Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Aunt Jennie..." from KIDNAPPED TWICE


I do not know why my Aunt Jennie was not a happy person. She was so good, yet no one ever gave her credit.

She took me in to care for me, as she did for my father and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren and my grandfather. She even did this for any person who needed a place to stay. She checked on her brothers and her sisters on a weekly basis, but I never heard any of them give Aunt Jennie a kind word

As I got older and Aunt Jennie was alone in the house, I would visit with her as much as my life would allow. She would be sitting on the south side of her porch, where the sun would shine on her and give her warmth on the chilly days. I find myself doing that now.

Aunt Jennie and I talked about a lot of things. She told me that she got custody of me when my mother and father divorced.

She said, “Don’t you remember that when something would happen at school, they would bring you here?” And they did!

I made the mistake of asking my father about this, and all hell broke loose. I still feel so bad that Aunt Jennie got in trouble with my father over this. I am trying to find out the facts now. All of them. Just so I can put these secrets to rest.

Why did I leave Aunt Jennie? My father came to tell me that Ann had changed, and they wanted me to come home.

I went home and put all my stuff in my closet. I went to work and got a call that my house was on fire, a fire that started in my closet.

The hospital let us move into the house they owned across the street.

My dog was tied up in the garage, and she barked all night. Sparky would sometimes break loose and go to Aunt Jennie’s house. One of these times in life, the good Lord is giving you a sign to make the right decision. People at work bought me some clothes, and I continued going to work. Three days after the fire, I came home from work. Ann was standing on the bottom of the stairs. She slapped me across my face, but I grabbed her by her neck with both of my hands and backed her against the wall, and I told her that if she ever touched me again, I would kill her.

Father came home and came upstairs to my locked room and told me to apologize to my mother. I screamed at him that she was not my mother. That was the first time I had ever disrespected my father.

I have so many questions and no answers! The strength I have had all my life seems to be gone. I’m tired. Why didn’t my father protect me? Why didn’t he let me live with Aunt Jennie or with my mother? Why? Why?


Aunt Jennie was speaking to someone; I do not remember to whom. She told this person that Ann’s mother beat me: Ann would drop me off at her mother’s house for me to clean there. When displeased with me, this woman would beat me with a wooden spoon. Concerning this, Aunt Jennie said to me, “You remember that, right, Mary?” I did not, until years later. It made me feel bad that I could not back up Aunt Jennie‘s story. I wonder– who had told Aunt Jennie?

As I was growing up, Ann would send me to Town Pharmacy to ask for and buy Trojans condoms.. I did not know what they were until much later. I’m hoping that the people in the pharmacy realized that I did not know what they were and that I was not buying them for my use.

For many years I had periods of excruciating pain on the left side of my face. The pain would be very bad at times, lasting a few days, even lasting weeks. Thinking that I had an infection in a tooth, I went to various dentists. Different dentists would pull some teeth each time.

Every time dentists would give me a shot of Novocain, it would only intensify this pain. I went to doctors. They thought I must be having bouts of neuralgia.

It was a terrible pain. The professionals were baffled.

I ended up with a dentist who said he would have to drill every tooth and scrape bone and cap all my teeth. That cost me $12,000, more than a year‘s pay. I borrowed money from the bank for each stage of this process.

After many years of this problem, my father just happened to mention that he had dropped me down a flight of stairs in the big house, when I was very small. He stated that I landed on the left side of my head. I said to him, “Dad, I think this information would have been important to all the dentists and doctors I have gone to!”

My father once wrote me a letter, asking me, “Where did the little girl go who loved her daddy?” I never answered.

I loved my father, but I also knew he was a weak man in so many ways: his drinking, his beating me, his knowledge about what Ann was doing to me, and yet his doing nothing. He never talked to me about things I needed to know!

My father would tell me that I was going to end up like my mother, leaving my child behind to pursue a singing career. Despite all his remarks about my voice and how I was going to be just like my mother, he called me one day and asked me to make a recording of songs for him. I did not know how to do that, and even if I did, I was past the singing thing. When I married Alan, my second husband, I sang “The Lord’s Prayer” at my wedding. My father was there, and that was the end of my public singing.

I think my father could not own up to his lack of taking care of me after he had gone through all the trouble of kidnapping me back from my mother, then just throwing me under the bus with Ann. How did he justify this to himself or me? Maybe that’s why we were never able to talk about anything important as I got older.


We are serializing the memoir by Mary E. Seaman and myself, KIDNAPPED TWICE: Then Betrayed and Abused, published by Outskirts Press and available in paperback and ebook versions from Outskirts Press and and other on-line book sellers.

See also my site

"More Than Tutoring," Ch. 20, What Cost

During my nearly ten years of tutoring, many problems arose for some of my students. It is not at all surprising that problems abound when you think of the barriers presented by not knowing our language, our laws, or our cultural expectations. Many of my lessons specifically addressed these very stressed-filled dilemmas for them, on a personal, not classroom, level.

My Chinese students had an extended support system, so seldom needed my help outside class; not so for many from various other cultures. Despite LVA’s advisement and rules for not getting involved in their personal lives, I often did. Most of my students became my friends; some of them, I expect, will be my friends for the rest of my life. It isn’t in me to let friends flounder when I have the means to help.

I, and most other tutors, mentored almost as much as we taught English. I’ve talked to doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, school principals, teachers, lawyers, policeman, sheriffs, social workers, landlords, and butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers (okay, no candlestick-makers) on behalf of my students. I’ve advised on dress codes, manners, résumés, spousal abuse, and helped fill out more damned forms than I care to remember. I learned how to read electric meters so I could help a student pass his meter-reading test. I helped a dad write a letter to his son. Their problems were endless and often personal, and I helped guide them when they asked, regardless of the rules against personal involvement.

Over the years, I tutored students from every walk of life, from all educational and economic backgrounds, from all major religions, and from at least twenty different countries. What an education I got! Every tutor I’ve talked to agrees we learn more than our students do. As much as it may seem I’m blowing my own horn (I said “I” an awful lot in the preceding paragraphs), I’m not. I’m grateful for every moment, because every moment was a much-valued learning experience…. Imagine how empty my life would have been without knowing how to read an electric meter! It nearly killed me to leave.


We are serializing here Judy Axtell's What Cost: A Skeptic's Memoir, published by Outskirts Press and available in paperback through Outskirts and Amazon and other on-line booksellers. I am proud to have been coach and editor for the book.

See also, my site

Sunday, February 22, 2015

"Almost Raped...," from memoir KIDNAPPED TWICE


While I was still living at Aunt Jennie’s house, I started dating a boy from New York City. I don’t even remember his name or how I met him. His family had a summer home by the Lake, but not on my family’s property.

I was working at American Felt Company at that time, and the women there were very nice to me. This guy wanted me to meet him halfway between New York City and Cornwall, where I lived. I was shy and timid during those years. The women at work said, “No way! Tell him he has to come up here.”

He did travel to Cornwall, and he did seem like a very nice young man. One night, he came up from the City and told me he needed to pick something up from his family’s summer house. We pulled into their garage, and he said he would be right back. A few minutes later, he yelled for me to come upstairs from the garage. I did so, and when I entered the living room, he was lying naked on the couch and told me to sit on him. I told him, “No!”

He started grabbing me as I tried to get out through the door. He kept pushing me down, and he got me into a bedroom, at which point he told me to go ahead and scream, as no one would hear me. It was a fight. He was grabbing me and pulling me down, and I was kicking and punching to get back up. I guess I tired him out, because he finally let me go, and eventually he drove me home.

Because I was so upset when I got home, I told Aunt Jennie. She told my father. As it turned out, this guy’s uncle owned a bar and pizza place my father patronized. My father called the uncle, who called the father of the boy, at which time the father made the son write a letter to me stating how sorry he was and that he hoped that he would some day be lucky enough to marry a girl like me and hoped that his daughter would be a good girl like me. This was the only time I appreciated my father’s calling anybody on my behalf.

You think I would remember this guy’s name, but I don’t. Perhaps it is just as well I do not.


While I was living with Aunt Jennie, I found a man in his car who had shot himself in the mouth, committing suicide.

I was taking a ride up into the mountains, which I did a lot before I went to work on the late shift. The man had parked his car just off to the side of the road, so it was not easy to miss. I approached it cautiously and was shocked by what I saw.

Once I knew what I had seen, I drove to the Police Department as quickly as possible, shaking all the way. I walked in and told them what I had found and then ran out to get to work. They were running after me to get more information, but they let me go, as they knew who I was and could come to my place of work if they needed more information. I saw that dead man in my imagination for years afterwards. Even now, if I see a car parked on the edge of the road and it does not seem right to me, I call 911 instead of walking up and looking into the car.


Before I ran away from home, when I lived with my father and Ann, my stepmother, almost every day I had to wash and dry clothes. I would fold or hang them all, and Ann would put them away. When it came to my room, Ann would wait until I was asleep, come into my room, put the lights on, and wake me up! If I acted as if I were still sleeping, she would grab the back of my hair and lift me up to make sure I was awake.

Sometimes I try to think of something good I could say about my stepmother. I cannot.

Every night at bedtime, we would be expected to kiss my father and Ann good night. I would rather have gotten a beating than kiss either of them. I remember going to school with two black eyes. They made me wear dark glasses and say that I had poison ivy in my eyes. The last thing I wanted to do was to kiss either of them.

This attitude rolled over to my adult life. Some of my in-laws seem to hug and kiss everyone within reach. It seems that they could hate a person and still hug and kiss that person. I used to not hug and kiss my closest friends, unless I had to. I’ve gotten a little better at it, but not much. When I do have a genuine affection for somebody, then we do hug and kiss.


Approximately a year after Aunt Jennie took me in, my father came to Aunt Jennie’s house and told us that Ann had changed and that I should come home. Aunt Jennie started crying and told me not to go!

That day, I moved everything to my closet at my father and Ann’s house. The next day I received a telephone call from Ann, saying the house was on fire. When all was said and done, the fire started in my closet. Ann had been going through my things with her cigarette hanging out of her mouth and the fire started! I lost everything but the clothes on my back, my car, and my dog. My father and Ann had their house redone, making it better than it had been. My losses were not repaid.

Sometimes, when I hear on the news of a child who has killed a parent, I think I wish that I had mustered the courage to kill Ann.

I think about Ann’s going through my things that first day after I had moved back home from Aunt Jennie’s house, because my father said that Ann had changed. Ann had her cigarette hanging out of her mouth, which caused that fire in my closet. Oh yes, Dad, she really had changed!

It is hard for me to justify or even understand the many stupid decisions in my life. Certainly, childhood abuse played a role.

I remember a special Saturday afternoon at Aunt Jennie’s house. Aunt Jennie was downstairs, and I was upstairs. All of a sudden, Aunt Jennie yelled to me, “Mary, Ann just pulled up front.” I ran to the bathroom and threw up. That never happened before or since.


We are serializing on my blog this memoir, Kidnapped Twice, by Mary E. Seaman and me. It was published by Outskirts Press, and is available in paperback and ebook formats from and other on-line booksellers.

See also my site

"They Make Me a Person," Ch. 19, memoir BUT...AT WHAT COST

I read an autobiography by Gertrude Bell a while back. She was recounting her experiences with the people of the Middle East during the late eighteen hundreds. As soon as I read the line “they make me a person,” I knew it captured the essence of what my Chinese students did for me. They made me a person.

I’d heard their culture reveres teachers and old people, but I’d never seen it in action – nor did it play out as I expected. I expected them to be appreciative and respectful and maybe bow a lot, but I didn’t know a little respect would make me feel so darned happy. I have been many things to many people: a mother, a daughter, a grandmother, an in-law, a businesswoman, a volunteer, and a friend – fulfilling roles all, but none of those roles boosted my ego quite as much as Chinese graciousness did.

I didn’t know why it was happening; I only knew I looked forward to a session with these young Chinese students as much as I look forward to a visit from the grandchildren, or a spring morning in the garden, or Christmas. I was infatuated with these people, but I didn’t know why.

Now, I’m guessing we older Americans just aren’t used to receiving so much positive attention from younger people. That is not to say that young Americans or my other students from other countries don’t respect me; they do. But, there is a difference. Excepting family gatherings, genuine social interaction between generations is very rare in Western cultures.

Granted, my Asian students were very grateful for the service I provided, and the Chinese equivalent of Miss Manners must demand they show their appreciation. However, they did not need to make me an honored guest at their weddings, bring me presents on Mother’s Day, or share their families’ New Year feasts with me.

I guess Chen said it best. He had treated me to a day in NYC’s Chinatown, and while we were eating dinner I commented that few American men of his age (30) would choose to spend so much time with a person twice his age. He laughed and said, “We like old people.”

When I told Connie of my infatuation with all this attention she said, “Well, they like you.” Yes, they do, but Randy and Sue and their friends like me too (I think), but I don’t get invited to their parties, nor do I expect to be. I attend Beth and Andrew’s parties, but they have little choice because I stay in their home when I visit. When I’m there I, too, get invited to parties they’re invited to, but I don’t think it’s because anyone wants me there; it seems more a courtesy.

The generations just don’t mix much in America. In my memory, they never have… at least not by choice, or often, or for very long. That’s too bad. I like being “a person.”

We are serializing Judy Axtell's blog here. Her book was published by Outskirts Press, and is available from on-line booksellers, including I am proud to have served as coach and editor.

See also my site,

Saturday, February 14, 2015

School Days, Continued, from KIDNAPPED TWICE


I was always made to play sports with Norman, Ann’s son, my step-brother. When we played baseball, he wanted to be the pitcher, I had to be the catcher. When he wanted to play basketball, I had to play also. In fact, I had to play basketball almost every night, after I cleaned up from supper.

At school they had a New York State basketball contest for foul-shooting ability. I won by making all 25 of my 25 attempts. I was given a nice trophy, which made Norman’s mother very mad. I never saw that trophy again!


While I was in high school, my father warned some of the boys to keep away from me. I don’t know how many boys my father called, but I do know of two for sure.

One was a boy who lived right next to school and would go home for lunch. I would have my lunch and then walk back to school with him. We were friends, and that was all. We had great conversations, but never even held hands. We were just friends. My father told him to keep away from me.

When we have had class reunions, he has waited for me to show up. The last one I attended, we all met for a boat ride up the Hudson River, and, as usual, he and I sat and talked throughout the trip.

The incident with the second boy occurred when I was going into my senior year in high school. Every day, everybody would stand around talking. I noticed a nice-looking guy, and I guess he noticed me. After he graduated, he sent me a letter in which he said he would like to take me to a movie. My father called him and his parents and told them never to contact me again. Odd.

No wonder everyone from my high school days remembers me!


One of Ann’s favorite things to do was to hide behind the door when I would open the kitchen door to enter the house. She would grab the back of my hair and drag me around the house. I still remember the hurtful and disgusting words she would call me!

I was responsible for the cleaning of the house, which would take some of my weekday evenings and pretty much the entire weekend.

On one of those hair-pulling and -dragging occasions, she had a bucket of water and ammonia. She pushed my face into the bucket, at which time I passed out. From that point on, I had to clean everything with ammonia.


I was the student who took around the attendance lists to the classrooms every morning. I would go to the main office to pick up the lists and start delivering them. I was a fairly good student in most of my classes, but my grades were never good enough for my father and Ann. If I got a B+, it should have been an A. If I got an A, it should have been an A+. This was even though I never had much time left for homework at home.

One day, as I was waiting for the attendance list, I noticed a pile of new, blank report cards. I took one and started making out my own report card. For a time it relieved my stress level at report card time, until I put myself on the honor roll by mistake! Well, all hell broke loose, and I was punished hard for that, but I did deserve it. This time they really did have something to punish me for. I had to work twice as hard to bring my grades back up, and deal with the madness at home.

It has taken me years to realize that some of my teachers and principals were trying to watch over me. The Principal would have me baby-sit his children. The English teacher, Mr. Bouton, would ask me every day to stay after class and erase the chalk board. Mr. Krug shocked me one day, as I always sat in the front row. He said, “Has everyone noticed what beautiful blue eyes Mary has?” I wanted to crawl under my desk.


One day in high school we were having music class. Mrs. Callahan was the substitute teacher that day. She was playing the piano and asked me to sing while she played. I don’t know why it all came out sounding so good that day, because I normally was scared to death singing in front of anyone. When we were finished, she stood up and said to the class, “Take a good look at Mary now because she’s going to really be somebody.” As you will read here, I never became that somebody.

After I got out of school, most people who were in my life never knew that I could sing.


The day I left home, intending the departure to be forever, I was 16, just recently graduated from high school. I had a job that was on the second shift, so I waited for Ann and her sister to leave the house to do their daily shopping. I put what I could into a paper bag and left. I went to the town park, as I had every intention of sleeping in a small shed the town had on its property.

My cousins were at the park, and I told them what I was doing. They went to Aunt Jennie and came back to tell me to go to Aunt Jennie’s house. That day I started living with Aunt Jennie, and for the first time since I had been with my grandmother, I was not afraid. I was happy!


In contrast, I remember my real mother, Elaine, coming to visit me while I was living with Aunt Jennie. Aunt Jennie had told me that she always liked my real mother. My mother and I took a walk. I was much taller than she was. She told me that I had a cleft chin, but I had no idea what that was back then. She was blonde and pretty. That’s all I remember, except that she gave me a pearl ring, which I wore for many years.

Ann angrily accused my father of giving me that ring. She carried on about that ring for a long time.


We are serializing in this blog the memoir KIDNAPPED TWICE; Then Betrayed and Abused, by Mary E. Seaman and myself. It tells of the long-lasting effects of child abuse by Mary's step-mother and father. It also describes her efforts to help her own step-daughter, and it shows her love of all animals. The book is available in paperback and ebook formats from and other online book sellers.

My other site is

"The Joys of Tutoring," Ch. 18, BUT...AT WHAT COST

  While nothing can quite compare to being a gramma (the kids’ name for me), tutoring came close. I liked wallpapering and it was a worthy challenge, but tutoring was more personally satisfying. Prior to joining Literacy Volunteers of America (LVA), most of my accomplishments had been physical ones. Getting old sucks. Setting up staging in a stair-well and climbing around like a mountain goat while wall papering were very physical. I was far from being a great athlete, but I had coached Little League softball for many years, played competitive softball and volleyball well into my fifties, and played tennis until I ruptured my Achilles tendon playing tennis when I was 59. I couldn’t sing anymore, at least not as well as I wanted to. I couldn’t play sports anymore, at least not competitively. I didn’t want to hang wallpaper anymore because it was no fun doing it alone once Amy had moved to Georgia, and after the Achilles injury it was too physically demanding except for small jobs. As I said, “Getting old sucks.”

Tutoring saved me from entering a vegetative state. My brain still worked, so that’s the direction I headed. My long-time friend, Al Bojman, and his mother, Joan, had been after me for years to give it a try. She loved it, thought I would be good at it, and used Al as her recruiter.

Enter assignment number one: Ying was a returnee to the program. She had been in the States for two years and was living with and working for her brother in a local Chinese restaurant. She worked from eleven a.m. until ten p.m. six days a week, so we arranged to meet from nine to ten-thirty on Tuesday and Friday mornings. We got off to a slow start. I was inexperienced, and she was shy and entirely too polite. All that smiling and nodding had me completely fooled into thinking she was learning. Not!

Somewhere in the middle of our third session she allowed her eyes to glaze over. A definite breakthrough. I adjusted my technique and we got on track. Two sessions after we achieved a comfort zone, students number two and three arrived on the scene. They walked in the LVA room with Ying, said “Hi” and sat down.

Ying said, “You teach, okay?”

Well, I had no idea if it was okay or not, but they were sitting there smiling, waiting for me to say something. I turned to the new arrivals and said, “My name is Judy.” I got a smile and a nod from each. I tried again, “You are?” Nothing. “Your name is?” Nothing – no waiting for glazed eyes with these two.

Oh, my, I thought as my eyes glazed over, too. Fortunately, Ying noticed my dilemma and jumped in for the introductions. Lan knew a few waitress-related words, but Lin’s English vocabulary started and ended with “Hi.”

I’d been through many, many hours of training, but I was not really prepared for such low-level students. Ying was a level two; these were zeroes. I picked up my bag, thanking the language Gods I’d brought it that day, grabbed a few props to demonstrate actions and got to work. “Put the spoon in the cup. Put the cup on the table.”

I was immediately hooked. I simply LOVED working with lower-level students… and there was no shortage of them in Middletown’s Chinese restaurants. They just kept coming and coming. It got so I couldn’t buy Chinese food in Middletown; someone in every place that sold Chinese seemed to know who I was and wouldn’t take my money. I only took advantage once in a while. “You come eat Mother’s Day.”

“Okay.” Such a gracious people.

The best side-effect of my tutoring years was learning about cultural influences. My attention to culture was inspired both by my training, which emphasized not offending – as if we were a bunch of American chauvinists, and my up-close, personal observations of my students. The first few years, I was bathed primarily in Eastern Patterns of Culture because I worked almost exclusively with Chinese students. Afterwards, my horizons expanded to include other Eastern, Middle Eastern, and South American countries. My exposures were very revealing and in many ways confirmed my sociological beliefs and subsequent political evolution.


We are serializing on my blog Judy Axtell's
BUT...AT WHAT COST: A Skeptics Memoir,  available in paperback format from and other online book sellers. This chapter foreshadows her transition from liberal to conservative. I am proud to have coached Judy and to have edited the book.

My other site is




Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Double Your Money in a Day

Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D.

If you are like me, you are exposed to many advertisements and emails offering to tell you, for a fee, how to get rich quick. My free advice comes without charge.

I’ve got nothing against getting rich, and quicker is better. I’ve decided to tell you how to double your cash in a day and to offer to sell you my special course on quadrupling your cash that same day.

First, though, I must offer the usual disclaimers: past performance is no guarantee of future results, and you should consult your own financial advisor if you are not sure you understand the method, its potential, and its risks.

The method need not take a whole day, but I’ll assume it will take you that long to reach and return from a place that offers high-stakes roulette, like Atlantic City or Las Vegas.

When you get there, spend about half an hour watching the roulette wheel. If black numbers come up surprisingly often, much more than half the time, then eventually you are going to bet on black, as in the expression “being in the black.” Conversely, if the machine shows some strong preference for the red numbers, go with the red. Do not accept the fallacy of “the maturity of the odds,” which would indicate that seeing lots of reds mean a black is overdue. No, unless the wheel is askew, black and red should each be the result about half the spins, except for those pesky green values 0 and 00.

You are about ready to take the opportunity to double your money. Put it all on black or all on red, preferably when some other big bettor is taking the other color, so the house has no incentive to cheat, if it could. Approximately half the time, you will win (except for 0 and 00 results). Stop right there, collect your money, and you will have doubled it. Walk out and do not return.

If you should happen to have invested in the wrong color and lost, you can treat this as a valuable lesson, perhaps deductible as a business educational expense.

Yes, it is possible to gamble on the stock market, taking options, perhaps highly leveraged, and doubling your money if the market goes up that day as you predict (if you are a bull) rather than down or if it goes down (if you are a bear) as you predict, but the odds are not nearly so clear as they are with roulette.

Normally, this kind of appeal would have testimonials from successful practitioners of my method. Since I have just announced it, however, there has not been time for the successes to mount up and happy users to write glowing reports. If there were to be some who did not find success with my method and if they were churlish enough to write unpleasant comments, I would try to be man enough to include them, also. We rarely do see such negative reports printed, however.

For a limited time, those of you who contact me will be given the opportunity to register for my somewhat expensive course on quadrupling your money in one day. [Hint: it may involve betting twice in a row at roulette.]

“He must be kidding,” some of you will respond. You’d be correct.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

"Daddy's girl---keep away!" from KIDNAPPED TWICE


One day while I was in middle school, my name was announced over the public address system, and I was told to go to the nurses office ASAP.

I thought, “Oh, God, what now?”

As I entered the nurse’s office, a classmate of mine was hurling herself from one end of the office to the other. Her name was “Ella.“ The nurse asked me if I knew what kind of seizure Ella was having and what medication she was on. I looked at the nurse as if we both were crazy. How in God’s name would I know that?

Then the nurse said, “Just help me with her, so I can call an ambulance.”

We both struggled with Ella for what felt like hours, trying to stop her from hurting herself.

That night after school I received one of the worst beatings from Ann, who yelled at me and told me that I was never to speak to Ella again! My father came home and gave me another beating, yelling the same words.

I learned much later that Ella was my mother’s niece, my cousin. How did the nurse know this, but I didn’t?

As I write this down, I feel as though Ann and my father were both crazy. I think about that Christmas Day when she pushed me down the cellar stairs, Ann could have killed me. Maybe she was trying to.


My father was drunk one night in his bedroom with a shotgun. He fired one shot through the wall, at which point Ann grabbed me, threw me in the room with my father, and shut the door. I have no idea what I said or did, but I got out alive.

Another night, this same crazy Ann came into my room and grabbed me by my hair and pulled me out of bed and told me to look out my window. My father was walking down the street. She screamed at me, “See that: I would not give him a piece of a– – , and that’s what he does.” I still do not understand what her plan was in making me see him walking along the street.

Many, many nights, I would lie awake, thinking that if I went out the window and ran away, where could I go? Where could I go where no one would bring me back to this hell? I have never known why Ann hated me so. I was just a little girl.


My grandfather adored me. He called me his “little monkey" for many years. As soon as Ann heard him call me that, she told me–from that first day on–that he called me this because I was ugly.

When it came time for obtaining school clothes to begin the new year, my father would tell my grandfather he needed money for my clothes. They never bought me the clothes with that money. One of Ann's sisters had married a man with a daughter who was my age. I would get her hand-me-down clothes, not new ones. What they did with my grandfather's money is not known to me.

On many occasions Ann would not give me lunch money, and I would not be able to eat lunch on those days.

On one occasion that I remember, I needed a notebook for class, for which Ann would not give me the money. I went to my Aunt Jennie's daughter Anna to ask her to lend me the money so I could get the notebook at the school store. The next time I did get lunch money, I paid Anna back.

I do not know if my father knew that I was not given lunch money. I would not tell him, because I knew I would end up getting a beating by Ann. Getting no lunch was better than enduring one of her beatings.


I was allowed one friend, a girl named Bernadine, who lived on the next street down from us.

One Saturday, I had just finished my cleaning, so I was allowed to walk to Bernadine’s house. I no sooner got there than my father called to tell me to “get my ass home right away.” I remember being very scared, trying to figure out what I could have done wrong. When I got home, my father was behind the door where Ann usually stood. He grabbed me, slapped my face, and told me to go to the living room.

Once I did, he told me to look behind the chair. There was a big pile of poop, which I was told to clean up. I got some rags to pick it up, but it was fake! I still don’t understand to this day what was on their minds, as no animals were ever mine in that house. I don’t understand why I was not allowed to go back to Bernadine’s house that day, either.


I was always made to play sports with Norman, Ann’s son, my step-brother. When we played baseball, he wanted to be the pitcher, I had to be the catcher. When he wanted to play basketball, I had to play also. In fact, I had to play basketball almost every night, after I cleaned up from supper.

At school they had a New York State basketball contest for foul-shooting ability. I won by making all 25 of my 25 attempts. I was given a nice trophy, which made Norman’s mother very mad. I never saw that trophy again!


While I was in high school, my father warned some of the boys to keep away from me. I don’t know how many boys my father called, but I do know of two for sure.

One was a boy who lived right next to school and would go home for lunch. I would have my lunch and then walk back to school with him. We were friends, and that was all. We had great conversations, but never even held hands. We were just friends. My father told him to keep away from me.

When we have had class reunions, he has waited for me to show up. The last one I attended, we all met for a boat ride up the Hudson River, and, as usual, he and I sat and talked throughout the trip.

The incident with the second boy occurred when I was going into my senior year in high school. Every day, everybody would stand around talking. I noticed a nice-looking guy, and I guess he noticed me. After he graduated, he sent me a letter in which he said he would like to take me to a movie. My father called him and his parents and told them never to contact me again. Odd.

No wonder everyone from my high school days remembers me!


Mary Seaman's memoir, which I co-authored, is available in paperback and ebook formats from on-line retailers such as

My writing-editing-coaching site is

"Joys," Ch. 17, BUT...AT WHAT COST

CHAPTER 17 Joys: Here Come the Grandkids

I don’t think I can add much perspective on this topic. With few exceptions, grandparents are the beneficiaries of having the best job on earth. We can love the kids, look after the kids, spoil the kids, and then hand them back. For the most part, we are not constrained by fear and/or guilt, and/or outsider judgments. The parents will be blamed for everything, no matter what.

As far as I know, this has always been true, and it changes one’s perspective… and perhaps one’s child-rearing choices. My kids and their spouses are terrific parents, but they’ve had to think about it a hell of a lot more than I ever did. Sure, I was judged as a parent, but there weren’t so many insane rules then. My kids’ generation has been nit-picked nearly to death by experts – so they tend to be much more nervous about their child-rearing duties than I ever had to be. As I said before, the kids are fine; it’s the moms who have suffered the most from the interference. Anyway, grandparents are relieved from all that pressure; we are free to enjoy!

Randy and Sue had Zach in ’92, Sam in ’94, and Molly in ’96. Beth and Andrew had Evan in ’96 and Trent in ‘01. As Sue’s doctor said to Randy in the delivery room after Zach was born, “You can bring in that grandmother floating around the waiting room, now.” Floating, indeed. I don’t know if there’s a happiness comparable to that happiness. The pure joy is exquisite, and was present for each addition to the family. God’s plan or Mother Nature’s plan (whichever one chooses to believe) is a darned good one. It’s no wonder the grandmothers of the world start nagging about having children as soon as they dare. It feels so good to have little ones around again.

The only minor run-in I had with the new rules was when I was babysitting for Zach. I dislocated his elbow when I was helping him get on my lap. I was horrified and called Sue at the hospital where she was working. By the time she got home, Zach was sleeping (somewhat uncomfortably, I presume), but his pediatrician said to wait until morning to bring him in. I stayed over-night so I could watch Sam while she took Zach to the doctor. Needless to say, I felt so bad, l couldn’t sleep.

I found out later that someone at work had asked if the kids were safe with me… if I might have hurt Zach on purpose. This was at the height of all the “abuse” scandals. Everyone was subject to scrutiny. Now, I’m all for children being protected from abuse, but in days gone by, that question NEVER would have been asked without cause. It seems everyone’s first impulse when a kid gets hurt these days is to blame somebody else – like the caretaker. I was to blame in this case, but in this new world culture that calls spanking “abuse”, I could have been arrested.

Later, Randy experienced much the same reaction from the professionals when he called an ambulance for Sam. Sam had hit his head on a bed frame while fighting or horsing around with his brother, and was bleeding profusely. Rand couldn’t stop the bleeding and Sam wasn’t answering his questions, so he called 911. By the time help arrived, they weren’t needed, but once the process is started, it must continue. Randy was interrogated like a criminal… or at least that’s how he felt for a while.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of innocent people have been prosecuted and convicted of child abuse by the overzealous or the vengeful. Thousands, if not millions have been falsely accused. That’s how it is now.

As I said, children should be protected, but…at what cost to normal loving parents? It’s rather like trying to raise your kids with the sword of Damocles hanging over your head. I have nothing but sympathy for today’s parents. It’s a much more judgmental world in that area.

This grandma, however, had it great! I was lucky enough to be needed on occasion… and lucky enough to be left to my own devices and rules of discipline. I was free to be me.

I think this was good for the kids, too. One of the illusions created by the advice-givers is the belief that if kids are treated the same, the results will be the same. First, it would be awfully boring if everyone turned out the same, but second, it just won’t happen. They created a one-size-fits-all dynamic for raising children that everyone should follow… present a united front and all that. I don’t know that any expert actually said that, but the sum total of receiving all that advice made us (or many of us) infer that message… that there is one right way and a bunch of wrong ways of disciplining kids – all kids, regardless of their different temperaments, talents and tendencies. What nonsense!

I think having grandparents in kids’ lives serves a great purpose – one that parents alone can’t provide. With us they are exposed to different ideas, different expectations, different rules, and different personalities. Vive la difference! Is there a better way to learn about people and the personal AND generational differences between them? Exposures = learning.

I and all my old friends have noticed some pretty significant differences between the behaviors of our kids with us and the behaviors of our grandkids with their parents. Our kids never (okay, hardly ever) talked back to us or their teachers. Not so with the grandkids; they sometimes argue with their parents as if they were peers. For better or worse, those rules changed. A lot of the rules for acceptable behaviors changed when parents and teachers followed the advice of the self-esteem “experts.”

Thankfully, by the time Rand’s kids arrived, I had discounted their mandates and responded naturally to the kids. When I was angry, they knew it. They follow my rules when they are with me. They don’t talk-back to me (yet), and I’m darned sure they all know I love them more than life and that they can always depend on me.

Because Beth and Andrew live so far away, I’ve not had as many opportunities to show Evan and Trent how much I love them… or to have that love influence them the way I would have liked. Their absence leaves a big hole in my heart, and I think, a little hole in their development, too. They are great kids, though – with me or without me. Different circumstances demand different life choices, but fortunately there’s more than one good way to skin a cat – and raise kids.

As you might imagine, one of my favorite pastimes is learning about each kid as an individual. They are oh-so-different in personality tendencies, talents, and needs – in most things, really.

Zach, now 21, is a “big picture” person. He’s always been a critical thinker and a dot-connector, and quite temperamental and sensitive. He, more than the others so far, has sought my opinion and discussed “things that matter.” He’s a natural leader and a persuasive talker, and I absolutely adore having solo time with him. He always has been good at relating to adults… even when he was three and talking me into another cookie. I had him pegged to become a lawyer, but now, it seems he’s leaning toward being a golf course superintendent. His degree in sociology and his minor in criminal justice will be wasted, but his long-time summer job at a local golf course holds more appeal. He probably learned a lot more useful information there than in college. Anyway, that’s his take on it and I agree.

Sam (19) is a math whiz and a star athlete… and very patient. He has a heart condition which neither he nor his parents have allowed to define him. Though he’s supplied me many pride-filled moments on the soccer field, I think I am most proud of his “roll with the punches” attitude. If a door closes, Sam opens a new one. We mostly talk sports, but he allows me to ask about his extremely busy social life and girlfriend situations – fun, fun, fun. There was a time I thought Sam might be a Lothario by profession – very popular with the ladies – but he’s studying to be an actuary. Guess he can be both.

Molly (17) reminds me of me when I was seventeen. She does it all. She has jobs as a restaurant hostess and a soccer referee, volunteers, participates in every club she can, and still makes time to bake cookies and trim the Christmas tree with Grandma. There the resemblance ends. She was homecoming queen and is in Math Club and intends to be a dentist – much more ambitious, more popular and prettier than I ever was. What a delightful, hard working girl!

Evan (17) is my “viva la difference” kid. A visual learner and anxiety-ridden, Evan has had a heavy cross to bear, which makes me admire her more than any of the other kids. She’s also caused me more distress, but that comes with the territory. Evan is brilliant and a gifted artist, but nothing is easy for her – many “normal” acts require large amounts of courage for her to complete... and that contributes to making her perceptions a little quirky and her approach to life quite different from the average kid. Sometimes appreciating those differences is difficult, but man, if you can, she will broaden your horizons. She has flashes of insight that go far beyond what her years and general knowledge should allow. Her brain just connects dots and BAM – she “gets it.” Love that and love her! You will find the right niche for you, Evan!

Trent (12) is the musician of the crew. Others have dabbled, but I think (and hope) he is the one who will stick with it. From the time he was four or five and we were singing kiddie songs together, I marveled at his impeccable timing. After trying out violin and guitar, he seems to have settled on drums – good choice, I think. I’m hoping he will sing too, but who knows? Trent is Mr. Charming, a very socially adept guy, who talks to everybody including strangers on the street if they interest him. (Don’t worry, he won’t go anywhere with them.) So far, Trent is a jack-of-all- trades, master of none, so I don’t have a clue what he’ll end up doing. Too soon to tell – but he’ll be good at it, whatever it is.

Readers outside the family probably aren’t much interested in my grandkids, their accomplishments, or my take on them, but there is a larger message. As Judith Harris pointed out years ago in The Nurture Assumption (I’m paraphrasing, but she cited much research that proves): kids are born different, and while parents can make their kids’ lives happier or sadder, they will not influence their outcomes as much as genes and peers (culture) will. The differences in my own kids formed my thesis; my grandkids prove it.

I was lucky; I have five smart, hard-working, sensible, productive, and beautiful grandchildren. Their genes have dealt each a different winning hand that with the proper influences, serves each well. As a grandmother, I must accept that I won’t and shouldn’t matter very much in the long run. I’m just here to enjoy them, make them happy when I can… and, I hope, provide a little food for thought when I can, too.


We are serializing Judy Axtell's memoir here. I am proud to have been coach and editor for it.

My writing-coaching-editing site is

Sunday, February 1, 2015

"Every day I woke up scared...." From KIDNAPPED TWICE


I remembered recently that my real mother, Elaine, did come to see me right after we had moved into the house in Cornwall. That visit was when I was approximately 7 years old. Given that her parents, my maternal grandparents, lived on the other side of the Lake from my paternal grandparents, the Seamans, a distance of a few miles at most, I assume she visited them many times thereafter, although she did not come to see me. Nor did my maternal grandparents participate at all in my growing up. My mother’s sister lived nearby, as well, and she was the mother of Ella, mentioned below.

I know Ann was the only parent at home when my mother came to visit at that time. Surprisingly, Ann allowed my mother to take a walk with me around the block! When my mother asked me how I was, I told her candidly. When we returned to our house, my mother and Ann talked in the kitchen. My mother must have told Ann what I had told her. After my mother left, I got a very severe beating from Ann and another one from my father when he got home!

When I think now about that day, I ask myself why Ann let my mother and I take that walk. Was Ann hoping that I would be kidnapped again? How I wish I had been!

On one occasion, Ann had papers in her hand and started screaming at me that those papers were proof that no one wanted me, that my mother had given me up for one dollar.

Shortly after this, Grandma got very sick and was put in the hospital. I was already being slapped by Ann, dragged around by my hair, pushed down the cellar stairs, and even whipped by my father’s belt. I had to lie facedown across the bed and Ann would stand in the doorway, telling my father he wasn’t hitting me hard enough, so he would hit me harder.

My father was drinking a lot, which was his “legacy” to us for his entire life. When you ask a drinker to tell you why and what and how, he will tell you he doesn’t remember.

On April 9, 1952, my grandmother died. Her spirit came to me and woke me up. She was standing next to my left side with a beautiful glow around her. She told me I would not be able to see and talk to her as we had done before, but she would always be with me, and I would be OK! I started crying, asking her to take me with her and stating that I was not OK. She told me that she loved me, and then she floated up through the ceiling into this beautiful light.

The evening before she died, my grandmother had wanted to see me in the hospital, but I would only stand at the bottom of her bed. I would not go to her side for many reasons: the main one was that Ann was there.

I now think Grandma came to me that special night because she wanted to say goodbye to me and let me know her spirit would always be with me.

When my grandmother was laid out for viewing in the big house after she died, no one wanted to take me to view her. My Aunt Jennie finally did take me. Grandma was in the purple dress that I had picked out for her for her birthday the year before. Strangely, she had lipstick on, and she had never worn lipstick while she was alive. I started screaming that it was not my grandmother. For just a few seconds, I had a ray of hope that they had made a big mistake, and that this really was not my grandmother.

I was only eight years old. The slapping by my stepmother Ann soon became punches to my head and stomach.

I was not allowed to play at lunchtime with the rest of the school kids. There was a line of trees around the playground. One day I took the chance of getting off the bench I was supposed to sit on, and I started playing kickball. The next thing I remember was Ann’s grabbing me, punching my face all the way back to the bench, sitting me down and telling me I would get more of a beating when I got home.

The school nurse came out and took me to her office. She cleaned me up, as my nose and mouth were bleeding. Some people came and took me to my Aunt Jennie’s house, which was only two houses down from the school. They asked me lots of questions about what happens at home. I thought that if I told them they would let me stay with Aunt Jennie.

My father and Ann came, claimed that I was lying, and made me go back with them. I never again told anyone about what was happening to me at home.

Somewhere in this daily life of pain and fear, their daughter, Marlene, was born to my stepmother and my father. It then became my job to take care of her when I got home from school and on weekends. I would walk her in her carriage every day, weather permitting, around the nearby hospital. Every minute I was with her at least I was away from Ann. As my half-sister Marlene grew up, she remembered many good times when I was with her. She would remember things that I did for her and stories I would tell her. She still thinks I’m this wonderful sister who brought her up. Everything I did was not because I was a great sister. I was just trying to survive her mother, my awful stepmother.

I had a stuffed panda bear that I loved and slept with nightly. Ann would take it every night and throw it down the cellar. After they went to sleep, I would sneak down to the cellar and get my bear. To this day I am still afraid of cellars.

Every day I woke up scared, and I went to bed scared. I never remember Ann’s hitting my half-sister, but I do remember my father’s hitting my half-sister once. I will explain that later.

My stepmother and her sister would go shopping every day, no matter what the weather was. In the summer, no matter how hot, I was responsible to take care of my half-sister in the car. One summer day I had changed her diapers so many times that there were no clean ones left. When Ann came back, she took the diaper off my sister, and I held the girl on my lap, at which point she pooped all over me. This remained all over me for hours as Ann laughed and laughed. To this day I hate shopping.


We are serializing on my blog the new memoir, KIDNAPPED TWICE: Then Betrayed and Abused, by Mary E. Seaman and me, recently published by Outskirts Press, and available from them and from and other on-line publishers.

My writing-editing-coaching site is


"Sorrows," Chapter 16, BUT...AT WHAT COST

Beth and Andrew were already settled in Atlanta, and Randy and Sue had been married for two months, when my mother died. Unfortunately, my completely empty nest, combined with the natural let-down after the wedding bustle, turned me into a workaholic. Amy, my new business partner (Alice had moved to Vermont), and I took on every job offered… leaving me little time for my parents. Mom had been too ill to make it to Rand’s wedding reception, but somehow I didn’t recognize how close the end was until she called and asked if I had forgotten about her. I had. I had gone two weeks without calling or having them out for dinner. Unheard of. And of all the dumb times to check out! That was the only time she ever laid a “guilt trip” on me… but boy, am I glad she did. She was dying.

Through sheer determination, Mom had lived five years longer than her surgeon had predicted after her third mitral valve replacement in 1981. The last three years (until February, 1991), however, were Hell for her. I am crying as I think of her struggle and try to write this, twenty-some years after the fact. Grief never goes away – especially for atheists who can’t see the Heavenly light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

I’ve always wished I were a believer for that reason. Belief in an after-life can mitigate the suffering and sense of loss in survivors if they can envision their loved ones in a better place.

That place doesn’t exist for me, so I am left with only the images of her heroic struggles. Alice spoke at Mom’s funeral and recounted some of them. Her favorite memory and mine was of my mother’s standing or often sitting in her hillside garden, raking with her long-handled miniature rake. That image tells it all. She never saw herself as helpless; she always found a way to accomplish her goal… despite the fact she could barely breathe and, due to her stroke, had only one hand that could grasp.

On Valentine’s Day, only days before she would enter the hospital for the last time, she cooked dinner for us. Dad must have helped (you can’t peel potatoes with one hand), but she made a full meal and entertained us with joy in her heart. She knew; I know she knew – and was doing her best to banish any guilty thoughts we might bear. That was Mom; she really understood human frailties and forgave them.

I was with her when she died after being comatose for two days. I talked to her almost the whole time because the nurses said she could still hear and that I should try to convince her that it was okay to let go. The woman visiting the patient in the next bed had to leave the room because she was crying as much as I was as she listened to my eulogy to my dying mother. I said everything I needed to say, and I hoped I said everything Mom wanted to hear. There was closure, but I still cry.

I still cry for Gram, too. She’s been dead for thirty-one years, but I laugh and cry at memories of her. I am so very grateful for having had both of them as mothers, and for having the chance to have had closure with each of these two strong, wonderful women. I wasn’t with Gram when she died; I had been with her over-night, but had gone home to change my clothes. When I returned, she was dead. At least I had talked to her and held her hand the whole day and night before. Mom and Dad were with her when she died.

“Closure,” I guess, is my term for alleviating regrets. I think there’s always guilt; you can always remember something you wish you had done differently or something you wish you hadn’t said or done, but most of those “if only I had” regrets will disappear if you have the chance to be there at the end. At least, that’s how it was for me anyway. It was a comfort for me to be there. Beth made it back North in time to say her good-byes, too.

As I get older and am more prone to facing my own mortality, I realize “closure” may not be as important as I thought. That is, it’s important to the survivors, but perhaps for the wrong reasons. Assuaging one’s guilt (or heading it off at the pass) really isn’t a very noble reason to do anything. Wanting to be there for your loved one is a better reason. But, not to worry – old, dying people “get it.” Sometimes, for some people, some things are just too hard to do. And that’s okay.

Mom’s death brought a whirlwind of activity for me. I’ve seen this happen time and time again. It seems a loss compels some of us toward physical labor. Endorphins, I guess. All I know is: I accomplished more in the year after Mom died than I had accomplished in any other three years combined. I built stone walls, laid a stone path, installed a water garden, and planted a huge flower garden. I was up and out every morning at the crack of dawn hauling rocks and moving dirt… weather permitting, of course.

Amy was the one who got me hooked on gardening. She was (and is) great at garden, floral, and interior design. Ours was a great partnership. Though Amy and Alice have little in common, Amy and I found a very good business dynamic and friendship. Lucky me.

The tale I’m about to tell may be plunked in the middle of the wrong chapter, but while I’m on Amy, I’ve got to tell it. (I think I need a break from “Sorrows.”) This is funny only in retrospect, but try to picture it: I got an emergency call from my mother. “You’ve got to come in. Romeo (the neighbors’ dog) and Nipper (Dad’s huge mongrel) beat up Griz (Mom’s small Cock-a-poo), and Dad is having chest pains.”

I called Amy, my go-to person, and we sped to the rescue. Dad’s angina had disappeared once he took his pill, so nothing was critical when we arrived. However, the scene was one we will never forget. Mom, Dad, and Griz were all lined up on the couch, covered with mud and blood. “We’re okay; we’re okay,” Mom and Dad said in unison.

To which I replied, “What the hell happened?”

“Well, Romeo and Nipper attacked Griz, so we went out to separate them,” she said.

“You tried to separate them?” Mom weighed 85 pounds and had the strength of a five-year-old. “Are you crazy?”

“Dad started having chest pains, so I had to help. Then I fell down in the middle of the dog fight and Dad had to help me, and, well, that’s what happened.” I can picture it as if I’d been there: three snapping, growling dogs and my parents, ineffectually rolling around on the ground in the mud with fur and blood flying. Can’t you see it?

It turned out most of the blood that was on them belonged to Griz, but Mom’s arms were still bleeding from minor bites and scratches (she was on blood thinners, so it took awhile for clots to form). Dad had a few nips and scratches too, but nothing serious. Poor Griz needed a vet; his ear was half gone. Amy took Griz, and I stayed behind to clean up my parents. Amy and I were laughing and shaking our heads all the way home. All’s well that ends well.

I needed that literary break, but now back to Dad’s struggles with grief and loneliness. If weather didn’t permit my gardening pursuits, I wrote essays or went to see Dad. He was struggling, big time. I notice the word “struggle” has appeared, yet again. Ordinarily, I’d be checking the thesaurus for a synonym, but not this time. Life is often a struggle –and there is no better word to describe it. His anxieties about being alone forced him back to the bottle again. Grief was but a part of the cause.

I think there is usually a profound sense of relief when a long-sick person dies. I know I felt it. It was as if a yoke was lifted from my shoulders. We had spent years fearing the inevitable. At the worst times, it was a very heavy yoke; sometimes only a faint dark shadow, but it was damned near always lurking. When the worst has happened, it’s gone, and recognizing the relief for what it is can overcome you with guilt. Yes, life is hard.

Dad had an additional cross to bear, well, three added crosses actually. In a matter of days, he went from being a full-time caregiver to a man with no purpose. One of my favorite memories of Mom’s and Dad’s relationship was the vision of his checking her before they left the house. “Okay, Oma, let’s have a look at you,” he’d say. She’d turn around with a grateful smile, and he’d grab her pants by the waist band, lift her up, and shake her into them. (She could never get the left side up all the way.) They’d laugh and out the door they’d go. From that kind of attentiveness to nothing is not an easy transition.

We also lost Nana, Dad’s mother, the same week we lost Mom. I don’t even remember who died first; that’s how overwhelming that week was for us – but especially Dad. Aunt Bernice was going through the same “what do I do, now” transitions Dad was experiencing. There weren’t enough tears to go around to all those who needed tears shed for them.

Dad also, I would later learn, had a very real fear of being alone. He alluded to his fear the night of Mom’s funeral, “I can’t be alone, Judy. I need to find another woman right away.” He was drunk and crying and I didn’t think too much of it at the time. Only years later when I myself was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder did I truly understand what he was feeling.

Evelyn moved in with him inside of six months. Randy, who was very close with his Oma, was more than a little annoyed, but got over it when he saw Pop was happy. I did too. Evelyn was a good ol’ gal and they were googly-eyed in love. It’s never too late!

I have another story about my dad. As I remember Mom on the hill with her child’s rake, I often think of Dad as he bandaged Mom’s Uncle Harold’s leg ulcers. I never saw that in person, but the scene is easy to imagine. My father had no real connection with Harold, but when he found out through the family grapevine that Harold needed help, he took it upon himself to step in. This was after Mom had died and Evelyn was living with him, yet he went to dress Harold’s wounds every day for weeks. I don’t know many people who would have done that, but that was Pop; he cared.

He could embarrass the hell out of you when he partied hearty, but he was one of the more caring people you could ever meet. We want our heroes to be pure heroes and our villains to be pure villains, but that is seldom, if ever, the case in real life. Sometimes we forget that.


We are serializing on my blog Judy Axtell's new book, BUT...AT WHAT COST: A Skeptic's Memoir, now available through its publisher, Outskirts Press, as well as through and other on-line publishers.

I am proud to have coached Judy and edited her story of her transformation from liberal to conservative.