My younger daughter Leslie was born fighting.
My contractions were intensifying as expected. She was about ready to be born when suddenly the birthing team went from gently encouraging me to an emergency call to action. The baby’s heartbeat had changed. Something was wrong. Out came the forceps; within moments Ms. Ehm made her assisted appearance with umbilical cord wrapped around her neck. But to everyone’s delight she arrived screaming, letting the world know she meant business. I should have known then. This baby would be my Warrior Daughter.
When we left the hospital the head nurse smiled, put my daughter in my arms and said, "Here, take her. We’re glad she’s going home; she disturbed all the other babies his week." I was terribly hurt by this flippant remark. Yet looking back I now understand that Leslie was probably just leading all the other newborns in a nursery protest of some sort or another. It was the first of many other causes she would champion.
In high school the Teachers Union went on strike and there was a huge gathering of students to speak out about what their teachers were doing. Leslie begged me to allow her to go downtown to take part in the protest. I agreed, providing she wasn’t going to lead the march. That evening I turned on the news and who was in front of the cameras telling the world how she felt? My Warrior Daughter.
Twelve years ago Leslie shared important news. Though she could have had babies of her own, she felt that there were already too many children who had no one to care for them. Two trips to China later, I am the proud grandmother of two wonderful, beautiful granddaughters. Thank you Warrior Daughter for these gifts!
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I could regale you with another 100 ways this woman has both tested me and rewarded me with her fight to do what was right and good. However, I’m sure you already get the picture.
Two years ago Leslie informed me that she had joined a boxing club. This would be her chosen form of exercise. I strongly voiced my mother’s objection and kept my fingers crossed she wouldn’t get hurt. "It’s just exercise, Mom," she said. "Sure, Leslie," I answered (insert eye roll).
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This week I received a mailing from her informing me that she's agreed to go three rounds in the boxing ring as part of a black tie event called "‘The Fight to End Cancer," and I was invited to attend. This is an excerpt from that email:
On May 30th, 2015, at 51 years of age, I'm going into the ring to fight. Anyone who knows me knows I've been a fighter all of my life. I always refer to it as "the good fight" - the relentless pursuit of goodness and what's "right."
Not only will I get to take on an opponent and go three rounds in a real amateur bout, I'll also get to raise my fists against the evil that is cancer. Because every drop of sweat and every punch thrown and taken will be in solidarity with those who have faced the disease and won or lost and for everyone who loved those fighters.
Of course, I’ve already made my donation to support Leslie and the plague that is cancer. But will I attend the event? I’m on the fence about that one.
What sane mother wants to pay money to possibly see their kid get beaten up? I love you fiercely, Warrior Daughter, but you must understand I just might not be ringside that night.
However, if truth be told …. I just might not be able to stay away.
If anybody reading this blog would like to support Leslie and help in the "The Fight to End Cancer" you can make your donation at: The End to Fight Cancer/LeslieEhm.
Remember no amount ($5, $10, $15) is too small. It all adds up to ‘bigger sums’ and will go towards helping Leslie reach her goal.
I feel sick about what I've done but I had no choice.
There were (and still are) two very important elders in our family. The eldest was my mother, the absolute Grande Dame of our clan. She was the epitome of graciousness and fierce determination. I can count on the fingers of one hand the times she voiced any disapproval to her children or grown grandchildren. She loved unconditionally and by the time she died at 94 she had earned an irrevocable place in our hearts.
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Her younger sister died in her 100th year. She never married; she was a feminist long before that label existed and in terms of temperament she was our family's Maggie Smith. Auntie took no guff from anybody especially not her nieces and nephews. Yet, she was exceedingly generous and loving to each one of us. She worked well into her Eighties, owned her own condo in Manhattan, and lived there until her health no longer cooperated. We loved her fiercely but my heavens was she ever strong-willed!
As the eldest daughter and niece I had a hand in the care of both of these women. I was their power of attorney and the executor of choice in their wills. I lived in a different city but I was as close to them as their telephones.
My mom died first. Within months of that loss (I hadn't even touched my mother's belongings yet) my aunt's health began to fail and I brought her to Montreal to live in my mom's condo with round-the-clock help.
And here my problems began. In her last couple of years, my feisty aunt would not allow me to sort through, repair, or take anything out of that condo. According to her, everything belonged to her and she would do as she pleased with it. If I tried to give old clothes to charity or sort through old family photos she became terribly agitated. Not wanting to upset her I left everything status quo until recently when she died.
Last month I flew to Montreal and began going through the contents of the condo to prepare it for sale. It was an emotional roller coaster ride down memory lane as I read through love letters my father sent my mother (he called her "ketzel" which is the Yiddish word for kitten). I found photos of a handsome Air Force gent my aunt had alluded to as the man shot down in the war. Was he the one? Were they lovers? I hope so!
I opened every letter, every formal document, threw out most and kept what was most important. I packed eight very small boxes of keepsakes for me and my children - cards, letters, some dishes and photos of great grandparents so that my grandchildren and their future offspring will eventually have some idea of their ancestry.
And the well-worn furniture, all the pieces that I had grown up with as a child now had to be dealt with. I called countless charities and shelters but everybody turned me down. Only one small organization agreed to come by and pick up any clothing they owned. I asked neighbours to stop in and pick from the remaining well-used items. I kept just one high back wooden chair that I can remember as far back as my fourth birthday. I couldn't bear to let that one go.
Finally, with time running out I dialed 1-800-JUNK and paid $1200 to have their household emptied. With tears in my eyes I filled countless plastic bags of family history in preparation for the truck's arrival.
Before I closed the door for the very last time I looked back at the empty condo now completely bare of any sign of the wonderful women who had lived there. All the gifts they had received in their lifetime, the recipes carefully cut from magazines, the tax returns they had filed, the furniture that that they had shopped for, the dishes that they favoured over all the others in the store had all been discarded.
I was glad that my dear mother and aunt were not there to see that I had just helped their endearing essences to disappear completely from the face of the earth. In truth, I had erased the lives of two women that our family loved so dearly. I feel sad and awful.