Tapati (tapati) wrote,

After the Odyssey

In the previous installment of my story about my homeless odyssey, I had just been rescued from the sodden campground where I and my children had run out of food, and was headed to the train station to take an Amtrak train cross country to Iowa, returning to my emotionally abusive family to spare my children from starvation. I had also told the story of my moment of absolute despair when I prayed for a break in my karma.

We arrived at the train station the next morning and Mahasraya was waiting for us there. My friend, A.S. dasi, told me wisely to buy my ticket before speaking to him at all. That's exactly what I did. He tried to talk to me and I insisted I wouldn't until I was finished buying our tickets.

A.S. dasi left when I had the tickets in hand and I felt fairly safe because there were lots of people in the terminal. Mahasraya started trying to sweet talk me and talk about his plans for getting us out of our situation, and I kept insisting that I couldn't do this anymore. He wore me down to the point that I said he could join me in Iowa when he could afford his ticket, or that I would return when he got us an apartment. God help me, I was still in love with him although looking back I can't understand why or how. Was it just a passing insanity? In any event, I was crying by the time he had to leave the train, which he accompanied us on to. He kissed us all goodbye and I sat there crying as the train pulled away. Then I settled down to keeping the children amused for the three days across the country. At this time they were ages 3 and 22 months, so it was a long and difficult train ride. I had some books and toys with me and we had a spot in front of a row of seats so ahead of us was a wall. It made a nice contained space to keep them in, at least. The views were stunning and I highly recommend the ride through the Rockies for anyone who enjoys stunning sites of nature.

At Burlington my grandma picked us up and took us to their home in Wayland, MO. They had built a log cabin there and had a small apartment above their antique shop. You might ask why didn't I go there sooner? Because living near my family is emotional hell! Having escaped them, being forced to return represented a monumental failure to me.

But after the tent, it was so good to have the ability to easily cook for my children, have a stove, refrigerator and sink which I now saw as luxuries, and a bathroom just downstairs with a claw foot tub (ecstacy)! We had three rooms including the kitchen, and the downstairs bathroom made 4, though in the day time we shared it with customers.

My children were missing their father, and asked all day where he was, crying sometimes when I couldn't say that they would see him anytime soon. I wrote long letters to him, trying to make sense of our marriage, and received defensive letters in return. He was never much of a letter writer (I personally believe he had learning disabilities that made it difficult for him to write them) but he did write maybe one letter for every three I sent him. I suppose that meant he loved me in so far as he can experience love, because he didn't write much to anyone else in his life.

My mom had lived in the apartment previously and had left behind a cedar chest (the one I now own) and it was filled with books, so I took refuge in them as I always have in difficult times. I swear I would have gone completely around the bend years ago if not for the escape of reading. Better than any drug and cheaper, too!

Grandma took me into town (Keokuk, Iowa, where I was born) to apply for Low Rent Housing from the government. It only took 8 months to get it, in fact! Compare that to my 8 year plus wait in Santa Cruz! In the meantime, we moved to Keokuk, which was much larger than Wayland, just down the street from the public library and near my Aunt Virginia's home as well. We lived in a one bedroom apartment. I had applied for aid there and received $360.00 per month plus food stamps and medical care. Our rent was $185.00 per month, all utilities paid. In December we moved to our low rent housing unit across town, and paid $27.00 for a three bedroom triplex unit. We paid for our own utilities there, which was figured into our overall housing cost. By government rules we could only be expected to pay 1/3 of our total income for housing and utilities combined. This triplex was so new that we were only the second tenants to live in that unit. In 2004 we went back to see it and take pictures.

Mahasraya and I continued to correspond and try to figure out what would come next. I still considered myself married but I was determined not to put my children through the kind of crazy, homeless and starvation level experiences that Mahasraya's irresponsibility was subjecting us to. If he could not see fit to get some kind of work, I would go back to school when my children were older and do it myself. I was fearful for the future and worried about taking on the burden of raising children on my own, however. I would sometimes sit up nights sick with worry, wondering how I was going to do all this? I kept hoping that Mahasraya would see the light, really take in what I was writing to him, and that our marriage could be salvaged. My family was plagued by divorce and I wanted to make my marriage work if at all possible. I also was strongly affected by my religious background that required me to be "chaste" and faithful to my husband and to only marry one man. I took that very seriously.

In this way a year passed. I saved up and bought a manual typewriter and took a correspondence course in writing that I scraped up money to pay for. I started submitting a few pieces of writing to various publications and receiving my rejection letters, which I braced myself for as part of the process. I read magazines and books on getting published and dreamed of writing my way out of poverty. I was inspired by the story of Anne Rice struggling to get paper to write her book Interview With A Vampire.

I missed my husband intensely and found it difficult to tolerate the abrupt break in my sexual life. I remember listening to love songs and longing to make love to my husband even while I despaired of our getting back together. I kept getting letters with this or that scheme to make money--none of them involving simply getting a job and working like normal people do. Having seen scheme after scheme go down in flames, this did not fill me with hope. Sometimes we would talk on the pay phone by prearrangement and it felt good to hear his voice, at least.

I made friends at both the triplex and the apartment building we lived in at first, and it was good to have other women to talk to about child-rearing issues and whatever we were reading or thinking about. I had missed being in a stable environment where I could have ongoing friendships again.

I also started listening to lecture tapes to help stay on track with my spiritual path, and continued to both follow it myself and also to teach my children about Krishna. I remained a vegetarian in spite of the continuing pressure from my family to eat meat or feed it to my children. I would see my grandma regularly and try to fend off her efforts to micromanage my life and tell me how to treat my kids. ("If he talked back to me that way I'd smack him with that hairbrush!" --Grandma, regarding my son.)
Next installment.

Related entries:

Part Three
Part Two
Part One

Over the years people hear bits of my life story and tell me I should write a book. I've always hesitated because of this one painful part of my life, knowing that I'd have to relive it to some degree in order to write about it. So I've started writing up the bare bones of that period of time to see how it feels and if I can really delve into it without making myself crazy, or crazier. I also want to find out if people actually do want to read this stuff, a tale of domestic violence, poverty, nearly losing my son to head injury, coming out as queer and having to leave my religion (the Hare Krsna movement) behind, putting myself through college, working on body image, being diagnosed with heart disease at 42 and having a quadruple bypass, being the black sheep of my family, etc., etc., it's all downer stuff, though I think I've kept a good sense of humor about it. So I question whether people really want to read all that? There is good stuff, to be sure, but there's a lot of painful memories as well.

So feedback on content is appreciated.
Tags: bio, co-wife, domestic violence, keokuk, keshava, mahasraya, odyssey, santa cruz

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