The happy couple in Toronto, Christmas 1967. We’re holding hands. Penny is smoking.

I had driven my new VW Beatle down to Bay Street to pick Penny up on a Friday night and we were on our way home to our apartment at Bayview and St. Clair Avenue when she announced she wanted a separation. I nearly drove off the road. This had come right out of the blue. We weren’t having any sexual emotional or financial problems. We both had good jobs. We loved each other. What happened!

Minutes later, when we got home, Penny burst into tears and said she didn’t mean it. She was exhausted, not herself, emotional. Would I forgive her? Please! Please! I’m sorry! Hug me! I did, and we made passionate love. Penny never short changed me with sex; she was always generous, willing and capable in bed and she was that evening. Stupidly, I put the whole business out of my mind.

That Sunday evening she started frying ground meat on the stove for supper. Then she said she wanted to go to the drugstore next door, would I keep an eye on it. Sure. Ten minutes later the meat was done but Penny wasn’t back. I turned off the stove. Fifteen minutes later and it hit me like a blow to the stomach: Penny had meant it on the Friday; she was leaving me.

I rushed downstairs to the parking garage, got in the car and drove up the ramp to Bayview Avenue. Then I turned left and stopped at the light at St. Clair Ave. I looked across the street. There was Penny, running across the Loblaws parking lot like she was being chased by wild dogs. She had been on the phone in the phone box on the corner. She clearly knew she was late. She angled across the street and ran right past me and the drug store. I made a U-turn and went back down the ramp of my building. We were on the second floor so I took the elevator to our floor. I opened the door. Penny was on our Scandinavian couch crying her eyes out.

Yes, she wanted out. She wanted a separation so she could have “more space,” “freedom,” “to find herself” I asked, was there another man? She said no. I said I didn’t want to see her wandering the streets of Toronto on her own; she could have the apartment. I asked her to take a week to think about it before making a final decision. Then I packed, went up to Huntsville and got drunk for a week.

When I returned, the sun was shining through our apartment windows. I remember they needed cleaning after the Winter and were dirty. Penny was in her dressing gown with furry slippers. She had been crying and she started crying again, sobbing really. She now confirmed what I knew, the marriage was over.

This isn’t quite the end of the story because I saw her again, in another apartment, in 1977, after her marriage to Hugh Lawson in 1969, the birth of her two daughters, and their separation. I describe that event in my biography, More than Enough, but what I want to wrap your mind around now is this event, this sequence of events, this catastrophe that happened to a young radio reporter with his girlfriend, lover and wife.

Does what I’ve just described jibe with the letters you’ve just read? Is the Penny who longs for my hugs, my kisses and my conversation the same person who ran across the Loblaws parking lot? And since she was, how did it happen? What caused it? Who caused it?

Life is full of mysteries; this is mine.


[What I should have done]