So, we back out nine months from March it would have been June; four months would have been October-ish.

Patrick: Yes. So school had started.

JP: Well I guess you had to kind of schedule it around your school schedule too.

Patrick: Yeah, in those days you could either go or don’t go to classes, of course. I think we went off on the weekend and had the appointment for Monday because the doctor in Cuba being a Catholic country wouldn’t have been working on Sunday.

Patrick: I do remember that when we left the hospital and got on the bus to go back to the center of town – or was it a taxi? – I can’t remember. Anyway, I remember that we passed the university and on one side of the street were soldiers lined up with their Tommy guns and on the other side were the students shouting at them. So this like a few months before…

JP: Before Batista fell.

Patrick: Yeah. Yeah.

JP: It would have been before that because… when did Castro take power, ’59 or ’60?

Patrick: I think it was ’56 or ’57.

Patrick: We were there just before, I believe. I could be wrong.

JP: And you said this was your first plane trip.

Patrick: Yeah.

JP: Do you remember anything about the flight, or about the type of aircraft, or…

Patrick: It was a two-engine Douglas…

JP: DC-3 probably.

Patrick: Yeah, probably.

JP: Really loud?

Patrick: Yeah. And of course it was a very short flight. What is it, ninety miles?

JP: Something like that, yeah. Were you nervous about flying, or do you remember?

Patrick: Nah, I’ve never been nervous about flying. But then, I’m nervous about being on the ground.

JP: In other words, I should be driving faster so you can get some air!

Patrick: Anyway, eh, that’s the way things worked out. Better for you!

JP: So when did you get married? Was it right after you got back?

Patrick: I think we made… the second try we made it. I guess it was pretty soon after that. I don’t… she’s got all the… if they exist, she has the records. Even I’m not sure we’re divorced because I never saw the papers. She told me we were divorced which is a deal I think she made with her father, to get rid of me and get rid of any hang-ups, legal stuff.

JP: Yeah.

Patrick: That’s when she sent me that telegram saying “If you promise not to take the kids, I promise never to ask you for support.”

Patrick: Yeah. I guess that was John working on it as well.

JP: And it was his idea, right, to put us in the orphanage so she could finish school? Or was that…?

Patrick: This. I. Don’t. Know. I would think, I would think so… or, she wanted to finish school, and…

Patrick: The orphanage. I don’t know how that happened because it all happened while I was away in a sense. When I found out about it, I was working for Social Services in New York, especially for… I was working at that time, with women, unmarried women with children.

Patrick: Yeah, so I told my supervisor of my situation, and she said “You’d better sort that out.” That’s when I’d just met…

JP: Mari?

Patrick: The timing here. I’m writing about it now and trying to sort it out. Anyway, I was working in ’66 in New York. Where were you in sixty-six?

JP: ’66? We were in Miami for a little while with friends of Mother’s and then they put us on the bus to Charlotte. We got to Charlotte and she wasn’t there…

Patrick: Yeah.

JP: And the police came around, I’m guessing seven o’clock or nine o’clock that night at the bus station. They said, “You know, you’ve been here an awful long time.”

Patrick: I think Jennifer wrote about that scene.

JP: Yeah, I would imagine she did. Then it was in that December that I flew to Hawaii. So… that was already Lois by then. ’64 was Marie, because I remember you guys coming out in that ’63 VW Beetle.

Patrick: And, also in ’65 I published the first story…

JP: Yeah, in Analog.

Patrick: In Analog. During ’66 then I left Missouri and went to New York. I had another couple of stories accepted already and that’s when I thought I would be able to make it and I wanted to meet these guys in person, blah, blah, blah. So that’s when I got there, I needed a job and I got a job at the Welfare Department, in Brooklyn and I had this case load of 30 unmarried mothers. That’s when I decided that I would try to sort out you kids. So I went down there. Let’s see… First, I contacted them. No real useful answer. Then, in ’67, and you were already gone. Then I went down with Lois. We got the girls out for one day and one night and we stayed in a motel together. That’s when Jennifer asked for a red letter copy of the Holy Bible for Christmas. So it must have been close to Christmas. And that’s when Donna sent me the telegram.

JP: Ohh. It was that late. I thought it was, you know…

Patrick: My timing could be wrong. But it’s around that time. You weren’t there anymore when I arrived.

JP: Right. No, that would have been after December of ’66.

Patrick: Yeah.

JP: ‘Cause I remember spending Christmas in Hawaii, getting a Johnny Seven OMA gun, and underwear, and shirts, and you know, the typical kid stuff.

Patrick: Well, you lucked out.

JP: I did. I really did.

Patrick: The girls didn’t have such luck.

JP: Yeah.

Patrick: And there’s more in there than I can even bear to contemplate. But I need to do it. That’s part of why I want to be alone with Gretchen is to try to get through some of that time… Which was a terrible time, terrible. Worse than Jennifer.

JP: Oh really? Wow.

Patrick: Much worse. And that’s just the little bit that I know about.

Listen to the first part of the conversation
Listen to the second part of the conversation