Category Archives: Family

Someone I Loved

Today was just another day,

until last year when it wasn’t.

The devastating news took the wind out of me,

like someone punched me in the stomach.

Someone I loved was dead.

Mowed down by a hit and run driver.

But this wasn’t just someone.

This was a Queen.

Even her three sisters called her that.

Before she was gone.

When they thought they had time.

We all thought we had time.

But we didn’t.

Their Jewelry, My Armor

I honor those whom I have loved and lost, by wearing their jewelry.

Piece by treasured piece, I armor myself.

With each piece chosen, I conjure up my relatives. I visualize them wearing the jewelry, and fondly remember what they meant to me.

There is a vulnerable yet powerful aura of presence in those family jewels.  And each piece worn has a purpose and an emotional, familial implication.

I turn to my “loved” collection for inspiration, when I need a reminder of my self-worth or a quick family fix.

As I review the collection and consider what to wear, I am surrounded by my lost, much-loved and much-missed family.

The mere act of choosing makes me teary-happy and reconnects me to my almost forgotten past. I also feel empowered and protected.

My coat of armor. My security shield. My ancestral weapon. My bauble blankie.

The ritual of selecting is calculated, and my choices are deliberately sentimental. And I never seek out the most expensive, or the prettiest pieces.

I bedeck myself in the jewels of my lost ones to keep them close to my physical self. It’s as simple as that.

I also don my lucky charms to mark a significant day in their lives or mine. And depending on the occasion, I know exactly what needs to be worn.

On my cousin’s birthday, for example, I wear all things Pamela, or on Mother’s Day, my grandmother’s locket.

I consider my jewelry menagerie to be not just the ultimate in intimate accessorizing but a source of spiritual strength and confidence.

To describe the physical and emotional feeling of their jewelry against my skin is to use words like moved, respected, honored, remembered; missed.

Dearly missed.

The peace in every piece gladdens me, and yet it also saddens and reminds me that too many have died; some way too soon and way too young.

Ironically, many of the lives of those I loved didn’t overlap; the only commonality was their love for me.

Sometimes the choosing tears at my heart. That very heart they all so lovingly touched.

How I wish I could go back in time and appreciate my loved ones more. I so often took their love and their lives for granted, assuming they would be with me a lot longer than they were.

Now, they are but a ring, a pendant, a statement piece.

I am hopeful that when I am gone my “loved” collection will get divvied up among those nearest and dearest to me.

But will they want it? And will they wear it? It gives me solace to imagine that they will indeed cherish those treasured adornments that meant so much to me.

So that the love I had for my lost ones and the love they had for me would be forever memorialized through their jewelry—and mine.

The possibility that somewhere somehow, we all won’t be gone without a trace.


You’re Missing From Me Mom

Since signing up for a three-month subscription to, I have become obsessed.

And I have endlessly researched for hours upon hours discovering family member after family member; mostly deceased.

Last week as I slogged through the census, birth, baptism and marriage documents of long-lost and largely unknown family, there was a click option which invited me to:

Find others who are researching (X person) in public Member Trees.  

When I clicked on the link, I came upon several Family Trees created by Others. It was an odd exercise because I had to assume that the “Others” were more than likely all related to me in one way or another.

And then I came upon an “Other” that raised the hair on my arms.

My estranged mother.

I clicked on my mom’s name and was informed that she had logged on one month ago.

One month ago meant that she was still alive. Sadly, I hadn’t been sure about that.

I can’t begin to fully explain all of the emotions that consumed me.

Relief. Regret. Sorrow. Anguish. Depression. Remorse. Fear. Melancholy. Fatigue.

Grief. Overwhelming, agonizing and unsolvable grief.

Hope. Pure, naked and fragile hope.

And I swore to myself that I would tell no one of my heart-rending discovery. But I have kept my grief and sorrow a secret long enough. Plus, our time is clearly running out.

In the right-hand corner near her name was a clickable link that made my heart pound:

Privately and conveniently contact others researching your family through the message center.


It was a pathetic and grief-stricken aha moment.

While I endlessly searched for any and all deceased connections, my beloved mother was alive and well and just a message center click away.

I felt painfully conflicted.

I had all but accepted our catastrophic finality.

And yet I now had this glimmer of hope.

I still had time to act. But did I have the courage? Would I be able to handle the probability of rejection?

And what if I didn’t act? Would I regret my inaction for the rest of my motherless life?

I prayed to God for a sign as I logged off the Ancestry site.

The next day, while organizing a pile of old manuscripts, I found a handwritten bundle of my French grandmother’s recipes with a title page that read: “Tu Me Manques.”

Below are the notes to myself that were scribbled under the proposed title of my recipe book:

Tu Me Manques seems the perfect name for my book of Mammy’s recipes. The literal French translation, “You are missing from me” sums up my sentiments perfectly. Mammy is forever missing from me, but her recipes are her legacy, and now mine.   

But nowhere in this phrase is the actual word “from” so can I assume that “from” comes from “me” in tu ME manques? And is it manque or manques? I have made the assumption from my research there is an “s” at the end but really, I have no clue. This is something I will need to find out.

Ironically, the word “manquer” is similar to “manco,” which in Spanish is a person who lacks a limb.

In any case, this is how I feel. Like I am missing a limb. I choose to use the word “miss” to describe Mammy in the sense of “to lack.” As if she were a body part of mine, and now that she is gone I lack (miss) that part. That body part is missing from me.

I’m sorry if none of this makes any sense. But I’m not sorry that I found this phrase. It almost makes my grief explainable.

It almost makes my grief explainable.

I took my recipe book notes as God’s sign. Perhaps it was a stretch. I can’t really say.

I do know that my own words written many years ago by a much younger me to a now older me, provided courage, and hope. And helped to assuage my grief.

So at the end of last week, I went back onto and bravely clicked the message center link.

I filled in the subject line: Tu Me Manques

Next, I wrote the following message: You’re missing from me mom.

And then I clicked “Send.”

As I watched the word “Send” morph into “Sent,” a flurry of thoughts swirled around in my head, but none of them had anything to do with regret.

My long lost mom had logged onto a month ago.

That knowledge gave me unbounded comfort.

And maybe she would never log on again.

But no matter what, I had written what until recently would have been unthinkable.

You’re missing from me mom.

No more regrets. Only hope.

It is Mother’s Day tomorrow, and I am courageously managing the grief that inevitably sweeps over me every year at this time.

I just went on and clicked onto Family Trees created by Others and then clicked my mother’s Family Tree.

Her name appeared. Just the pink silhouette vector marking her existence gave me peace, and a calming solace I haven’t felt since we said goodbye eighteen years ago. I didn’t know back then that I would never see or hear from her again.

And then next to her name was a notification that she had logged on five days ago.

I felt no pain, no grief. Just joy. And love. Big love.

I prayerfully clicked onto my Message Center.

My message folder was empty, but I’m full of hope.

My Do-Over

Whenever I think back to the epifocal moment where I realized I had been given the miracle of a do-over; a better life, a better me, it’s this unforgettable memory:

My mischievous three-year-old son dressed in his Holiday best, his back to me, but his beautiful face turned in my direction. His body lurching forward, but his eyes fixed on me.

Every time I recall the scene, it plays out in my mind in slow motion with me mouthing “NOOOOOOOOO.”

His infectious smile radiated; his face a combination of angelic and devilish.

In a split second, while still in a forwarding and thrusting motion, he turned his tiny face away from me and jumped full force into a muddy puddle of water.

I watched in disbelief as the blotches of mud spattered his fancy and pricey B. Altman outfit. As I horrifyingly ran toward him, he turned around and faced me full on. He was beaming, otherworldly, his demeanor was one of pure delight.

He pushed a baby curl of hair off his face with his dirty hand, leaving a dark streak across his forehead.

I stopped dead in my mommy tracks, astonished at the flood of joy, and love and hope that crashed and passed through me.

I had been one person before my son, and now I was someone else. Someone I never knew was hiding deep inside of me.

While he delighted in his mud bath, I thanked the dear Lord for this do-over.

As he gazed into my face, which I assumed at that moment must have appeared less than pleased, I broke into first a smile, and then a full on laugh.

He giggled playfully back in response as he lunged at me with wide open arms.

I grabbed him up and tenderly ensconced myself with all of him, twirling and whirling, tears of wonder streaking my meticulously painted face.

The two of us lost in a brief moment of time.

My son and I, a muddy loving mess.

A Girl Can Dream

I delightfully watched three of my grandchildren at their indoor swimming lessons yesterday.

Several young girls had set up a table in the lobby, outside of the pool area to raise money for their basketball team selling water, snacks, and rubber bracelets. I purchased some chips, fruit bites, cookies, and a bracelet. My son-in-law bought a bracelet as well.

On the walk back from swimming, my four-year-old grandson asked me what the bracelet said.

“A girl can dream,” I replied. “Why only a girl?” he countered. I explained the girl basketball thing.

“Why did Daddy buy a girl bracelet? He’s a boy.” His daddy replied that he supports girls even if he’s a boy.

“Tell me what it says again,” my grandson inquired, as his teeny hand held mine tightly. “A girl can dream,” I answered softly.

Another question from my grandson: “What’s a dream?”

I tried to describe a dream as best I could. My explanation wasn’t as easy or fluid as I thought it would be.

Then I asked him if he had a dream.

“I’m too little to have a dream,” he answered decidedly.

“You’re never too little to have a dream. Or too big for that matter,” I responded.

He was quiet for a second, his face was thoughtful, and his mighty brain was churning.

Then he looked up at me and told me that he knew somebody with a dream.

“Who?” I queried.

“Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream that the world should be nice,” he responded.

I was blown away by his proclamation and had completely forgotten about the following MLK Day.

“Wow,” I answered genuinely shocked. “Yeah, you’re so right; Martin Luther King had a dream!”

“No,” my grandson replied assertively; his pint-sized pointer finger aiming straight my way. “Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream.”

I looked down at his beautiful innocent face confused.

“He was a Jr.,”  he emphasized.


Rest in Peace, Aunt Barb

On Sunday night, November 27, as my Aunt Barb and Uncle Lou were walking across a street, my aunt was hit by a speeding car which fled the scene after the horrific accident. She passed away the following morning, November 28, on their 52nd wedding anniversary. No words can ever express how much I loved her, and how her love for me healed my whole being.  Rest in peace, Aunt Barb.

Dear Aunt Barb,
I never knew anyone kinder or gentler than you
Your goodness shone brightly from the inside out
Your selflessness was your gift to all of us
Your caring attention which you so lovingly bestowed was unsurpassed
Your compassion, your beauty, and your purity was undeniable
I was so blessed to have been loved by you
So privileged that I held a special place in your heart
I adored you and cherished your opinion and your perspective
I saw a different Teri through your eyes
And I was ever thankful for your dignity, your calm demeanor
Your saintly way of helping me to see my specialness
I was looking forward to years and years with you
But life is cruel
And my future years with you are gone
You are forever missing from me now
The only thing I can cling to
Is the ever presence of your angelic spirit
And your resplendent soul
Rest peacefully
Watch over me Aunt Barb
And when you see my grandmother
hold her in your loving arms
until I see you both

My Fam—My Pot O’ Gold

Heart shaped cloud and a rainbow
The tornado that is family touches down.
Dustbusters, bubbles and mouse trap.
All the swirling love reminds me
of the circle of life.
So fleeting.
I wish I would have known
way back when.
But for now
monkey bread, dirty diapers
and hugs and kisses
are my pot o’ gold
at the end of
my rainbow.


Her cross
her loss
was more than
one person
should ever bear.

First her husband.
Then her son.

Before she left
she promised me
a sign.

But it never came.

Almost to the day
I thought that plane
was going to drop
right out of the sky.

When we landed
I couldn’t wait to
kiss the ground.

Its brilliance
caught my eye.

On one side
the year
he was born.

On the other
a mother
and daughter.


I secured it
with shipping tape
inside her
framed photo.

Years later
I spoke of it
to the child.

He sensed its

He asked to see it.

I took the photo
off the shelf
to show him.

But it was gone.

Just tape.

No sign.

I tried to hide
my sorrow.

But the little one
the sensitive one

We looked
and around
for it.

And then
we looked again.

tightly affixed.

The curious one
asked how.

No answer.

Just grief.

A few
weeks later
his tiny hand
fished around
in his pocket.

Its brilliance
caught my eye.

On one side
E Pluribus Unum.
Out of many

On the other
a smiling mother
holding her child.

I could see
he loved it.

Keep it
I tenderly
told him.

It belongs
in the frame
he gently replied.

And pressed it
into my
trembling hand.

In Search of My French Roots—and the Money Shot

A sign welcoming visitors to Caribou, Maine is seen in this picture taken July 18, 2014. Citing amenities such as an airport and recreation center as evidence of excessive spending by the city government, a group of Caribou residents have started a movement to secede from the northeastern most U.S. City and undo a municipal merger which took place in the 19th century. REUTERS/Dave Sherwood
I have always dreamed of taking one more trip back to Caribou Maine where my maternal family hails from.

Caribou is the most northeastern city in the United States and a mere 10-12 miles from the province of New Brunswick in Canada. The estimated population in 2010 was 8,189.

The summers in Caribou are spectacular but the winters are frigid. The cold comes from Quebec into the valley along the Aroostook River and doesn’t move out for at least four months, giving Caribou a winter climate on a par with North Dakota and Minnesota.

The average seasonal snowfall for Caribou is approximately 109 inches. The first freeze of the season usually occurs sometime in mid-September, and the last freeze around mid-May. So Caribou has about 130 days of freeze-free weather. In January, the average low is only 1 degree.

I have always fondly recalled the long driving trips I took to Caribou with my mother and grandmother both in summer and winter. My memories of those trips have faded over the years, but I can still vividly recall picking wild blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries by the bushel-full right off the side of the roads flanked on both sides by a tapestry of majestic emerald green potato fields in the summer.

Caribou Maine Potato Field

And in the winter, I will never forget how we would make fresh maple syrup from a spigot stuck in a tree, or ice skating, sledding, fretful drives on snow covered roads, moose sightings, and snowmobiling. Caribou maintains over 170 miles of Aroostook County’s 1,600-mile groomed snowmobile trail systems—which have been rated the third best in the nation.


But what will remain forever etched in my mind was that, winter or summer, Caribou had some of the most beautiful landscape I had ever seen, and a far cry from my poverty-stricken home base in Connecticut. I recall on so many lonely nights in our railroad apartment on Huron Street in Bridgeport, dreaming that Caribou was my home.

My grandmother was French speaking and bilingual even though she hailed from the U.S. It didn’t matter whether you were on the American or Canadian side of the border at the time she grew up in Caribou, both French and English were spoken in the home. Her English was sometimes indecipherable, mainly because her enunciation of words as well as her accent were extremely thick. She called it the “Valley accent.” Anyone from the St. John Valley, whether it was the Maine or Canadian side, had a similar Franco-American accent.

For example, she would pronounce: the as “dah,” or three as “tree,” potato as “budayda,” mother as “mudder,” father as “fadder,” or the number 233 as “thoo turty tree.” To be honest, as a child who grew up hearing her speak both English and French, it was often easier for me to understand her French than her English.

I recall her telling me compelling stories about the Acadians’ arrival in the St. John River Valley, after being exiled from Canada, where many of the refugees had settled around 1755 to escape the British roundup, as well as her heartfelt memories of her life in and around Caribou. But I never wrote anything down nor did I pay much attention to the tales. How I wish I would have.

And my grandmother would sprinkle all of our conversations with sayings like, “The one you have, is worth more than the two you think you might get,” or “If the young knew and the old could,” or “After the storm comes good weather.” But her favorite saying was “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose,” which means, “the more that changes, the more it’s the same thing.”

My grandmother also had several endearing pet names she would call me in French. Her favorite pet name for me was “Mon petit chou,” which means, “My little cabbage.” Now I really didn’t like being referred to as a gassy vegetable, but she said it with such fondness that I grew to love her quirky nickname for me. But my favorite pet name she called me was “Mon couer” which means, “My heart.” I was her heart, and she was mine.

It was my grandmother’s long life dream to someday move back to Maine, buy a small house and live out the rest of her life there. Unfortunately, the last time she was in Maine was with me—when I was about 7 or 8 years old.

It probably seems strange that someone who loved and dreamed of her home as much as she did, never returned for a visit. But it was a costly and time-consuming trip to make, and she never had the time off or the money to get back home. I often ask myself why I didn’t give her the money to go. I certainly could have. That question haunts me all the time.

In 1977, my grandmother sat me down to break the devastating news that she had been diagnosed with lung cancer. She was 58, and I was 24.

I was beyond words—dumbfounded, and afraid. But she wasn’t afraid of “the cancer” as she called it. She was afraid she wouldn’t make it back to her beloved Caribou. She asked me what I thought about her finally making the move back to her roots. She laid out a whole plan. She would drive over the steel bridge across the Aroostook River to Fort Fairfield Road in Caribou and take in the beauty of the rolling hills and fields where she grew up. She would go back to Eagle Lake, where she was born and then take the magnificent drive along the St. John River Valley to Van Buren. She’d buy a small house somewhere, and plant vegetables and fruit. She’d get back into canning and gardening, and maybe add a few chickens for fresh eggs.

I was agitated, but she was calm and rationalized that based on her diagnosis, she knew it was terminal and so it was finally time for her to make her move.

I was adamant that she stay in Connecticut. I convinced her not to go. I begged her not to leave me. And I pushed her to go through chemotherapy and radiation. And then I pushed her some more to have surgery to remove one of her lungs. I pushed and I pushed and I pushed.

I look back on all that now, and I realize how selfish I was. I should have encouraged her to live out her dream—the only dream she really ever had. She had such a difficult life, full of so many disappointments, with no possibility of a dream come true.

But I was in desperate need of her unconditional love, and her continuing presence. It was all about me.

What I should have done was to drive to Caribou with her, and help her find a place to live. I should have supported and assisted her in achieving the one and only dream she ever had.

Woulda, coulda, shoulda.

Needless to say, she never made it back to Caribou, or anywhere else. In 1983, six years after her cancer diagnosis, she lay dying in a hospital bed. She was distraught over her failing health, but she was more distressed about her decision not to move back to her cherished Caribou. “It’s not too late,” I reassured her, although we both knew it was a lie. She died that night.

Thirty-two years after her death, I decided to finally make the trip back to Caribou—for her. I did some research ahead of time, to make sure I visited and photographed all of the places she spoke so highly of, and that meant everything to her. Places like Grand Falls in New Brunswick, Eagle Lake, Presque Isle, Van Buren, and of course over the steel bridge and across the Aroostook River to Fort Fairfield Road in Caribou.

My first stop was in front of the Welcome to Caribou sign, where my husband took my photo. Unfortunately, the weather was rainy, cold and disappointingly miserable.

My second stop was to Van Buren, along the St. John River Valley, where Maine is on one side of the narrow St. John River, and Canada on the other.


The Acadian culture still remains a significant part of everyday life in Van Buren, which is part of Aroostook County. At the Acadian Village there, I admired the ethereal 1,700-pound Italian marble statue of Evangeline, the lovesick Acadian refugee of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem about a couple parted by the British expulsion. His epic poem was published in 1847, and titled Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie. It was a work of fiction but based on historical fact. It was a story of a couple’s devotion, love, and ultimate separation on their wedding day, due to the deportation by the British, of the French Acadian people from Nova Scotia in 1755. Evangeline, the bride-to-be, wandered unsuccessfully for years in search of her one true love. As a result of his poem about Evangeline, Longfellow, who was born in Portland Maine, went on to become one of the most famous poets in America.

Acadian Village Evangeline 9-14-15

My third stop was to drive over the steel bridge to Fort Fairfield Road to see if it would spark a memory of where my great grandmother Julia Nadeau had once lived. It was stormy and rainy, and there was a foggy mist obscuring the landscape. I wasn’t getting the money shot I had hoped for, that was for sure.

What struck me the most about its bewitchery was that fifty plus years after the first time I laid eyes on it, the landscape had barely changed. It was still the same lush, endless fields and farms of emerald green I remembered as a child.

I had waited decades to stand at this very spot, drove over 600 miles, and wouldn’t be able to photograph it.

And then I realized that even if the day had been a spectacularly perfect one, no photo could have ever captured the panoramic, pristine beauty and serenity of the landscape before me. The one and only searing image of the money shot, would best and forever remain in the caverns of my mind. I had little regret, because I knew that the beauteous view at the top of Fort Fairfield Road would stay with me for the rest of my life.

As I stood at the upper part of Fort Fairfield Road taking in the breathtaking spectacle of farm after farm, for as far as my eyes could see, I was overcome with an aura of peace and tranquility that I hadn’t felt in years.

When I got back to the car to drive away, the skies opened up and the sun peeked out just slightly. I could swear it was my grandmother looking down at me and saying, “After the storm comes good weather.”

As my husband drove away, I took a picture of the sky with my cell phone, and then softly replied to my grandmother that we were home.


World Daughter’s Day

Mommy and daughter hands

World Daughter’s Day is celebrated on January 12 each year and in its honor, here is what I would like to say to my daughter:

I won’t be around when you’re an old woman and I never possessed the power or ability to create an amazing you, but I always believed that you were extraordinary.

I hope that the way I lived and worked will stick in your brain and remind you that challenging times mean nothing in the scheme of things, and will only make you stronger.

When your hair turns grey and your skin sallow, I hope your eyes shine as brightly and magnificently as they do today.

I hope you remember that your happy todays are equally as important as your unhappy yesterdays.

I hope you dance—even if it’s slowly and you’re not that good.

I hope you have a husband, a child or a friend you can spend the end of your life with.

I hope your mistakes and the mistakes of those who love you have long ago been forgiven and maybe even forgotten.

I hope you face your fears and scare them away.

I hope you belly laugh, dance like a fool, and sing at the top of your lungs—a lot.

I hope you do work that you love, but if not, that you always aspire to be the best at what you do.

I hope you let your children be children, and when they wreak havoc, jump up and down on their beds, or snuggle with each other under the covers to share their deep dark secrets, you let them.

I hope you celebrate every birthday with those you love, but as importantly, you find time to share your special day with someone who loves you.

When you look out the window and you see the snow blanketing the streets, take your kids out for a sleigh ride—no matter how late at night it is.

More important than having children you adore, I hope you have children that adore you. But always remember that you need to be patient, loving, attentive and kind to be worthy of their adoration.

I never have to hope you’ll shine because I know that’s who you are.

And I hope. I really, really hope…that you remember me fondly and with love.