My Elephant

A Republican guy friend recently asked me: Does everything in your life lead back to Me Too?

Now in the old days, I would never define my friends as Democrats or Republicans.

But that was waaay back when, before you-know-who.

Plus, my friend’s question was laced with thinly veiled skepticism, while shoving in some other hurtful rhetoric about protecting men and boys, with poor Judge Kavanaugh thrown in.

I felt anger, frustration, sadness, and madness. But I kept my mouth shut.

I regret that I did not answer him, but I was afraid that if I did, something vitriolic would pour out of my mouth, and that I might later regret my words.

Regret vs. regret.

Yesterday I saw a movie trailer about Dumbo, directed by Tim Burton, to be released March 29, 2019.

As I watched Dumbo soar over the crowd, I got full body goosebumps.

Good for you, Dumbo.

And then just like that, those sicko images crept into my brain.

[Push em out push em out.]

My elephant.

As a kid, I loved Dumbo. He was so relatable. He was an only child, no father (although his name was Jumbo Jr.), with a fiercely protective mother. I would often wonder what happened to his dad, and rationalized in my head that if Jumbo Sr. was in the picture, he would have saved his kid.

Poor Jumbo was taunted and bullied for his big ears—and given the cruel name of Dumbo.

He was ridiculed and treated poorly, but he was sincere, naïve, kind, and truly magical.

Sure, he had big ears, but oh my how he could soar and fly.

Aside from his mom, his only friend was a mouse named Timothy, who believed in him.

And then there was that crow, named Jim Crow, who first made fun of Dumbo, but then convinced him that he could fly with a magic crow feather. (And yes, his name was indeed Jim Crow.)

My favorite part in the movie was when Dumbo was getting ready to fly off the platform in the circus act and prove himself as worthy of love and respect.

I can so vividly recall that first time I watched in horror as Dumbo stumbled off that platform.

I was young, but I will never forget how I silently rooted and prayed that Dumbo would prove all of his tormentors wrong, change his life, and live happily ever after with his mom.

“Lord have mercy,” I will never forget praying to myself, parroting what my grandmother always said.

[Okay, so I can’t remember actual dates, and times, or when it started, or how I got there, or why I was alone, or lots of it, so how can I remember Dumbo and Lord have mercy?]

And then there was that happy ending; that memorable and joyous part when the feather falls out of Dumbo’s trunk, and he realizes that his greatness comes not from the magic feather, but from within himself.

The feather wasn’t his savior; he was his savior. It was up to Dumbo to save Jumbo.

And at that last final moment, Dumbo opened up his ears and soared over the incredulous crowd, proving to them that he was special.

Dumbo, the maligned, became Jumbo, the respected; the hero of the circus.

Why all this talk of Dumbo/Jumbo?

Because watching that trailer about Dumbo triggered Me Too.

Why? I have no clue.

But it triggered something that I had forgotten. One small nagging thing that for years I couldn’t remember.

But now I know.

Before Me Too I referred to my “issues” as “the elephant in the room.”

Unlike Disney Dumbo my elephant was dark and menacing, popping up here and there, in the unlikeliest and often inopportune of times.

Anywhere and everywhere, any occasion, every movie, any song, any anything, or, or, or.

Those despicable visions creeping up and in.

Despicable me and my despicable elephant.

“The elephant in the room” has been in that damn room with me for my entire life.

Actually, “the elephant in the room” has been with me in every room, in every corner, for every second, of every day, no matter where I go or who I’m with, or, or, or.

I know many of you are thinking: Get over it.

Don’t you think I want to? Who would want to live like this?

The answer to my friend’s question should and could have been a simple one: Lord have mercy, yes.

 

One Hell of a Movie Trailer

I feel sick to my stomach.

I keep looking back on the past two weeks and asking myself is this for real or am I smack in the middle of one of those spine-chilling Hollywood movies about the disintegration of the United States as we know it?

The vision of Dr. Ford won’t go away: Her soft, child-like voice, the heartbreaking definition of fight or flight, two front doors, the hand over her mouth, making eye contact with Mark Judge, Brett Kavanaugh looming over her defenseless self, the uproarious laughter.

The vision of Judge Kavanaugh won’t go away: His angry contorted face, his unhinged shouting, the lame definition of Devil’s Triangle, Renate Alumnius, his promises of revenge, his blatant denial about his drinking, the disrespect he showed to Senator Amy Klobuchar.

And all those old white men sitting decorously like strutting peacocks, making believe they come from a place of honor and integrity. Pretending they want what’s best for the American people.

It’s enough to make anyone want to chug a hundred kegs of beer.

Every time I watch the news and see any one of those nasty old men, I want to scream at the top of my lungs: TERM LIMITS!!!

Where the hell do we go from here?

Beginning in 1998, Igor Panarin, a Russian professor and political scientist, has been predicting that the United States will first collapse and then morph into six separate parts: The California Republic, The Texas Republic, the Central North-American Republic, Atlantic America, Alaska, and Hawaii.

Among other things, he forecasted that financial and demographic changes triggered by the intervention of foreign powers, mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation would lead to social unrest, national division, and ultimately civil war.

Panarin even predicted that the wealthier states might get so fed up with the corruption and partisan politics that they may even withhold funds from the federal government effectively seceding from the Union.

Panarin also said this: “The U.S. dollar isn’t secured by anything. The country’s foreign debt has grown like an avalanche; this is a pyramid, which has to collapse. … Dissatisfaction is growing. … There’s a 55–45% chance right now that disintegration will occur. … There is a high probability that with the collapse of the United States, Russia and China will become economic superpowers, and will need to collaborate to rebuild the world economy with a new currency once the United States (and the U.S. dollar) cease to exist. …Occupy Wall Street protests have highlighted the ever-deepening split with America’s ruling elite.”

At the time of his predictions, the first thing I thought was that the guy was bonkers.

The second thing I thought was that it would make for a great movie!

Pure fantasy, but it could be an apocalyptic best seller!

And now, well I feel like I am watching the trailer of a doomsday movie that is soon to come out.

To know the fate of the United States, don’t forget to tune in on November 6th!

He Could Not Comb His Own Hair Without Help

After five and a half years of captivity and horrendous torture in North Vietnam, John McCain finally came home. His body was broken, but not his spirit. McCain was left permanently disabled and was unable to raise his arms above his shoulders.

And yet, according to “President” Trump, John McCain was a bogus war hero, and he made a mockery of his years of torture and captivity: “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

Mr. McCain said nothing in response. How many people would have been able to do that?

I wonder how long Trump would have lasted as a prisoner of war in Hanoi?

Oh wait, he was a draft dodger and received five deferments during the Vietnam War—four for education and one for bad feet. Aw, poor Trump had bone spurs.

John McCain endured among other unimaginable torture: Bayoneted in the left ankle and groin, a broken shoulder as a result of a rifle butt, suspended by ropes with his broken arms behind him, two years in solitary confinement in a cell infested with roaches and rats, frequent beatings, and tortured with cables.

Someone had to help him comb his hair.

Upon reading those words in the New York Times today, my heart was heavy.

Not only because we lost a true American hero, who loved his country, but also because we are left with a germaphobic, self-absorbed, self-concerned tyrant, who copped five draft deferments and has yet to visit the thousands of American soldiers on the front lines in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Trump is not invited to McCain’s funeral, and I’m happy about that. Not that he would have attended, because he’s a coward.

I regret not having mailed the letter I wrote to Mr. McCain following Trump’s searing put- down of him and amidst the booing of McCain at Trump rallies.

In part here is what it said:

Dear Senator McCain,

I am so sorry that Donald Trump made a joke about your time in captivity because if not for your sacrifice, I might not be free.

And thank you for answering the call to defend our country’s freedom, and for putting America before yourself and for your undying patriotism.

Finally, thank you for defending the Constitution, which allows me to be able to write this letter to you at all.

And most importantly, I needed to tell you that despite Trump and his booing followers, most Americans are filled with fiery patriotism and consider you a true American hero.

Here are some of my favorite quotes by the late great John McCain:

“We are Americans first, Americans last, Americans always.”

“I will not take the low road to the highest office in this land. I want the presidency in the best way, not the worst way.”

“I don’t mind a good fight. For reasons known only to God, I’ve had quite a few tough ones in my life. But I learned an important lesson along the way: In the end, it matters less that you can fight. What you fight for is the real test.”

“I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s. I loved it for its decency, for its faith in the wisdom, justice, and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place but an idea, a cause worth fighting for. I was never the same again; I wasn’t my own man anymore; I was my country’s.”

Respect — Just a Little Bit

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you know that my life was forever changed in the summer of 1967, when I was the ripe young age of fourteen.

1967 was a tumultuous year for me. The rest of America was in a tumult as well, dealing with peace rallies, the Vietnam draft, race riots, and war demonstrations.

A real shitstorm of a year that I wish I could forget.

But what I will always remember was the connection I had with the then unknown Aretha Franklin’s hit song:

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means to me.

What R-E-S-P-E-C-T meant to me in 1967 was a hope for dignity, bravery, empowerment, strength, guts, courage, nerve, daring, confidence.  Every time I heard that song, I felt a kinship with it.

A year later, in the late great 1968, Aretha released (You Make Me Feel Like a) Natural Woman, but this time her words did nothing for me.

I was certain that no man could ever make me feel inspired.

But then I heard it on the radio in 1984, and it was like I was hearing it for the first time.

It was a few months after my son was born, and it hit me that I could indeed be inspired by a man. Not as a wife, but as a mother to a son.

When my soul was in the lost and found
You came along to claim it
I didn’t know just what was wrong with me
Till your kiss helped me name it
Now I’m no longer doubtful, of what I’m living for
And if I make you happy I don’t need to do more

Rest in peace Aretha and thank you for inspiring me.

Global Warming—the New Normal

 

Globally, this year is shaping up to be the fourth hottest on record. The only years hotter were the three previous ones.

Since modern record keeping began, seventeen of the eighteen warmest years have occurred since 2001.

WAKE UP CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS, because temperatures are going to continue to rise, heat waves will only grow hotter and more intense, fires and floods will forge on, annihilating everything and anything in their path.

Make no mistake about it: Our world is getting hotter and will threaten and ultimately destroy our basic necessities for survival like food, water, and electricity.

Prepare for Climageddon because diminishing food supply, water scarcity, and unreliable electricity is in our future.

Ice caps are melting, wild fires are raging, and some of the most beautiful places on earth will cease to exist.

Places like Key West, Florida, the Rhône Valley in France, the Alps, California’s Nappa Valley, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Venice, Italy, Glacier National Park in Montana, the Dead Sea, the Maldives, the Amazon, and Alaska are suffering severe global warming consequences, with some facing the prospect of vanishing entirely.

And what’s so incredibly frightening is that so far efforts to tame the heat have all failed miserably.

But the absolute scariest part about all of this is that WITHOUT THE U.S. GOVERNMENT, the rest of the world has united to fight climate change.

Thanks for the win, Donald.

A New Dawn Aka the Name Game

For as far back as I can remember I always thought my middle name was spelled Dawne.

I first saw the spelling of it in my teens, on my Social Security Card, and took it for granted that my mother for some reason or another chose to spell it that way.

And over the years I’ve joked with my friends about the “e” at the end.

Dawn with an e. A typo? A misspelling? A careless mistake?

Why the e?

But the sad truth is that every time I asked myself the why-the-e question, I always came back with the same follow-up:

Why the me?

The me was the harder of the two questions.

And the e? Well, that mystery has recently been solved.

Last month, while combing through ancestry.com I came upon myself, and I discovered that my middle name is Dawn. No e.

I was sure that ancestry.com had made an error, so I ordered an original birth certificate, and upon its receipt, I discovered that there was, in fact, no e.

Sixty-five years later, I guess it’s good to know.

But I’m still in the dark about the me.

On a recent Saturday, while listening to my favorite songs on my iPod, I passed a mirror and caught my image.

I intently checked out my reflection. I critically scrutinized myself.

Mirror mirror on the wall.

I looked old, and most definitely not the fairest of them all.

I was eyeing myself up and down, not in a critical way like I need to lose weight—but with an eye for WTF happened to me.

Not just this week, or last week, or last month, or last year, but five, ten, twenty, forty, fifty years ago.

All the way back to fifty long years ago.

And that memorable day back in high school when I received my Social Security Card in the mail.

There it was. Three names.

My first name had been completely obliterated. Theresa had been replaced with Teri.

For my first few months in a new school and town, I had been viciously bullied and called “Theresa the greasah,” so a family decision had been made long before the Social Security Card arrived that my first name had to go.

And I was okay with that.

Terry with a “y” was deemed too masculine. Teri with an “i,” now that was an excellent Westport Connecticut name according to the fam.

One might read this and think “How awful.”

I didn’t feel awful about it. But I was praying that “Teri” didn’t rhyme with anything hurtful.

So I was mentally prepared for the first name, but as I fingered the Social Security Card, the middle name struck me as odd.

D-a-w-n-e.

I immediately thought that the e at the end was weird, but I wasn’t about to ask my mother any questions. That was back in the old days when children were seen and never heard.

So I begrudgingly accepted Dawne, although I would have much preferred Dawn.

And then there was my new last name.

It had been changed to something else because I had been recently adopted by my step-father.

Now, I was upset about that.

Actually, I was devastated by that.

I didn’t want to be adopted, and I certainly didn’t want to change my last name.

Because that meant that my father, whoever and wherever he was, let me go.

He gave me up to some other man.

My father gave me up. He gave up on me.

Turns out I was wrong about that.

Turns out I was wrong about a lot of things back then.

I would come to find out almost ten years after my Social Security Card arrival that my last name was illegal, and then of course last month, that Dawn-with-an-e was a typo.

Illegal and typo.

Just like my first, middle, and last name on that Social Security Card, I was all scrambled up and nothing was left of the original me. No security at all.

Back to the mirror, mirror on the wall.

There was no one to ask. No one to reassure or reaffirm who I was seeing, staring back at me.

Me with illegal-typo me.

No makeup, just plain-faced, with frizzed up hair, and haphazardly dressed in my daughter’s hand-me-down clothes.

Most people tell me I look like an entirely different person with vs. without makeup.

And many of them think they are being brutally honest when they confide to me that yes, I look better all dolled up.

“You don’t think I know that?” I always respond to them.

“Then why go out bare faced?” they ask.

Because I don’t care.

And because I feel the full force of me with a naked face.

And anyway, with the war paint, I feel fake, unnatural, itchy, unreal. Illegal.

In the old days, it was all about:

Mascaraed eyes black to the max. Check.

Fake smile. Check.

Every strand of hair in place. Check.

My fancy clothes, my fancy shoes. Check. Check.

Now it’s about:

No makeup, naturally dried hair, dressed in hand-me-downs. That’s me. The authentic and real me.

Broken blood vessels, dark circles under my eyes, my disappearing eyebrows, and those despised sun dots and spots. I no longer call them beauty marks. I know full well what they are.

I feel the plain me is my best me.

The free, fresh faced me, able to run outdoors any time, and anywhere and immerse my whole self in a torrential down pouring of rain. No worries that my makeup will streak or smudge.

And it is so helpful when the tears come streaming down. No worries that black mascara will run down my face like one of those scary clowns.

The sensitive me, immersed in the unforgettable scent of a fresh storm, the mesmerizing pitter-patter sounds the wet stuff makes, and the hypnotic effect that each drip and drop have on my psyche as they gently or ferociously land on my makeup-free face.

Or the poetic me that adores the clean taste of rainfall as I gaze upwards with arms outstretched and imbibe in a wondrous drink from the clouds.

And when I sometimes wash my hair in the tumultuous downpour, I wonder if anyone who loves or loved me is looking out at the same tempest, at the same time, and dreaming about what ifs.

Because those who have been nearest and dearest to me, know I adore the rain and the dark, dreary days, the squalls, the windstorms, the whirlwind gales, all of them.

But gazing at my rainless, unpoetic, and makeup free mirror image, I studied the sad eyes sadly studying me back.

Who the hell am I and who the hell else is out there?

So many of us feel connected to our ancestral roots. We dream of tracing our familial trees. We dream of finding long lost family members or experiencing the Aha moment.

I have always believed that it was fundamental and essential to my self healing that I figure out my who and where.

I spent a lifetime trying to fit the pieces together, convinced that I couldn’t move forward until I stepped backwards in the hopes of figuring out where I had been. Who I was to people.

Some fifty years ago and way before the internet, I would drive around Bridgeport, trying to find streets, houses, and tenements, in a desperate search for answers, and something—anything that might spark a memory or two. Good or bad. Something solid to hang on to.

And then after the internet, and with the same driving courage, I was able to find out more about me and my mysterious roots.

My years of familial searching and then finding, taught me to be careful about what one wishes for.

And to be mindful that in the looking, one might actually find something, and that something might be worse than the not knowing.

As an example, I tried to find out who my father was for years. And once I was successful in my pursuit, I discovered that there was a massive divide between who I dreamed my father was, and who he turned out to actually be.

In my search for the truth about my father, the truth was indeed stranger, and much more personal and painful than fiction.

But I’ll save that story for another time.

Growing up, I was never sure about who I was. And sixty-five years later, I’m still partially in the dark.

And even though I’ve already unearthed some painful stuff, I’m not afraid of finding out more.

In the end, I am who I am, no matter what I find out.

I was in the seek-and-you-shall-find mode, no matter what the outcome.

Call it a late-in-life crisis. But to be honest, this crisis has been a lifetime in the making.

I decided to treat myself to a tell-all for my 65th birthday.

I threw fearful to the wind and decided to research the two most sought-after companies who collect DNA information—Ancestry and 23andMe—before making my final decision about which one to go with.

Ancestry has sold over three million DNA kits and counting. It has user-generated content that has made it possible to produce more than 70 million family trees and offers access to over 16 billion online records.

I know, I sound like a commercial.

And then there’s 23andMe.

More than 1 million people have been genotyped through 23andMe.com.

If you’re curious about why the company is called 23andMe: It’s named for the 23 pairs of chromosomes in each human cell. They also offer estimates of predisposition for more than 90 traits and conditions ranging from baldness to blindness.

I wasn’t interested in predisposition. That would be way too much information for my liking.

I wanted to find stuff out, but I’m not that curious.

I’m interested in family stuff, not health stuff.

It would be my luck to rummage around and find some unintended and wholly unwanted predispositions. Baldness? Blindness? No thank you.

I love rainstorms. Healthstorms, are a whole other ball of wax, and I prefer to stay as in the dark about them as possible.

So I decided to go with Ancestry.com.

For $99, I was sent a vial in which to deposit my saliva. I mailed it back, and three weeks later I received the written details of me.

Within minutes I discovered the new Dawn, no e.

When I finished reading the Teri report, I looked around my desk at all the fading black and white photographs of me as a baby, with my grandmother, great grandmother, and mother.

I thought about the patchwork quilts and crocheted afghan blankets, the nursery rhymes sung in French, the recipes for rhubarb pie and macaroni with hamburger casserole.

Try as I can, the words to the French ditty have long been forgotten, but I see in those photos that I was someone special to somebody.

And I finally realize that I don’t need the photographs to recall the love. I can unearth the adoration any old time I want to, in the deepest caverns of my mind.

I can ensconce myself in my grandmother’s afghan and quilts, amidst the quiet memory of the why and who I was at least to her.

The rest I guess be damned.

Because I finally feel at peace with me.  With or without the e.

The Secret Sits

Robert Frost’s poem “The Secret Sits” is one of my all-time favorites.

We dance round in a ring and suppose,

But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

Secret, with a capital S.

It’s a simple couplet; just two lines of poetry that rhyme, but brilliantly speaks volumes to me.

I’m sure it speaks volumes to you as well.

And I’m equally sure that how and why it touches you is entirely different from what Frost’s poem means to me.

Its poetic rhythm is in anapestic trimeter; a rhythmical combination of anapest: (A foot of poetic verse consisting of three syllables) and trimeter: (Three iambic feet within a single line of poetry).

Three.

Tri.

In the middle.

Like a Prayer

It was a destination wedding, and Evangeline was an invited guest and close friend of the bride’s father.

Evangeline expected the event to be somewhat melancholy because the bride’s mother had suddenly and unexpectedly died several years earlier.

Upon her arrival at the hotel, Evangeline quickly ascertained that the family of five was in a profoundly ruptured state.

The lobby was her first indication of trouble.

The father was sitting in the far corner with his girlfriend, and Evangeline immediately felt the negative aura in the room.

The four siblings were scattered here and there, marking their separate corners.

The two daughters were as far away from their father as was possible and it was apparent that they were not on speaking terms with the girlfriend.

The eldest son sat in a club chair not far from his dad, his young daughter on his lap, with his wife standing protectively next to them in mama bear mode.

The youngest son/child had no seat, and he moved awkwardly back and forth between his father, brother, and sisters, while the father’s girlfriend intently scrolled through her phone pretending to be busy.

The bride’s mother, gone for almost nine years had been a beautiful but fragile soul, and Evangeline could see that time had not been healing.

At the rehearsal dinner, there were additional signs of unnervingly silent pain and animosity as Evangeline continued to observe and assess the situation.

The youngest brother was clearly loved by all and again drifted from brother to sisters to father.  The oldest brother, his wife, and child were purposefully avoided by the sisters who were attached at the hip. And neither daughter approached their father at all.

Evangeline felt sadness for the eldest who was visibly distressed, and so she made a point of going up to him with the hope of eliciting some information. But they only briefly spoke about insignificant nothings while he occasionally and warily eyed his sisters.

The next day, Evangeline could not fathom why the youngest brother was in the wedding party but not the oldest.

And the child of the oldest brother was in the wedding, but completely ignored by everyone else in the party except the younger brother who went out of his way to mollify her.

After the nuptials, there was the usual eating, drinking, and dancing. But Evangeline was obsessed with the sub plots playing out before her.

The family of five sat at four separate tables and four corners apart: Daughters, father, eldest son, youngest son.

Four heartbreaking scenarios: Daughters. Daughters vs. father/girlfriend. Daughters vs. eldest brother/child/wife.  Youngest brother floating uncomfortably in and out of all three camps. Appeasing and floating from corner to corner. From camp to camp.

Then came the unforgettable finale.

It started with the deejay who switched it up from Motown to Madonna.

Life is a mystery, everyone must stand alone. I hear you call my name. And it feels like home.

Evangeline, who was sitting closest to the eldest brother, witnessed the simultaneous familial eruption.

The eldest brother shot out of his seat while yelling out: “Mom’s song!” as he pulled his wife and child to the dance floor.

When you call my name, it’s like a little prayer. I’m down on my knees, I wanna take you there.

The youngest brother bounded up to the oldest, and the two hugged tightly.

In the midnight hour, I can feel your power. Just like a prayer you know I’ll take you there.

The bride grabbed her sister’s hand, and they ran toward the others.

I hear your voice. It’s like an angel sighing.

Evangeline gaped in shock as they all bounced and danced while bellowing out the words to the song, holding their hands close to their mouths as if they were microphones.

I close my eyes, oh God I think I’m falling.

The dance floor remained solely for them. No one dared to intrude in their powerful moment.

I have no choice, I hear your voice. Feels like flying.

Jumping and gyrating to the music, the youngest of the siblings loosened his tie, while the oldest embraced his sisters, who lovingly embraced him back.

Out of the sky, I close my eyes. Heaven help me.

Many of the guests, including Evangeline, were choking up and quickly wiping away tears lest anyone should see.  The father was visibly moved, and every person in the room sat quietly mesmerized.

Like a child, you whisper softly to me. You’re in control just like a child. Now I’m dancing.

The sisters clutched the hands of the child and the wife. The wife appeared stunned. The child confused. But their expressions quickly changed to delight.

It’s like a dream, no end, and no beginning. You’re here with me, it’s like a dream.

The six of them formed a circle, and while tightly holding hands they moved inward and outward, laughing and singing and smiling. Inward and outward.

Just like a prayer, your voice can take me there. Just like a muse to me, you are a mystery.

The bride put her head on her older brother’s shoulder. Was she weeping? It was hard for Evangeline to say because her own tears made it impossible to see.

Just like a dream, you are not what you seem. Just like a prayer, no choice your voice can take me there.

Then the song ended and the crowd sat silently, and overcome by what they had just seen, waiting for what would come next.

The family circle broke apart and back to their separate corners they all went.

The Three Strong Women in My Life


Mommy, Mammy, and Grammy Nadeau

My first fourteen years were spent living with my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.  Many on the outside thought our living arrangements were unusual. To them, I was living in a broken home.

To be clear, there was nothing broken about our home, our relationships, or our bond.

And sure, we struggled, but there was a lot of big love.

My desk area is covered with photos of me with the three women who shaped and steered my life.

I often gaze at us and wonder: Who was I to them? And who were they?

I was known as mon petit chou to my grandmother and my grandmother’s favorite to my mother. And since my mother was my great-grandmother’s favorite, I like to imagine I was in the same treasured category as my mom.

My grandmother barely knew her father, and my mother and I never knew our fathers at all.

I was an only child, and so was my mom, so the three women in my life were all the family I had—or needed.

My great-grandmother lost her mother when she was four, so I can only assume that she knew her father well. Unfortunately, I never asked her much about her life.

I do remember her telling me that her husband, my great-grandfather, had been involved in a terrible accident which rendered him a vegetable. I never forgot the story because even at a young age, I felt her pain. She told me that he spent most of his adult life in an asylum. And I could see from the telling, she was ashamed.

Through ancestry.com I was recently able to find a 1930 census document with my great-grandfather’s name on it. He was indeed a patient at the Augusta Maine State Hospital for the Insane and spent at least 25 years there before he died in 1951.

We were four women, with no male heroes. A dysfunctional familial band of female strength on the one hand, full of unspoken male loss on the other.

There were no men in my early life—and that suited me just fine. Not that I knew any better.

How strange it is, then, that having been surrounded by women for most of my life, that I’ve never had a lot of female friends. In high school, I had maybe three close girlfriends. In college, I had one.

Even today, the females in my life are few and far between.

I suppose it’s because of those early days of being surrounded by loyal, compassionate, and unconditionally loving women.

But that was then, and this is now.

Perhaps I expect the women in my life to live up to a higher standard. Maybe a standard that is virtually unattainable.

I just don’t know.

We were four strong until at nine years old, my great-grandmother passed away.

And then after many weeks of tears and broken hearts, we were three strong.

My grandmother died when I was thirty.  I lost a heart wrenching chunk of me and an enormous safety net.

She was my safest place.

Down to two strong.

She left me at a crucial time in my life. I threw up for weeks after her death thinking I was heart sick.

It wasn’t my heart. I was pregnant.

Boy did I need her guidance.

And then things went wrong. Really wrong. My life took some spins and turns and crashes and burns.

You could say I joined a circus for a few years.

I made some naïve and terrible choices. Didn’t we all?

Down to one strong.

How I wish I would have asked my three strong women more questions about their pasts, their loves, their dreams, their aspirations, their regrets.

There are so many things I don’t know about them. I have way too many unanswered questions.

And way too many whys and hows and sorrys.

I so wish I could turn back the hands of time to live and love them all again and begin anew.


Me with my grandmother circa 1953