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Family Lessons

It is easy to admit that some days are more eventful than others. In reflecting on my life, one event stands out as life changing in my childhood. By life changing, I mean that if it had not happened, I would not be the same person I am today. When I saw my oldest sister walk out of the house carrying a butcher knife in her hand, it confirmed to me that this would be one of the more eventful days in my life. What lessons I would learn on that day, I could not have predicted.

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It was the early 1970’s and we lived deep in suburbia. I lived with my two brothers, two sisters, and an Irish setter named Shannon, and Mom and Dad, of course. We were a typical Irish Catholic family if there ever was one. That was the view from the outside anyway. A knee-high statute of the Virgin Mary stood solemnly next to a tree in our back yard, her hands open and welcoming, peeking out from her flowing sleeves.

We were all born close together; my brother and sister are eleven months apart. Things were very different back then. We had different expectations. Back then, I remember being shocked to find a seat belt buried between the seats of our wood paneled station wagon. It never occurred to me that our car even came with seat belts. We had never used them before. I pulled out one end of the strap with a buckle on it and thought, “How is this supposed to work?” My mother would say if we were all breathing at the end of the day, she considered it a successful day. You could say we were in survival mode. Yes, we had a very different set of expectations compared to today’s Baby Mozart and the ‘scheduled play dates’ crowd.

It was a time I like to call pre-Oprah, it was not hip to air the family’s dirty laundry in public. No one w…

… pastures. For the first time I felt what it was like not to have a constant smile plastered on my face. Mom’s voice was reassuring, even though I was not really listening. I wasn’t listening until I heard her say, ?If I continue to live in that situation, then I am as sick as he is and there is something in me needs that.? That one sentence stuck in my brain for a long time. It is easy to blame others for so much of what is wrong in the world. If only they would do this or that, if only they would call and get us help, if only, if only, if only. That is when I realized this is what a rescue looks like. It didn’t come from strangers out in public. It didn’t come from the authorities. It came from a woman acting to make a difference in her own life and the life of her kids, taking a chance and literally risking all for the chance to live peacefully and without fear.

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