Story telling about my daughter's life of 19 short years, I started a recollection thread, a series of posts looking at my life with Angel that ended twenty years ago - May 31, 1989.
I don’t believe in war or the traditions built around wars to justify them. Listening to one of my heroes, Howard Zinn, this last week of the 3 holy wars made me even reject the notions that there are any good wars after hearing his analysis of the American Revolutionary War, the American Civil War and World War II. I listened to it again this morning. No, I do not think of soldiers living or dead on Memorial Day. Not for 20 years.
Memorial Day means remembering my daughter Angela, who killed herself just after the Memorial Day weekend in 1989. Were all my memories of Angela bathed in sunlight and summer? It would appear so from the photographs I have chosen and the summer stories over this last week of posts. On the contrary, winter was a major player, a character in our lives because we lived in the Midwest. Now that I have lived in the Southwest for the last 17 years, I tend to forget how harsh the freezing winter conditions are for raising a family, for making a living and just keeping one’s sense of humor. One winter in particular was very hard on us -1978/1979 was the coldest winter year on record in the last 39 years.
My work ended with Camp Fire, Inc. the previous year when I wasn’t able to move into the open Director position of the pilot programming - because I didn't have a college degree. I became a bus person at a high end French restaurant, then a waiter and then followed a chef (former co-worker from catering days) to the Creighton University Jesuit community. My position was second chef to his role as executive chef. (These dates are all run together as I look back here). I had high hopes of taking college courses and did testing for intelligence, aptitude and preferences. My schedule didn’t allow me to take advantage of the free coursework, but I found I wasn’t as stupid as I felt within my marriage.
This was also the year my father-in-law died and the year our marriage ended. The paperwork wasn’t complete until the spring of 1980, but we separated amicably and I worked to discover what my life was to be. The pattern I was raised within dictated that I was a helpmate (that term sucks) to support my husband. I had dozens more ideas for our lives than he did, so I was constantly in a state of suppressing and waiting. This isn’t healthy. And his many claims that family was the most important thing to him was negated by his inability to say no to any church function, softball game, job estimates and – oh yes – affairs. It took me way too long to figure out what wasn’t working as I kept everything together.
But, the children were pretty removed from any marital strife. Angela was on a new kick of telling jokes and stories - almost continuously. She loved her ballet lessons at the Omaha Ballet Company studio and longed to be a dancer some day. Her brother had started school and proved to be incredibly sociable in his classroom and with the dozens of little boys in the neighborhood. (There were 7 boys in one family across the street, and four more homes with 2-4 brothers each in this Catholic neighborhood.)
It is funny how the kids remembered the year though. My son’s 5th birthday was so wonderful for him (with Lord of the Ring eggs – baked eggs in bacon ringed cup), it ultimately became the impetus for culinary school. Angela grew as a person through so many ways and she shared these stories with me. I took them and wrote a little book where she was the main character. She read that little book bound in cow hide from start to finish without looking up – except after the first paragraph when she looked to me with eyes wide open in surprise. It was Christmas and all around her unopened, unexamined presents, but she kept reading. I will cherish that memory as one of the best of my life. Even if Angela were with us now, I would consider that Christmas morning the best ever.