Week one Punctuation, Inc.
|I was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, the fifth child and fourth daughter in my family. My family had been ticking along just fine with four school-aged children, two in high school, and my parents were surprised, to say the least. According to my mum, my father was quiet for a bit, then stated "I'll be going to graduations when I'm a man in my sixties."
My epilepsy turned up when I was three, frightening my entire family and sending me to the hospital for, in my opinion, wayyyyyy too long. They took away my favorite pajamas and put me in a room where the only toys were Tonka trucks. I complained, and I think that amused the man in the toy room. I didn't know the term clueless then, but, boy, it fit the people at that hospital.
I had a stroke, probably at the time my first seizure occurred. no one knew that until I was twenty-eight, and my neurologist, Dr. Elizabeth Lakind, was telling us the results of my tests. But it fit. I had weakness I my right hand and arm, and my first neurologist didn't think I needed physical therapy. I refused to use that hand and adopted a new identity.
I became the good cripple, the girl who was cheerful and brave, because we cripples have Tiny Tim as our role model. No whining, no anger, and no upsetting people unnecessarily. In the song "Let It Go" is the line "Be the good girl you always have to be." That was me.
My father retired from plastering at age fifty-four, after he had a heart attack. His health continued to decline, and when I was fourteen, he died of a major stroke. That shook my world, and I felt bereft of the one person I believed understood me. I still miss him. I continued to be the good girl, never admitting to grief or sorrow. I didn't break down when my fifteen-year-old cousin sneeringly told me about my brother getting drunk and weeping the night of the funeral. He went to the airport to see off my visiting uncle and aunt, while I stayed home. A simple "Umm-hmm" and the ability to walk away five minutes later served me well. Yes, that was a very special family Christmas party.
Let's see...oh, there was school. I attended Catholic schools from kindergarten through twelfth grade, and received a more comprehensive education than the public school kids had, since they never had the opportunity to see nuns in action. Lay teachers could be a mixed bag, but nuns generally possessed a certain amount of perspective. It wasn't so much keeping us from adult situations as it was controlling access to them. In tenth grade, my English teacher took us to see Romeo and Juliet. Sister Anne Marie had no trouble exposing us to a topless Olivia Hussey. After all, it was Shakespeare.
I used to think life-altering changes were dramatic, but college changed that. I made friends that thought I was capable, I joined groups such as the Florence Luscomb Women's Center, and I did things I wouldn't have considered in high school.
Heidi dragged me to a science-fiction convention, and she invited me to go with the Art department on a trip to New York City for a museum tour. Nancy led me to music performance classes. Sue was my entrance to theatre ushering. And Leslie, bless her, almost succeeded in teaching me binary.
But it was my friendship with Vicky and Lynda that made the biggest difference in my life. I dropped in to Vicky's apartment briefly one night, and was introduced to her classmate John. I said a few polite words and decided I'd never see him again. Four years later, John and I married and it's been over twenty years now.
John believes in me. It was he who encouraged me to write, who thought I could hold down a job, and who didn't look at me as damaged goods. He thought I did a tremendous job as a stay-at-home mom, and he regularly tells me how happy he is that I'm writing. My seventeen and eighteen year-old sons are enjoyable, thoughtful, intelligent young men, and I like to think I had something to do with that.