Tag Archives: family of man

Forty Years Later Letter

Dear brothers and sisters – Stephen Joseph, Michael Francis, Brian Frederick, Mary Ellen, Kevin John, Deborah Marie & Regina Marie,

I am writing you today as your sister. I need to tell you some things and share a part of myself that got sideswiped when we were all still together – a part I never really recovered with you. It affected Mom and Dad, too but that’s a different letter that needs to be written another day. They did the best they could.

I want to tell you some things – complicated things – but before I do, I want to tell you that I love each one of you for being my brothers and sisters. Even Johnny, who left us by accident before most of us were born, is counted – the one who took on the mantle as the family guardian angel as our first brother and was the first one of us. Even though he was gone, Johnny was always there as part of my first memory – I was the next one born after he left. He was a part of the family fabric as first son, as though he was standing right there. He was looking after us from heaven, as Mom always said. No matter what we were doing, where we were or how we needed him, he was there – checking in. I felt his oversight when I came out of brain surgery. I knew it was him and that he was there with me – guiding the doctor’s hands, making sure I was okay when I woke up. Dad was there by my bed, my head all wrapped in gauze. I think he felt him too.

I just wanted to let you know that I’m sorry I couldn’t share Cathy’s birth with you. I know now that she, like Johnny, was a presence in our family – invisibly but palpably – not only for me, who grew, felt and watched her grow from my secret belly, but for you, too – each of you, who knew without saying or telling that news of Cathy was missing from the table.

If Mom and Dad had folded the indiscretion and Cathy’s existence into our unfolding cast of characters in the family story, chances are that none of us,  and least of all me, would have been able to let her go.

I’m sorry for the loss of Cathy in your lives right from the beginning. Gaining these past twenty-two years between Cathy and me since she turned eighteen has been a gift beyond hope. Thank you for loving her now, even in the limited ways to be found – and for loving me anyway, besides and always. I love you too. I feel you inside the beat of my heart when I say “my brothers and sisters.” We learned love as a family. I do love you.

Your sister,

Kathleen Mary

To read my daughter’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.


Three Poems


Girls in white dresses dangle rosaries in the May procession.  I sneak Mom’s cigarettes and smoke in the woods with my best friend, Bonnie with breasts, teased hair and gum.


Grandfather is taking my brothers on a fruit boat to South America. Being a girl means I stay home.  I didn’t know there was a difference – until then.


Cloistered nuns without voices pray

To heal the world outside the gates

That keep them safe from it.

I want to join them; an offertory…

And then you kiss me;

I sing instead.

To view my daughter’s blog on the same topic, please visit ReunionEyes.

A Chord

I am 5 years old…  My father has shown me a trick on the piano as we sit together, his fingertips settled on the keys to play.

“One key, skip a key and then press the next key.  Doe – re – mi, doe – mi, see?  Harmony!”

“Now watch. If I move my fingers up to the next note, skip two, press three, there you have it again, harmony… but it’s a little higher, doe – mi.”

A lock of his brown hair falls out of place over one eye and he looks like a kid, like us – always something just a little out of place, no matter how well we put ourselves together.

“Now, you sing it when I play it.  I’ll be doe and you be mi.  He puts his long finger over my little one and we press middle C together.

He sings “doe.”  I follow under his note “doe” imitating the sound, my little voice under his.  He walks up “re” then once more to show me the third note.

“Mi” he says gently, “that’s your note.”

I hear the sound and sing it louder, “Mi.”  His “doe” still sounding, in chorus.

“We’re a chord!” he says smiling.

I grin, looking up to him. “Let’s do it again!” and we do.

I am 14… My father sees I’ve gotten bored with the autoharp he gave me for my birthday four months ago.  My eyes look longingly as he plays his guitar with me in a chair across from his in the living room.

“Dad, can you show me how to play the guitar?”

“Sure honey, here.”  He holds up his guitar by the neck and hands it to me and then picks up my brother Mike’s classical guitar leaning in the corner of the  wainscoted walls and throws it comfortably on his lap.

“Here’s what you do.”

He begins to show me.  I follow his fingers around the neck with mine, finding the stations for each fingertip; G, C, D. “Four Strong Winds that blow lonely, seven seas that run high, all those things that don’t change, come what may…”

“Okay, go try that for awhile” he says.

Thirty minutes later I’m back for more.

He laughs when he sees I’ve got it.

I am 15… My father has driven me to The Experiment, a new folk club with psychedelic walls that has opened in the next town just up the hill from the train station in Bernardsville, New Jersey.  It’s my first audition, six months after my first three chords.  I’m young and the owners are busy until I sing, “The way I feel is like a robin…

The bartender behind the counter stops circling the counter with the wet terry rag. A smile cracks the owner’s face and he leans against the doorjamb, clipboard folded across his chest.  I close my eyes and press into my guitar to sing.  I get the job.

Forty-five years later, that day is still one of my father’s favorite stories.


To read Cathleen’s counterblog, please visit ReunionEyes.