Guest columnist David Rosen: Here’s Why I Do What I Do For A Living

 

David_rosen_photo_2

David and his family, wife Deborah and daughters Allison, 10, and Jessica, 7, live in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. David has worked in pharmaceutical and healthcare public relations since 1993 and met Bob at an agency where they worked in 1999. After getting caught up in a “workforce reduction” in December, 2008 at Bristol-Myers Squibb, he wandered the earth in search of his next position, and is currently looking for his next public relations challenge. In 2010 he went back to school to become a New Jersey state-certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and answers the call in both Cherry Hill and Berlin, NJ. He’s also a volunteer firefighter with a unit of the Cherry Hill Fire Department that coordinates rehabilitation of firefighters during incidents. Anyone who can help him find a position for a senior PR professional can reach him at davidrosen29@gmail.com.

 

Dear Allie and Jess,

 

When I went to college, I had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had always enjoyed public speaking, but did not know what I could do with that. During my freshman year at Ithaca, I got to know a professor I had who saw my potential and suggested I get an internship in a public relations agency. I did just that during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years and never looked back. I interned at this agency during every school break until I graduated and fell in love with public relations.

 

After graduation, I got a job with a healthcare public relations agency in New York City. I learned a lot about different medical conditions and the medications that are available to help patients living with them. I rose through the ranks and even had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to live overseas (in Sweden) for half a year working with one of the companies that makes these valuable medications.


One of the companies in the pharmaceutical industry gave me the chance to work for it and I jumped at it. Your mother and I moved from New York City to Cherry Hill and off to work I went. It was a great experience: I loved getting up and going to work every day. I got to work with very smart people who helped make medicines for serious illnesses like HIV, depression and diabetes. I also developed educational materials that helped people live with and better understand and manage these illnesses.I ultimately worked in public relations for 17 years, my entire adult life.

 

Then, in December, 2008, something happened. My company decided it had to cut people from its workforce and I was one of those people.


This sudden change in my life came as a shock. At having the job I loved taken out from under me, I felt lost and worth little. Luckily, the two of you helped me deal with it all. I’ve searched for a new job in public relations for almost four years now, and it’s turned out to be hard. A lot of companies have cut jobs and the number of people who are looking for a job grows significantly day by day.Still, I’ve used this opportunity — yes, I’m now actually able to call what happened in 2008 an opportunity – to follow a dream I had pushed aside for many years.


I’m now a New Jersey state-certified Emergency Medical Technician, or EMT. I work both in the town we live in (Cherry Hill) and a neighboring town (Berlin). As with my public relations job, being an EMT allows me to help people. While I spend only about 30 minutes with each of the people I’m helping, it’s very rewarding to know that at the end of each shift, I’ve enabled people in real need to feel better and safe while enroute to a hospital.

 

I know my job takes me away from you, sometimes for a full day. And I know it’s hard to understand why. I do my best to find balance between spending time with you and helping complete strangers.

 

Trust me when I tell you this: there are many days I would much rather be home running around after you. On days when I feel like that but have to go to work, I think of some of the people I’ve helped. The little boy who fell and broke his arm. The woman who was in a car accident and hurt her back. The man whose heart stopped and needed me, my partner and some fellow firefighters to help get it started again. Remembering those accomplishments motivates me all over again.


Sometimes I get tired from the crazy hours I work, like when I pull an 18-hour shift and start work at 2 in the morning and go straight through until 8 at night. And I’m sorry if on those days I have no energy left to run after you. But please know I’m doing my best to try to find another job in public relations – I send out letters and go on interviews – to get me back to a more normal schedule.

 

No matter where I am, though, or how many hours I’m away from you, I love you with all of my heart and think of you always. I work as hard as I do for as many hours as I do so I can try my best to give you everything you want and to make your lives enjoyable. That’s just what parents do, and when you have children of your own, I know you’ll understand.

 

Love,

Dad

 

P.S. — David’s previous guest column: http://letterstomykids.org/new-years-eve-guest-columnist-david-rosenyou

 

P.P.S. — David’s appearance on the “CBS Early Show:”

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7393406n

Advertisements

Guest columnist Mary Ann Barrucco: Dear Ma, It’s Time You Heard The Truth: Part 3

Mary_ann_barucco_color_photo

Mary Ann Barrucco has lived her whole life in Brooklyn, New York. She and her husband Eddie worked for the City of New York in The Department of Finance until retiring. She is the author of a non-fiction novel about all her experiences called “Hi, My Name Is Mary Ann” and published by Morton Books. The following is a letter she recently wrote to her mother, Concetta Ceraolo D’Achille, who passed away in 1965.

Dear Ma,

When I grew up, I got a job with First National City Bank as a clerk. A few months later I met a man named Eddie in a singles club. Eddie had just started working for the City of New York in the Department of Finance. He started out as a clerk, but quickly moved up the ladder. We hit it off immediately and I knew in my heart he was the one. We got engaged and married 18 months later. I had my dream wedding. 

Ma, you would have loved Eddie. He was so kind, gentle and thoughtful. He treated me like a queen. No matter what I did, I always came first with him. Daddy liked him, too, and Sal had a lot in common with him, mainly baseball and poker. All that was missing for us is that we were unable to have children. But we loved our nieces and nephews as if they were our own.

Eddie always liked to drink, and at first I thought he was a social drinker. After three years of marriage, his drinking patterns changed and he became an abusive alcoholic. His drinking drove me out of my mind. I loved him and would never have left him, so I found my escape.

The corner candy store had just gotten in slot machines and I loved to gamble. Every day I played horses at OTB and scratched off lottery tickets. I got myself in big trouble because I was addicted to the slots. I realized I had a problem and called the Gamblers Anonymous hotline and started going to meeting right away. I finally straightened my life out. Now it was time to help Eddie.

His drinking binges caused a heart problem called alcoholic cardiomyopathy. Your heart can just stop and you will die. The only cure is a heart transplant. 

Somehow, Ma, I got through it.

Ma, If Eddie and I had been blessed with children, I would never have treated them the way you treated me. I would have constantly shown my children my love. That’s because nothing else matters. 

Maybe you were just overwhelmed with three kids and working and daddy and taking care of Grandma. Whatever the reason, it no longer matters. I’ve had my say. I feel better. And now I want you to know something. 

I love you.

I always did.

And I forgive you.

No regrets.

Your daughter,

Mary Ann

Guest columnist Mary Ann Barrucco: Dear Ma, It’s Time You Heard The Truth: Part 2

Mary_ann_barucco_color_photo

Mary Ann Barrucco has lived her whole life in Brooklyn, New York. She and her husband Eddie worked for the City of New York in The Department of Finance until retiring. She is the author of a non-fiction novel about all her experiences called “Hi, My Name Is Mary Ann” and published by Morton Books. The following is a letter she recently wrote to her mother, Concetta Ceraolo D’Achille, who passed away in 1965.

Dear Ma,

Sal was five years old when I was born and he was the apple of your eye. Everything was about Sal. He was always getting into trouble and was such a comedian and made everyone laugh. When I was three years old, you had my sister, Vinnie. Everyone loved my new baby sister. I loved her, too. We were so close growing up. She had fun following me around and kept all my secrets. It made her feel special. I felt such joy when I saw her so happy.

All my life, though, Vinnie and Sal got all the attention. They had all the birthday parties, went on outings with friends and had all the fun. You would never even let me go to my friends’ pajama parties. I was always left out.

I was your first daughter but I never got new clothes. I always got the hand-me-downs. Vinnie got all the new things. You constantly said, “Sal is my one and only son, Vinnie is my pride and joy” and you called me “your problem child.”

All my life you made me feel so guilty because I was the kid who always got sick. I had to get my appendix out when I was 12 years old and get my teeth pulled under anesthesia because I was afraid to be awake. It was always me that had to cost you money.

You never let me be a normal teenager. I never got to do what all seniors get to do, like going to the prom in a limo and staying out until 5 in the morning. All my friends had graduation parties except me and I was left out of all the fun. Every time I asked you for money to go to the movies with my friends, you said no. One day I took money from your purse. That got your attention.

When I was in Catholic grammar school and I won a bicycle, I was so happy. But you gave my bike to Sal so he could work in the drugstore. It was my bike and you stole it from me.

When the nuns would call you to tell you I was boy-crazy, you believed they were right. You never defended me. You never said, “No, not my daughter.” You even let a nun slap me in the face.

When I was ten years old, you got me a job in the corner bakery after school. I was too short to reach the racks. I was so young and small that the owner of the store thought you were crazy. My friends made fun of me and I was embarrassed.

Growing up, I never felt any love from you.

Now I’m asking you why.

What did I do wrong?

How could you hurt me like that?

Why should I feel guilty about your near death giving birth to me?

Shame on you ma, I hope you can see the damage you did to me.

The year you died turned out to be the worst year of my life. Instead of looking forward to a brand new future with happiness, my life was full of tears, guilt, and despair. Ma, the only thing I did right by your standards was to graduate from high school. 

P.S. – Please see part 3 tomorrow.

Guest columnist Mary Ann Barrucco: Dear Ma, It’s Time You Heard The Truth

Mary_ann_barucco_color_photo

Mary Ann Barrucco has lived her whole life in Brooklyn, New York. She and her husband Eddie worked for the City of New York in The Department of Finance until retiring. She is the author of a non-fiction novel about all her experiences called “Hi, My Name Is Mary Ann” and published by Morton Books. The following is a letter she recently wrote to her mother, Concetta Ceraolo D’Achille, who passed away in 1965.

Dear Ma,

It’s 47 years since you died and I’m finally ready to tell you how much you hurt me all my life.

I watched you fight a long battle with pancreatic cancer during my whole senior year in high school and my heart was breaking. I felt so helpless. Daddy said that you were dying. I wondered, What does that mean? Will mommy just go quietly to sleep, or scream out in pain? I had no idea that the cancer would go to your brain and you would have seizures and go into a coma and never wake up.

I felt numb as I watched my father and my brother Sal crying over your death. It was heart-breaking to see grown men cry. I clung to to my younger sister, Vincenza, or Vinnie, who was only 14 and knew only that you had gone to heaven. Every night when we went to bed, Vinnie would tell me she dreamt about you.

My grandma, Ceraolo, who lived with us, had the worst time dealing with the shock. She was 88 years old and blind. She had outlived her husband  and now she had to face the death of her daughter. Your brother, my Uncle Gene, came up from Florida and sobbed the whole way. His wife, my Aunt Marie, kept giving me tranquillizers and I had no idea if I was coming or going.  So many people loved you that they called you Saint Connie. Even Sister Patrice, the nun from my eighth-grade class, came to the wake.

Throughout the wake and funeral, I never shed a tear. I kept thinking, If only people knew the way I really felt.

I was only seventeen when you died and had just graduated from Lafayette High School In Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York the week before.

I was your problem baby from the very start of my life. When you were pregnant with me, you got very sick with toxemia. Back then toxemia could be fatal. So you had to be on bed rest until I was born. And we both almost died. But by a miracle your doctor, a friend of the family, managed to save us both. I was born weighing only four pounds and had to stay in Lutheran Hospital, in Brooklyn, New York, until I gained some weight. The doctor said the three of us would go down in medical history.

Every time you took me to the doctor, all I ever heard was how much I looked like you and how you almost died having me and so now I have to be especially good to you. All my life I heard this. I was too young to understand or answer back and say I almost died too and nobody cared about me almost dying. All I knew was I felt very hurt.

P.S. – Please see part 2 tomorrow.

Maryann_barrucco_photo1

Guest columnist Dr. Elchanan Elkes: A Letter To My Son And Daughter From The Gates Of Hell: Part 2

Elkhanan_elkes_photo

In October, 1943, while trapped in the Nazi-occupied ghetto of Kovno, Lithuania, Dr. Elchanan Elkes, wrote a letter to his son Joel and daughter Sara. Dr. Elkes entrusted the last testament, an ethical will hand-written in Hebrew, to a friend, who smuggled it to his children, already safe in England.  The son of a rabbi and a prominent neurologist, Dr. Elkes was sent the next year to Kaufering concentration camp, where he soon died of typhus. His son Joel later produced a book, “Dr. Elchanan Elkes of the Kovno Ghetto: A Son’s Holocaust Memoir.”

 

My beloved son and daughter,

 

With regard to myself, I have little to report. Last year I suffered an acute and severe attack of rheumatoid arthritis, which kept me bedridden for nine months. However, even in the most difficult days of my illness, I carried on in my community, and from my bedside participated actively in the work of my friends. Now I am better, it has been about six months since I ceased being regarded as sick. I am not fully well, either, but I continue to work ceaselessly, without rest or respite.

 

About six months ago we received a message from  Uncle Hans, transmitted to us by way of the Red Cross: it said you were all right. The little note, written by a stranger, took nine months to reach us. We have written and written to you by way of the Red Cross and private persons. Have any of our words reached you?

 

We are desolate that during our stay here we could not contact you and tell you that we are still among the living. We know full well how heavily the doubt of our survival weighs upon you, and what strength and confidence you would draw from the news that we are alive. This would certainly give you courage, and belief in work and life with a firm and clear goal.

 

I deeply fear despair, and the kind of apathy which tends to drive a person out of this world. I pray that this may not happen to you. I doubt, my beloved children, whether I will ever be able to see you again, to hug you and press you to my heart. Before I leave this world and you, my dear ones, I wish to tell you once again how dear you are to us, and how deeply our souls yearn for you.

 

Joel, my beloved! Be a faithful son to your people. Take care of your nation, and do not worry about the Gentiles. During our long exile, they have not given us an eighth of an eighth of what we have given them. Immerse yourself in this question, and return to it again and again.

 

Try to settle in the Land of Israel. Tie your destiny to the land of our future. Even if life there may be hard, it is a life full of content and meaning. Great and mighty is the power of faith and belief. Faith can move mountains. Do not look to the left or to the right as you pursue your path. If at times you see your people straying, do not let your heart lose courage, my son. It is not their fault – it is our bitter Exile which has made them so. Let truth be always before you and under your feet. Truth will guide you and show you the path of life. 

And you, my dear daughter Sarah, read most carefully what I have just said to Joel. I trust your clear mind and sound judgement . Do not live for the moment; do not stray from your chosen path and pick flowers at the wayside. They soon wilt. Lead a life full of beauty, a pure life, full of content and meaning. For all your days, walk together; let no distance separate you, let no serious event come between you.

 

Remember, both of you, what Amalek has done to us. Remember and never forget it all your days; and pass this memory as a sacred testament to future generations. The Germans killed, slaughtered, and murdered us in complete equanimity. I was there with them. I saw them when they sent thousands of people – men, women, children, infants – to their death, while enjoying their breakfast, and while mocking our martyrs. I saw them coming back from their murderous missions – dirty, stained from head to foot with the blood of our dear ones. They sat at their table – eating and drinking, listening to light music. They are professional executioners.

 

The soil of Lithuania is soaked with our blood, killed at the hands of the Lithuanians themselves; Lithuanians, with whom we have lived for hundreds of years, and whom, with all our strength, we helped to achieve their own national independence. Seven thousand of our brothers and sisters were killed by Lithuanians in terrible and barbarous ways during the last days of June 1941. They themselves, and no others, executed whole congregations, following German orders. They searched – with special pleasure – cellars and wells, fields and forests, for those in hiding, and turned them over to the “authorities.” Never have anything to do with them; and their children are accursed forever.

 

I am writing this in an hour when many desperate souls – widows and orphans, threadbare and hungry – are camping on my doorstep, imploring us for help. My strength is ebbing. There is a desert inside me. My soul is scorched. I am naked and empty. There are no words in my mouth. But you, my most dearly beloved, will know what I wanted to say to you at this hour.

 

And now, for a moment. I close my eyes and see you both, standing before me. I embrace and kiss you both; and I say to you again that, until my last breath I remain your loving father.

 

Elchanan

Guest columnist Dr. Elchanan Elkes: A Letter To My Children From The Gates Of Nazi Hell

Elkhanan_sketch

In October, 1943, while trapped in the Nazi-occupied ghetto of Kovno, Lithuania, Dr. Elchanan Elkes, wrote a letter to his son Joel and daughter Sara. Dr. Elkes entrusted the last testament, an ethical will hand-written in Hebrew, to a friend, who smuggled it to his children, already safe in England.  The son of a rabbi and a prominent neurologist, Dr. Elkes was sent the next year to Kaufering concentration camp, where he soon died of typhus. His son Joel later produced a book, “Dr. Elchanan Elkes of the Kovno Ghetto: A Son’s Holocaust Memoir.”

 

My beloved son and daughter,

 

I am writing these lines, my dear children, in the vale of tears of Vilijampole, Kovno Ghetto, where we have been for over two years. We have now heard that in a few days our fate is to be sealed. The Ghetto is to be crushed and torn asunder.

 

Whether we are all to perish, or whether a few of us are to survive, is in God’s hands, we fear that only those capable of slave labour will live; the rest of probably are sentenced to death.

 

We are left, a few out of many. Out of the 35,000 Jews of Kovno, approximately 17,000 remain; out of a quarter of a million Jews in Lithuania (including the Vilna district), only 25,000 live, plus 5,000 who, during the last few days, were deported to hard labour in Latvia, stripped of all their belongings. The rest were put to death in terrible ways by the followers of the greatest Haman of all time and all generations.

 

Some of those dear and close to us, too, are no longer with us. Your Aunt Hannah and Uncle Arieh were killed with 1,500 souls of the Ghetto on October 4, 1941. Uncle Zvi, who was lying in the hospital suffering from a broken leg, was saved by a miracle. All the patients, doctors, nurses, relatives, and visitors who happened to be there were burned to death, after soldiers had blocked all the doors and windows of the hospital and set fire to it. In the provinces, apart from Siauliai, no single Jew survives. Your Uncle Dov and his son Shmuel were taken out and killed with the rest of the Kalvaria community during the first months of the war; that is about two years ago. Due to outer forces and inner circumstances, only our own Ghetto has managed to survive and live out its diaspora life for the past two years, in slavery, hard labour and deprivation – almost all our clothing, belongings, and books were taken from us by the authorities.

 

The last massacre, when 10,000 victims were killed at one time, took place on October 28, 1941. Our total community had to go through the “selection” by our rulers: life or death. I am the man who, with my own eyes, saw those about to die.

 

I was there early on the morning of October 29, in the camp that led to the slaughter at the Ninth Fort. With my own ears I heard the awe-inspiring and terrible symphony, the weeping and screaming of 10,000 people, old and young – a scream that tore at the heart of heaven. No ear had heard such cries through the ages and the generations.

 

With many of our martyrs, I challenged my creator; and with them, from a heart torn in agony, I cried; “Who is like you in the universe, my Lord!” In my effort to save people here and there, I was beaten by soldiers. Wounded and bleeding, I fainted, and was carried in the arms of friends to a place outside the camp. There, a small group of about thirty or forty survived – witnesses to the fire.

 

We are, it appears, one of the staging centres in the East. Before our eyes, before the very windows of our houses, there have passed over the last two years many, many thousands of Jews from southern Germany and Vienna, to be taken, with their belongings, to the Ninth Fort, which is some kilometres from us. There they are killed with extreme cruelty. We learned later that they were misled – they were told they were coming to Kovno, to settle in our Ghetto. 

From the day of the Ghetto’s founding, I stood at its head. Our community chose me, and the authorities confirmed me as chairman of the Council of elders, together with my friend, the advocate Leib Garfunkel, a former member of the Lithuanian parliament, and a few other close and good people, concerned and caring for the fate of the surviving few.

 

We are trying to steer our battered ship in furious seas, when waves of decrees and decisions threaten to drown it every day. Through my influence I succeeded, at times, in easing the verdict and in scattering some of the dark clouds that hung over our heads. I bore my duties with head high and an upright countenance. Never did I ask for pity; never did I doubt our rights. I argued our case with total confidence in the justice of our demands.

 

In these hardest moments of our life, you, my dear ones, are always before us. You are present in our deepest thoughts and in our hearts. In the darkest nights, your mother would sit beside me, and we would both dream of your life and your future. Our innermost desire is to see you again, to embrace you, and to tell you once again how close we are to you, and how our hearts beat as we remember you and see you before us.

 

And is there any time, day or night, when your memory is not with us? As we stand here, at the very gates of hell, with a knife poised at our necks, only your image, dear ones, sustain us. And you, my children, how was your life these past five years, so hard and full of sorrow for the Jewry of Europe? I know that, far away from this place, you have shared our anguish and, in agony, listened to every slight rumour coming from this vale of tears: and that, deep down, you have felt with us this unparalleled tragedy of our people.

 

P.S. – Please see part 2 tomorrow.

Elkes_book_holocaust_photo

Dispatches: The Love Letter Syndrome

Mother_baby_photo
Let’s face it: no matter what we do, we’re just never going to get enough of that kid. That kid is one of a kind. That kid walks on water. Now we’re going to sing our praises to the heavens, only to wish our hymns could somehow travel higher.

Trenea Smart of California recently realized the time had come for her to write letters to her three children – love letters, in fact. The divorced mother decided once and for all to capture in words the joy she feels that her kids exist in the first place. Her oldest daughter, herself now a mother of two, Trena compliments on her bravery and loyalty. Her middle daughter, now also a mom, she recalls typically waking up happy. “I would always hear you gently laughing or cooing in your crib.” Trena remember, too, how she spent her first night in the hospital with her son. “I heard you crying in the nursery and asked the nurse to bring you to me,” she says. We fell asleep together.” http://www.divinecaroline.com/22059/129819-love-letters-adult-children

Jamee Sanders of Las Vegas wrote a letter to her son, Preston, now eight months old. She suspects his silliness comes from his Dad. “You remind me to take time out to smile and laugh,” she says. She likes how he “flashes her a big beautiful smile” after taking a nap – “it is moments like these that I dreamed of before I conceived you.” She chronicles tender little moments – how he stares at her face as if seeing it for the first time, plays peek-a-boo and pattycake, and likes getting raspberries on his belly. “Even on my worst day, you can make me smile.” http://secretsofamodernmama.blogspot.com/2012/02/letters-to-my-son.html

Dispatches: A New Feature

Dispatches_intro_photo
Tomorrow I’ll be introducing “Dispatches,” a new feature here at letterstomykids.org. “Dispatches” will deliver occasional updates on the letters-to-my-kids concept now and throughout history. By now I’ve figured out that I’m hardly the first parent to write letters to his kids, nor will I be the last. Mothers and fathers have so communicated with future generations for centuries, and with any luck will keep at it for many millenia more.

The premise of “Dispatches” is to convey a sense of the letters-to-my-kids landscape out there and its status, above and beyond my humble little blog. I’ll play reporter, issuing bulletins from the front lines about other letters from other parents to other kids. I’ll also play historian, harking back to parent-to-child letter-writing in years past. This new feature will be primarily journalistic, maybe even a jot scholarly.

Throughout, I’ll keep my eyes peeled for patterns that emerge – trends, organizing principles, unifying theories, even a coda of sorts. But I’ll keep it simple. Above all, I’ll try to offer understanding and insight – about why some parents write such letters in the first place, along with any hints gleaned about why the rest of us might follow suit.

I’ve done some homework over the last six months, scanning the web for samples of parent-kid letters, and from hundreds have selected but two dozen or so to highlight in coming months. It’s good stuff. So far, my research has yielded some telling though preliminary findings about our motives for writing such letters, clues about what prompts this archival impulse, this epistolary urge, in the first place.

The letters I’ll post touch on everything imaginable, from politics and religion to everyday domestic life and society in general. For now, though, it seems to me, the letters fit largely into the following six categories.

Valentines: So giddy are we with the thrill of parenthood, so do we marvel at the miracle of a creature we’ve created, that we compose love letter rhapsodies.

Advisory: We’ve packaged all our hard-won wisdom about what’s right and what’s wrong for our kids in a handy one-stop-shop format.

Humor: We’ve discovered that parenthood is too serious a matter to treat too seriously and so have proceeded with mirth aforethought.

Advocacy: We’ve stepped forward to testify about an issue close to our hearts as a public service for the betterment of future generations.

Confessions: We all have heavy emotional stuff bottled up inside us, family secrets and grievances and whatnot, that are just screaming to get out.

Mortality: We’ve realized we’re going to die someday – we’ve glimpsed shadows of twilight inching toward our front door – and will now leave behind the prized legacy of our memories.

In the year ahead, then, thanks to this new feature, you’ll be linked to parents – moms outnumber dads about six to one – with all manner of tale to tell. You’ll hear from parents who lavish extravagant praise on unsuspecting offspring, offer hard-won lessons learned, laugh about the absurdity of it all, go to bat for birth control and the environment, admit to everything from unwanted pregnancies to kidnappings, and, yes, even stare death right in the face.

But enough preview. Tomorrow let “Dispatches” begin our new adventure.

Guest columnist Betty Ann Hoehn: Your Letter Turned Me Sober

 

Betty_ann_boehn_photo_alone

Betty Ann Hoehn, who lives in Del Mar, California, is mom to a daughter, Brooke, and a son, Rhodes, and has two grandsons, Garrison and Leeland. An art historian and independent lecturer, Betty Ann is also an accomplished classical pianist and tennis player. She is author of “Corinne and Me: An Unlikely Friendship,” a recently published memoir about a friendship that crossed racial lines against all odds. The book addresses segregation among mankind as a whole, as well as the impact of addiction on families – particularly alcoholism, a disease she herself succumbed to and triumphed over. For more about her, go to www.bettyannboehn.com.

Dear Brooke and Rhodes,

   Fifteen years ago this month, at the age of 43, I walked out of the Betty Ford Center, head held high, hopeful about entering “life” a new person, a new mom. Not a single day has passed since that life-altering experience that I have taken my sobriety for granted, that I have not thanked God for you, that I have not thanked Him for another day.

   The years leading up to my demise are indelibly marked in my brain, my soul. Nana had passed away in 1990. Your dad and I separated a few months following. You were nine and six years old at the time, two innocent children now products of a broken family. Though I was seemingly carrying on, raising you in as healthy and loving a way as I knew, inside I was drifting, sinking lower and lower into despair, bereft over my mom’s death, shameful over now being “a divorced woman,” and worst of all, feeling a sense of failure as your mom.

   As the days and months passed, after you had done your homework and gone to bed, I would reach for a glass of wine to unwind. Over time that one glass became two, three, and ultimately a bottle, or even two. I did whatever it took to deaden my senses, to put myself into a coma-like sleep.

   As the years passed, though I tried to hide the glasses, the bottles, you became increasingly aware of my drinking, so much so that out of love, not disgust, you went to my brothers to tell them your mom needed help.

   That afternoon as I entered your Uncle Billy’s house thinking I was coming to a barbeque, the silence in the walls spoke loudly. Billy put his arm around me and brought me into the family room where before me you sat, tears streaming down your faces. Surrounding you were the rest of the family and a pastor, himself a recovering alcoholic. You read a letter to me as to how my alcohol problem had impacted you. I listened intently, heart aching, knowing full well the truth you were speaking.

   That very afternoon I walked through the doors of the Betty Ford Center with trepidation, wondering what lay before me for the next thirty days, looking at the desperate faces of other men and women, moms and dads, children, wondering what their story was, wondering how they had reached rock-bottom as I had. Though I was in a daze, the one single thing I was sure of was I KNEW I never wanted to have another drink again, that I would do whatever it took to make that happen.
   And so my journey began…buried somewhere in my mind was a glimmer of what could be, of hope for a future…through adversity would come joy…I knew this much…
   Through the years I have shared with you how addiction has wreaked havoc on our family from one generation to the next, causing heartache, broken relationships, and often times premature death. Addiction is an insidious disease. It knows no boundaries. I pray that this disease in our family has seen its end.
   Today you are adults living solid, healthy lives. Brooke, you are a wonderfully loving wife and mom. Rhodes, you are a man with a kind, carefree spirit that I so admire. I am so very proud of you both. Without the love you showed me in my darkest hour, I might not be here to write you this letter. I am so blessed to be your mom.
I love you so dearly,
Mom

Betty_ann_hoehn_photo_family