After living in the motel for a few weeks, we finally found a little cabin in Rhododendron, Oregon. It was a tiny unincorporated town on Highway 26 that was located just west of the Mt. Hood recreational area. I was excited to move into our own place. The weekly rental at the motel was expensive, and I wanted a little more privacy. The only advantage of living in a motel was the ever-changing variety of people moving in and out. There were a few other weekly renters, and it was fun seeing them regularly. However, there was really nowhere else to go. Jessie and I were used to taking walks every day and exploring our surroundings. Even though the cabin was also isolated, there was a post office and health food store in a little strip mall within walking distance.
Living in the cabin was okay at first. We took our daily walk to the strip mall, taking our time and hanging out there for increasing amounts of time. However, even though I have been extremely shy for most of my life, I was also social and craved the company of others. The woods were pretty wild with no trails near us, so that was out of the question. Paul took the car most days to make it up the mountain to the lodge, so we were on our own six days a week for most of the day. Once in a while, I would drive him so that I could have the car, but I got bored fast.
Then the car died, leaving us stranded. There was no grocery store in the area. Even the little touristy places were too far away to walk with Jessie, so I shopped at the health food store, and Paul brought food home with him. Once in a while we would drive to Portland for supplies. Meanwhile, my pregnancy was progressing, and we were in the middle of nowhere with no doctor, no vehicle and no friends. I started to get worried and became very depressed. The cabin was smaller than the motel suite, and I didn’t know anyone. The post office and health food store were usually empty, except for the workers who probably got tired of chatting with me every single day. I made myself take Jessie out every day but spent a lot of time laying on my bed, leaving her to her own devices. I’d gone from being an engaged, loving parent to being almost catatonic. It was so bad that sometimes when she brought me a book to read, I would start crying partway through and couldn’t finish. Something had to change, and fast.
Something did change. Paul lost his job. There was no work to be had anywhere in the area, so he started hitchhiking to Portland to try to find work there. Portland was about an hour away, and we still had no car. When he finally found a job, he left hitchhiking at 4:00 am to be sure he was on time and usually made it home between 9:00 and 11:00 pm. It was a nightmare. He was exhausted and grumpy, snapping at me for every little thing. Jessie never saw him. On his day off, he mostly slept since he was so sleep deprived during his work week. My depression got worse. Before long, I stopped going out for our walks, leaving my poor toddler in the tiny living room which also doubled as her bedroom as I lay on my bed crying. I knew I had to do something, but I couldn’t even think. All I could do was cry.
Just when I thought I couldn’t go on another day, an old friend from Connecticut came out for a surprise visit. Jim was an energetic 6 foot 3-inch-tall drummer who drummed on everything. In Connecticut, this incessant drumming sometimes drove me crazy. Now, it was music to my ears. I started to feel alive again. There were no extra beds, so he slept on the floor in that doll-sized living room. It was such a small room that he couldn’t stretch out all the way, but he didn’t mind. He had come looking for an adventure. He certainly found it with us.
I was also expecting my dad to visit soon, but I wasn’t sure when. We didn’t have a phone so, when I’d called home, I found out that he was going to be in Portland for a newspaperman’s conference and wanted to come visit while he was there. I gave him our address and knew that he would just show up whenever. He arrived the day before Jim was supposed to leave. Our bedroom was barely big enough for a double bed, with no room for Jessie, so that night we had two tall grown men sleeping on our living room floor next to Jessie’s tiny bed. You had to climb over a corner of our bed to get to the only bathroom. At some point, I heard my dad laugh and say, “This is just like when I was on the submarine in the navy.” I thought he would be upset at the lack of accommodations, but he just laughed about it.
I loved having Dad there. He and I were very alike, and very close. We had a strong connection and got along well, as long as Mom wasn’t there. When she was around, Dad didn’t say much and let her run the whole show. I always suspected that Mom might have been bipolar, but she was never diagnosed. Her mood would switch dramatically without any notice. We’d be having a wonderful time one minute then the next minute, she was screaming, and my brother and I would have no idea what even happened. She also made things up, and Dad always believed her unconditionally. When Dad and I were alone though, we had the best conversations. I could be myself with him, and I think he felt the same. One day, as we were out touring the area, he turned to me and said, “Don’t tell your mom this, but I thought it was great when you went hitchhiking to California. I admired your adventurous spirit. I did a lot of hitchhiking in my Navy days. I knew you were smart and would be alright.” I started to cry, thanked him and told him that I was not alright now. I talked about how depressed I was and worried about not having health care during this pregnancy. I didn’t know what I would do when he left. Surprisingly, he didn’t suggest I come back to Connecticut. Instead, he encouraged me to figure out how to get into the city, and soon.
He was such a huge help during that visit. Paul was working all the time and spending all of those extra hours hitchhiking back and forth. Dad always hated Paul anyway, so it was a good thing that they didn’t spend much time in the cabin together. Dad took Jessie and me sightseeing all over the Hood River Valley. Getting out and about made me start to feel alive again. He also played with Jessie, recited poetry and sang to her constantly. My depression had been hard on her and, although I tried hard to engage, I had failed miserably. I started dreading the day Dad would return home. But his visit had lifted the fog somewhat, and we started taking walks again. I felt terrible about having abandoned my child to my misery after having been such a dynamic mother who was always engaged and reveling in being a parent. Now I was determined to turn things around.
Not long after Dad left, on one of those walks, I met a couple who lived a couple of cabins away. They invited us for dinner. They made spaghetti, and it was the first time I had tofu. I’d never even heard of it before that night. It was 1978. At dinner was another couple. They were friends of theirs who lived in Portland and wanted to move to the mountain. They were currently renting a two-bedroom house in Portland with a huge yard on a little dirt road arc with two other houses on one of the main streets and a major bus route. They asked if we wanted to trade houses. I was 6-months pregnant, had no doctor yet, no car or phone and was living in the middle of nowhere basically by myself with my toddler. It didn’t take me any time at all to agree. They talked to their landlord, and we started packing. Paul and I had been together five years and had already lived in eight different places. I hoped this place would last for a while. I was ready to settle and have my baby.