Like any typical child, my mother received an allowance from her father. But unlike a typical child, she received that allowance into her 60’s. He stopped writing her checks only when he died. My mother received financial support from her father because as a teacher and divorced mother of two, she could not make ends meet on her own. Her teacher’s salary alone didn’t cover the kind of lifestyle she wanted to live.
My mother divorced my father when I was four. Then my mother and stepfather divorced when I was 10. There was no man in the house for a few months and soon thereafter came the string of boyfriends.
Of all my mother’s boyfriends, I remember Robert the most. My mother seemed to feel proud and privileged to be his girlfriend. He was older and wealthier than any other man she had dated. Robert was a handsome, highly paid marketing executive with a major Pennsylvania department store who drank dry martinis, wore Italian sports coats and drove a Datsun 280zx. He was separated from his wife who lived in Florida.
My brother and I assumed he would eventually get a divorce and move in with us. After Robert bought me a tan, corduroy suit for my piano recital (it was considered very stylish for the early 80’s), I imagined all the clothes he could afford to buy me as gifts.
When Robert was diagnosed with cancer, he moved back to Florida with his wife and children to die. My mother told me after his death that he had “abandoned” her. I was only 14 and felt confused by the choice of words she used to describe her pain. She could have said she was “sad” or “lonely” but instead she used the word “abandon.” I looked the word up in the dictionary and it meant that Robert had “ceased to support” her. I decided that I would never put myself in such a vulnerable, helpless situation and from that point on, vowed to support myself (with or without a man).