Though I am rejoicing with the Supreme Court decision yesterday on health care, my heart is heavy. Here is the reason:
Once upon a time in the middle 1920's an incredibly beautiful baby girl was born in rural Saskatchewan to an even more beautiful single mother of sixteen, still really a child herself. The mother, who had aspirations of being another Clara Bow in the movies, some how made her way with her baby to Seattle where she married a kindly but unromantic man eighteen years her senior but one she knew had a good job and a warm heart and would care for her precious little girl.
As she expected, he was devoted to the child, and to another girl born a few years later. The older child excelled in music and athletics and learning. Above is one of two photos I have the the children, taken about 1935.
They bought a lovely four bedroom brick home overlooking the majesty of the Cascades, the Olympics and Mount Rainier. Still, her dream was to be a movie star or at least to travel widely and have adventures. Possessing both the looks and charisma to make most men drop in their tracks, she was miserable and depressed. After a while she could stand it no more and she left her children in his care to find her own fate in the world. Both children missed their mother, but made their own ways in the world. The older child, from a young age, insisted when she grew up she would marry and have ten children. Perhaps she pictured being the good mother which her own mother, though loving, never achieved; that she would in this way fill in the missing link in her own heart.
Since she too was beautiful, she married a handsome naval officer and bore not ten, but five children, three from a second marriage. Both marriages were a mistake, but though working full time she doted on her children, and they on her. She raised them to be healthy adults but with the exception of one, to be both emotionally and financially dependent on herself. The doormat was always out and the checkbook always available to bail them out of trouble, even though it meant her own sacrifice; her shoulder was always out to bear their burdens.
Were they equipped to stand on their own two feet? Did they know how to be productive citizens or to access the help of others? Did they know how to make intelligent decisions regarding work, spouses, and education? Of course not. The good mother was always in their corner. Predictably when she died, each faced a troubling and unfair journey to face life alone. Each struggled and their struggles were peppered with failures; one died too young of lung cancer.
The “good mother” was my beloved big sister. This story, to be continued next week, is about her middle child and how the family dysfunction continues to unwind generation after generation.