~The Seventies ~

The Seventies

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I Can See Clearly Now

Don started plans for building a second story on the house with thoughts of increasing the value if and when we sold it.  We had bought it in 1966 for $17,900, and it was now valued at approximately $45,000.  Unbelievable!  As the wheels were put in motion for an eventual move I drew back into the home life to support my family, anticipating the change that was ahead of us.  I had hoped that this would be the change that would relieve the stresses that we were feeling.  When we finally knew our new destination would be Upstate NY, the reality sunk in that things were truly going to happen.  My prayer group gave me a going away party and a felt banner of Christ in the boat on turbulent waters.  They gave it to me because of the Fisher of Men prayer I wrote during these times:

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Fisher of Men

By Mary Lou Q

How right you were when you said your disciples would be Fishers of Men, Lord Jesus.  But without you, they are powerless.  You are the true Fisher of Men.

As a child I was born into New Life by your life-giving waters.  Your fishing line has always been there before me . . . the bobber keeping it afloat . . . even with the weight of evil constantly tugging at it.  I was content just to swim nearby and take a nibble every now and then at the bait that you were offering.

As my life in the waters went on, the currents became more and more difficult to battle.  I was being  thrashed about, not knowing where to turn . . . drifting . . . further and further away from your life-saving line.  I called out for help, but all that I saw was darkness and the storm.  Realizing how far I had gone, I called out Your Name, Dear Fisherman, and out of your mercy, you slowly began to throw tiny pieces of bait, beckoning me on . . . leading me back to the Light above the water.  You calmed the waters and brought joy to my soul as I became more and more aware of Your Truth.

The Fisherman’s line is the Only Way, and I fell for you . . . Hook, Line and Sinker!  There’s no turning back for me, Lord Jesus!  Keep pulling me in!  I still thrash about sometimes, afraid to say Yes to what you want.  But You understand . . . you give me a little play in the line to let me know that I’m still free to choose.  But along with that slack in the line, every now and then I feel a tug . . . not too hard, for fear of breaking the line, but hard enough to let me know you’re there.  I look up . . . and once more I see the Light above the water.  That beautiful, warm light.  Reel me in, Lord Jesus.  Bring me Home, Fisher of Men.

1972

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One woman from the prayer group had a prayer book printed up with her favorites in it and she included the Fisher of Men.   Fr. P also sent it out in his newsletter to everyone in the parish.  It was a time when I felt very close to God yet very aware that I was getting ready to walk on water myself.  It was a time that I believed faith would see us through.

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During the sixties, the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King was more of an inspiration to me than the Women’s Movement was.  I was inspired by the tenets of non-violence in King’s vision.  The women involved in the Women’s Movement were worlds away from my world.  They were, for the most part, wealthy, well-educated suburban wives, who were pushing for more equality in the workplace for women.  I thought of going out to work part-time to help Don, but decided it would cause more stress than we already had, and it would be better for me to care for our children while Don remained the provider.  There were no dependable childcare options at that time and I couldn’t imagine leaving my children for long periods of time.  Don and I talked about the possibility of my taking a few college courses once he was finished with his schooling and the children were older.  At least I recall sharing with him that I’d like to do that when things settled down.  That would also be a good time to look into part-time work, once his schooling was completed and he was settled in a position as a Physician’s Assistant.

The Sixties saw a lot of changes happening in our society.  JFK assassinated in 1963, Martin Luther King killed on April 4th, 1968, and then Robert F. Kennedy killed on June 3, 1968.  The Vietnam War became a terrible scourge on our country and polarized people within politics and within families.  I was so busy caring for my children and husband that I only observed and read about these changes while trying to fit my values and beliefs to these changes.

The birth control pill was just beginning to receive publicity in the news.  The Catholic Church expressed it’s opposition..  .  I remember feeling tremendous conflict between my ideals, my questions about the Church’s declaration that to choose artificial birth control meant mortal sin, and my growing awareness of my own vulnerable situation.  Disagreeing with the Church’s position was silenced and my ability to trust my own instincts wasn’t encouraged at all.  “The Pill” was a revolutionary option for the sexual aspects of marriages and the pros and cons surrounding its introduction into family life took center stage for me then.  There were questions of health risks for women about this new medical treatment and every woman had to consider what was best for her.

There was also an awakening for sexuality with more information and openness about sex and the pleasure it brought to a relationship.  This was especially true for women and women’s magazines were filled with articles about every aspect of what was not available to us before.  One book, Our Bodies Ourselves, was a major best seller at the time.  It was fun as a couple to be exploring these new revelations.

Birth control was an important issue for us in our marriage though we loved our four sons and wanted a big family.  The more I read about and tried Natural Family Planning, which was the only method endorsed by the Church, the more I could see the Russian Roulette situation it put us in.  The birth control issue was in full force in the media and I remember feeling acceptance for whatever God willed for us while at the same time still trying to inform myself on the different methods of family planning.  I chose to do what I believed was the safest and surest way to proceed for my situation and made my decision on my own to begin using another method available that would allow me to space my pregnancies going forward into the future.

Abortion was not something I would want to have to consider and I like to believe I wouldn’t ever come to the decision to have one.   Yet I do understand the situations that bring a woman to that choice and I don’t feel it belongs in the political domain.   I do believe it’s each woman’s personal choice.  Bottom line, tough times can get better and there are always people out there to help and support you through those tough times.  Whether ending a pregnancy or going forward with it,  the decision will stay with you and affect your life.  I remember how I felt when I had those miscarriages.  It was the same grieving for a life that might have been when that life is cut short.  We all need support during those times.

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It was wonderful watching my children live and grow during those years in our first home.  I was happy there with them and told Don I loved it there.  I remember asking him if there was any way we could continue living there  while he got his PA certification.  I knew this was impossible; first because we couldn’t afford to do this.  The money we received from the sale of the house was what we were going to live on for the next two years in Albany.  Second, because I knew I didn’t want to be separated from him for those two years and had no way to support myself and the children.  I also knew my parents would expect me to follow my husband and moving in with them while Don was in school just wasn’t an option.  Instead of his taking me in his arms and reassuring me, realizing my fears and concerns about the pending move, I remember the question making Don hostile and him telling me he was going ahead with the move with or without us.  That was just a brief time of conflicted emotions involved with the move.  It left me feeling that I had little choice.

We soon returned to our united resolve to move forward and renewed our love for each other.  We were ready to move ahead with this new adventure without guarantees.  I believed that God was with us and that good would come out of it.  My intentions were good.

One of the pastors at the Catholic Church we attended asked me to write something for the newsletter about our plans and about the new role of the physician’s assistant: 

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August 1974 –

“When Father D approached me with the idea of sharing with you our future plans through the parish newsletter, I was somewhat unsure of how to put such a letter together.  I have known many beautiful people here, and so, as an opening, I wish to express my love and thanks for the kindness and warmth I’ve found here with all of you.  I feel that it has been through Father D, Father P and these fine people that the Lord has brought us to a richer, deeper awareness of what life is all about.

As a family, our lives have been enriched by our contact with the people of this community, and we will cherish the memories associated with the C.C.D. Program and the Children’s Liturgies.  To this day, I can still see Father P walking down the aisle, carrying a large banner that read – “Bloom Where You Are Planted”.  His words that day will always remain with me.  It was during the time when the hearts of many people were very burdened with the Vietnam War, and the violence and upheaval that it was causing all over our country.  Spirits were pretty low and frustration was high.  Father’s message was like a spring of cool water.  He said that there was little we, as individuals, could do to bring about immediate change in the ills of society, but if we give our lives to Jesus, our personalities, our talents, our roles in life, and let him transform us, day by day, into the new person, the new community, that God intended us to be, then little by little the Spirit of God would spread across the land, bringing new hope to all.

I feel this way too.  I feel that the Holy Spirit is renewing the earth, and that he is calling each one of us to bloom where we are planted in whatever way he leads us, and I thank Father P for bringing it across in such a creative and original way at the children’s liturgy.

Ever since Don’s Air Force Medic days, he was in close contact with the medical field through his work involving Workman’s Compensation and Malpractice Insurance.  A doctor-friend, who was aware of Don’s medical knowledge and skills, brought to his attention the new and upcoming field of Physician’s Assistant.  The object of the program is to alleviate the medical personnel shortage in many rural and inner-city communities.  The United States has 134 counties without physicians.  There are 55 million people living in rural communities with less than 2,500 population where health-care delivery is either inadequate or essentially non-existent.  We have too few doctors, too many specialists, and too little humanity, not to mention that medical training is very long and very rigid.  The P.A. could be the answer to the drastic needs of many deprived areas.  The PA takes histories, performs the indicated physical examinations and, according to locale, needs, and duties, either treats the patient or asks the attending physician to see the patient with him.  If the physician is not present, but the problem can be handled by telephone, the attending physician is called.

This whole idea for Don seemed way out of reach at the time, but we were extremely interested in the program.  Our interest was renewed once more when the idea was brought to focus again by an aunt of Don’s who had just graduated as an R.N. at the age of 58.  In July ’72, we began looking at the different universities where we knew the program was being offered, to see what was required.  We were amazed to find that Don’s past medical experience, and his education and background met with the requirements for interviews with several schools.  Don was, however, met with disappointment when we received rejection letters which informed us that Don needed more strengthening in the area of biology and chemistry in order to qualify for admittance. When the time to apply came around again, his desire was even stronger, so we decided to try again, this time applying to 18 schools.  The first positive response for an interview came from Albany Medical College, and after his interview, Don was accepted on the spot for admittance into the fall semester.  We felt that we couldn’t let such a chance go by, so the wheels were set in motion.  We put our home on the market.  Don gave notice of resignation from his present job, and we searched for and found a temporary home in Albany for the next two years.

I remember when I used to feel I had to know all the answers to life ahead of me, so that I could avoid making mistakes.  Life has taught me that it’s one step at a time and sometimes mistakes can be real moments of spiritual growth.  There is no way of knowing the outcome of the venture, but I do feel that it is God’s will and that only he knows what’s best for us.”

Please remember us in your prayers.

God bless you all.

Mary Lou (and Don)

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I would always remember the sounds of my boys at play outdoors; the blooming of our lilac bushes in the spring, going barefoot during the summer and watching them play on the swing set and in the pool.  I also fondly remember the backyard birthday parties we had for J and D who had summer birthdays.   I baked a special cake and all the relatives came for a barbecue in our backyard.  The fun we all had while raking the leaves in the side yard on a crisp Fall day and the Halloween trick or treating around the neighborhood.   The quiet serenity of the newly fallen snow before we all would show up with shovels and snow-blowers to clear the way for mail delivery.  Their Dad used to take the boys out and build a snow fort in the side yard and they would all come in, cold but happy, for hot chocolate.  I will remember where they all started school, the school plays, when A was the circus thin man and J was the prop man because he broke his arm in the schoolyard and missed the rehearsals. I was their class mother; driving to school with a huge box of cupcakes I baked, trying to balance them on the back seat. On JP’s first day of kindergarten when I sat across the hall in the other classroom, not wanting to leave him while he was crying, and then returning to tell his teacher that he was left handed like his grandpa and needed to put the scissors in that hand.  I remember D’s first stitches on his forehead when he was injured while jumping on the sofa cushions.  He was wearing his batman cape and flew off into the corner of the coffee table.  Somehow I handled this all by myself, taking him to the emergency room, as Don was in Wisconsin at the time.  The boys would all walk around up the corner to the school bus stop with the other neighborhood children and then would come running home together when the bus dropped them off in the afternoon.

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091 - Waiting for the School Bus

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On the political scene, the Vietnam War was tearing our country apart, and though I was not partisan in my voting nor did I pay too much attention to politics during those busy child-rearing years, I do remember the discouragement and frustration people were experiencing over this war.  One spring afternoon, some of the neighborhood mothers walked up to the bus stop to meet the children as they returned from school.  On the walk back, I remember us all feeling happy because spring was here and summer was on its way.  We started singing the then popular song “Joy to the World”, which also happened to be an anti-war song at the time.  For me, it was just a joyous song that made all of us laugh and enjoy each other’s company as we walked along.  My hope was that my children would be free of the tensions in our world while they were little.  It was a protest song that annoyed one of the mothers and she wasn’t too happy that we were all singing it.  This was my first awareness that people had strong ideological feelings on both sides of that political issue right there in my own neighborhood:

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Joy to the World

by Three Dog Night
(top of charts in 1971)

If I were the king of the world
Tell you what I’d do
I’d throw away the cars and the bars and the war
Make sweet love to you

Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

JOY TO THE WORLD

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The protest song that really caught fire was “Blowing in the Wind” by Bob Dylan 

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My sons were always together: playing and working; laughing and fighting.  Those were good times, even though they were stressful, exhausting and full of hard work.  There wasn’t much any one of the boys could get away with without one of the others telling on him.  They had their own little community where they learned how to get along with others, share and care about others.  And they could melt my heart when they surprised me with a simple, handmade gift for their mom.

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My Evolving Faith

In the years leading up to our move to Upstate, NY, my personal faith, apart from the Catholic Church, became an important part of my life.  It was the 60’s and the Jesus Movement, Vatican II, and the openness to the idea of God within us being a constant guide in our lives was a prevailing theme for me and for many others during that time.  God was no longer a distant impersonal authoritative figure.  Jesus was a flesh and blood example of “the word made flesh” and his spirit was still with us.  It was the time of the Charismatic Renewal in the Church and the world.

I remember my brother, S, who was single and a long-haired free spirit in 60’s style, coming to our home for dinner with a girlfriend.  He spoke of Jesus in this familiar way, like he had a close, personal rewarding relationship with him.  He said you needed to ask Christ to come into your life and your life would be changed.  Well, this was during that time when my life was filled with uncertainty and stressful responsibilities.  These included the everyday stresses and concerns of raising four little boys, and the exceptional stresses and uncertainties of Don’s unemployment and job dissatisfaction, while not knowing where this was going to take our growing family.  That night, I stole a few moments away from my family who were gathered in the living room watching TV, and closed the bedroom door behind me.  In the darkened room, I knelt down beside the bed and began to cry.  I pleaded for help and comfort in the days ahead, and when I got up to go back to my family, I felt that somehow things were different and more hopeful.  It was after this incident that I was drawn to the parish prayer group.  I would get up early in the morning before everyone woke, longing to sit quietly reading the Bible.  When I read at home or when I went to Mass, the words of scripture jumped out as if to teach me and comfort me.

On one particular evening, after a busy, demanding day with the children, I quietly went outdoors, leaving Don and the boys inside.  They were not aware of my absence.  I walked out and stood in the middle of the side yard where I could clearly see the night sky.  It was a crisp fall night with no streetlights to obscure what was the most awesome starry night I’d ever seen.  And the silence! . . . . the silence extended for such a long time that I hesitated to move a muscle.  I felt like something was about to happen.  During those moments, my soul was filled with what I can only describe as Amazing Grace; a presence of peace, joy and love, and a sense that “all is well”.  There was a certainty that all creation was vibrant and alive, and that I was just a small part of this amazing experience.  Walking reluctantly away from that spot on that night, I was, once again, convinced that there was a divine source or spark of life and that no matter what happened, this source was always there.

When I had that spiritual awakening back in the early seventies I was literally drawn by Love to read the bible.  I was drawn by a loving force to read all the parts that lead toward Life.  I was in awe!  Then I had the experience out under the stars on that one night I’ll never forget.  There is definitely a Loving Force in our beautiful universe that reaches out to all of us.

I guess the best song to represent this awareness was “Let It Be”, by the Beatles.  It was a natural high – without drugs!

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LET IT BE

 The Beatles

“Let it be, yeah let it be

Oh there will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be

Ah let it be, yeah let it be

Whisper words of wisdom, let it be”

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Let It Be ~ The Beatles

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“Danny’s Song” comes to mind when I think of our arrival in Upstate New York.  It was a time of new beginnings and I felt hopeful that “everything’ll bring a chain of love”.   I was about five months pregnant upon our arrival and remember driving around together and exploring all that our new home offered us.  Everything seemed promising and this song played on the radio of our car.  “And even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with ya honey.  Everything’ll bring a chain of love.  And in the mornin’ when I rise, Bring a tear of joy to my eyes, And tell me everything’s gonna be all right.”

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The next two years were a time of taking a major leap into the unknown.  I knew there was no certainty in the outcome and I knew we were vulnerable.  The amazing resilience and resourcefulness that we all showed during these two years was outstanding!  We all adapted to the change and actually thrived on it.

On the day we moved out of New Jersey and headed off to Upstate New York, we all worked as a team.  It boggles my mind to think of all we did to make that possible.  Each of the boys did their share of carrying boxes to fill up the u-haul truck.  When everything was checked and rechecked, and we were really ready to leave, we started rolling down the street ~ me driving the family car and Don driving the u-haul truck.  The neighborhood kids came out to run after us and say their “Goodbyes” again.  It was a mix of melancholy and excitement.  We were really on our way!

We were all set to live in a three bedroom townhouse.  My brother, S, drove up from New Jersey to help us unload the u-haul truck.  The house was in a great neighborhood with a back yard and wooded area in the back.  It was the first time I had a dishwasher!!  I loved the kitchen in that home…… modern appliances and a sliding glass door that led out onto a deck.  Each of the boys were enrolled in the elementary school which was within walking distance in a pleasant neighborhood.

We began attending OLM Catholic Church which was also nearby.   It was a great parish and very supportive to us as a family.  We became very active with the OLM baseball team for our sons.  All of them played on the team and Don was one of the coaches.  I have many fond memories of gathering at the playing field with all the families mingling with each other.  When there was a win, we all piled in our cars and headed off to treat the players to ice cream.

102 - OLM Baseball David, Jim & Jeff

107 - OLM Baseball 1976

111 - OLM Baseball Mom

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GR never knew the home in New Jersey.  He did hear his brothers speak of it many times with fond memories.  He was conceived just months before we made our big move to Upstate.   It was a time when Don and I had grown closer and there was hope of renewing our life together as we moved ahead.  G was born at the medical center in January 1975 with an intern in assistance.  It was a totally natural birth and I felt like an old pro at giving birth.  S and R , from OLM Parish, came to stay with his brothers when we had to go to the hospital.  I remember it being very early in the morning, still dark, with a light coating of snow on the ground.  The traffic lights were flashing, as there was absolutely no traffic on the road.  He was a true natural birth as the midwife who was supposed to deliver was out of town and an intern assisted me.  There was no time for any anesthesia.  The days following the birth during my stay at the hospital, Don and I had a lobster and steak dinner, compliments of the Medical Center.  G’s brothers were permitted to come and see him through a glass window.  The women at OLM parish gave me a baby shower with some handmade afghans and other gifts while G was the guest of honor at my side in his infant seat.  We chose his middle name after my father who had recently been hospitalized for a serious illness.  Aunt E and Uncle B were the godparents, and S and R stood in for them because of the distance they would have to travel to be there.  OLM Parish had a special Baptism party at the church that included five other babies and their families.

While Don plodded through the grueling schedule of course work and clinical rotations at the medical center, I continued to keep the home fires burning.  I was able to help with typing his papers and making sure the responsibilities of family were taken care of.  Having a rental house relieved us of the extra concerns about property repair and maintenance.

Having the autonomy of navigating around the area was freeing and a joy.  Everything was within a close proximity to the things I liked to do.  We got a family membership at the Town Pool, and I even signed up for my first college course.  I think the title of the course was “Not everything that’s ‘legal’ is ‘moral’ and not everything that’s moral is legal”.  At least this is what I took away.  It was interesting and stimulating!  I craved learning and growing just for the joy of it.  It was a time where we didn’t let ourselves get caught up in worrying about what would happen once this adventure was complete.  We really trusted that things would fall in place and we’d find a place to move to.  We lived in the moment and we opened up to the whole experience.  A group of women from OLM gathered at each of our homes for prayer.  One, J, was dying of cancer.  She was a strong, courageous woman – a mother of 8 children.  It was powerful being there to support her and she, in turn, gave us strength through the courage she showed.  I got involved with different family-oriented programs at OLM.  One program that unfortunately never got off the ground was a telephone relay system to touch base with the elderly and sick to see if they were OK.  That kind of reaching out appeals to me to this day and is dearly needed.

Two years then went by very swiftly.  Each of us had busy schedules and thrived while we were there.  The time soon came for us to start sending out search letters to see which community we’d like to move to that also needed a physician’s assistant.  The 70’s was a time of migration from city life to rural areas in America.  We were inspired by that movement.  This was the area that the role of a physician’s assistant was targeted based on need.  The thought of a quiet rural town, where we could grow our own food and connect with neighbors was an ideal we kept in mind   By the late 1960s, many people had recognized that by living in their city or suburban lives they completely lacked any familiarity with such basics of life as food sources.  They felt out of touch with nature.

While the back-to-the-land movement was not strictly part of the counterculture of the 1960s, the two movements had some participatory overlaps.  Many people were attracted to getting more in touch with the basics.  The movement was also fueled by the negatives of modern life: rampant consumerism, the failings of government and society.  The Vietnam War just added more fuel..

So I set to work at typing up the letters and got them off to a number of places that sounded promising to this quest.  I also took on some at-home part-time typing jobs to bring in some extra money.  One was for a physician who needed someone to type up new index cards on a rolodex file.  Sometimes I’d work with GR sitting on my lap and playing with the keys of the typewriter.  This was before computers, smart phones and Ipads.   So many changes over the years!

069 - Hoboken Visit

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The Medical Center in Pennsylvania looked like a place that might fit our bill.  When Don received a response from them through the mail along with a promising telephone interview, we decided that he would go and check out the position and the area.  At the time, the physician’s assistant was a new up-and-coming medical profession.  It hadn’t yet been integrated into the mainstream healthcare system.  This was the rural setting that the PA was created for.   It also filled the vision that had inspired us to take the leap and join this pioneering venture.  So, Don accepted the position and he made one more trip to choose our home on the mountaintop.  This destination remained a total mystery to us, his family, until we arrived there.  We hadn’t gone before due to the distance and expense involved in all of us traveling there to see it.  Once more, with a U-haul truck packed solidly with all our possessions, we took a leap into the unknown.   My friends at OLM parish gave me a outdoor barbecue farewell party and I still have the beautiful card they gave me with all their signatures.  There were so many beautiful people who I met along the way who gave me strength!  (We returned to Upstate, NY a few months later for the Physician’s Assistant Graduation and, once again, these friends put on a celebration we couldn’t believe.)

I remember the sheer exhaustion I felt when we finally pulled into the driveway of our new home in Pennsylvania.  GR was about a year and a half years old, and I settled him down in what was to be his bedroom all cuddled up in a sleeping bag.  It was an old house and was not what I expected.  The street it was on was a heavily trafficked road that lead into the main area of town where the supermarket was.  As small as the town was, it was all hills.  Delivery trucks would barrel down the road in front of our house on their way to the supermarket with deliveries for the community.  My sons would stand by the side of the road and make the motion of pulling on a chain, requesting that the trucker would do the same and sound off the truck’s horn.  They always obliged!  We had a lot of property on the side and back of the house.  One of the first major expenses we faced was the septic system that needed full replacement.  Our next door neighbors had three children.  And the neighbors in back, an older couple named Madge and Jeb, welcomed us with a basket of vegetables from their garden.  There weren’t many people moving into this small mining town so we were definitely a curiosity to everyone.

Once again, A, J, D and JP ventured out to their first day at school in a totally new environment.  When I think of the resilience and courage they showed, I’m in awe of how well they did!  A made the transition into middle school while we were living there.  It was a long school bus ride down a winding country road off the mountaintop.  We had a unified trust in the goodness of people and our ability to meet the challenges before us.  I was really naïve to the politics and pettiness surrounding the dynamics of running a town like this, as well as those involved with running a medical center in that small town.

I strove to make our house a comfortable home while looking for ways to bring some stimulation and interest into my own life.  I put in a huge vegetable garden on the hill in back of our house.  It had everything from green beans to tomatoes, zucchini to corn to peppers and carrots.  The neighbors would exchange the produce from our gardens with each other.  Lots of zucchini!  I remember baking and cooking up many recipes using zucchini.  I tried canning for the first time.  I took a sociology course once a week in State College, Pennsylvania at Penn State University.  J, a neighbor across the way, rode down Route 80 with me to the evening class.  It was about a 30 minute ride.  Ann T, another neighbor, came to watch G and oversee the older boys.  Don was working long hours and on call a lot so he wasn’t home that much.

When we got to explore  the area, we found a fantastic fishing stream called Little Sandy Run.  They had fishing derbies there where you could win prizes for the biggest fish.  The ride into Little Sandy Run was a dirt road with lots of pot holes.  It was worth the bumpy ride considering the peace and serenity I found there.

Winters lived up to the mountain top area…… SNOW….. lots of SNOW.  We had a Franklin Stove for heating and spent most of our time in the living room gathered together around the stove on the really cold days and nights.    I remember coming home from grocery shopping one day and driving up the driveway incline that was covered with ice and snow.  I had GR with me who had fallen asleep on the ride home.  I carefully navigated my way back and forth from car to kitchen with arms full of groceries.  On the last trip, I had GR in my arms.  His head was on my right shoulder and I had a bag of groceries tucked in my left arm.  As I was making my way around the car I slipped on the ice and snow and took a hard fall.  Luckily, I was able to turn in such a way that I protected GR from injury but I wrenched my neck badly.   For a long time after that, I was visiting doctors trying to figure out what was causing the symptoms of pain and numbness I was having.  I don’t recall any physical therapy during that time but I do remember wearing an awkward neck brace to relieve the pain.   It was a long, long winter.

There was a little country Catholic Church there.   The priest who was pastor was very conservative and gave sermons about sex and teenagers.  Don and I would just look over at each other and roll our eyes.  The Church’s obsession with all things related to sex continues today.  At the time, Jimmy Carter made the news because he dared to say he understood lusting in the heart as a Christian.  This did not go over very well with conservative Republican Christians.  I had volunteered to type the bulletin for the pastor and he would drop it off at our house and have a cup of coffee.  It was a little awkward trying to know what to say when he wanted to talk about Jimmy Carter.  For Christmas, he gave me a beautiful felt banner with the Mary and the Infant Jesus on it.

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snow-shoe-christmas-1978

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I recall going to a retreat that was recommended by one of the board members at the medical center.  I was having mixed feelings about the Catholic Church at that time and ambivalent about going.  Don had gone to the men’s retreat and when it came time for me to go to the women’s retreat my heart wasn’t in it.  When Don and the boys dropped me off for the weekend, GR cried when I tried to leave the car.  In retrospect, I would have been better to get back in the car and go home.  There was a climate of stress hanging over us when Don was home; a feeling that we were on guard and in his way.    It was his only time to relax and he had no time to spend involved in the family dynamics, so I reluctantly decided to go to the retreat.   All this most likely added to my depressed feelings during this time.  Things began to unravel.

It was during this time that Don’s father was hospitalized again.  He had rheumatoid arthritis and many other ailments that left him in much pain and progressively immobile.  Don traveled back to New Jersey with two of the boys and I stayed home with three.  When he returned, there was the same stress surrounding us.  It was a confusing time.  He was complaining about the medical center and once more talking about a move.  This wasn’t exactly the happiest time for me either.   I felt isolated in Pennsylvania and couldn’t see the path to moving forward with the hopes I had for my own life and our sons’ lives.  My response to Don’s discontent again was a hope that we could find something closer to New Jersey and family, sensing that I was going to need that support.  New Jersey still wasn’t embracing the concept of physician assistants so finding employment there was ruled out.

I knew I was struggling with my own adjustments to all this change and, once again, those feelings were stuffed down while the possibilities for the next move were explored.  I still don’t know exactly what Don found so intolerable about his job.   I now have a better understanding of the abusive personality I was dealing with and how we, as a family, were affected by it.   I felt very unhappy in the situation and life was being sucked out of me.  I lost any desire to attempt to make the best of it or to fix it.  I began to realize I couldn’t fix it and felt very overwhelmed and powerless.

We drifted along, looking for signs of what to do  I had already expressed the desire to move back into New Jersey closer to family only to be told by Don that it was an impossibility to find a job as a physician’s assistant in that State.  So when we saw an ad about an opening for a physician’s assistant position in the Upstate New York area, the wheels were once more put into action.  There was another telephone interview that was very positive and the decision was made to pursue it further.  The whole family then traveled back to Upstate New York to check out the area.

We stayed in a motel overnight and spent two days exploring the city.  The family physician, who was interested in hiring a physician’s assistant, invited Don and I to come to his home where we met his wife and had the evening to get to know them.  E and D seemed like very down-to-earth people and I felt very relaxed in their company.  One comment by E stands out in my memory of that evening ……..where he stated that the area was dubbed the “divorce city” because of the number of divorces.   It’s funny how that should stand out in my memory as I was sort of detached from that possibility for myself and our marriage even though I knew things weren’t going well.   Don was invited to visit the medical office the next morning to tour the hospital and meet the staff there.  The boys and I waited in the car in the parking lot, reading and listening to music while we waited.  There were a few homes that a realtor had told us about and we were going to take a look at them when Don arrived back.  I was thinking on the practical side that I’d prefer a smaller home, outside of the city area, that would suit our family long enough for the boys to finish high school and possibly college before setting off on their own lives.  A home that would require less maintenance and cleaning, allowing me to begin pursuing interests outside the home now that our family was complete and were getting older.  I think it was sheer exhaustion and cramming everything into the limited time we had in the two days that brought about a hasty decision to go with a four bedroom home in the city with many, many windows and extra rooms.  The home was owned by a couple who were divorcing and returning to Long Island, New York.

Upon returning home, and once we had made our decision that Upstate New York was going to be our next destination, I began to look towards making connections with the local resources that I knew had been supportive and helpful to us as a family in other areas.

I wrote a nice introductory letter to the pastors of two of the Catholic parishes in the area to see what kind of response I’d get.  The one response that touched my heart was from the pastor at one of them.  Fr. N’s response was very welcoming and he expressed a real interest in getting to meet me and my family.  His letter was lengthy and very informative about what we’d find there if we became parishioners.

I didn’t have the ability to use Google back then which would give me more information.   I was able to get information about the surrounding area through phone calls.  There were lots of state and county parks in the Adirondack area which held out the promise of a thriving, active life for our family.  So the process of severing any emotional and psychological ties to what was our home for a year and a half started to fall into place.  There were very few farewells when we pulled out of the mountaintop and once more hit the road

Before we left, we took a one week summer vacation to Chincoteague Island, Virginia and Assateague Island which is the home of the wild ponies.  It was very exciting planning for this vacation, and it took our minds off of the big move ahead of us.  The next door neighbors had a yard sale just before we left and one of my sons found the book, Misty of Chincoteague, while browsing through the book sale.  We felt there was something more than coincidental that we chanced upon it and it brought the area and the history alive through the eyes of the young, main character.  We stayed in a studio apartment rental that had a kitchenette, a large main room with fold-out chairs and sofas with all seven of us crammed in close quarters.  Not a very relaxing setting for Don and I to relight the romantic fires where we’d sneak off to the bathroom for a few moments alone.

Money was very tight ~ even more so with the frequent moves over the last three years.  We ate in most of the time and planned a big breakfast at one of the restaurants as the main treat.   I really loved it there and thought to myself how much I would like to visit there again during different circumstances.  The active, healthy life appealed to me.  We went bicycle riding along the bay, all seven of us, with G in a child’s seat on the back of Don’s bike.  The beach was beautiful and not crowded.  Crabbing off the dock and bringing back our catch for dropping in a pot of boiling water for the night’s supper gave us lasting memories.  Four pre-teens, one three year old and two parents who seemed to be coasting and drifting further apart became closer, as vacations always do.  It provided all of us with some space to forget the worries and concerns about what was going to happen and where we were heading.  The only stressful event was when Don cut his foot trying to retrieve a crabbing cage that had fallen into the water.  It was a pretty bad injury that needed stitches and bandages.  He wasn’t able to put his shoe on.  The remaining days left were spent within the limitations of what he was able to do which kind of added to his feeling that nothing was going right for him.  At those times, I saw myself role-playing my mother and hearing her quotes coming out of my mouth attempting to put a bright side on everything that seemed to be going very wrong.

Just before we were due to move, a phone call came from the realtor that the closing on the house was delayed and that we wouldn’t be able to move in until a week or so later than expected.  Somehow, it was decided that we had to leave as planned anyway.  One of the women who worked at the medical practice offered us the option of staying in a vacant home that belonged to her which was up for sale.  Sight unseen, Don agreed so we would be able to arrive in time for him to begin work at the hospital.  I’ve tried to recall if there was any discussion of other options as my memory of this was I had no choice but to go with the flow.  It seems that there was an urgency to getting there on time and doing things one way, his way.  We fell in line in order to keep the peace.  Our house in Pennsylvania still was on the housing market .  We left this dilemma in the hands of the realtor there, realizing that not many people were making a relocation into the small mining town on the mountaintop.  We were fortunate to have sold it within the year of our arrival back up to Upstate New York, although we made no profit on it.

I felt that my role was to keep things running a smoothly as possible for my family through this transition, while reassuring them with positive encouragement.  I was looking for the light at the end of the tunnel where things would finally calm down and we would finally be able to begin to move on with our individual lives in a new community.  I lacked the confidence to face reality and speak up about my intuition on all these events unfolding.  Today I’ve gained more awareness and understanding of what I was dealing with and the effects on my family.  I realize now that there was not much I could’ve done to get support in how to handle all this.  The support just wasn’t there for me.

********************

 The Eighties Part I

 

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