Seventeen years ago I made a huge decision in my life. Call it a “life-changing” choice.
I was single and working nights at Planet Hollywood in midtown Manhattan. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I was coaching boys freshman basketball up at Bishop Ford High School too.
Living in the brand new condos down on the corner of Prospect Park South West and Windsor Place I was wondering on a daily basis where life was taking me? Or, where was I taking life?
I had never lived outside the neighborhood. As a kid and all through my teenage days I grew up on ninth avenue. I had tons of friends who I often hung out with in Prospect Park, in the boys and girls school yards and on every street corner. We hung out in Farrell’s, McBears, and even the subway station.
One night at work I met a beautiful woman named Mary. She worked directly across the street at a Tie Store; my friend and co-worker Glenn introduced us. Mary was from Michigan; we talked of her trips back to Michigan and we discussed the “Big House,” home of the Michigan Wolverines football team in Ann Arbor.
For seventeen straight nights we went out on the town. We went to a bar, the movies and spent time walking in Central Park. Mary was teaching me more than I had ever learned in my entire life. We were clearly made for each other.
One day I informed my mother that I was moving out of the condo; she was upset at first but knew it was only a matter of time until her son was ready to move on. I worried about how she would manage but she was a strong woman; she raised three kids alone. Often working two, sometimes three jobs at a time to pay the rent. She put us through Catholic school and of course put food on the table; all without the help of a husband.
“I can always get a job up at Bishop Ford in the cafeteria,” she said.
Mary and I moved in together just around the corner from mom; we found a one-bedroom apartment on 11th avenue and Prospect Avenue. Our rent was seventeen-hundred a month. Mom was happy when she found out we would be within walking distance. Mary and I would often go over to check on her and drop off a bag of dirty laundry. Plus we’d have Sunday dinner with her; Mom made a pretty good gravy.
Living up on ninth avenue in the 1970’s and 1980’s, the rent was three-hundred a month; we lived in a railroad apartment with three bedrooms. Boy had times changed. I couldn’t believe how high the rents had become in our neighborhood. The rent for an apartment was out of control.
I happened to notice that friends from the neighborhood were moving out to places like New Jersey, Staten Island and one friend even moved to Michigan. With all the movement, people from such places as Ohio, Michigan, Colorado and Texas were moving in to Windsor Terrace.
After two years of living together Mary and I decided to move to Michigan. Mary wanted to get back home. I, on the other hand wanted to go to college. Yeah me, the kid who dropped out of high school.
One night in early March, while standing on the corner of 11th avenue and Sherman Street, I broke the news to mom; she hit me a puzzled look.
“You’re moving where?” She asked while a Salem cigarette hung out of her mouth.
She couldn’t quite understand as she took a drag of the cancer stick.
“I’m going to college,” I added.
Again, a puzzled look from mom as she blew the smoke out of her mouth.
“Why do you want to go to college?” She asked.