We are marching in the light of God

The Woman’s Movement came back to life this week.

This week, in the aftermath of the Trump inauguration, we marched. Old women, young women, children, boys and men. We marched for civil rights and kindness. Wearing silly pink hats and carrying handmade signs, we gathered, listened to politicians and we slowly  inched along.

We planned to march but there were too many of us to run a normal march.

I took the T to Park Street to join so many others on Boston Common. The land was full of very polite protestors who smiled because they could see they are not alone in this struggle.

Friends of mine were marching in Washington, DC. My Facebook page filled with people I know who gathered in other cities to mark the beginning of what is sure to be a difficult journey.

I remember the 1970s very well. In 1972 I served as the state coordinator for the National Organization for Women in Massachusetts. It was a title that was phased out a year or two later.

For me the path to feminism began because of a history professor at Stonehill who insisted I read Eleanor Flexnor’s book “Century of Struggle.” The was back in the 60s in days when I thought I wanted to marry, have children and become a housewife. My college professor opened my eyes.

And while I eventually became a mother, I thought I had a right to juggle a career as long as my two children were safe. But I gave up political action in the years I was a young mother. After all, it seemed the political struggle had been won.

And there were so many other priorities. At least it seemed there were.

Kindness was missing from that long ago movement. Those of us working on strategies were angry about a world where men and women were not treated as equals.

When I boarded the train to Boston – a train that was standing room only before reaching my stop – a woman in her thirties offered me her seat. I smiled and turned it down but the thought of her kindness brightened my day.

Despite the crowds on Boston Common, people didn’t push to get ahead. The placard I liked best was ultimately creative. It said, “Love trumps hate.”

The Boston Women’s March, and so many other marches, gathered for the same reason. We want to make the world a better, kinder, place filled with justice and love.

An Episcopal priest taught me a simple hymn that sums it all up. We are marching in the light of God. Actually I understand it is a Zulu hymn that has been reworked with a Christian theme. It gathers up all the hope and determination of a righteous movement.




Mindfully healing

it’s been five years since I was diagnosed with cancer.

Five years …. It’ a magic number – it means I am truly a cancer survivor.

My oncologist had me on every six-month visits these past five years. But last summer he let me know that I could stop taking my estrogen blocker when my prescription ran out in February. My next appointment at Dana Farber happens in midsummer.

My cancer is still part of my life. It left me with a feeling that life is certainly too brief. And that what is important is love, family and friendships.

When I first coped with the thought that cancer was growing in my body, I felt frightened and worried, thinking my life was heading in the wrong direction. But I spent time talking with other women who had already faced breast cancer and that’s when I began to realize there is life after this disease.

For me treatment was a double mastectomy followed by years of little white pills. My life changed. I became someone who read labels and choose organic anything over chemically altered substances. I tried to exercise, following the physical therapy prescribed as a part of aftercare.

i still pay attention to my diet. I sleep more and have found ways to avoid worry.

It feels really good to know I’ve survived. It feels as if life sent me a blessing  – a chance to continue living.

i’ve come to see that my cancer diagnosis was a gift.

Life moves quickly

I remember being a young woman – it seems as if I were young yesterday.

Since my last post, my nonagenarian mother died, after a lengthy illness that affected her body and mind. I think she died of cancer but it may have been the drugs they gave her for the pain that ended her days.

She lived in Milton MA her entire life. My sister Kathy was her prime caregiver in her last days. Of course we all did what we could but Kathy, who has been retired for more than 10 years, was the source of my mother’s strength in her last months.

But much more has happened. My daughter-in-law, a woman of incredible kindness, wisdom and generosity is living with cancer. Her cancer is being bombarded by doses of chemotherapy and other treatments coordinated by a medical team from Dana Farber. Annie, my son’s wife of five years, should be enjoying the best years of her life.

Before her diagnosis, Annie was a fulltime mother whose precocious two-year-old had never gone to bed for the night without his mother.  Two operations later my grandson, Finnegan, is still advanced beyond his years. I’ve tried to fill in for his mother. He loves me and everyone else in the world. I just don’t cut it as a 37-year-old these days.

Being a young mother was a joy. I only had two years off work during my days of intense motherhood. I didn’t appreciate them enough when I lived through it.

But I finally realize today is the only day I have.  Finnegan already knows that. I think that’s why he loves everyone.


Expanding Family Relations


Hayley & Des

The world is a chilly place today in New England. But my two grandchildren enjoy their family and their electronic toys.

Soon I will have a third grandchild who will live only two hours from my home. The two grandchildren who are already part of family live in the Great North Woods – four hours from my home on a day with light traffic.

It seems as if it were yesterday when I was a young mother, wondering whether the children I cared for would find a better world than the one I was born into.

The jury is still out on the answer to that question.

But my youngest child, now a man and almost a father, is building a good foundation for his young family. The frame is strong and it envelopes his niece and nephew without locking them down.

Wedding Bells

 (This poem was written to commemorate the marriage of my only son Aug. 28 at Slide Ranch in Muir Beach, CA. Sometimes even a publisher travels beyond the borders of Milton.)

I carried the precious

as rainbow mist groom’s ring

across the continent,

to reach the fog of San Francisco

the foothills of the wedding of the millenium.

30+ years ago I carried the groom

from possibility into life.

Steeped in joy and warmed

by the love of my tiny family,

I sit with my memories

and smile like an aged cat

as I remember the boy

who walked on walls

and played as if his games

were earth-defining.

My son with his ah-so-many questions,

his torn dungarees

and his tilted baseball cap.

I miss that child of mine,

much as I glow with pride

at the man he’s become.

Years move quickly.

Yesterday disappears like smoke.

Timothy Ambrose

True Mountain of Joy.

Joy of my life.

I remember when you

introduced Annie to me –

Your friend, you said.

And I smiled, knowing better.

She was there to support you,

the day you wore your master’s hood.

And so, dearheart, was I.

Years pass

when you least expect it.

Days dissolve.

My family grew today

as we circled around the bride and groom –

Annie and Ambrose.

This is a day to cherish.

A day worth holding fast in memory.

A memory to feast upon in years to come.

Carry it close to your heart.

Take it out when you need

a breathe of love

a moment of joy.

AWH Class of 1964 Salutes Gallagher & Gantley

Archbishop Williams High School inducted 11 people into its Athletic Hall of Fame March 27 – two of them were from the Class of 1964, my class.

More than 40 of us from the class went to the dinner at the Lantana where one of our members, Dr. Carmen Mariano, who is now the school’s president, told us what a great school Archbishop Williams continues to be.

Jack Gantley was on the varsity football team for all four of his years at AWH. He was honored for his contributions to a team that seldom experienced loss. In fact there were only two losses and one tie in all his four years on the team. Coach Armond Columbo, Jack’s coach and friend, made the presentation. Jack is a retired US Navy captain now living in Florida with his wife. He is a graduate of the US Naval Academy at Annapolis and achieved his career success inUS Special Operations Forces.

He made us all proud.

Then there was George Gallagher. George was one of the brightest students in our class.  He was honored for his excellence in track and cross country. I don’t remember a pep rally for the track team back in ’64 but it was great to hear the cheerleaders from our class chant “George Gallagher” as he walked to the podium Saturday. He set a 300 meter tri-county league record in 1964 that wasn’t matched until 1979. He did it all on cinder track, without any practice space. He is a dentist who is a professor at Boston University. He still runs, in fact he has completed the Boston Marathon twice – both times he beat three hours.

Today AWH has a state of the art track at a sports facility near the school. When I started at AWH, we didn’t even have our own football field. We borrowed public school space. Maybe adversity has its plus side.

We remember what the school meant to us back when we were students.  School pride wasn’t invented in the 21st Century. But we were children back then. We all had our share of insecurity and anxiety.

Since then we’ve moved on, created families and careers. Coped with loss and personal challenges. Built success and faced failure. That’s not one or two of us. We share the normal passages of a lifetime. Some of us from the AWH Class of ’64 remained close friends over the years. Most of us went our separate ways. But a few years ago my classmates began getting together for dinner from time to time.

I think we’ve finally come back together.

Brunch with My Daughter

My grandchildren are at camp this week – a Salvation Army camp on the shores of Sebego Lake.

It’s their week to commune with nature.

My children went to day camp when they were young – it was my way of dealing with day care as a single working mother.

My daughter works for the Salvation Army – she’s a case manager.

This week she has more free time than usual. We had a chance to get out to brunch today. It was great to have time with June – time to catch up.

Now she’s off to visit a friend she’s had since high school.

Time passes far to quickly.

I miss the days when taking my children for Chinese food after work was the high point of my week. Now I am thrilled when I have a couple hours to spend alone with my daughter. (Or my son, but that is too infrequent. His home in the woods of California is a little out of the way.)

The days of being always rushed, always over-committed have given way to grandmotherhood. It’s really more fun to sandwich the minutes of connection in between equal slices of separation.

Fathers Day 2009

My father, Francis X. Desmond, died in April 1965.

I was ending my freshman year in college.

This is the first time in my life I have ever written something for public consumption about him. My feelings about my relationship with my father have been too complicated to think about letting strangers take a look.

My father grew up in Milton. He graduated from Milton High in 1939. His mother was widowed but left with enough of a support system that she maintained two households. They summered in Marshfield.

It was a different society then. My father’s three brothers all went to college. But he went to work for the telephone company after high school and then went on to serve in the Army in the days of World War II.

He never talked much about his time in the war. Whenever he was asked about it, he’d turn the conversation in a different direction.

He had married my mother just before boot camp. When he returned from the Army, they lived with her parents in a tiny home on Pleasant Street. I have no idea how the two couples were able to co-exist in the house. I was six months old when my parents got their first apartment near Central Avenue. I’ve always been attracted to small living spaces. I guess that’s my history.

My father served as a Town Meeting member in Milton. He would wear his suit and go off to the Annual Town Meeting. He was proud of his contribution.

Even after all these years, I can see him in my mind.  He was a solemn man. He worked overtime often to support his family. He (and one of his cousins) built the house my family lived in during my school years. He added to the house twice.

He had been brought up in the Catholic faith and never questioned it, never missed a Sunday Mass, never ate meat during Lent, always ate fish on Friday.

He lived by values he never questioned.

His simple faith defined him.

Ledger Retreats

Looking back at my first job brings a smile to my life.

The people I worked with at the Patriot Ledger back in the 70s were bright and committed and caring.

Back then I was part of a company union that included about 70 reporters and copy editors. We all considered ourselves professionals. The Ledger covered about 30+ towns from Plymouth to Westwood in those years. There were three (or three and a half) editions. Each town had a correspondent and none of the correspondents were part of the union.

The Ledger was in a growth stage back then. There were rules about town coverage. We were sure to cover Selectmen and School Committee. Each day (five days a week) there would be a town column. The bigger towns, with bigger readership were high status amongst our little band of journalists.

Of course, Quincy, being the only city in the region and the highest readership was the jewel.

Most of us wanted to be the city hall reporter.  My turn came in the early 70s. It was a great time. There were scandals to study. Amazing people to profile. It was a great life.

Then another war broke out in Isreal. And being interested in the larger world, I decided I wanted to be a war correspondent. I didn’t plan to make a lifetime of it. I expected the war would be over in a matter of days.  I told the executive editor, Ed Querzoli, that I wanted to cover the war in Isreal. He told me I was the city hall reporter but that he would talk it over with the editor, Don Wilder. Within a matter of an hour, Don and I were discussing my hopes and plans.

He told me I could take a month but when I returned I wouldn’t be the city hall reporter. He said the Ledger wanted first refusal on all the stories I might write while I was in Isreal but he wanted promising they would publish them and I’d be paid as a freelancer during my leave of absence.

The time I spent in Isreal during the Yom Kippur War helped me understand a great deal about myself and my world. The war only lasted three weeks. I was able to travel in buses to the front with other journalists. I watched mortar fire explode in the sand of the desert. I interviewed soldiers who came from the US to join the Isrealis because they were Jewish. I interviewed civilian soldiers who put their lines on hold every so often to fight – men and women.

I talked with people who lived near the mountains of the Golan – people who were accustomed to gun fire and missiles in what people considered times of peace.

And then I returned to the Ledger. Collected about $300 in freelance fees. And went back to working general assignment.

One lesson I learned was that everything is local.  For the people I met and interviewed during my time in the war zone, the end of the fighting was just a reprieve.

For me it was a lesson in the value of commitment.

These days the Ledger has changed its focus, away from the intense desire to cover all the news about its communities.  They let all the correspondents go. They continue to decrease the staff. And the readership continues to diminish.

Fred Hanson, who has been the Milton reporter for a while, has been reassigned to Braintree. No one is being assigned to replace him. The Ledger is down to about 30 people in its editorial union. It is a sad time.