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I have lived in the same apartment in South Orange, New Jersey since April 1, 2008, when I left my brother’s Jim’s basement in Rockaway.  As you know from earlier stories, I had been homeless, then in a rehab, then in Homeless Solutions in Morristown. I was in Homeless Solutions from the day after Thanksgiving 2007 until February 15, 2008, when I moved into Jimmy’s.

It wasn’t really Jimmy’s idea as much as his then wife Robin’s. I was celebrating Christmas with the family, then left to go back to the shelter. That really bugged Robin, and I guess she stewed on it for a while, and it kept bothering her, and finally she told Jim, “Your sister should not be in a homeless shelter. Tell her to come stay with us until she gets back on her feet.”  They told me in the beginning of February, and I moved in two weeks later. How glad I was to leave the homeless shelter! Sad too, though, leaving the family with seven children behind. I worried about them for so long, and tried to find out what happened to them, but I never heard about them again. But, after 2 1/2 months, I was well-prepared to leave. I was mentally revved to begin my new life. Robin let me come live with them, but only for 1 1/2 months. I had to get money together and get out on my own as soon as possible. Great rule! Within a week of moving in with them, I had a job. I saved quickly, and Robin helped me look for an apartment.

My teenage son had lived with me during my darkest hours, but things got really bad, and I asked him, “Do you want to live with Aunt Karen?” Of course, he said yes. He was in desperate need of a normal life. So, he went to live with her in South Orange, and for a while, I continued careening down my path of self-destruction. Then, I finally made it to the rehab, shelter, Jimmy’s home. Now, we were looking for an apartment, and I was praying that my son would want to live with me again. So, we looked in South Orange, and I tried to find an apartment big enough for both of us. One that he would like, one that I could afford. Me affording and him liking had every indication of being conflicting scenarios, but I proceeded with the hope usually reserved for the believers of the world.

We tried several buildings and homes. We were turned away almost immediately from most for credit issues. Some we ran away from (just so gross), and some were way too expensive for my measly savings.  We finally went to a building on a main avenue in South Orange, and met with the Super. He was standing in front of the building, looking disheveled and greasy with a slimy smile on his face, but I looked past it all, because I was running out of options and had to find an apartment in South Orange, dammit.

We went into the dreary brick building and walked into a large apartment with two kitchens and two stoves. It turned out that it was two small apartments, but there was no wall between them. If you wanted both apartments so that you could have two bedrooms, you could rent both. Or just one. It was up to you. Up to me? I said, “No thank you.” This is not at all what I want. I knew I had to get out of my brother’s house, but I couldn’t imagine myself living in that creepy building in that creepy apartment…or apartments, depending.

The Super said, “Wait” because he had something else around the block. It was above stores, a Chinese restaurant and a coffee shop on another busy avenue. There were only four apartments above the stores, and the one he was showing me was the last one down the line. It was a one bedroom apartment, but with very big rooms and the door between the living room and the bedroom had a lock on it. I thought, “it’s not the best apartment I ever saw, but it could work”, so I said I would take it.

I moved in on April 1, 2008. Zach was 15 going on 16 when I moved in. I was so excited…he was going to come back and be my son again. However, when I moved in, he said he wasn’t ready yet. So, I spent a few months alone in the apartment, trying to make what I was earning cover the rent, utilities and travel expenses from South Orange to my job in Dover. They really didn’t, but I received some help from my friends…yeah, like the song.

By July, I was feeling pretty lonely, and I saw on Maplewoodonline that someone had this beautiful rescue Siamese kitty that I kind of fell in love with. I never really was a Cat Person, but this little girl was so pretty. So, I arranged to go meet her, and asked Zach if he would like to come with me. He was excited, because he really loved animals, and was even volunteering at our local shelter. We got to the rescuer’s home, went to the cage, and there was this little sandy muffin sitting next to a jet black Helion. I fell for the little Siamese immediately, but Zach really wanted the Blackie, who was hissing and puffing up and being a tiny scary thing.

I said, “If I get both, will you move in with me? I don’t want the black cat, but I will get her for you. She can be your cat when you ‘come home’.” He said, “Yes”, and these two little puffballs were packed up and put in the car and brought to my apartment, where they proceeded to run under the couch in terror. We named the Siamese “Cherie’ and the Blackie “Wednesday” after Wednesday Adams, who was really scary, too. We nicknamed her “Wendy” after Caspar’s Witch friend.  We bought them all sorts of cat toys. They loved the toys on a stick and string, and we would get them to run after them. But, they wouldn’t come near me or let me touch them. They let Zach touch them though. I guess they sensed how gentle he was.

Zach decided not to move in, however, and I was stuck with these two kittens that really didn’t like me. After a while, the Siamese started coming around, and a few months later, when it was time to have them spayed, she was relatively easy to catch and put in a cage to take to the vets. Wendy, however, was not, and I gave up. She didn’t have to go. At nine months old, Wendy went into heat. It was a horrible, horrible week with that crazy cat losing her mind even more. She caterwauled all day and all night, and for the first time, wanted me to pet her…all the time. Pet, scratch, please scratch, please scratch!

I called the local Cat Whisperers’, and they came the next weekend to help me trap her to take her to be spayed. It took us well over an hour to catch her, and by the time we did, she was traumatized. The woman whom I received her from took her to the vet, then called and said that she would keep her to recover. When I called to see if I could pick her up, she said her vet told her that the cat was not tameable, and she should let her heal, then put her back outside. It’s not like she came up with the idea on her own. I had told her what a difficult cat she was, how she wouldn’t let me touch her, and how she hissed at me when I came near her. So, I tried to resign myself to this cat’s fate. But, I kept thinking about how she had lived inside with me since she was tiny, and how I had her for nine months, and that she wouldn’t survive outside. I still don’t really think of myself as a Cat Lady, but I am not heartless.

So, I called the rescuer, and asked if I could see the cat. She said that wasn’t a good idea, and told me Wendy was a horrible cat who hissed at her and tried to scratch her when she came near. I said I still really needed to see her,  and she finally relented and let me come over.  When I got there, we went into the dimly light basement to find my cat in a cage in the corner, looking as forlorn as a feline possibly could. When she saw me, she started crying plaintively, and I swear she was saying, “Please. Please. Please take me home. I just want to go home.” Ugh. I started crying and said I had to take this cat home. Her rescuer told me that was  a bad idea, and reiterated that the vet said the cat wasn’t tameable. I said, “She’s still my cat, and I want to take her home. If it doesn’t work out, well, at least I tried.” I was pretty adamant, so Wendy was put in her crate, and once again, she came home with me.

Cherie was so happy to see her. Wendy was so happy to see Cherie. And, Wendy was so happy to be home, with me. She learned to chill out, a little, and it seemed that she learned gratitude, which is really weird in a cat, but I don’t know how else to explain the change in her. It was like she thought, “Oh wow. I have it pretty good here!” Whatever accounted for the change, it made her bearable, and sometimes, she was a pleasant, friendly cat. Not that she wasn’t still batshit crazy.  On the contrary, her whole spaying experience made her even more paranoid and distrusting. She still hid and hissed, but not as often.

Cherie was like that child that you have that never gets in trouble and is always a pleasure to have around.  She loved to be brushed, loved human food, loved just hanging around, and you couldn’t sense any angst in her. Wendy had enough for the both of them, I guess. Then, as I wrote about in “Loss”, Cherie got sick and died in January 2013.  That was hard, because she was such a good cat, and now I was stuck with the cat that I didn’t want in the first place, the one Zach said he wanted, and no Cherie and no Zach.  I didn’t get any sleep for a week after Cherie died, because Wendy just walked around the apartment crying all day and night. It was worse than when she was in heat, and I felt so bad for her. My Niece Rachel felt bad for her, also, and sent her a stuffed cat to sleep with to help with the loss. It was so sweet, of course I cried.

Eventually, as always is the case, Wendy and I got on with our new normal, and I kind of became her replacement for Cherie. She stopped hissing at me, unless I was making the bed, looking for my shoes under the bed, or sweeping or vacuuming. Her bed issue is that Wendy is a Bridge Troll, as Zach calls her. She has created herself a little world under my bed, and is pissed when we clean under there or go anywhere near her Underworld. I think she hates brooms because we used one to corral her into the cage when she was spayed. And the vacuum freaks her out, but I don’t have any hypothesis as to why, except that it’s freaking big and noisy.

Life went on for a while, just me and Wendy, until March of this year, when Zach finally moved in, temporarily, as they sold the home he lived in. He wants to go back to college, and needs to save money for another apartment. I know it’s a little late. I still call him ‘Kid’ and he’s 22 years old. But, I am so happy to have even just a fragment of the normal life we should have had years ago, at least for a while. And, I am very thankful for all that has happened to lead me up this point. My crazy cat has ended up having a pretty good life, instead of being thrown back on the streets. My kid had me to turn to, and I was so grateful to be there.

And me? I am happy. There’s no magic elixir to make everything right after so many years of it being wrong. But, it’s okay. Maybe everything isn’t supposed to be right. Maybe, at least for me, okay is freaking fabulous…as long as I keep working towards great!

Things Daddy Taught Me


One hundred years ago today, my Daddy was born. By the time the depression hit in 1929, Daddy was 15 years old, so he was a real Depression-Era man, and we were raised that way. Here are some things that my hard but fair, stern but funny father taught me:

1. Don’t laugh like a hyena outside at night. It’s not fair to the neighbors. Story behind this: Gretchen Beck and I, both 12 years old, were coming home from the boardwalk one August night 1972 in Cape May. We were really cracking ourselves up so much that we stopped at the church across the street from my house to continue, hoping not to disturb my father. We ended up rolling around on the grass, holding our bellies and laughing like the aforementioned hyenas. My father appeared at our door and yelled across the street, “Stop that noise right now and get in here.” Which I took as, “Laughing is bad. Having fun is bad. I’m a big, mean old guy who wants to stop people from having fun.”, but he meant it as, “What is wrong with those kids? Don’t they care about anyone else except themselves? How rude to disturb the neighborhood that way!”

2. Have more discerning taste in men. Story behind this: Every boyfriend I brought home, Daddy would say, “He’s scum!”. Wow, he was right. Except one, and my Dad and he loved each other, but unfortunately, the man didn’t really love me. Oh well.

3. No matter what else happens in life, eat well. The Story: Daddy loved and raised more than Loretta’s eight kids from “Coal Miner’s Daughter”. There was ten of us children, plus the three granddaughter’s (my half-sister’s children) were always around. Lots of kids. We were never poor, but we were never rich, with that many children. I’m sure it was hard, even in the old days of the ’60s to raise that many kids. But, Daddy and Mommy still went out every Saturday and came back with a carload of good food. We had steak once a week, hamburger once a week, chicken once a week. The man liked to eat, and liked to eat well. And now, so do we. No matter what, eat well.

4. The Spirit of Christmas. Daddy loved Christmas and when asked what Christmas meant to him, he said, “Giving”. The spirit of Christmas is giving. I just love that.

5. You can have your beliefs, but love is more important. Story: Daddy was a staunch Catholic and believed what the church believed. So, I was so scared to call Daddy from Reno and tell him that I was pregnant out of wedlock. But, when I did, he sent me money to come home and live with him and have the baby in New Jersey. I had an emergency C-Section. He didn’t come to see me, because by then he was not that mobile. The baby and I were in the hospital for five days. I was so scared to bring Baby Zachary home, because I wasn’t sure whether my father would accept him. When I walked through the front door of Daddy’s house, he asked for the baby. I put Zachary on Daddy’s lap, and there was an instant and beautiful love, and Zachary was the most accepted and cherished child in the world. My father adored my son. I was blessed. It went against his beliefs, but it didn’t matter. He loved us.

6. It’s more important to show your love than say, “I love you”. Daddy wasn’t one for hugs and kisses, or saying, “I love you.” So, for a long time I didn’t think he loved me. Because as a child, you don’t notice that your father is working his tail off to make sure you have nice clothes, good food, a nice house, and nice vacations. It wasn’t until I was an adult, and it started to sink in that this man really cared that I started allowing myself to care, too. Once, when I was in my twenties, I said to him (as I was leaving for the bar), “I love you”, and he said, “You sure don’t show it!”. Ha! I thought, “That’s mean”, but he was right. And again, it took me some time to understand what he meant. Lots of time. But, I get it now.

7. Don’t waste! It’s so funny that my brother Tom’s eulogy of my father included stories of rotten tomatoes and moldy ham being repurposed (and when he read it in church, I admit I was a little mortified), but it does speak to how Daddy was raised, and we were raised in turn. I didn’t have to learn to repurpose when we started trying as a global community to lessen our waste. It is second nature to feel guilty if I have to throw something out before it is completely depleted or repurposed. And the coolest recipes sometimes spring from trying to use all the items in the fridge!

8. 9. 10. 11. Ad infinitum. How much do our Daddies teach us? And how much do we realize came from them?

This is short and these are just some of the things the Old Man taught me. I recently heard someone say all brothers and sisters have different parents, because they all have a different relationship with their mothers and fathers than their siblings, and I think that’s true. I think my siblings may have some more to add to this (and I am pretty sure they never had to learn the ‘laughing hyena’ lesson), as we each had quality time with Daddy, and that quality time was when he shined. When he showed us that he really was such a beautiful man.

Young Man Daddy


(Part I: http://megemarlowe.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/the-camaro-and-the-army/)

We got off of the bus at 4:30 a.m. on a late October day in 1988.  There was a Sergeant and a few other Non-Commissioned Officers waiting for us when we pulled up.  They immediately began barking at us to get off the bus, line up, follow them. We had to be processed and assigned bunks and then luckily, we were allowed to go to sleep.

The next day was really only one and half hours after we arrived, which was really just a few minutes after we went to sleep in our newly assigned bunks. We had breakfast at the Mess Hall, then went to be weighed and measured and perform simple exercises  most of which I could do, but I could not do a push-up. I never could; I still can’t. However, if you are to be regular army, a push-up is mandatory. It’s a part of everyday army life. I felt inadequate, but try as I might (and I did try, even though I did not want to be there), I just couldn’t do it. I was assigned to Fit Co, which was Fit Company, which was mostly for the overweight and out of shape. Even though I was underweight, and every other soldier in Fit Co was overweight,  I still had to be there because I couldn’t do a push-up.

My Drill Sergeant was four months younger than I was, and though we were very dissimilar, we respected each other and found each other exasperating and amusing at the same time. The Captain of Fit Co was a six foot four inch mountain of a man who wore Polo, so that he sort of scared the bejeezus out of me, but I found myself sidling up to him to sniff him. He caught me doing this a few times, and even though I explained that it was his fault for wearing such an intoxicating scent as Polo, he still would reprimand me and make me leave him alone. That is, until he found out I could type. He needed someone to type up some lists for the company, and I needed to avoid as much of the manual labor was that expected of us as possible.

I spent most mornings with the Captain in a place that smelled like Heaven because the scent of Polo wafted in the air, but was really his office.  Then came lunch, and we would head to the Mess Hall.  We were not allowed to have dessert like the other trainees, because we were the out of shape company, so we had to watch our calories. The company had to all do things the same, so even though I was underweight, I had to eat what the overweight trainees were eating. After a few days, I found my way into a crew of mean girls. We weren’t the meanest girls though. There was one 19 year-old who thought she was our Drill Sergeant…or a snitch. She wanted to be a Drill Sergeant, but she was really a snitch. She told the Drill Sergeant when we didn’t comply with the rules; any rules, no matter how minuscule.  She really tried to make our lives miserable and make herself look good, but she just ended up getting picked on incessantly. Looking back, of course I feel bad for her. There is a balance between standing up for what you believe in and almost consciously ostracizing yourself.

One day, some of us mean girls were pulling guard duty, so we had to go to lunch late, without our Drill Sergeant. When he came back with the rest of the company, we were allowed to go. We ate the lunch we were supposed to eat, but when it came time to leave, we decided collectively that since the Drill Sergeant wasn’t with us, and we weren’t fat, just mean, there was no reason why we shouldn’t have ice cream for dessert. Who cared if we had just a small, inconsequential little ice cream bar? Who was it going to hurt? It’s not like it would blow us up so much we wouldn’t be able to crawl on our bellies. We weren’t that out of shape, anyway. It was the other dummies in the company that were slowing us down. Not ice cream.

So, we did it. We had ice cream. No one in the Mess  Hall knew we were with Fit Co. So we thought. When we got back to the company barracks, my crew and I were called into the Drill Sergeant’s office. He played coy, and forced us to admit openly that we had the dreaded ice cream, enemy of the US Army’s fat troops. We were all pretty sure that the snitch somehow found out and ratted on us. Once it was out in the open, he decided that the other members of the mean girls were just that, girls, but I was twenty-eight and should know better. He made the others say penance and let them go with four Hail Marys and an Our Father (okay, he wasn’t a priest, but it felt like a confession).  Then, he turned to me and said, “Marlowe, Marlowe, Marlowe. I don’t know what I should do with you. Should I just let you go to your dorm and think about what you did, or make you wax the floors?” I said, “I think you should make me wax the floors.” I don’t think he liked that answer.

I got out the wax machine; oh, what a beauty she was. She was a hummer, and she practically ran herself. I hummed myself, pushing her around and feeling very smug, bringing up a brilliant shine on the barrack’s offices floor. The Drill Sergeant walked by me, and I saw the smoke coming from his ears. He yelled at me, “No HUMMING!”, so I stopped and giggled a little and that made him even angrier, but he did nothing else except walk away in a huff.

In the mornings, we had to exercise, for hours. Isometrics, isotonics, calisthenics, relay races, whatever they could think of. I loved the races and surprised our dear Sarge by beating out several younger girls. Calisthenics was okay, but I just could not hang with isometrics and isotonics. Ugh, those sit ups really hurt my stomach. I was in pain one day, and getting a migraine, so I told Sarge that I couldn’t do anymore exercises. He made me go to the hospital, and I had to bring a chaperone, so I wouldn’t get into any trouble. Okay. Silly Sarge sent one of my crew with me!

We got to the hospital, and there were a bunch of soldiers outside smoking. Smoking! I missed it so much. We all did. I think we made it even harder on each other, because we would talk about how we really wanted ‘a cigarette right now’ all the time. Of course, our first course of action was not to head into the hospital to get my now gone headache taken care of, but to hit up the soldiers for cigs. Oh that first glorious puff. Ah, ah. We looked at each other with sly and happy smiles. Then, we went into the hospital and the doctors prescribed Advil®. When we came out, we bummed another wonderful cigarette each, and then returned to barracks. As the isotonic and isometric exercises continued, and I continued to hate them, my ‘migraines’ became worse and worse, and Sarge had to keep sending me to the hospital for more Advil®. I always took the same chaperone, and we always had our smoke breaks. We were learning how to get around the system.

One morning, the Captain came in with the Chaplain. He was looking for someone to work in his office, since his assistant, a Specialist, had been caught having sex with a Basic Trainee. The Specialist was promptly shipped to Germany, and the Chaplain was left without office help. The Captain really liked me organizing his office, and I knew how to use a typewriter and a computer! I knew how to file. They both wanted me, but the Captain still gave me to the Chaplain. The Chaplain was not very handsome and did not wear Polo. How I would miss sidling up to our giant Captain and smelling him.

I was immediately sent with the Chaplain to his office. He had a small office, about half the size of the Captain’s. Where the Captain had a neat and efficient office, the Chaplain had papers all over and the general sense was disarray. I took care of that right away, and while doing so, chatted with the Chaplain and found I really liked him. In fact, I thought he was the sweetest, funniest person I had met on base yet.

We had to march in the morning, before breakfast, before exercise, before I worked for the Chaplain. It was so cold out, even cold for November, but we were not allowed to wear our long underwear or even gloves. We were told that it would be much colder and we needed to acclimate to the cold. Many of these trainees came from all over the country, and they believed this line. I was from New Jersey, though, and I knew it was damn cold. I would pull my hands into my sleeves, but I would always be caught by a superior who yelled at me to take my hands out, which I did, until they were out of sight, of course.

I became pretty close with the Chaplain in a short period of time. He told me his life story, and I told him mine. We made each other laugh. He really laughed when I told him that I didn’t like the Army after all, and I was going to figure out a way to get out. He said, “You are in this for four years. There’s no way out.” I said, “You wanna bet?” We bet his Chaplain’s cross insignia. I cannot remember what I promised if I lost. That was inconsequential to me, because I knew that I would win. I do remember that he was not really allowed to give his insignia away, but he never thought I would win, and felt it was a safe bet.

My ‘migraines’ became more severe, and the Army sent me to a neurologist at the hospital. The doctor took out a polka-dot scarf and waved it in front of my eyes. Please. I knew this drill! I blinked and squinted and scrunched and rubbed my eyes and said, “Ow”. Then, they sent me back to my barracks. I realized that the migraines were my ticket out of Fort Dix. I didn’t tell the Chaplain my plan, but I became convinced that if I could just keep a straight face, if I could just play this as High Drama, with no comedic undertones, I just may pull it off.

I continued to work for the Chaplain, and do all the other things that were required of me. That no longer included exercise, as the neurologist gave me a medical pass because of my ‘migraines’. I almost got beat up a few times by the other soldiers, since I was a wise-ass who didn’t have to pay the consequences. If the Sarge and I had an argument on a march (He and I always argued. He wanted me to do something and I always had something to say about it), he would make the others “drop and give me twenty”. They wanted to pummel me a few times. He knew it. It was his way of getting back at me. I think he knew what I was up to, but he was a by the book man, and he followed the rules to a tee. He would not challenge me on something he couldn’t prove. He loved his job. I really liked this Sarge. He was a good guy. We just clashed. We were both twenty-eight, and from two vastly different worlds and mindsets.

Then, the day came, and I received word that I would be released from the Army on a Medical Discharge. Hallelujah! The first thing I did was run to the Chaplain to tell him. He was flabbergasted. He lost! He said he would miss me, handed over the coveted cross insignia, and then we set about getting his office in the best working order we could for when I left and there was someone who obviously would not be as good as me or fun or smart as me to take my place. He loved me and I loved him. What a guy.

I had lots of paperwork to fill out and packing and planning to do. Sarge seemed torn about how he would feel with me leaving, but I think he mostly felt relieved and also a little duped. My crew said they would miss me, but they were so young, and I think they would probably go on to become better soldiers without my presence. I was allowed to go the PX (Post Exchange) before I left. I also had to bring a chaperone there, so I brought my usual companion, and we entered the land of all things good.

Beautiful, beautiful PX. If you have never been to one, think of Costco time five. We bought jewelry, clothes, make-up, and two cartons of cigarettes.  We walked back to our barracks smoking and laughing and promising to stay in touch. We did, for a few years, but then like so many people before and since, we lost touch. And then you are left with your memories; and then you lose most of them and they are replaced with more memories. I am glad I remember this much of my army month, because it really was an adventure!

I took a bus home from Fort Dix to Newark Airport the day before Thanksgiving. I kept a solemn look on my face the whole trip, in case there were spies to see if I was faking. Inside, I was awarding myself an Oscar and smirking wildly. Even when I got off of the bus, I remained poker-faced until I was in my sister’s car on Route 22 on our way to South Orange and Daddy, and I realized that I could finally smile. And I smiled the biggest smile I had smiled in months.

Looking back, of course I wish that I had never joined the army, or took it seriously and stayed in the army. But then again, I wish so many things in my past were different. They just weren’t. And I am here, now, so I do the best I can each day. I do try to ‘be all that I can be’! This is not a story about the army, really. It’s a story about me. I know that we owe so much to the men and women who serve our country. It’s a very hard job which they do very well. And I commend and thank them. But, it’s a fun memory, now that I am so removed from it!


The Marlowes

Here is some of what I know about Marlowe history. Much of the story of Great-Grandpa Marlowe and his family is a rehash of a story I found in my father’s papers when I was young, written by one of his elderly cousins.

http://www.marlowtown.co.uk/marlhist.html

The name Marlow is English and indicates a location.  It literally means “what is left after the draining of a pond or lake” so people with the name Marlow lived in or near a drained pond or lake.   Many Marlows (and all derivations of the name) can trace their ancestries back to Marlow, Buckinghamshire, England.  In case you are wondering who you might be related to, derivations of Marlow include Marley, Marlowe, Marlo, Marloe, Merlau, Marle, Morley, Merlaue, Marlough, Marloughs, Marloughe, Marloughes, and Merlawe.

The following excerpts were taken from the out-of-print book ‘Marlow Family History’ by Dorothy Roane (1962, reprinted 1965, 1980, 1996)

Because of finding sharks teeth, tusks, and teeth of mammoth elephants and parts of wooly rhinoceros and dinosaur, it is believed that many years ago Marlow, England was submerged under water.  Also found in the Marlow area are flints and tools from the Stone Age, a Belgic urn, and spearheads dropped in the Thames in the Bronze Age, articles from the Iron Age, and coins from the Romans left in local waters. 

The Saxons came and drained the ‘mere’ (according to Webster’s Dictionary, “a sea, lake, or pond) and named the place “Merlaw”.  In Anglo-Saxon language this means, “What is left after draining a mere.” 

There is both a Great Marlow, which once contained about 1800 acres and to the east of this, Little Marlow, which had 1600 acres.  This land changed hands many times and at one time Edward the Confessor’s Queen owned Little Marlow and William of Normandy gave Great Marlow to his wife, Matilda.  The Knights of Templars are credited with laying out the foundations of the town and bridging the river with the first of three famous spans it has had. 

The story I remember is that John Wesley came to Marlow, England, and convinced some followers to come with him to Ireland in the 1700s, and that is how the Marlow’s came to leave England for Ireland.

John Wesley had an experience in which his “heart was strangely warmed.” After this spiritual conversion, which centered on the realization of salvation by faith in Christ alone, he devoted his life to evangelism. Beginning in 1739 he established Methodist societies throughout the country. He traveled and preached constantly, especially in the London-Bristol-Newcastle triangle, with frequent forays into Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. He encountered much opposition and persecution, which later subsided.~ http://www.ccel.org/w/wesley/ 

My Great-Grandfather, George Washington Marlowe, Jr. was born in 1814 in Dublin, Ireland to George Marlow and Catherine Smith. He married Jane Kennedy, who was born in Ireland on March 17, 1833. They had fourteen children altogether, three died in infancy. Mary was the only child born in Ireland in 1848. Then came Catherine, Theresa, Anna, Margaret, George, Agnes, Esther, Thomas (my Grandfather), Elizabeth and Charles.

greatgrampa marlowe

The legend is that Great-Grandpa Marlowe was a Freedom Fighter in Ireland, and one day he was making a soap box speech and was approached by friends who told him that the British Bobby’s were looking for him with an order for his arrest. Handing him a ticket, they told him to hasten to Liverpool and take the ship shortly to leave for America, which he did. They said they would send Jane and the baby she was carrying when he had found a place for them.

Jane, who was nineteen years younger than he was, joined him with baby Mary one year later, sailing on the Camillus from Liverpool on April 17, 1849. They settled in New York City, and lived there for fourteen years when they moved to Louisville, KY, and then Cincinnati, OH, and finally Chicago where they made their home for many years with some of their children joining them.  

Here is the record from Jane coming to America in 1849 from the Ship Camillus’ manifest. I didn’t realize before that she was only eighteen and a mother of an infant when she arrived:

Name: Jane Marlow
Year: 1849
Age: 18
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1831
Place: New York, New York
Family Members: Child Mary
Source Publication Code: 2597.51.1
Primary Immigrant: Marlow, Jane
Source Bibliography: GLAZIER, IRA A. AND MICHAEL TEPPER. The Famine Immigrants: Lists of Irish Immigrants Arriving at the Port of New York, 1846-1951. Vol. IV (April 1849-September 1849). Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1984. pp. 1-200.
Page: 70
Embarkation: Liverpool
Ship: Camillus
Occupation: workman/woman
Passengers: 222
Native Country: Ireland
Destination: USA
Arrival Date: 17 Apr 1849

Great Grandpa was inventor, and constructed the Locomotive Headlight. He also perfected the Marlowe Smoke Consumer, which was first used in the North Side Roller Mills in Chicago.

Their daughter Catherine (called Katie) was so beautiful, men used to follow her on the street for another look at her. Of all the men seeking her hand, she fell for a Jewish man. As it was the mid-1800’s, and mixed marriages were not common or generally accepted, George and Jane naturally objected. She married him anyway, and they moved to Portland, Oregon. They lived happily, until one day Jane received a letter that Katie was very ill with inflammation of the bowels. Then, further word came that she was much improved; but then another letter came stating that she took a change for the worse and died. I have discussed with others what they think caused this, and present conjecture is that it was a ruptured appendix. A Sister in the hospital in Oregon wrote to Jane to say Katie was well prepared to die, and had a beautiful, peaceful death.

Margaret was the fourth child of Jane and George. She never married, and lived into her eighties. She was a darling, and when she laughed, everyone laughed. She took care of her father the last two years of his life when he was bedridden because of a broken hip sustained when he was ninety.

Charles, or Charlie as he was called, drowned in the Columbia River at Bonner’s Ferry in 1893. He was working as a surveyor, and was on a train which was stuck due to trouble, so Charlie and another young man rented a canoe and went down the treacherous river with its swift currents. The canoe became caught in one and overturned. Charlie was a very good swimmer, and the folks on the shore were not worried about him, they were worried about the other fellow, who was holding onto the capsized boat. However, when Charlie reached shore he was quickly drawn down by the quicksand, and his body wasn’t found until three months later. Of course, by then his body couldn’t be shipped home. The Indians there buried him and put a white fence around his grave. Mary and her husband Charlie Carson were living in Spokane at the time. Charlie Carson went to Bonner’s Ferry to see the Indians bury Charlie Marlowe.

My father’s cousin remembered that Great-Grandma as a wonderful person and quite religious. She was going from her kitchen to the dining room and between the parlor and back parlor and she saw her son Charlie who said to her but one word, “Mother.” It was at the exact time that he died.

Jane Kennedy was the daughter of a Spanish Princess, Mary Ann Carlos (or Costello, or Castillo). While at finishing school in Paris, the Princess became fond of a young lady named Kennedy. When they had social affairs, Miss Kennedy’s brother would attend and he and the Princess fell in love. Mary Ann returned home to give her parents the news, but they informed her that she had a pre-arranged marriage to a nobleman. So, she and her lady-in-waiting plotted an escape. They made a green ensemble. The dress and the coat were both trimmed with buttons and each was a gold piece covered with material. There was also a large belt, and sewn within she carried jewelry. The Princess and her lady-in-waiting left home one night and went to the seaport where they took a ship to Liverpool. She married her Kennedy lover, and was disowned by her family for marrying a commoner. He was disowned by his wealthy coach maker family because he married a Catholic, and they were poor but happy.

Great Grandpa Marlowe always stood erect and carried a cane, as most gentlemen did in his day. In winter he wore a black coat with a cape and in the pocket he always carried a bag of horehound candy which he thought best for children.  His long white hair curled on his shoulders and his beard covered his chest. At the age of sixty-five, he vowed never to cut his hair until the land he loved, Ireland, was free.

He was the perfect image of Santa Claus. One year he was asked by Marshall Fields of Chicago to act as their Santa. While doing so, he was approached by a gentleman from Hyde Park, then a fashionable part of Chicago, who asked him to come to his home early Christmas morning. The man sent his carriage with a team of matched horses for George, and ‘St. Nicholas’ gave them a real treat.

George was a wise man. His advice included, “Never cover your forehead with your hair. Your forehead is the sign of your intelligence.”, “Never let anyone convince you that the works known as Shakespeare were written by anyone other than Christopher Marlowe. I know. I am a Marlowe, and it’s a family tradition.”  He said that Christopher was an atheist and was banned from England and in his exile kept writing and sending back his works to a friend in England for publication. Perhaps it was under the name of Shakespeare or to a man named Shakespeare.

He sang opera with Emma Abbott and Jenny Lind, and often in concerts for charitable purposes. At sixty-five, he was tenor soloist at St. Columkills Church in Chicago and people from all parts of the city went to hear him. He loved Abraham Lincoln, and made speeches throughout Indiana for Abe for President.  When Lincoln was assassinated, George draped his home in black.

They moved to Seattle, Washington in 1901, where his son George Jr. became Second Assistant Chief of the Seattle Fire Department. Great Grandpa and Great Grandma Marlowe were married for almost sixty years, until he died in 1907 at the age of ninety-two.

George said he wanted to live as long as anyone else lived. Up until his death, he retained use of all his facilities, and sang until the last, never forgetting an aria or the words to any opera or song.

Jane, who was much younger than he, lived another five years after his death, dying in 1912 at the age of seventy-nine.

Their son, Thomas John Marlowe, met Bertha Werhle at the Columbian Exposition in 1892. The Exposition was The Worlds Fair. They must have met at the dedication ceremonies on October 21, 1892 (in 1893 it opened to the public). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World’s_Columbian_Exposition

They married, and moved to Newark, New Jersey, where Bertha’s family lived. They raised six children. Adele was born on December 24, 1897; Katharyn was born in 1905 and died after marrying and giving birth. The story is that she passed away due to complications from anesthesia in the dentist’s chair (don’t forget, things were much different then).  After Katharyn came Bertha, who was born on August 2, 1907; Elizabeth who was born on May 2, 1911; my father Thomas John Jr., who was born on January 18, 1914; and the baby of the family, Frances, born on August 27, 1916. There were two other boys who were born and died in infancy, and both were named Thomas John Marlowe, Jr. That is how they did it back then. They kept naming the Junior until my Dad came along and lived.

Grandpa had only one arm. The story I heard from my brother Kit who got the scoop straight from our Old Man is that Grandpa tried to catch a train by reaching out for it and lost his arm. He was a hunter in his youth, hunting Grizzly Bear.  I heard about his hunting prowess over and over when I was young, and when we went to the Natural Museum of History, I always thought the Taxidermied Bear was the one he killed, and now it would get me!  He love alcohol and carousing (I’m not sugar-coating this), and Grandma Marlowe was left to rear the children. Look at the attached photograph and you will see the difference in their lifestyles. She was just fifty-two in this picture, and he was fifty-eight, but she looks much older than he does!  That is because she bore the brunt of most of the responsibility of raising their children.

Grandma, Grandpa & the Kids, circa 1926

One day during the Great Depression, a hobo came to their door asking for money. Grandma said she didn’t have any money to spare, but she gave him $10.00 to go to the store for her and get a sack of flour. She said when he came back and brought the flour and the change, she would feed him dinner. When Grandpa came home, he was livid.  How could she be so stupid to give a bum $10.00?  The hobo came back, though, and brought both the flour and Grandma’s change, and she fed him a good dinner.

Thomas Marlowe, Sr. died from complications due to alcoholism on October 18, 1939 at the age of seventy-two. Bertha Wehrle Marlowe died in 1963 from Breast Cancer.

Thomas Marlowe, Jr. graduated from Newark Engineering School in 1936, and got married to a woman named Marie.  They had twin daughters, Barbara and Patricia, on November 12, 1938.  Eventually, Thomas and Marie divorced. Thomas started his own engineering firm in New York City. He was a thirty-three year old divorced Catholic when he met her.

My mother, Elaine Marie Kall, was eleven years younger than Daddy. She was born in 1924 in Rockford City, Illinois to Gustav and Ethel Kall. She had a brother, Ralph, who was eleven years older than she was (the same age as my father; I never thought about that before). She had a privileged life, monetarily speaking, but she did not receive love and affection from her parents who were much older than she.

She attended Purdue University in Indiana from 1942 to 1946, and many men fell in love with her, and she was engaged many times. Her major was Communications. Upon graduating, she moved to New York City and got a job with the phone company. One day, her roommate asked her to chaperone a first date she was going on. My mother said she would, and off they went in the taxi to meet the man. The man couldn’t stop talking to my mother, or take his eyes off of her.  When they were leaving the restaurant, the man asked her if she would go on a date with him. She felt the connection, too, and said yes. Of course, the man was my father.

daddy and gmaMOMMY GRADUATES

She was a mid-western twenty-two year old Lutheran, and he was a thirty-three year old divorced Catholic. Her parents were very unhappy about the union, and when they married in May of 1947, the Kalls did not attend.

Thomas John Marlowe, Jr. (they chose ‘Jr.’ instead of ‘III’), Tommy was born on December 1, 1947, and was doted on by parents and grandparents alike. Two years later, Charles, or Chuck as he is called, was born on June 9, 1949. Following closely behind was Christopher, Kit, born December 2, 1951; then Michael Francis was born on Leap Year, February 29, 1952.  The first girl in the family was Elaine, who was born on February 28, 1953.  She was spoiled by parents and brothers, and they nicknamed her “Sissy”, because she was their only sister. That lasted for a few more years, and James Joseph, Jimmy, was born on July 7, 1954. On December 11, 1955, Elaine was no longer the only girl, because Mary Christina, Tina, came into the world.marlowe family

In 1957, Kathleen was born, but she was only with us for a short while, dying of SIDS (though they didn’t know what that was at the time) at three months old. Michael was five-years old, and he is the one that found her. It was a heartbreaking time for the whole family, and stuck with our family as part of our dynamic to this day. After Kathleen came Kevin Ian, born on May 7, 1959, and I followed exactly one year later, born on May 7, 1960. The last child, our lovely Karen Adele, was born on May 22, 1962, and our happy little family was complete.

Deals

The first and best deal I almost brokered was a scam, of sorts. Since I was five-years old at the time, I was incapable of knowing it was a scam, although I did know that it was not the entire truth.

I was walking home from kindergarten, when I happened on a woman in her driveway with a preschooler. She asked if I attended South Mountain Elementary School, and when I said I did, she told me that her child was going to be in kindergarten himself the very next year. “Well”, said I, “Isn’t that something?  I have been picked to be the person who shows the new kids and their moms around the school, so they can get an idea of what it’s like.” “Really, is that so?” replied the mom, skeptically. “Why yes”, I exclaimed, and added with a sly child’s greed, “and it will only cost you a quarter.”

A quarter was the going rate for all of our well-intentioned, spontaneously way-laid plans.  Fifteen cents was okay, and you could buy some candy, or maybe a comic book with it, but with a quarter?  You could do all sorts of things.  If you were down the shore, a quarter got you five pinball games (with a chance for a free game if you rolled the score over one hundred thousand, or if you “popped” a game by matching the last two numbers to the ones that came up for you).  Anywhere you were, you could buy ice cream and candy, candy and a soda, or two comic books with a nickel left over for candy!

When we had been friends for a couple of years (I believe we were nine or ten), Ginny and I made a potholder on a potholder loom.  Then we took our ‘sample’, and walked around the neighborhood, collecting quarters from our neighbors, with the promise of making them potholders, in colors they requested.  We firmly planned to do this.  That is, until we had the quarters.  Then, we were too busy eating ice cream and candy, drinking soda, and reading comic books to make a bunch of potholders.  We were very good at closing the deal, but there was no follow through.

But that day when I was five, and standing in the woman’s driveway with her and her child, she had the upper hand.  Oh, she was a shrewd woman!  She agreed to give me the quarter when she came to school with her son, if I was there to give them the tour.  She said she’d look for me.  There was no reaping of ill-gotten gains that day, but what a scam it would have been!  I almost pulled the wool over her eyes, almost had her right where I wanted her; asking the principal where the kindergartner she had paid to be her guide was.

I didn’t learn from my childhood fiascoes, though. Twice I was the worst Avon lady that ever existed. The first time, when I was seventeen, I actually took orders, but I never placed them. Then again, when I was much older, I thought I could make some money to get on my feet.  I paid for samples and everything I needed. That was the extent of that stint as an Avon lady, no doorbells rung, no orders taken, no money collected. Once, I went with a zealous friend to an Amway seminar, but decided to leave before the head spinning.  No, selling is not for me.

I see the successful salesperson; I have worked for successful salesperson. I envy their drive, ambition, and secure demeanor. I do not possess any of those things. One other important issue for me is this:  I could not sell something unless I wholeheartedly believed in it. When I worked for a certain diner in town in the early eighties, I was not enthused by the preparation of the food or the cleanliness of the kitchen. When a customer asked one day what was good, I replied, “If you walk up the street, to the right is the Town Hall…” I quit the diner that day.

No, selling is not for me.  Oh, but the deal!

NOTE:

Another unrealized post? Too many unfinished thoughts? Too bad. I’m kidding…I think. As most of you know, I was laid-off in April, and I am hoping to get my writing  juju back. Possibly it will be spurred by ennui!

Loss


Michael, I already miss you. I last saw you on July 10th, and somehow the time went by, and I didn’t come to see you again. Even though I knew you were in stage four lung cancer, I always believed you were going to recover.  Oh how I wished and prayed, as all wish and pray for their loved ones who have terminal illnesses.

I started writing this the day you died, Michael, but then I couldn’t continue. The grief of losing you and the life we live continuing on, merging, converging to create confusion.  You died on Saturday, July 21st, and one week later your 12 1/2 year old dog Kobe was diagnosed with diabetes.

Your wife, my sister Karen, stayed home for two weeks, but then returned to work. It’s so hard for her, but it’s a good thing that she did.  I am working from home now, so I volunteered to spend time with Kobe a couple of days a week, and my other brother-in-law Doug did, too.

I have been so glad to be there for Karen, for Kobe, for you, Michael. I like to think that you would be proud of me, or happy at least, that I stepped up and helped your family out. You and Karen were there for me in so many magnanimous ways.  Even when you didn’t think I deserved your help, you still helped me.  I can never repay the kindness, so I don’t try.  I just do what I think is right, now.

It’s now been over seven months since you have passed. We have not forgotten you, but think of you each day. It feels like you were just here, and it’s so weird that you are not.

I haven’t written anything since Mike died. It seems I have just been drifting day to day…just trying to get through it. Get through what? Winter? Sadness? Life?

My cat Cherie died in January. Doug came to help me take her to the vet. She had not left the apartment since I took her to be spayed when she was six months old. Five years later, I picked Doug up at lunchtime, so he could catch her to put her in the carrier and we could take her to Dr. Levine’s. She wasn’t eating. She was losing weight, and appeared to be panting and thirsty. She had to go, but I knew she would be difficult to catch. Doug cornered her in the hallway, wrapped her in a towel, and she was dead before she reached the carrier…I think so. I think she was dead even before he put her in there. The carrier door fell off, and we were fighting with it, trying to get it back on. I worried she would try to scratch her way out, but she didn’t move.

I knew then she was dead.  I started freaking out, but Doug, in his constant pragmatic way, said, “I think you’re right, but let’s not panic. She may be in shock. Let’s just get her to the vet, and see what they say.” We got in the car and started driving the few blocks to the vet. I called Karen to tell her, and I was thinking,  “Oh my god, I’m in the car with Doug and my dead cat, pretending that there’s a chance she’s just in shock.” We got to the vet, and I knew she was dead, but I was still upset that someone was not coming NOW to help us. That was about a three-minute wait that felt like forever.

We went into the examination room, and the vet, she was amazing. She was yelling for tubes and sticking a tube down the cat’s throat and blowing in it. It was shocking and there was a minute there when I thought, “She just may bring this cat back to life”, though even while I was thinking it I knew it was a silly thought. I knew the cat was dead and she was just being valiant, because it was her job.

Sharon was diagnosed with Non-small cell lung cancer just about the same time as Mike. Sharon, my best high school friend, the Lucy to my Ethel. The love I had for Sharon was incomparable. We used to dream we would be rich wives and lunch and shop together everyday, but as usual, life had other plans and we drifted apart, but always apart and back together, until one day we didn’t drift back together.

Sharon died on March 1, 2013. I found out because Ricky posted a message on Facebook saying that he was so sad that she had passed. What? She passed? I don’t know why, but I always thought I would be one of the first to know. It just felt that my love for her was so strong, so lasting that everyone would know that I needed to know. Another silly thought, because honestly, I wasn’t a part of her world when she finally left it.  When she left it though, I lost it.

It was so hard to deal with because she was so young, and Mike was so young. It was so hard to deal with because 2012 had been a year of loss, and I had such high hopes for 2013, then we lost a bunch of loved ones again. It was so hard because I had these really awesome memories of Sharon and I, and I could never tell her again, “Do you remember…?” I think that is what is so hard for so many of us when dealing with loss.

Sharon’s wake was hard, it was so hard. I couldn’t believe it was her in the coffin, and I said, “She doesn’t look like herself”, but her cousin Marie said, “Meg, they did such a good job. She was so sick, she looked so sick. She looks pretty now. She’s wearing her favorite suit and necklace.” So, I looked at her again, and she did look so pretty, and so at rest. My poor little Sharon. God, I loved that girl.

The funeral was even tougher, because I knew that this is it. It’s over. You will never see her again. But, it was funny, too. It was held at Our Lady of Sorrows, the church Sharon and I used to go to for Midnight Mass, and yes, we were stoned. One time we got the giggles in church, because we were amazed that the ceiling didn’t fall down on us heathens. It was times like that, and there were a lot of them, that I would really miss. So I was standing there next to Harry, Sharon’s high school boyfriend and lifelong friend, while the priest was talking about Sharon, and I was thinking about the ceiling falling in on us, and I was laughing to myself. And I was thinking about how Sharon would feel about me laughing, and I laughed again.

It’s like that with loss. Laughter does ease the pain, and as we are further removed from the immediacy of the loss, the laughter becomes even more important. Now, when I think of Sharon, I think of the fun times, and I smile. I smile when I think of my brother-in-law, my best friend, my mother, my father, and all of our loved ones~so many~that have gone before. Loss is life; the end of it. It’s inevitable. Laughter is a device life gives us to face the loss. I miss each of them so much. I just hope to be of such character to be missed as much when it’s my time to leave you, and you will laugh; oh god, how you’ll laugh.

Note: since I began this post, I have been laid off…yes, an unemployed bum, again.  It has taken me ten months to finish this story. A tumultuous and sad year, but summer is almost here, and the promise of a new life. Another new start for this old life.  And I remain forever grateful, to those who have passed on, and those of you still here on this orb, offering love and encouragement. I love. I love. I love you all. Thank you.

 

Mommy and ALS


I wrote this in 2011, but I guess I never posted it on this blog! I wanted to publish it now, so that you all could get a feel of what it’s like to live with ALS, as a patient, and as a loved one of a patient.

My mother Elaine was born on October 2, 1924 in Rockford, Illinois. She was a fabulous beauty with many suitors, and a few fiancés, but of course, life intervened and she made it through college to move to New York City, where she met my father, married, and had eleven children, one of whom died of SIDS at three months old.  She was an actress, lecturer in her church, politically active, and a Children’s Librarian for many years at local library.

One day in 1980, she started feeling a sore throat.  It bothered her, but she was not one to run to the doctor’s office.  She kept saying that she would go if she didn’t start to feel better soon.  She said that for a month.  Finally, she realized the sore throat was not going away, and she went to the doctor, who sent her for tests, and she found out she had Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or ALS for short, or as it is commonly known, Lou Gehrig’s disease:

“Henry LouisLouGehrig (June 19, 1903 – June 2, 1941).  Gehrig is chiefly remembered for his prowess as a hitter, his consecutive games-played record and its subsequent longevity, and the pathos of his farewell from baseball at age 36, when he was stricken with a fatal neurological disease.”~Wikipedia

I must admit, when I found out, I moved within months to California.  I was twenty-one years old and subconsciously but selfishly knew that I could not watch the events unfold.  I could not lose my mother.

During the next year, Mommy struggled to live each day, but she continued to work in the South Orange Public Library as a Children’s Librarian.  She lost her voice completely, lost use of her legs and had difficulty using her arms and hands.  She was confined to a wheelchair, and had no real form of communication except her eyes and guttural sounds.  This was causing intense depression for her, as she was a Communications Major, Actress, Writer, Librarian.  Before she could no longer write, she was keeping a journal of her feelings about the onset of this disease.  One day I read in her journal how hard it was to lose one’s voice, of all things, when your life is built around communicating.  It was heartbreaking.

The children of the library to the rescue!  They held a benefit to raise money to buy a newly designed computer for my mother to use at the library.  She could type into the computer, and it would speak for her!  This was quite a miracle in 1981, and it meant she could continue working with the kids, whom she loved so well, and who loved her as much or more.

I moved back to South Orange, as my big sister Tina had written me to advise that Karen could not bear the brunt of the caretaking alone.  My father was eleven years older than my mother, and crippled by intense love and a pre-sense of loss.  My brother Kevin helped of course, but Karen really was the primary caregiver for my mother.  The other brothers and sisters were older, with young families of their own, and limited time to offer assistance.  So, I returned.

The disease continued to take its toll rapidly, and my mother continued to fight back. She just would not give up on the quality of life.  She wanted to wear what she thought were her finest dresses (she would be so mad if I tried to choose what she should wear, she was sick, not daft!), all the food she always ate such as steak and pizza, albeit pulverized, and of course, her Five-O’clock Cocktails.  We would make blender drinks, and she would have her cocktails through a straw.  She was happiest when her fragmenting world showed signs of normalcy.

She insisted on going places.  The shopping outlets, plays, out to dinner.  She didn’t want to be a shut-in.  There were many people back then who had a problem with a dying woman in a wheelchair enjoying life.  I don’t know how much that has changed, but I pray our world is wiser, and we realize that we may very well wheel that chair one day!  Also, wheelchair accessibility in the early eighties was so limited.  We would show up somewhere, and find we could not continue with our plans due to narrow aisles or no elevators.  There were days we were so happy to have just a little more time together.  There were days we ended up so disheartened by an unmoving world in our wildly changing lives.

A woman wrote to Mommy and said, “I don’t know how you do it.  I saw you at church, and you are so brave.  I have just found out I have ALS, and I am really scared.”  This woman was embarrassed, as the world wanted the dying to be.  She locked herself away and ate baby food, and was gone in six months.  I have finally learned, from this experience and others like it, that no matter what the world throws at you, you have to fight.  Even if you don’t win the war, the battles won make you a champion!

As the disease progressed, and the caretaking became more difficult, my mother’s and my depression worsened.  I am highly ashamed to admit that I felt the need to confess all my life’s sins to my mother.  Why?  I cannot explain it.  Somehow I felt she needed to know.  I wished the moment after, and forever since that I did not do that.  The hurt on her face was clearly readable.  There was complete communication coming from her eyes.  I had cut her deeply.  I could not take it back, but I wish I could have said, “Only kidding.”

After that, I left for California again.  I was selfishly immature for a twenty-three year old.  I went back to Cambria, California, and worked as a prep-cook in a local restaurant, and cocktail-waitressed, and sometimes bartended in the big Saloon.  I lived in an apartment above the saloon without a phone.  On the morning of June 25, 1983, my boss from the restaurant came knocking on my apartment door, and calling my name, waking me up.  Did I think, “What is she doing here?  She never comes here.”  No, I knew.  I started crying immediately.  I went outside and placed a collect call to my sister Karen, who confirmed it.  Mommy was gone.

I tried to work and act like it was no big deal.  I made it through the first night, but the next day I broke down on the restaurant’s kitchen floor.  I had no money to return for the wake or funeral, and so I remained in my little apartment above the bar, getting drunk and crying over the pictures of and letters from my Mom.  I stayed there for a week.  Part of my heart stayed there forever.  It was the first time I experienced such true life-altering loss, and I had removed myself from the epicenter of support.  You would have thought that would have been a lesson learned.  Of course, it wasn’t.  The lessons I should have learned from this eluded me for many years.

I heard the Funeral was big. There were police escorts.  Everyone loved my mother so.  I still hear from so many people how much she meant to them, to their parents, to their children.   I am so proud to say that Elaine Marie Kall Marlowe was my mother.  I just wish she could see I am finally learning the lessons she tried to teach through her words, and when there were no words, through her actions.

Daddy


I know I have left so many stories dangling in this Blog: the story of Mom-Mom and the Sparks house, the story of The Army, the story of my addiction and recovery.  It has been a whirlwind of a Spring.  With the Walk To Defeat ALS fundraisers and two showers, two wakes, a funeral and a 50th birthday party, we really have had a Social Season, for better and worse.  I am hoping that after next weekend, I will have restful times, find some inspiration and continue the stories I have promised ends to!

Next weekend is the culmination of the season, with the wedding of two of the best people I know, my nephew Mark and our lovely Molly.  Molly is a member of our sister family.  I say sister family in the sense of a  sister organization.  We have grown up side by side and shared many, many happinesses and sorrows.  Molly’s grandfather passed away one month ago today, and we were all there, sharing in the grief.  Her grandfather, who was father to my best friends in the world, was a fascinating, caring, giving man and the global community felt his presence in his missionary endeavors.  He was remarkable, and is greatly missed.   My heart is with my friends today, as they remember their Dad and Grandfather and how much he means to them.

When I woke up this morning I was thinking about my Daddy, which is not unusual, since it’s Father’s Day.  I opened my eyes, and my first thoughts were that my Dad had such a hard job, clothing and feeding and taking care of ten children at home, as well as helping his married daughter and her young family.  This morning I thought of all the lessons he taught me; lessons I didn’t know I learned until many years after his passing.  These lessons must have been those proverbial seeds that fell through the cracks; somehow they found light and grew.  I know now that he loved us very much, though I didn’t understand as a child.  I thought love had to be tied up in hugs and soft words.  I see now that my father gave everything he had to make sure his kids were taken care of.  He never said no, even when he should have.

On Christmas, my father was a light.  One Christmas morning, my brother had a camcorder, and walked around the family filled house asking people what Christmas meant to them.  He found Daddy in the kitchen making more coffee for the masses.  Daddy’s answer to the question was simple but from his heart, “Giving.”  That was my Dad at Christmas.  He was like a kid at Christmas, but his happiness was in the giving, not the getting.

In August, my father was a joy.  He always took the last two weeks of August for vacation, and joined us at our rented Victorian in Cape May, New Jersey.  He also came the first two weekends, taking public transportation to Atlantic City, where Mommy would pick him up and bring him back on Sunday nights.  He stayed at home the first two weeks of our month-long vacation, but those weekends were really nice with our Dad.  He couldn’t totally relax.  He did a little though, and you could tell he needed it.   The last two weeks, when he came and stayed, those were so wonderful.  He was so much fun then!  He was the Dad I always wanted him to be.  The one I dreamed he would be everyday!  The Vacation Dad!  Approachable, impulsive, smiling.  I miss that Vacation Dad.

Over the years I have come to realize, and everyday, that I miss my father in so many ways.  He was a wise man, but I never listened.  He was a loving man, but I never noticed.  I am listening and noticing now.  I was so lucky to have spent time with him before he passed, to hear some of his stories, and discover the man, not just the Dad.

Daddy’s Passing
By Meg Marlowe~2009

I remember that I was sitting in his hospital room. We were taking turns watching him; taking turns in the ICU waiting room.  I was reading a short story book, by which author I don’t remember now; I don’t even remember the stories.  But, I remember being thankful that I had chosen a short story book at the library the week before he was admitted.

It was my turn.  My turn to sit with Daddy while he lay dying, which he did not want to do.  I was glad and sad to be there at the same time.  We had only come to know each other in the last four months, my having spent thirty-three years filled with animosity and mistrust; making for a difficult upbringing.

I finally had my daddy as my friend, and he was leaving me.  I decided to come home in November 1993, with my one year old in tow, because I missed my father.  I was always homesick for him when I went away, despite our overt displays of contradictory beliefs (arguments over me being young and dumb, and him being old and wise).  Daddy, I have to admit, was all I had left.  But, more than that, especially looking back now, always was the one there for me.  And, I was realizing that his way of dealing with children was the way he was dealt with as a child.  Yet you could see that he wanted more for us, and he tried to treat us better than he and his sisters were which is actually very sad.

I had always heard that his mom was long-suffering and trusting and that his dad was a womanizing, one-armed alcoholic.  I knew there was some basis in that, but, I thought, it must be embellished.  However, I recently came into possession of a copy of a picture of their family.  I look at him, so happy and relaxed, I look at her, so worn and tired, and I know it’s all true.  And, I feel sad for the woman in the picture, my grandmother in the early 1920’s.

I was relieved of my duties by a brother, and sent back to the waiting room.  I had been at the hospital for two days, and my family basically forced me to go home to rest.  I had slept for about two hours, when I heard Daddy yelling at me, “Meggie!  Meggie!”  I jumped up, and sped back to the hospital.  Everyone thought I was nuts (have I told you yet that’s true?).  But, I had to be there for him; and I was, until the end, and held his hand as he passed.

When Mommy died in 1983, I was so scared to watch her die, that I ran away to California.  The day my sister Karen called to tell me she was gone, my boss got the phone call, as I didn’t have a phone, and work was my contact number.  I was working in a local restaurant and also cocktail waitressing in ‘the bar’ on the weekends in my small and lovely town of Cambria, California.  I lived in a little apartment above the bar. It was a Saturday morning.  I was sleeping off a hangover, as usual.  My boss came to my door and knocked, which she had never done before, announced herself, and I knew.  I knew Mommy was gone.

I shot out of bed, and ran to the payphone to call my sister.  She confirmed what I knew.  I cried and wondered what had possessed me to be so far away at this monumental time.  I had no money, and for some reason, this was the one time that Daddy didn’t bail me out of a predicament.  I was stuck on the west coast, slowly going mad from grief, and far away from the obligatory events:  writing the obituary and death notice, picking a coffin, and then the wake, the funeral, the repast.  I thought I was suffering much worse than the rest of the family, as I was all alone.

That was until Daddy passed, which he did after several attempts to resuscitate him, on March 7, 1994.  I then found out what it is like to lose a parent as an adult, with the responsibilities that must accompany the sorrow.  It was a milestone for me, and one that I think Daddy would have been proud of watching me go through.  I stood strong through the next few days of public mourning, and was even there for his sole remaining sister, and my nieces and nephews.

Losing a parent does teach lessons, and we grow in our fortitude, maturity, and perspective.  I learned these things from my daddy growing up, and from his passing, and moving on.

Daddy and his children, January 1994

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