Sandy, Age 74
I was born in Rochester, NY – the granddaughter of four Italian Catholic immigrants. At age 4 months, I became ill with polio which resulted in paralysis of my lower right leg. At 18 months of age, I went to a convalescent hospital for 6 months of rehabilitation following an experimental surgery. In those days the medical community determined that it was best for hospitalized children not to see their families since those visits invariably caused trauma to the children when the families left them again after “visiting hours”. I am told my parents were able to come for one hour on Sunday and watch me through a one-way mirror but I never saw them until I was returned to my home. (Just a note on the quaint practices of medicine in the 1940’s!)
I went to Catholic school and in the summers to Rotary Sunshine Camp for handicapped kids. When I was 8, my father was killed and my mother injured in a car accident. My brother and I were cared for by various aunts and uncles on both sides of the family while our mother recovered. After a year our mother remarried and our newly remade nuclear family moved to CA. leaving aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and traditions behind. Alas, Mother missed her family and step-father would do anything for Mother so we moved back to Rochester. But winter is hard in Rochester and Mother was having none of that so we moved back to CA, a different city. Alas, Mother missed the family so we moved back to Rochester but what do you know…. Winter was still hard in NY so for the last time we moved back again to CA.! By this time I was a teenager and I soon fell head over heels in love. We married when I was 18, had our beautiful baby girl when I was 19. I had postponed going to Nursing School and loved being a wife and mother. My husband left me for another woman when I was pregnant with our third child and after this child was born, I went to Nursing School.
My second marriage was to a very good man who loved my children and me. He was a great Dad to our 4 children but the marriage began to unravel and after 10 years we parted on good terms. By this time I had worked and gone to school enough to earn an A.A. degree in Nursing and a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing and a certificate in Neonatal Nurse Practice. I wanted a Master’s degree. So I moved to Washington with my three sons to go to school again. In Graduate School I met and fell in love with the woman with whom I have shared the last 35 years of my life. This was a total shock to me as I had never had any sense at all of being attracted to women as lovers. The 1980’s were a challenging time to be in a same-sex relationship, especially if you had minor children but I was fortunate in that both ex-husbands and the children themselves adjusted and supported our relationship.
My Nursing career focused on premature infants and their families and I truly loved the work. I always considered it a privilege to share the lives of these babies and families in their hardest challenges and greatest joys. Unfortunately, the late effects of polio cut short my career and I had to retire at age 52. By this time, however, I had amazing, wonderful grandchildren! They filled me with complete joy and purpose – especially when they were very young. As they grew older and no longer needed a babysitter or had time for things I could do with them, I began to really suffer from depression. I did some volunteer work in our local hospital and while I loved being in the hospital environment, I simply couldn’t manage physically.
After leaving the volunteer position, I decided that what I needed was to care for something. We got a puppy and she became my life-line. I was once again needed and forced to smile and laugh a hundred times a day as I watched the antics of this little bundle of fur.
My wife continued to work until recently and we are now adjusting to both being retired and being at different life stages (she is 12 years younger than I) and different physical abilities. She is getting in some well-deserved travel with friends and my adult children. The little bundle of fur became a 7 year old Schnoodle who goes to Agility class with my wife and is learning to be a Therapy Dog with me. I have become a quilter and a gatherer of memories and stories. And I still love being a homemaker, a wife and a mother.