Browse Category by Memories

Those thoughts in the back of our heads


Collateral Damage – The Other Victims

I heard an interview this week on NPR/Story Corps with Terri Roberts, the mother of a young man who chose to shoot in an Amish school a decade ago, killing five children and injuring 5 children.


Here is a link to the story: NPR/Story Corps/Terri Roberts.  Listen to it.   The story left me crying as I was driving to work and in awe of the human ability to frogive, and the power of forgiveness.


And it also brought back, fully and painfully,  the understanding of what it is like to experience the effect of the negative actions of a family member, whatever the crime or reason.  Perpetrators I doubt ever pre-think what affect their actions will have on their families or friends.  Thirty four years ago my children’s father made a major and erroneous choice driven by what we now understand was severe depression and bi-polar disorder.   The charges at this point in time are irrelevant, except to say he was ultimately convicted and sentenced with probation, lost a career, and was never functionally the same.  But when “news” of his actions got out into the little neighborhood we lived in, our children (then seven and eleven) were immediately ostracized by the children they had played with on a daily daily basis for four  years.  They were interviewed at their school without my knowledge or permission by chld protective services.  They were frightened and devastated.  With a month left to go before we moved, they were afraid to go back to school.  I kept them home.  Anxiety and depression had me throwing up every time I ate, I lost twenty pounds in six weeks.  I ended up on stress disability leave from work, which my PCP arranged to be in place until we moved.


He moved back to California to begin looking for work and housing for us as we emotionally found it necessary to move.  I was left with selling our townhouse, packing, finishing up paperwork for his job, dealing with the trail of messes he created. My children were pulled away from their grandparents who babysat them every schoolday, and with whom they had very close relationships.   The odd thing I remember is that as long as I was dealing defensively with the “crap” I was fine – I dealt with the sideways glances from people, with the whispers, with the loss of friends who distanced themselves from us.   What I found I couldn’t deal with was anyone being nice to me.  I was so raw and jagged and bloodied just under the tough, all business exterior that the slightest display of kindness would immediately dissolve me into a flood of tears.   I wanted to warn people, DON’T BE NICE TO ME.


The point of all this is that ….. we – his children and wife – had done nothing wrong.  We were no part of his actions.  And yet we were equally affected by his actions in different ways.  Thirty four years later my adult children display signs of PTSD.  My son has since had issues forming friendships due to a fear of friends abandoning him.   My daughter has had serious self esteem issues since then, in spite of therapy.  They both have anxiety disorders.  And unfortunately inherited their father’s bi-polar disorder.


His actions impacted far more lives than he ever imagined or could comprehend.   He didn’t mean to, but he did.  I  have issues with forgiveness towards him – and he has been dead for twenty four years. I’m still dealing with the messes he created.  The emotional messes.


I would ask you to consider for a moment beyond the perpetrators to the “other victims” – the other collateral damage – and send them a little love.


Help heal the wounds – all of them.


Namaste – I honor you – and for all that you in your life have to deal with, like it or not.


Itty Bitty


Memories – Junior High Graduation – Vandenberg Air Force Base June 1965


A June day, 1965 – Vandenberg AFB Junior High Graduation, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.   I’m the short one in the photo – of course!  I love that we actually were required to dress in white dresses, shirts and ties, and the girls wear gloves.

My three best friends – Annette Montalvo, Genevieve Paschal and Ronald Dockham.  I moved six weeks in later in July to Sacramento when my dad got transferred to McClellan Air Force Base and started over again – new school, new friends, new life.

I’m still friends with Annette (now goes by Sam) – we’ve managed to keep in each other’s lives off and on throughout the last fifty-one years (is that possible?).  Genni and I maintained a friendship until about 1975 when I tired of her stealing from me and her drug addict life.  I lost touch with Ron when I moved. I’m sorry that happened. He was a sweet but sad kid even then.

I’m still in touch with many kids from this time – VAFB Brats … now facebook friends – and a fairly tight group.  I’m glad!   These years were some of the very best of my growing up.

Good memories, good times – then we grew up!

It happens.



Reflections On The Privilege of Sharing A Parent’s End Of Life Journey

My dad crossed over in 1999 – December 23 to be exact.  He had suffered a stroke in early November 1999 while driving.  We were grateful no one else was involved in the accident.  As a result of his stroke, he lost his swallowing reflex.  He spent nearly six weeks in the hospital or in skilled nursing facilities but he never came home again.

Most of the first weeks he was in and out of delusions, drying out from decades of alcoholism.  He spent the last month with a feeding tube in his stomach for nutrition – he became adept at trying to pull it out and ended up in restraints for his own protection.  Because of no swallowing reflex, saliva would constantly seep into his lungs and create potential pneumonia issues.  Dad knew he would not recover and that he would not be going home again.  At 83, he was tired and done – no longer the swimmer, diver, surfer, snow skier – proud man he once was.  No longer the Air Force retired major – but a frightened shell of the man he once knew.

My mom would spend the days with him – my brother or I would spend evenings with him so he was not alone.  Once his mind cleared a little, we had some wonderful conversations – some serious, some reflective – some just remembering – some trying to say the things we felt we needed to share.  Thanksgiving was somewhat lost in the confusion – I think we celebrated in shifts – as we came and went from the hospital.  As Christmas approached, we decorated his room with a small potted tree and pictures on the wall of family and the cards that mom and dad received.

Other brothers from Southern California would come up as often as possible to visit with him – it was nice to have them around when they could be there.

He was always thirsty – always hungry.  As the weeks went by, he begged for more than the dampened lip wipes and miniscule ice chips he was allowed.  He would tell me, I’m dying anyway – what does it matter?  And I would tell him, no – it would hurt him.  And he would plead to me, just a taste – just a taste of something – please. He was rapidly losing weight – no longer able to be tied sitting up in a chair.  Getting weaker.  The doctor told us there was really nothing they could do for him.  We made sure his DNR was in order.  We started talking about the option of hospice.

It was a three days before Christmas Eve – on a spur of the moment decision, I grabbed a small container of orange sherbet on my way to the hospital.  His eyes lit up, he smiled – two tiny tips of a spoon of the icy, cold sherbet – that was all – all he wanted.  He held my hand – thanked me – and a tear ran down his cheek.  I hugged him the best I could, kissed him and said good night.

Five o’clock the next morning (the day before Christmas Eve) my brother called me.  Dad was being transported from the nursing facility to the hospital across the street.  Pneumonia had set in.  He picked up my mother and we met at the hospital.  We spent the day with him though he was sleeping.  We could see his condition worsening.  At the end of the evening, we went home to rest.  The phone range again at somewhere around five o’clock and my mother told me the hospital had called … it was time.  She and my brother and his family would meet me at the hospital.  I called my daughter so she could meet me there as well.  My husband at the time actually drove me to the hospital – and asked me if I wanted him to wait though he had refused to visit my dad up to that point – I told him no.  In truth, I didn’t want him there, but that’s another story.

We gathered in my dad’s room – my mother, brother, sister-in-law, daughter, niece and nephew and me.  The doctor told us it could be any time – a few minutes, hours 0r even days.   We stepped out of the room to make phone calls to the Southern California brothers.   Upon returning to his room, knowing that it was time, we each kissed him, and said our good-byes.  As I bent over him, I told him if he was tired and wanted to go, it was ok.   As I stepped back, his eyes opened, he looked around at us (through blank, empty eyes), then closed his eyes and he was gone.

I don’t know if giving him those two little bites is what caused the pneumonia. I don’t know if it was setting in already.  Did my giving in signal my acceptance that he was dying to him?  I was his only and baby girl.  Even at 49, I was his daddy’s girl.  I still am.

I have wrestled with this question many times over the last thirteen years. I suppose I always will to some extent.  In the end, I know he was adamantly more concerned with quality of life than quantity.  He never wanted to simply exist – to linger.

Namaste – I honor you, Daddy.  And I honor anyone who has had the privilege of sharing end of life with their loved ones.