Tammie, my second oldest daughter, called me today from The Smithsonian Museum in Washington DC. She was there with a group of other parents who are in training to take exchange students, her third year of doing it. We were on the phone for more than an hour. I've never been to The Smithsonian Museum so as she went from one exhibit to another she described what they looked like. In between we chatted about my grandchildren, four of whom belong to her. Three of them are either in college or have already completed it and one of hers is still at home and 15. We commiserated with each other about Facebook being good news and bad. On one hand we both have an opportunity to see what they're up to. On the other we need to hold onto our judgments. That would be a good way to be closed off as one of their Facebook friends and then we'd never have any idea what they were up to. We’re not too worried as all four are exceptional human beings and our pride in them is enormous.
We also talked about her brother, Michael, who is over in Afghanistan working for the Military to train Afghan police and how much we worry about him and will he be able to come home in June. His son is going to be sworn into the LAPD as his father was many years earlier in late April or early May. Steven’s father was LAPD Officer of the Year in 1998 and served 15 years in the LAPD so he has some big shoes to fill. He has a little sister, Chelsea who he has to watch over while her Dad is in Afghanistan.
Tammie and I can talk about anything. She is the only one of my children that has all the same passions I do: reading, traveling, gardening and family. She recently got her teaching credentials and is trying to get a job teaching, not an easy feat in the LA area of today. Her older sister calls her Mother Theresa as Tammie goes to Thailand several times a year to work as a Medical Missionary and also down to Mexico several times a year to work at the orphanages and the villages. The last time she went down she brought many chickens with her and taught the villagers how to make chicken coops and explained how they’ll have eggs on a daily basis. She also brought her oldest granddaughter, Chloe, age 5, with her so she could show her how to help people who are less fortunate. Chloe (who has a younger sister named Phoenix – thank God they didn’t take her with) called me on their way home and talked about how wonderful it was. Don’t ask me how I worried about those two driving through Tijuana and heading south for the villages. The only place more dangerous than Mexico right now is Afghanistan. I talk to God all day long.
My eldest daughter, Cathy, is a two time Emmy award winner. She is a Sound Editor who currently works on Brothers and Sisters for Disney Studios but previously was employed by Warner Bros where she worked on ER which is how she won her two Emmys. Cathy has two Masters Degrees, one that she recently completed in Library Science. She wants to leave her current job and be a Librarian, a position she feels will have more stability and more benefits than the television industry. Cathy had her third child the day after she turned 44, a little red headed boy she and her husband named Jake. When she was pregnant she wanted to name the baby Jack after one of her favorite uncles. Her husband wanted to name him Jake. She told me they were going to compromise and name him Joke. I was relieved when I found out the baby was here and that they had named him Jake, especially since Jake is the name of my great-grandfather. Cathy calls me every week without fail to give me a detailed account of how her family is doing. In addition to Jake she has two daughters: Emily, who is fourteen and was diagnosed with Diabetes when she was three. Emily is the only fourteen year old I know who can carry on a discussion with me about Dante's Inferno. She is beyond bright. Then there's Marybelle, the fourth generation Marybelle. My fraternal grandmother's name was Marybelle McKinnon, her daughter's name was Sister Marybelle (she was a Benedictine nun), and my middle name is Marybelle. Mary is one of those children who walks into a room bringing more love than anyone I've ever known. Full of hugs and kisses and I love you and I miss you she somehow manages to make everyone feel that they were the only one she really means it about. She is only eight and just ran for President of her school. Cathy, besides having her two Masters Degrees (the other is in Communication Arts), working a full time job, being a hands on mom who is extremely active with the PTA and her children’s school and their homework, also finds time to make sure her soups are all alphabetized in the cupboard. We tease her about that.
Last, but not least, is Teri, my baby. Teri has five children, the last born when she was already a grandmother, the only pregnant grandmother we’ve ever known, as my husband says. She works as a charge nurse in ER at a hospital in Riverside County, CA. And she is one damn fine nurse, respected by her colleagues, loved by her many friends and probably the best mother I’ve ever known. She always had a way of making her children feel that they were people. Not many parents can do that. Teri worked her way through Nurse’s training several years ago while supporting herself as a Home Health Nurse. She is so dedicated to her profession and keeps up to date with constant new courses. Her oldest, Michael is 24 and already a father to Teri’s 3 year old granddaughter. Her youngest, Vanessa, is 18 months. In between there’s her beautiful daughter, Kattie, now twenty and in college, her son Hunter who works two jobs and goes full time to college as well and Nick, eleven, and so handsome that we always call him the “move over Brad Pitt” kid. Teri and her husband spend a lot of time at the river with their new boat. They never fail to drag along half the neighborhood kids giving many parents a nice weekend break. Teri’s ability to relate to children, making each one feel special, remembering everything about them so she can comment on how is their life going, is a rarity, especially in someone as busy as she is. She and her husband have a large house, a pool and a large yard. Somehow I’ve never seen any part of it anything but neat and well cared for. How does she do it? She always has her ducks in a row and runs a tight ship. As soon as I can figure out better words for those two clichés I’ll stop using them. She’s not quite into alphabetizing her soups but knows how to organize a family event with her eyes closed.
I would take a bullet for any of my children without hesitation. I didn’t write this blog to brag about them. I wrote it to illustrate a point. Teri was raped at gunpoint when she was 17 while working at Taco Bell. Cathy and Tammie were sexually abused by my second husband when they were three and four. Cathy is a recovering alcoholic with 15 years of sobriety. She also works with other recovering alcoholics both as a sponsor and starting new meetings for mothers who have children.
Is there life after child sexual abuse? Can you still live a life of worth and joy after child sexual abuse? Ask my three daughters.