Short essays by Douglas Winslow Cooper, Ph.D., the author of TING AND I: A Memoir of Love, Courage and Devotion, published in September 2011 by Outskirts Press (Parker, CO, USA), available from outskirtspress.com/tingandi, Barnes and Noble [bn.com], and Amazon [amazon.com], in paperback or ebook formats. Please visit us at tingandi.com for more information.
Tuesday, February 11, 2020
UNDERSTANDING SASSIE, Ch. 29, Valerie's Story
ane was in her office working on the unending pile of
paperwork. I’m so glad that Mike sent
Donald to me! she thought. He has not only been able to do many of the
repairs but has been a kind and compassionate dog walker as well.
noticed that Ruth had begun to work with Donald in ways that made the shelter
tasks easier for all the volunteers. Donald and Ruth were constantly in and out
of her office bringing updates, as well as laughter. Jane also noticed that a
lot of the expenses had decreased since Donald started volunteering. I don’t know how they do it, but I am glad
that they are working together here, Ruth thought.
farm, Mary had found one of the old family photo albums and was enjoying the
memories of times gone by. “Mom, what did you think when you first held me when
I was born? I was a first-born child; did you count my toes and have any
special thoughts?” Mary asked as she looked at her baby photos.
were not my first child,” Mom replied.
Mary looked up at her mother and asked, “What did you say?”
no longer paying any attention to Mary and refused to answer any more
questions. “I’m reading” was the only response Mom would give.
looked from the photo album to her mother. Not understanding what she thought
her mother had said, she put the album aside and decided to go to the kitchen
to prepare a cup of tea. Ruth will be
home soon. Maybe she can explain what I thought I heard, Mary decided.
as Ruth came in the door, she was greeted with a happy dance from Sassie and a
sister who wanted answers to a confusing question. Ruth was petting Sassie and
only half listening to Mary;
Mary asked, “Did Mom have a baby before me?”
looked at Mary in disbelief and said, “What did you just say?”
again explained what their mom had said to her. Ruth thought for a minute and
said, “Mom has never talked about her early life in New York City.”
replied, “Maybe now is a good time to have her tell us about that time.” Ruth,
Sassie, and Mary entered the living room and gently removed the book from her
you never told us about your life in New York City. We know you traveled from
Europe to America, but why did you come? Who did you meet here? When you
married Pop, we know you came to Upper New York State, but why have you never
told us your New York City story?” After asking all these questions, Mary sat
at Mom’s feet and continued to encourage her to explain.
a painful time,” Mom began, “I wanted to forget all that had happened right
after I got to this country. My name on the travel ticket was Valerie. The boat
had just landed at Ellis Island.
been arranged that I was to meet a man who would become my husband. I had
gotten very sick and was hospitalized as soon as I got off the boat. That man
never came to see me but did send word that he had met another woman and was
going to marry her. I was too sick to care.
recovered, I had no interest in going back across that ocean. I decided to make
a new life for myself here. I became a Nana for a wealthy family. I did enjoy
playing with and caring for their children.
night I was attacked and raped.
knew who attacked me, but the rape resulted in a pregnancy. Back then it was
considered the woman’s fault if she was having a baby without being married.”
began to cry as she remembered the day the baby was born. “All I knew was that
the baby was a boy. I was told that if I told no one about the baby or about
the attack, my medical bills would be paid. I had no choice but to agree. They
took my baby that day, and I never saw him again. I’ve often wondered about him
but was afraid to say anything to anyone.”
Ruth hugged their mom and tried to comfort her. Mary went to the kitchen and
made tea for everyone. When she brought out the tray, there was a batch of
sugar-free cookies along with the tea.
just like Mom!” Ruth announced as she laughed at Mary. “You both always want to
use food to soothe away our problems.” They talked for hours, but the result
was more questions than answers.
With her permission, I am serializing a chapter a week, on this blog, near-final material from this instructive novel by dog trainer Helen A. Bemis, published by Outskirts Press and available through amazon.com: UNDERSTANDING SASSIE