Beginning a new career in one’s mid-sixties may not be commonplace or even very smart in the minds of some, but that was the choice I made. Rather than relaxing into an easy chair, at age 62 I became a writer, pursuing the activity that had always been my passion. For several years, I have worked almost exclusively on one book, titled (at least for now) Unending Duet:A Sister’s Memoir of a Brother Lost to AIDS
Prior to my foray into writing, I spent the entirety of my working life as an academician. Early in my career, I was a high school English teacher, a college instructor of English and ESL, a writing tutor and a Learning Center Director. In the 1990’s, I was encouraged to pursue administration, ultimately being selected an academic dean at Mohawk Valley Community College, overseeing courses and faculty for ESL, developmental education, college seminar, world languages, and education until my retirement in 2016.
In 2009, I earned a doctorate in Adult Education from the Teachers College at Columbia University. I hold a Master of Science degree in literacy from SUNY Cortland and a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from SUNY Oswego. An advocate for Utica’s refugee population, I am a member of the Board of Directors for The Center (formerly the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees).
My most cherished roles are wife, mother, and grandmother. I live in Central New York with my husband, staying in close proximity to my two children, their partners, and six grandchildren, from whom I learn something new every day. I cherish the beauty and transcendence that comes with immersing oneself in good literature, theater, music and art.
The books we ban are the books we need
It was my older brother who turned me on to books.
His enthusiasm for “Huckleberry Finn” came first. Then it was “The Swiss Family Robinson,” “The Outsiders,” “A Wrinkle in Time,” “The Grapes of Wrath,” “1984,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Great Gatsby.”
When he burst into my bedroom one evening, madly waving his copy of “The Catcher in the Rye,” I finished it in one night, riveted by a voice that channeled my 13-year-old brain. Finally, I thought, an author had given us something real, a character who validated my growing despair. It was 1968; Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy had just been murdered, and I stood at the edge of adolescence. I felt understood.
Women face the ultimate miscarriage of justice
In 1950s America, my mother was given the care she needed to survive her miscarriages. In 2022, in some parts of this country, my mother might be considered a criminal.
It has been three months since the Dobbs decision, yet the shock continues to reverberate. When my phone first lit up alerting me that the Supreme Court had overturned Roe vs. Wade, I sat in stunned silence, the lines on the screen in front of me blurring together. Even though I’d known the decision was coming, the news alerts dinging their way down my phone’s display were simply unfathomable. It took me a few beats to realize that no, the New York Times hadn’t gotten it wrong; nor had the Washington Post, CNN, the Daily News. It had happened.
COVID, AIDS and trying to save ourselves
My brother died in 1994 of HIV/AIDS during what, for me, will always be the first pandemic. Now, in 2021, I wait, hoping no one in my family will die in the second.
The day before my brother died, my mother and I made our daily pilgrimage to sit at his bedside. We found a hospital social worker perched in Mom’s usual seat, holding his hand and speaking softly to him, although he seemed unaware of her. She picked up a tiny pink sponge, and, holding it by its toothpicked end, dipped it in a pitcher of water and gently pressed it against his lips. At the sound of our footsteps, she turned and motioned for Mom to take her place. Still in her winter coat and gloves, Mom sat erect and held the metal base of the chair with both hands, bracing herself.
America’s teachers, thrown under the schoolbus
In the few years since my retirement, the anti-education rhetoric has gotten louder, more pervasive and noxious by degrees. This hateful language is meant to divert the attention of voters, to convince them that the care and dedication they witness every day in their children’s classes is a fraud. Looking for scapegoats upon whom to heap the blame for their own political impotence, right-wing conservatives have amassed a pile of perceived ills and targeted teachers as their newest scapegoat. We have been called “groomers,” “activists in disguise,” a “woke mob.” A relative suggested to me that colleges are simply factories designed to churn out the next generation of communists.
As children growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s, siblings Holine and Olaf develop a strong bond as they grapple with his emerging identity as a gay child in an inhospitable world. The memoir follows them through adulthood when Olaf first hears rumblings of the impending AIDS crisis, sharing his fears with his sister–fears that eventually come to fruition in his illness and death from the disease in 1994. This book reveals in very personal terms the homophobic attitudes of the era, the disease’s progression, and its aftermath; however, it is ultimately a story about a deep sibling love, a love that transcends prejudice, loss and grief.