Living Someone Else’s Dream/Distractions NEVER Work [my Life Story part 3]

You have to temper the iron. Every hardship is an opportunity that you are given, an opportunity to grow. To grow is the sole purpose of existence on this planet Earth. You will not grow if you sit in a beautiful flower garden, but you will grow if you are sick, if you are in pain, if you experience losses, and if you do not put your head in the sand, but take the pain as a gift to you with a very, very specific purpose.

~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
“I needed to write, to express myself through written language not only so that others might hear me but so that I could hear myself.”
~ Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction
* This is not meant to be a story of endless suffering although there were times when the suffering did seem endless. Rather, it’s meant as a way to look at life or our life experience as a school where we’re given one test after another until we graduate. I think you can look at your life as a time to acquire things, become successful, famous, well respected or whatever and maybe this works when you’re young but when you get older, you find these things don’t matter at all. CP
The year before my brother Flip killed himself, I started my freshman year at Hollins College in Virginia.hollins-university-wallpapers
There was a lot of turmoil at home and I wanted to get away but I was also afraid: I had never visited Hollins and I didn’t know anyone there. My dad and stepmother told me to take a cab when I arrived at the airport in Roanoke.
I had made a special request beforehand: I did not want a roommate but when I went through orientation, I found out that I had two: Lael Kelley and Jeffrey Zeiler who we came to call Eeyore
LAEL:MEsharon, e, me
In time I became very close to both my roommates and to some of the other girls who were in the same dorm….. and we had a fun freshman year: blind dates at the nearest men’s college w and lwhich was Washington and Lee and also..
sewannee notesewanee-the-university-of-the-south-beautiful-college-south…….at The University of the South
Hitchhiking to the local bar, The Hollins Inn to get 3.2 beer and cheese burgers, staying up all night preparing for exams, Spring Break in the Bahamas etc.
We made plans to move to NYC together when we graduated. Sometimes during that year I thought about what was going on at home-my brother was threatening suicide, my parents marriage was a disaster but I pushed those thoughts and feelings far into the background.  The songs from that year California Dreamin’, The Sounds of Silence, Norwegian Wood and Like A Rolling Stone still take me right back there.
Ahh you’ve gone to the finest schools, alright Miss Lonely
But you know you only used to get juiced in it
Nobody’s ever taught you how to live out on the street
And now you’re gonna have to get used to it…
How does it feel, ah how does it feel?
To be on your own, with no direction home
Like a complete unknown, like a rolling stone
~Bob Dylan/Like A Rolling Stone
Front Quadrangle (Bradley Hall and East Building), Hollins University
So I looked forward to going back for my sophomore year-  Jeff and Lael and I had agreed to room together again.

But my path changed dramatically that August of 1966, just two weeks before I was due to return to Hollins. My brother Flip killed himself.


James Philip David Jr. ‘FLIP’ May 12, 1950-August 1966

My closest friend from high school, my dad and stepmother and I were on our way to my stepmother’s ranch in Clarendon, Texas when we stopped in Dallas at a family friend’s house and my dad got the call.
I just remember chaos after that: everyone being offered sleeping pills, driving back to our house in Houston and finding it filled with a large number of my parents friends..a lot of them drunk.
Going to the funeral home and being led across the street by Frank Derrick, the foreman of my stepmother’s ranch. Terrified of the city [he never left the ranch], he was shaking as he led us into the funeral home….stark and freezing cold.
A funeral in Houston and a 2nd one in Hinsdale, Illinois
And then I remember my parents telling me that they thought it was too soon for me to go back to school. But, they said, if I chose to go back, I shouldn’t ask to come home if I changed my mind. They had spent a lot of money.
So I went back and at first it was a distraction……for about two weeks and then my friends were tired of hearing about Flip, they wanted to get on with their lives and I fell into a terrible depression. I kept our room very dark and I slept all day, almost never coming out. Eventually I got sick-I had mono- and was sent to the infirmary.
I found some peace there in the infirmary which was like a little hospital-The doctor who took care of me seemed to understand what I was going through and later I found out why. This doctor had terminal cancer so she herself was dealing with death.
 But since it was going to be a long time before I would be well enough to go to classes, I was sent home, back to Houston. I remember it as just a time of grayness, darkness. I wanted to be alone so I stayed upstairs in what had been Flip’s room– I had a terrible sore throat and was too sick to get up. Sometimes my stepmother brought me soup but she was not happy about it
Eventually I started trying to live again..I started taking some classes at the University of Houston. It was a hot summer and the song Summer in the City said it all.

Hot town, summer in the city

Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city

All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head

~Summer in the City/The Lovin’ Spoonful

I was just surviving..
flip sympathyit seemed like every morning when I woke up, I had to remember what happened all over again.

There been times that I thought I couldn’t last for long
But now I think I’m able to carry on
It’s been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

~A Change Gonna Come/Sam Cooke

But change was coming, another distraction..a change that would make my parents happy and a distraction for me.. My stepbrother Lewis had a good friend from high school: Larry Pickard was in medical school in Galveston and Lewis got us a date.

I started going to Galveston most weekends and eventually, it was too much of an effort–driving back and forth so we decided to get married.
My parents were thrilled! It was a distraction for them too…something to plan, a future to hope for.
Larry and I got married December 28, 1967
For me, it wasn’t anything I really wanted because I didn’t really want anything. I didn’t think there was any future for me, there was nothing I wanted to career, no nothing. All I wanted was a respite from all the pain.
 And so we moved to Galveston…I got pregnant right away and then had a miscarriage-I remember the Excruciating pain-on my 21rst birthday. More darkness but I didn’t mind losing the baby. It was a girl and I did not want a girl.
I got pregnant again as soon as I could and for a time, I found the peace I was looking for. For those months I was pregnant, for the first time ever I did not feel baby boy was always with me, never leaving me and making himself known more every day.
Our son Andy was born July 30th 1969 at the beginning of Larry’s senior year of medical school.andy's little feetandy 5 wks
Sometime during that year I started drinking a lot. Larry was at the hospital much of the time and   everything I had tried to escape from was coming back to haunt me
“At the core of every addiction is an emptiness based in abject fear. The addict dreads and abhors the present moment; she bends feverishly only toward the next time, the moment when her brain, infused with her drug of choice, will briefly experience itself as liberated from the burden of the past and the fear of the future—the two elements that make the present intolerable/”
― Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction
 Larry graduated–in a matter of moments he went from Mr. to Dr. and we moved to Houston for his surgery internship. We bought a cute house…and I was more and more miserable..just a terrible feeling of emptiness that’s impossible to put into words.
I went on a quest to pick up men–anywhere and everywhere and I started cutting myself, my left arm mainly, with razor blades.

Why Do People Cut Themselves?

The motives behind cutting are often counterintuitive. For an individual who does the behavior, cutting himself is how he makes himself feel better. Often, cutting is the only way he knows how to deal with negative emotions like depression, rage, guilt, emptiness and self-hatred, according to TeensHealth.

Most people who inflict self-harm do so because they need relief from all the pent-up emotions they are experiencing. Like an addiction, these people are not in full control of their actions, but rather seek the intense relief they experience after cutting themselves.

Cutters perceive that the action provides them with positive benefits. It allows them to express their feeling and feel in control. Cutting may distract them from difficult life events, relieve guilt as it can be used as a form of self-punishment, and for some cutters, make them feel more alive…”



I loved Andy so much, with all my heart–he was all that I lived for I but did not know how be a good mother.andy:me at grandpons I believe now that he was sent to me so that I could live. His understanding about life was always far beyond mine and his mission, one anyway, was to help me survive when without him, I could not have. andy toddler

andy:giant rabbitandy:beth ann
When Andy was 5 weeks old, Larry and I went to New Orleans for a weekend. When we returned, I picked him up and held him on my lap. When I looked down at his little face he seemed to be laughing and I could hear him say “Remember me? I’m back!”  andy:me:walkBack from another time…
Everything is Going in the Wrong Direction!
Sometime during that same time period-Larry was by now a resident in General Surgery, I enrolled in an Occupational Therapy Assistant program which I wrote about in a previous post.
I was in my mid 20s, totally lost, drinking continuously-day and night and I decided to sign up for an Occupational Therapy Assistant course at Houston Community College. The class which was made up of about 25 women of all ages, went from 8am to 4pm Monday through Friday and was held in a dreadful, dark building in downtown Houston. I hated it from the beginning. I had thought that Occupational Therapy was a type of Art Therapy which I was interested in but I soon found out it had nothing at all to do with art therapy.As the year went on, I became more and more miserable and I decided to drop out. I told the woman who taught the class, I was finished but she begged me to stay, to finish the course. It was pretty close to the end of the year and she was very encouraging so I completed the course and got my certificate as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant.
That year- graduating as an Occupational Therapy Assistant did not alleviate my misery at all…maybe I even felt worse, more empty. I tried to be a wife but I could not. I remember I signed up for a cooking class and I hated it–I hate cooking to this day.. I knew I should quit drinking but I could not and I was still cutting myself with razor blades. Everything was going in the wrong direction..EVERYTHING.
I knew I had to get out of my wasn’t good for any of us but there was no support and I needed support, would be a huge step for would I make money..I didn’t know how to do anything..didn’t even know how to write a check. And I was running out of time.
*If you have found this blog helpful in some way, please make a contribution. This blog is my particular way of contributing: by hopefully passing on the wisdom of the many teachers I spent time with and learned from: Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, addictions counselor, John Bradshaw, near death survivor Dannion Brinkley and Anishnabe Elder, Dave Courchene as well as many hospice patients and Elders that were part of my life.
A few years ago I experienced a huge betrayal which changed my work and my life. I learned that ‘your best friend can be your worst enemy’ and I lost a lot: my job, my salary and I could no longer do the work I had planned to do. Looking for a way to continue, I started this blog. Part of my story is here and this is also where you can make a contribution
As we are all in some way connected in this life, I sincerely thank you for your help.
Cindy Pickard
Part 4 of ‘My Life Story’ Continued in the Next Post. I don’t know what it’s called yet but it will be much more hopeful!

FLIP [‘My life story’ continued~ Part 2]


flip:draw in between

He always wanted to say things but no one understood.
He always wanted to explain things but no one cared.
So he drew.

Sometimes he would just draw and it wasn’t anything.
He wanted to carve it in stone or write it in the sky.
He would lie out on the grass and look up at the sky and it
would be only him and the sky, and the things that needed saying.

And it was after that, that he drew the picture.
It was a beautiful picture.
He kept it under the pillow and would let no one see it.
He would look at it every night and think about it.
And when it was dark, and his eyes were closed, he could still see it.
It was all of him and he loved it.

When he started school he brought it with him.
Not to show anyone, but just to have like a friend.

It was funny about school.

He sat in a square brown desk, like all the other square

brown desks, and he thought it should be red.

And his room was a square brown room like all the other rooms.

It was tight and close, and stiff.

He hated to hold the pencil, and the chalk, with his arm stiff
and his feet flat on the floor, stiff with a teacher watching
and watching.
And then he had to write a numbers.
And they weren’t anything.
They were worse than the letters which could be something
if you put them together.
The numbers were tight and square and he hated the whole thing.

The teacher came and spoke to him.
She told him to wear a tie like all the other boys.
He said he didn’t like them and she said it didn’t matter.
After that they drew.
He drew all yellow and it was the way he felt about morning.
And it was beautiful.

The teacher came and smiled at him.
“What’s this?” she said.
“Why don’t you draw something like Ken’s drawing?
Isn’t that beautiful?”
It was all questions.

After that his mother bought him a tie and he always drew
aeroplanes and rocket ships like everyone else.
And he threw the old picture away.
And when he lay out alone looking at the sky it was big and blue.
And all of everything, but he wasn’t any more.

He was square inside and brown, and his hands were stiff,
and he was like anyone else.
And the thing inside him that needed saying didn’t need saying anymore.

It has stopped pushing.
It was crushed, stiff.
Like everything else.

* This poem was turned in to a teacher in Regina, Saskatchewan, by a senior in high school. Although it is not known if he actually wrote it himself, it is known that he committed suicide a few weeks later.

This is PART 2 of “My Life Story* which I started writing a few days ago. Part 1 is about my mother’s death when I was nine and what happened afterwards. I hadn’t planned on writing anything but a few days before, I had felt the seasons change-from Summer to Fall- and I remembered the Fall of 1954 when I was 7 years old, when my life changed suddenly and dramatically. And I thought about the many challenges – ‘windstorms’ Elisabeth Kubler-Ross would call them–  and how they have brought me to where I am today. I write for myself but maybe some of this may be helpful to someone else.

When I was starting to write, I brought in several boxes from my storage shed… boxes of old photos, newspaper articles, cards etc. …because I like to include photos in the stories I write. In one box I found several drawings my brother had made when he was little and an envelope full of letters he had written the year he was in military school.

My brother Flip killed himself when he was 16. As I read some of his letters-they were written to my dad and stepmother- and looked at his drawings,flip-drww bridge I felt tremendous sadness.. and ANGER. So Sad for Flip and SO Angry at the adults who didn’t bother to help him though they had all the resources and the money and so much warning. Too busy they were with their social life and their image.

And I thought about Flip, flip:baby

flip-2 yrsthe little boy so full of joy and I thought about his deathflip sympathy …. and how it didn’t have to happen..

As I’ve been writing ‘My Life Story’, I’ve had a lot of insights: I’ve realized where the ever present feeling of fear and dread that lives within me, comes from and why my first thought when I wake up every morning is “I wonder who died last night.”

I’ve realized too that for many of the early years of my life, I lived in a kind of isolation, a kind of emotional vacuum so I couldn’t feel the pain and the trauma. When I look back at those years, it’s as if I was alone and except for the summers in Michigan, I don’t remember much about the people around me.

And so I don’t know what Flip felt or exactly how all the losses affected him but I wanted to write something for him…..I just have a few memories that I can put into words and his drawings and letters which tell his story,..  and also a very powerful video clip about suicide from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross which I call ‘I Love You If’

Maybe this little story will bring some awareness that these things do not have to happen..


He was 3 years younger than me–.me, ruth, flipWe were a small family..just my mom and dad and Flip and me.

We lived in the village of Hinsdale, Illinois, a commuter town for Chicago.hinsdale station My dad and my grandpa took the train into Chicago every morning and almost every evening, we went to the station to meet them.

My mother was very close to her parents so our grandparents were a big part of our lives. We lived within walking distance of their house 219 redbudswhich for young children, was a wonderful magical house with gardens of lilacs and peonies, strawberries, fruit trees and all kinds of flowers…..and inside mantles and staircases of intricately carved wood and cozy fireplaces in many of the rooms.

My grandparents celebrated every season…I remember white candles in every window at Christmas, the smell of burning leaves in the Fall, flowers of every color in my grandpa’s garden in the Spring and Summers in Michigan where Lake Michigan was our front yard…..rb endless blue

It was a good life that we had but when I was 7 and Flip was 4, my dad took a job in Dallas, Texas and everything changed.. forever.

me:front porch dallasI’ve already written about this from my point of view

I don’t know how Flip was affected but I do know ruth oves flip he was very close to our mother, much closer than I was and close also to Wrighty, the woman who came to take care of us before and after our mother’s death and in some ways took her place.

My dad was much harder on Flip than he was on me…far more critical…greater expectations impossible to fulfill.

Without some help. and love and support–and there wasn’t much of that [or what there was, was taken away], it’s impossible for a young child to survive so much loss….flip:boy:tree draw

flip's lonely tree.jpg

There are just 2 memories that I have from those early years:

The first was soon after our mother died when Flip was probably 6 years old and I was 9. My dad took care of us on Sundays only and we were in his car, not any special kind of car, just a station wagon and he had just bought us milkshakes. Flip put his milkshake on the dashboard for a minute and it spilled and my dad went into a rage….then there was silence.. I remember a feeling of  shattering, shattering what was already so fragile. I remember it still.

My other memory: Every summer we spent with our grandparents at their summer cottage on Lake Michigan. We sometimes swam in the lake but it was very cold and so we learned to swim in something called ‘The Lagoon’. The Lagoon was not very deep and there was a lot of seaweed and mud on the bottom but it was much warmer than the lake. I had already learned to swim but Flip was very fearful of the water and so he hadn’t learned. But one summer when my dad was visiting and Flip was probably 8, my dad decided it was time. And so he forced Flip to jump into the water and swim to the other side  Flip did as he was ordered- he was cold and white and shaking badly when he pulled himself out…there were other kids around, kids who could swim. I could feel his terror and humiliation. And after that he didn’t spend the summers in Michigan. More shattering of what was already shattered…

He did not do well in school…my mother had tutored high school kids in the past and she worked with him but after she got sick, I think school was a very difficult and lonely place for him…. and good grades meant everything to my dad.

After my dad remarried, when Flip was 12, he started reacting to everything that had happened and he started running away. I remember the police calling when they found him.

A child psychiatrist advised my dad that Flip needed some therapy, needed help..badly

My dad however, having been in the Navydad-navy                                               during the 2nd world war

sent Flip to military school in Florida.flip:farragutI remember when Dad asked about counseling for Flip, the school administrator told him that they didn’t believe in therapy. What they believed in he said, was “turning boys into men.” Those were his  exact words.

Flip wrote quite a few letters to my dad and my stepmother the year he was in military school…It’s very hard for me to read those letters even now so many years later.

Sometimes he was asking for things he needed sent. Sometimes he was writing about his grades. Mostly I think he was just hoping someone would write him back. I doubt if they did though..they were never very good at that and I don’t think they ever visited him while he was there. Money was never an issue..they just didn’t bother…parties and golf games..those were the priorities..alwaysflip envelope

flip-letter grades

flip tennis s

Of all the letters he wrote, this was the saddest:

flip mothers day letter

“Dear Mom and Dad,

Thank you for the stamps.

Today we had our Mother’s Day Parade. It was the longest one we have had all year. A few kids fainted and goofed up but it must have looked good to the mothers because they clapped for a long time.”

and laterflips letter-gardener

He only lasted a year at military school….when he came home, he was sent todevereaux The Devereaux School in Victoria, Texas, a boarding school for children with emotional problems. Flip did not come home for a long time after that and when he finally did, my dad just could not/would not let him alone. He focused on 2 things: his hair was too long and he was smoking…. cigarettes.

Flip was home for about a week and when he left-one of his friends drove him back to school- he took one of my dad’s guns with him and he shot himself through the heart in the school gym. He was 16 years old.

There were 2 funerals for him-one in Houston and one in Hinsdale, Illinois where his life had begun. My parents bought him a new suit to wear in his casket-he never wore suits but even in death, to their way of thinking, it’s important to portray the right image.

He is buried next to our mother and our grandparents in a cemetery in Oakbrook, Illinois.


James Philip David Jr. ‘FLIP’  May 12 1950- August 1966

I did not expect to feel such terrible sadness and anger when I was writing this. Many things in my life, I have had to put in the past in order to survive and move on. I am glad though that I went ahead with writing this -really I had to.  I hope it may be helpful to someone else and be a reminder too, that things like this do not have to happen. CP

Below is a short video clip of Dr Elisabeth Kubler-Ross talking to high school kids about suicide. Please take the time to watch pretty much sums up everything I’ve been trying to say and you will not forget her message…

Also a relevant clip from The Dead Poet Society

*If you have found this blog helpful in some way, please make a contribution. This blog is my particular way of contributing: by hopefully passing on the wisdom of the many teachers I spent time with and learned from: Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, addictions counselor, John Bradshaw, near death survivor Dannion Brinkley and Anishnabe Elder, Dave Courchene as well as many hospice patients and Elders that were part of my life.
A few years ago I experienced a huge betrayal which changed my work and my life. I learned that ‘your best friend can be your worst enemy’ and I lost a lot: my job, my salary and I could no longer do the work I had planned to do. Looking for a way to continue, I started this blog. Part of my story is here and this is also where you can make a contribution
As we are all in some way connected in this life, I sincerely thank you for your help.
Cindy Pickard

PART 3 OF ‘My Life Story’ will be continued in the next post but I don’t what I’m calling it yet.


“No one would ever do anything if they knew what they were in for”~Amarante Cordova, the oldest man in Milagro/ THE MILAGRO BEANFIED WAR

*This is my story…I only write when I have a feeling to, never because I think I should. It’s calming for me and though I write for myself, maybe some of what I write may be helpful for someone else…..maybe this is a story of survival.  Last night, reading about some upcoming events that we on this Earth seem destined to live through, this seems so insignificant but I’ll go ahead with it…..who knows where things may lead.

me-ruth 19481

Me and my mom- Hinsdale, Illinois 1948

There’s a strong wind blowing as I’m writing this morning, so different from the Summer winds, it’s a Fall wind..the beginning of the change of the seasons… and I remember being 7 years old…


“As many people who are destined to go very deep, he experienced a not very pleasant childhood and early life..”

~Eckhart Tolle on Ralph Waldo Emerson

“We’re put here on Earth to learn our own lessons. No one can tell you what your lessons are; it is part of your personal journey to discover them. On these journeys we may be given a lot, or just a little bit, of the things we must grapple with, but never more than we can handle.”

~Elisabeth Kubler- Ross, MD



I remember being 7 years old…. me 1rst gradeand being taken to the shoe store to buy new saddle shoes.hockaday 4th gradeI went to a girls school then and we wore uniforms—green pinafores, white ruffled blouses and brown and white saddle shoes…

The smell of new saddle shoes..the Fall

And it was the fall for me in the other sense of the word because I was suddenly yanked historic hinsdalefrom the beautiful little village of Hinsdale, Ilinois, a commuter village for Chicago.. me and grandpawhere I lived close to my grandparents, where some of the streets were still brick and there were big treesdupage fall and four seasons which my family loved to celebrate: Colored leaves, pumpkins and the smell of marigolds in the Fall, Snowsuits, skating and sledding.. SNOWSUIT ME                                                                 in the Winter,

Lilacs, apple blossoms and cool Spring days, and playing in my grandpa’s's garden

and the Magic….

beach copy crop copyof Lake Michigan in the Summer

And then came the blazing heat of late summer in Dallas, Texas. It was August 1954 and I remember sitting next to a tree in the dried brown grass and wondering how people were able to breathe in that heat. I had arrived in Hell.

My dad LOVED to play golf and he had taken a job with an investment firm in Dallas–dad:golfhe would be able to play golf year round but I don’t think he had taken into account the rest of the family-me, my younger brother and my mother but especially my mother–she had had not wanted to go. Years later I remembered a time maybe a year before we moved. I was probably 6, my brother was 3 and my parents were pulling us on our sled in the snow-they were talking about the move and I could feel my mother’s overwhelming depression….and fear.

My mother was already sick when we moved; she had some sort of terminal cancer which had not been diagnosed. She had not wanted to leave her parents

mimi:grandpa wedding                                       ……and the home where she had grown up219 e 3rd 2

but she felt obligated to be supportive of my dad and his new job.

“Many cancers can be linked to an emotional trauma one to two years before the onset of the cancer” ~Dr Keth Nemec

My grandfather, in an effort to bring my mother back to health, took her and her sister on a cruise aboard the Queen Elizabeth and so we moved that August of 1954. ..without her.  In September I started 2nd grade at The Hockaday School.


The Hockaday School  Dallas, Texas

I was shy to begin with and then with all the emotional drama swirling about, I was terrified. I remember trying to carry my lunch tray from the cafeteria to the 2nd grade room, shaking so badly, so afraid I would drop it. When we played bingo, I was afraid I might win which would mean having to go up to the front of the room. So I didn’t put the little tabs on the card and I never won.  I often threw up on the bus going to school and a few months before my mother died, I threw up in chapel. I was in the middle of a row and too shy to ask to get out so I threw up on my hymnal, on the song we were supposed to be singing.  It was I Would Be True on page 177 and after that, there were always little flecks of dried orange juice on that page:


I would be true, for there are those who trust me; I would be pure, for there are those who are; I would be strong, for there is much to suffer; I would be brave, for there is much to dare.


My mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer when she came back from her European trip though the truth was kept from her and from my brother and me. She was told she had a blood disease which could be treated successfully.  I remember riding in the backseat of the car as my dad drove her back from the doctor..there was complete silence and a feeling of fear. That feeling of fear and dread is often still with me today. and writing this, I realize that the feeling originated there and at that time.

After my mother’s cancer diagnosis, my dad hired a series of caregivers for my brother and I and my mother went back to Chicago to be in the hospital.File_01 bunny and m

After several caregivers who didn’t work out–one I remember wore a stiff, white nurse’s uniform to tale care of my brother and dad hired Mrs Wright. We called her Wrighty and I can see her now..short and chubby with prematurely gray hair, she was full of goodwill and kindness. Taking care of children who had lost a parent was her mission..She came to live with us about 2 years before my mother died and she stayed til my dad remarried about 2 years after.

My brother Flip and I only visited our mother once when she was in the hospital.St._Luke's_Hospital_Complex_B_Chicago_IL I remember that we had to stand outside the door of her room-she had some sort of bandage on her chest which she tried to cover up and she did not want us to come in. I think now that she knew almost from the beginning that she was dying and would not be part of our lives but because she could not talk with anyone about it, she began to distance herself from us…instinctively she began letting go..

The other part of that hospital visit that is still and will always be embedded in my memory, was going to the lab where experiments were being performed on animals. One of my mother’s doctors was a family friend and he had been told that I loved animals so he thought I would enjoy seeing the lab. For an already traumatized 8 year old child, it was horrifying and I remember like it was yesterday, looking in and seeing a monkey that was cut in half and looked like roast beef. To this day, it’s very difficult for me to go in or even near a hospital and I never eat roast beef.

My mother died when I was 9 and in 4th grade. My dad was with her when she died in the hospital, in Chicago and he flew back to Dallas early the next morning. He woke me up to tell me and I remember that I couldn’t think of anything to say. I had never been able to relate to my mother though it took me years to admit this.  I thought she was cold, righteous, spoiled and very judgemental but what I said was “She was so good” knowing that it was not my truth. I only wanted to comfort my dad.

We left the next day for her funeral which was held in her hometown of Hinsdale, Illinois. My brother and I were thought to be too young to go so we stayed at our grandparents house and were given new toys to distract us.western union

The way her death was handled: that she was never told the truth about her diagnosis, that we were not allowed to go to her funeral had a lasting, traumatic effect on both my brother and I. Just 7 years later, at another Chicago hospital, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Rossekr at workshop copy would begin her pioneering work with terminally ill patients, ‘bringing death out of the closet’ and from that time on, File_01 ekr:khamalapatients and their families would be told the truth about a terminal diagnosis and young children would no longer be left out.death and dying cover

After the funeral, when we returned to Dallas, a kind of darkness descended. I didn’t miss my mother but it was January, cold and dark and I felt so isolated. There were no school counselors then so I had no one to talk too and my dad was dealing with so much. ruth:phil weddingI believe that he and my mom were soul mates. He missed her terribly and he had a new job and no idea how to raise 2 little kids.

But with Wrighty, we entered into a time where there was not complete happiness but there was a respite from the halloween

smokey and meAfter my mother’s death, my dad had gotten me a pony I named Smokey and Wrighty faithfully sat in the car while I rode every day after school. I was a tomboy then, getting my hair cut at the barber shop, taking care of my pony. Isolated in may ways, I  lived in a sort of emotional vacuum where there was a kind of peace..

In the summers we -my brother and I, along with our cousins from Chicago- went to be with our grandparents in Michigan. When I was a new baby they had bought a cottage on Lake Michigan…. beach family and I lived there every summer til I was 16 when my grandmother sold the cottage. I never cried so hard before or since that day, the day the cottage was sold…. It had been my lifeline. It’s impossible for me to express in words what those summers meant to me…sadness overwhelms me but I go back often in my dreams….rb lighthouse copy

                                                          The fog comes
                                                          on little cat feet.
                                                          It sits looking
                                                       over harbor and city
                                                        on silent haunches
                                                        and then moves on.
                                                          ~Carl Sandburg

badger sunset

After my mother’s death I expected life to continue on in this way: Wrighty would stay with us forever and in the summers I would live with my grandparents and cousins in the cottage on the lake. And so I was oblivious to the fact that my dad was starting to date- he had met my future stepmother and he brought her over to meet us. I did not like her but I had no idea she was about to become a part of my life. Another huge life change was coming…and it was almost more than I could bear.

One afternoon when I was 11, my dad came up to my room. He sat down on my bed and said “How would like to go to a wedding?” “Whose?” I asked innocently. “Mine” my dad answered.”What will happen to Wrighty ?” I asked. “She’ll have to find another job/” said my dad.

So they got married and my brother and I were given 2 weeks [while my dad and stepmother were on their honeymoon] to start calling our stepmother ‘Mom’ ….which was confusing….me, ruth, flip  because that’s what we had called our own mother

My stepmother had 2 teenage boys-Billy and Lewis and it was decided that they would call my dad Phil. Her daughter Betty was my brother’s age and she called my dad Dad. Every morning before we left for school, we were served breakfast by the maids and then we were instructed to kiss my stepmother when we got up from the table.

Every so often, I was allowed to visit Wrighty who had taken another job, caring for a baby whose mother had died. These visits however, were being curtailed because it was felt that they were preventing me from becoming closer to my stepmother. Eventually I decided not to go anymore. It was too painful..better not to go at all…I was learning how to cut myself off from pain and I never saw Wrighty again.

My beloved pony, Smokey…SMOKEY'S HEAD was another casualty during this time–my stepmother got rid of him when I was at camp. He had been my best friend through the lonely times. I never asked what happened to him… I just pushed away the sadness. There was nothing else I could do.

Those years are kind of a blur probably because I don’t want to remember them. My stepmother immediately set out to change me from a little heathen into the kind of girl she wanted me to become. She took me to the beauty parlor to get a perm, bought me the clothes she wanted me to wear and threw away the clothes I had that she didn’t approve of. Sometimes at dinner-we had formal dinners every night served by the maids, she told me how ugly I was. a teenager, my skin was very oily and broken out.

She was disappointed that I wasn’t popular at school and one afternoon, she came to my room to give me some advice. She told me that she had noticed I wasn’t popular and she thought it would help if I made an effort to copy the personalities of some of the popular girls.

Though my dad and stepmother were married for 45 years, the hope for the marriage fell apart almost immediately [it was bound to] and sometimes at night I heard my stepmother yelling angrily at my dad that he still loved Ruth. He did and he was making comparisons:

My mother had a masters degree in Latin from Wellesley College. She taught piano and tutored high school kids in Math… ruth:repug.jpg…..and she had political ambitions.

My stepmother on the other hand, came from a wealthy Dallas family, had never worked and was mainly interested in going shopping, playing bridge and going to parties. She liked to drink vodka martinis while my mother never drank at all.

We moved from Dallas to Houston and I remember waiting every day outside our house for my dad to come home from work. I was so miserable and I wanted to talk to him but everyday he put me off.  “Tomorrow we will talk. I promise.” he would say but tomorrow never came. My stepmother had started drinking a lot–double vodka martinis at our neighbors who were her close friends. She was very disappointed in my dad and the amount of money he was making.  Her father had been a very successful rancher…

papa will

William Jenks Lewis was      the owner of the very large and  prosperous RO Ranch in Clarendon, Texas

“The RO Ranch was named for its owner…rowe bros.jpg…an Englishman called Alfred Rowe. Alfred Rowe died in the Titanic disaster and in 1917 William J. Lewis, a former top hand for the RO, arranged to purchase this acreage and the cattle from the Rowes for $595,113.26. At the height of his prosperity, William Lewis had built up an empire consisting of 140,000 acres of land with over 10,000 head of high grade Hereford cattle…”

My stepmother was making comparisons and years later she would often say ” Your daddy was a good man but he was no businessman.”

Meanwhile my brother Flip was beginning to react to all the loss and trauma… He was running away and often the police would call when they found him.


James Philip David Jr. “FLIP’  Admiral Farragut Academy 1964

A child psychiatrist advised my dad that Flip needed counseling, needed help badly but instead my dad sent him to military school in Florida “where they make boys into men.” And that was the beginning of the end.

*It may seem as if there was nothing good or positive that happened during these times that I have written about and that my stepmother was an ogre. There were some good things..some from time and in the last years of her life, I came to really love and care for my stepmother. We would never really understand each other but I was able to see that she was only raising us or trying to, in the way that she had been raised. It was all she knew. CP


My stepmother, Anne Lewis David with two of her great grandchildren

*If you have found this blog helpful in some way, please make a contribution. This blog is my particular way of contributing: by hopefully passing on the wisdom of the many teachers I spent time with and learned from: Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, addictions counselor, John Bradshaw, near death survivor Dannion Brinkley and Anishnabe Elder, Dave Courchene as well as many hospice patients and Elders that were part of my life.
A few years ago I experienced a huge betrayal which changed my work and my life. I learned that ‘your best friend can be your worst enemy’ and I lost a lot: my job, my salary and I could no longer do the work I had planned to do. Looking for a way to continue, I started this blog. Part of my story is here and this is also where you can make a contribution
As we are all in some way connected in this life, I sincerely thank you for your help.
Cindy Pickard