I know “history” implies that we’ll go far back into the family’s past, but the truth is that I don’t know all that much about the history of the family before my parents met. Here is about all I know. On Dad’s side, his mother was Lillian McSpadden. She had two siblings — Liala and Brother. That’s the only name I knew him by. Yep, I had an Uncle Brother. He was born in the days before they had mandatory birth certificates. He never married, never worked at a regular job, never got a social security number. He was a bookie. His death certificate was the only proof he had ever lived. Actually, my grandmother was the oldest of the kids in her family and they called her Sister and her brother was called Brother. Then the family had another girl. So they called her Sister Baby. Clever, huh? My Dad’s father was Daniel Patrick Brennan. He got to pick his own name. He and his brother were the 12th and 13th children in the family and I guess their parents got tired of naming kids. So they called them Pud and Punk. When they started to Catholic school around the age of 7 or 8, the priest would not let them use those names so he had them pick out names of saints and my Grandpa picked Daniel Patrick. That turned out to be an important decision for a 7 year old because his two grandsons were then named Daniel and Patrick and I used both of those names when naming my sons, too. My grandfather had a pretty exciting life in his younger days. He ran a carrousel which he took through Mexico, along with some kind of gambling board which was against the law. He was frequently on the run and once was chased by Pancho Villa. He finally settled down in Houston. He was always afraid of dying from TB so he would always get the TB screenings when the mobile units were out. One day in 1956, he stopped at Lewis & Coker grocery store in Palm Center for a screening and, while waiting for his turn, he had a heart attack and died. I was really sad when he died because he was a fun Grandpa and he really spoiled me when I was little. My grandmother, whom we called Big Mamaw, lived much longer. I liked hanging out with her sometimes. She lived across the street from where my Dad worked and I liked it when I’d spend the day with her and then get to meet my day as he walked to her house. We would ride the bus to the downtown Foleys and she’d buy me stuff and we’d eat at the LC cafeteria. She gave me $5 a week for my allowance, which was much more than any of my friends ever got back then. She died in 1973 when I was pregnant with Danny. My Dad was the only child of Lillian McSpadden and Daniel Brennan.
On my mother’s side, her parents were Lukie Bessie Winslett and Branton Anderson Durden. They both lived in Georgia and got secretly married, but didn’t tell anybody until after the harvest season because there was so much work to be done. They moved to Houston to have their family. They had three children — Bessie Hazel, Ollie Doris, and Branton, Jr. When my mother was in junior high, this was during Prohibition, and her father was a Houston Police Officer. He was convicted of accepting a bribe to overlook a speakeasy and he was sent to prison. This was major news and my mom was really embarrassed to go to school. Lots of her friends wouldn’t speak to her, but one student she didn’t know introduced herself to her as Yuba Belle Couch. Her Dad was also in prison and she told my mom that she knew how she felt. They became really good friends.(foreshadowing) After my granddad got out of prison, he didn’t come home, but instead went to live with another woman, whom he later married. They lived on a farm in Cleveland. I saw him a few times, mostly when my Aunt Hazel would take me to his farm. My mother didn’t really have a relationship with him at all. My grandmother had to work really hard to raise her kids alone. She had almost no education and no real skills. She did janitorial type work, eventually working for and retiring from Maxwell House. She was a very devout Christian and the Central Park Church of God really became the center of her life, as well as of my parents who raised their kids there. My grandad died when I was an adult, but I don’t know exactly when. My grandmother died in 1985.
Growing Up Jac
To say that I had an idyllic childhood is almost to minimize how truly wonderful it was. When I was born, my parents bought a house “way out on the edge of town” at 4901 Winnetka. Our phone number was MI5-8596. Back then, phone numbers started with two letters, which were the first two letters of a word. In this case, it was “mission.” That word thing started about the time I was born. Before that, there were just 5 numbers for a phone number, but as more people started getting phones, the word became a necessity. Now, of course, numbers are 10 digits long and we don’t use words at all. The house was a split level on the corner of Belvedere and Winnetka, right across the street from MacGregor Park.
That area is practically a stone’s throw from downtown now, but back then, people thought my parents were crazy for building way out on the edge of town.The house had a big porch and a two car garage that was separate. We had a big back yard with a clothesline, a swing set, and a dirt basketball half-court. The whole yard was easily converted into a makeshift baseball, and later wiffle ball field, when necessary. Our front yard had a long sidewalk from the front door to the curb, which made it the perfect spot for neighborhood games of hopscotch, red light green light, and mother may I. We had two mimosa trees, a mexican ratanda, an ash, and a china berry tree in the front yard. We had two bedrooms and one bath when we moved in, but Dad turned the second level into two rooms and a bathroom. At first, that space up there was just for a pool table and later a ping pong table, but eventually, Mom and Dad took the big bedroom up there with the bathroom and at some point, I got the other room, which was a great room.
The only things I know about my infancy are things I’ve been told, of course. My mom went into labor on a Sunday while Dad and the boys were at church. She called the church to tell them to come home. My dad always used to tell me the story of how, after I was born, he wanted to see me and the first thing he looked for was to see if I had eyebrows. His hair was so fair that his eyebrows didn’t show so he always worried his kids would have the same problem. I had a little difficult breathing and they put me in an incubator and my mom couldn’t see me. But Dad raised such a fuss that a nurse finally came to her door and showed her to me and said, “Look, here she is. Now tell your husband you saw her.” Then, as the story goes, they put me in the nursery on the very center of the front row because (my dad told me this and he wouldn’t lie) that’s where they put the prettiest baby!
Except for the pictures I’ve seen, I don’t really have any actual memory of anything until I was about 3 or 4. I remember that I had a little sprinkling can and I was out watering the rose bushes in the back yard and my brother Danny came over to me and told me I was doing it wrong. I was watering the tops of the bushes. He explained to me about roots and how you have to water the ground for the plant to drink the water. It was one of those moments of grace, of fireworks and sudden knowledge. I can still remember even the smell of the roses as he told me, and thinking that he was the most brilliant person who ever lived.
I also have a memory from around that age of playing with my dad’s father. We called him Pappaw. He had a green vinyl folding door in the garage apartment on Greenwood where he and my grandmother lived. He would hide behind it and sing a popular song at the time called “Green Door.” And we laughed and laughed. When I was 5, he died. He was at Lewis & Coker, a grocery store in nearby Palm Center, which he loved. They had a mobile x-ray van there to take lung x-rays. He always had lung x-rays taken because he was really frightened of lung cancer. While he was waiting to have his x-ray, he had a heart attack and died really quickly. I do remember my mother taking me into the living room in the early morning and there was no light on. She sat in the rocker and I stood in front of her and she told me that God needed someone to help him take care of all the animals in heaven so he took Pappaw and that meant Pappaw was dead. I don’t remember how I felt about that at the time, but it seems a kinda mean thing to tell a kid about a God she’s supposed to love. Forty years later, when my infant son died, people said God needed a little angel and that’s why he took Tyler. I still think it’s a mean thing to say.
Our house was on a great block and there were lots of kids for me to play with –
Faye Chippendale, Anitra Hughes, Janet Browne, Christy and Melody Lightfoot,
Adrian Finch, and Pam von Rosenberg. We were just two blocks from the
elementary school. We were one block from The Chuck Wagon, where we
bought hamburgers (wheels or hubs) every Sunday after church, unless we
ate at Bill Williams Restaurant. On the other end of our block was a little strip
shopping center. It had a U-tot-em in it, which was just a little convenience
store. It had a dry cleaners and a beauty shop and a bar called Rays. My only
memory of Rays is that one time a car ran right through the front of it. My friend
Janet Browne and I went down to look and we saw pink elephants painted on
the wall. I told my mom about it and she got mad because there was a rule that I
was not supposed to go down to the end of the block unless I was with
someone older. I calmly explained that I had been with Janet and she was a full
three months older than I was. My mom laughed so hard that she forgot all about
being mad at
me. Across from the strip center, was a bigger strip center. It had a “five and
ten cent store” called Madings, with a soda fountain that made the very best
cherry cokes. It also had an A&P grocery store. We shopped there and we
bought our Christmas tree there every year that we lived on Winnetka. I think
I was 10 or 11 when the very first shopping center in Houston opened less
than a mile from our house. It was called Palm Center. It wasn’t a mall or
anything, but it was the first of its kind at the time. It had JC Penney and
Lewis & Coker Grocery store as its anchors. It also had Three Sisters,
Nathan’s, Brown Toy Store, Walgreens, Gordon’s Jewelers, a hair salon,
and other stores whose names I can’t recall. Later, Gulfgate was built. It was
just like Palm Center, only bigger with stores like Newberry’s and H&H
Music, and Brown Book Store, and Bakers Shoes and Joskes and Sakowitz
and Weingartens. It later became the first air conditioned mall. In high school,
my friends and I went there every single Saturday with our hair in curlers and
lacy hairnets. If your hair wasn’t in curlers on a Saturday, then everybody knew
you must not have a date that night, so needless to say, everybody who was
anybody had their hair in curlers.
I went to Lora B. Peck Elementary school and my kindergarten teacher was
Mrs. Holly. She was good. I remember only two things about kindergarten.
I remember that Mrs. Holly would always praise me for being good and I was
always telling her I was bad. Maybe it was just the arguer in me. Finally, she
said that if I was bad she’d give me a spanking and she did right then and there
in front of the whole class. It was more ceremonial than painful, but I sure was
embarrassed and I can still see everything about that scene in my
mind. The other thing I remember is that we had a visit from the Chief of Patrols,
which was a group of sixth graders who helped out at crosswalks before and
after school. The Chief of Patrols was my very own brother Danny, and I was so
I was what was called a “mid-termer.” Because my birthday fell after
September 1, but before January 1, I started school in January. It seems
weird now because mine was the last class to do it, but we actually had
summer in the middle of the year’s grade. We called in “low first” and “high
first.” Anyway, I was a mid-termer until the summer between junior high and
high school. I went to school all summer and made up a whole semester so
that I would be able to start high school in the fall. I never regretted that.
In kindergarten, I had my first true love – Bruce Allen. I had actually met Bruce
when I was four. His mother had a little deal in her house called “Rhythm Band.”
Years later, when I had two kids of my own, I did the exact same thing that Mrs.
Allen did. Anyway, Rhythm Band was a group of about 6 or 8 preschoolers
and we all sat around for a couple of hours three times a week and played
rhythm instruments like tambourines and triangles and bells and sand
blocks while Mrs. Allen played classical music. We listened to music and
stories about music or with music in the background. It was really my
introduction to music and I always credit Mrs. Allen with giving me that.
Bruce and I were both five when, while playing boat one day on a redwood
picnic table in my backyard, he asked me to marry him. I said yes, but that we
were too young to marry so why didn’t we just go steady. He agreed. He
wanted to tell his mom, but he was afraid he’d forget the term “going steady”
so we asked my mom to write a note to his mom. It said, “We are too young
to get married so we are just going steady for now. Love, Bruce and Jackie.”
My favorite story about Bruce is that my dad took us to the Delman Theatre
to see “Old Yeller.” During the movie, Bruce started crying. According to my
Dad, I put my arm around him and said, “It’s not real, Bruce. It’s just a movie
. Don’t cry.” And then on the way home from the show, Bruce and I sat in the
back seat and he put his arm around me. Very grown-up.
My first grade teacher was Mrs. Humphries and the thing I remember most
about her was that, when she would write on the board, the flab on her arm
would shake. I vowed then and there and I would never wear a sleeveless
dress after the age of 30 and I never did.
My second grade teacher was Mrs. Herring and I remember we were divided into
reading groups and I was in the blue birds, which was the best group. Also,
I was in Brownies, which I liked.
My third grade teacher was Mrs. Havens. She was really old and should have
retired by then, I think. I was in choir in school and I started taking piano
lessons from Mary Starr. I loved piano and stuck with it throughout school and
ended up majoring in it in college. My mother would fix my hair in the mornings
while I practiced the piano. She would put it in a bun with a pony tail coming
out of it or a french twist.
The most outstanding thing that happened in third grade, though, was that I
started having periods. I didn’t have any idea what it was at all. I remember
that my Mom saw my panties in the laundry hamper and she was starting to
yell about what was on them and then she realized what it was and she said,
“Oh, you’ve become a young lady.” So then she sat down and told me what was
happening, more or less, and how to use sanitary napkins and a belt. I
remember she wrote a note to my teacher, asking her to allow me to “check
on things” during the day if I needed to do so. I think she felt she had to write
the note because I literally never went to the bathroom in school so the teacher
probably would have thought it strange. I was only 8 years old, which is
extremely early to start menstruating. It took 2 or 3 years for any of my friends
Gloria Henze was my fourth grade teacher and she was great. It was her first
year of teaching and she had a twin sister named Gaye who was also a teacher.
Their mother was a sales clerk at Wards, where I got most of my clothes and
I even met her one day while my mother and I were shopping. I made a
valentine card for Miss Henze that said, “I wanted to send you a card with a
lot of feeling.” And when you opened it, there was a piece of sandpaper with
the words, “so feel!” I was so so proud of that! I will never forget what Miss
Henze wrote in my autograph book – “Keep that active and creative imagination
of yours.” She was a teacher who really made a difference to me.
My best friends throughout elementary school were Donna Gore, Donna
Glasscock, Donna Lanning, Melanie Bailey, and Vickie Samuels. The guys
I was friends with were Randy Ranton, Johnny Walzel, Steven Wanstrom,
Gregg Jolly, and Bruce Allen. In the neighborhood, I played with Faye
Chippendale, who lived next door, and Christy Lightfoot and her little sister
Melody. In the summer before 4th grade, I met a little girl named Gabriella
Nesson. Her mother was a German immigrant and had a heavy accent.
Gabby’s father had been injured in the war and died later of his injuries. I
would go over to Gabby’s every afternoon to play with her for an hour or two.
She was much younger than me so I sort of thought of it as babysitting. I’m
sure her mom enjoyed the break. When my birthday came, I invited Gabby
to the party and her mother wrote my name on the card as “Jacquie” instead
of “Jackie” as I had always spelled it. I just thought it was beautiful and have
been spelling it that way ever since.
There were two big events at Peck every year. We always had a big
Halloween Carnival and my mom was always involved in it. She was a PTA
officer all the time and so she was pretty involved in everything at school. And
every spring, we had a May Fete. Each class did dances and had very
elaborate costumes. The sixth graders did a May Pole Dance. The boys
wore suits and the girls wore long flowing pastel dresses. I was so looking
forward to that, but it was not to be because the world was changing and we
were too late for the beginning of the change and too early for the end of it.
We were right in the middle.
My 5th grade teacher was Mrs. Ashmore. I really don’t remember much about
5th grade except that a new girl moved into the school and her name was
Jean Kelly and we became fast friends. It was almost, but not quite, like a
“romantic” friendship. Later, when I was studying psychology in college, I found
out that this kind of pseudo-romantic relationship between pre-adolescent girls
is pretty normal, as it is when a girl has a “crush” on an older woman. You
don’t think of it in those terms at the time, but only in retrospect, of
course. And I think I went through that, too, at about this time.
Church played a very important role in my life growing up. My family went to
Central Park Church of God. As Protestant families in the 50s went, ours was
pretty liberal in terms of religion. We went to church every Sunday and
usually on Sunday nights, too, and Wednesday nights most of the time. Yet,
my parents did not think that we had the market cornered on religious truth.
In fact, my Dad was relieved on teaching Sunday School classes by the
minister because one of the kids asked him if there would be Catholics in
heaven and my Dad said, “Of course.” Ooops. Apparently, only saved Christians
who went to church every Sunday would get into heaven and not statue
worshipping heretics who didn’t practice birth control.
My grandmother had helped to found this church. It was like an extended
family. It was a small church with the average Sunday attendance at about
100 adults. My mother was the Sunday School Superintendent during most
of my childhood and she was always in charge of Vacation Bible School.
The one life lesson I remember from my years of VBS is to always put about
twice as much sugar in the koolaid as the package recommends. My
mother said it would taste watered down otherwise.
Church gave me a lot of opportunities to shine. I started singing in church at a
young age and I never felt afraid to get up to sing or talk in front of a crowd. I
played the piano in church. I also really got to know my Bible. I always won the
Bible Drills. I always memorized the most verses and could recite the books
of the Bible, the ten commandments, the beatitudes, and the Christmas story
from Luke. I loved all of it.
I made friends with people I would otherwise never have met. Our family became
lifelong friends with the Joneses. My parents met them at church when both
families had boys the same ages. I was born a little later. Andy and Louise
Jones were the only friends my parents ever had as a couple. They were the only
family we ever had over to our house for dinner. They were the only family we
ever visited. When I was about 6, they moved to Alabama, but we still got
together for vacations and kept in close touch. Even after the kids were
grown, my parents and Andy and Louise took trips together. When we had
a big party for my parents’ 50th anniversary, Andy and Louise flew in for it.
Louise was quite sick by then. Both Louise and my dad died within a year or
so of that. I thought maybe Andy and my mom might get together, but it
just never did happen. Another family with whom I shared some really different
experiences was the Langfords. I was friends with the daughter, Linda, but
there were seven kids in all. That in itself was different for me. And they were v
ery poor. They lived in a run down old house near the church. I had never
known poor people and I guess I was kind of fascinated by their lifestyle. The
mother took in ironing and the father fixed cars. I remember that velvet bows
were the really “in” hair accessory back then and I must have had a million
of them. I let Linda borrow one once and she just loved it. I told her she should
get herself one just like it because it matched her Sunday dress. She said
that they couldn’t afford it. I kinda laughed and told her they were only 10 cents.
I didn’t even realize she was serious. I let her have the one she borrowed and
she wore it to church every Sunday for as long as I can remember. When I
spent the night at their house, there were four kids to a bed and everybody
slept “potatos.” After we got in bed, the mom came around and sprayed
Raid all around the floor surrounding the bed. The roaches were that bad.
Once, they invited me to go spend the night at the beach. I was pretty
surprised when we got down there and I found out when were actually
spending the night ON the beach. We slept on the sand and when we woke
up, the tide was coming in and covering our legs. It was fun.
I can’t move on to the next part of my life without talking about something that
became central to my life – music. My first experience with music that I can
remember was called Rhythm Band. Mrs. Allen had it in her home on OST,
just a block from our house. Several preschoolers gathered a couple of
times a week and we listened to music, played rhythm instruments, sang,
and danced. It was my introduction to music and the start of a lifelong love.
Mrs. Allen put music in my heart. When I was 8, my Dad bought me a piano.
His ultimate goal was to have me play Rhapsody in Blue, which he had first
heard at the World’s Fair in Chicago, when it was conducted by Paul
Whitehead. He told that story often. Anyway, I started taking piano lessons
from Miss Mary Starr. She played the piano at our church and taught at a
conservatory. I was her only “at home” pupil. My lessons cost $5 a month. If
Mrs. Allen put music in my heart, then Miss Starr put music in my hands. I
did not know one thing when I started going to lessons at her house. She
taught me for a total of four years before she told my parents that she could
not teach me anymore because I had surpassed her level. After that, we went
through a couple of truly awful piano teachers, including one who held a yard
stick above my hands and hit my knuckles every time I made a mistake.
About a year later, I quit taking lessons, but I never quit playing. I
accompanied choirs all through school, even into college, where I majored in
music. And still today, music is the most magickal thing to me. It can take
me places where my soul would never go without the music.
There were some things that happened when I was in elementary school that
were unique to the times. Safety was never a real concern in school, or even
going to and from school. Of course, we were told not to get in a car with a
stranger and things like that, but no parent worried about children when they
were going to and from school or playing in the neighborhood. But that started
to change while I was in elementary school. The first big event was the “mad
bomber.” A man and his son went to Poe Elementary school and went out on
the playground to talk to a teacher. He had a briefcase with him and when
he put it down, it blew up, killing and maiming many students. The police
didn’t know at first what had happened and they feared he was on the loose
and would go to other schools. We were not allowed out on the playground
that day. They finally determined that he had been killed in the explosion. We
had a friend who lived across the street from that school and she said there
were arms and legs in her front yard from the explosion.
Another big event was the bomb drills. We learned how to duck and cover.
Every Friday at noon, they would test the sirens to see if they worked. If we
heard the sirens, we were supposed to get down under our desks and put a
hand over the small of our backs. Apparently, this was to avoid any
spinal cord injuries. And obviously, being under our desks would save us from
a nuclear bomb. It’s so ridiculous looking back on it, but it was deadly serious
at the time. I always thought the, if I were in charge of the Russian
Communists, I would strike America at noon on a Friday because then
everybody would just think it was a drill and no one would pay any
attention. During the Cuban missile crisis, things were especially tense.
The Cuban Missile Crisis marked a change in my family’s politics. Prior to
that, my parents were staunch Republicans. We voted for Eisenhower and
then for Nixon in 1960. We didn’t like Kennedy at all. He was Catholic and
there was actually talk that he would let the Pope run the country.
Seriously. Plus he had that Massachusetts accent. We didn’t like
Yankees all that much. But mostly, he was a Democrat. But during that
crisis, my parents found a new respect for him and started liking him.
I will, of course, never forget the assassination of President Kennedy. I was in
school at the time. The principal announced it over the loud speaker. One
odd thing was that a cousin of Governor Connally was in my class. Her name
was Melanie Bailey and she was upset about him getting shot because it
was awhile before they announced how he was doing. When they a
nnounced that President Kennedy was dead, everybody was crying. I
wondered how Vaughn Meador felt because he had a stand up routine
in which he imitated President Kennedy. I guess I never really had been
exposed to political humor before that so I didn’t understand. Anyway, school
got out a couple of hours later and it was so strange. Usually, there was a lot
of noise as we all left school. Chattering and yelling and calling out for others
to wait. But not that day. There was complete silence. I walked home and
walked into the living room. My mother and Pat were sitting there watching the
television. I dropped my books inside the door and joined them and none of
us said a word for awhile. We watched TV all the rest of the day and all day
Saturday. On Sunday, my Dad stayed home, but the rest of us went to church.
During church, the minister told us that Jack Ruby had killed Lee Harvey Oswald.
My Dad had seen it live on television.
Then Monday was a national day of mourning and the funeral,
which we watched on television, of course. I had never felt so sad.
The change in the world that I mentioned earlier that impacted our May
Fete was the advent of integration. America was largely divided into two
separate communities – black and white. I grew up in a time in which, at our
grocery store, we had two water fountains. Over one hung a sign that said
“whites” and over the other hung a sign that said “coloreds.” There were
businesses with signs that said, “no coloreds.” We had different restrooms.
We had separate schools, of course. People sometimes called it “separate,
but equal.” Nothing could have been further from the truth. Houston
schools were ordered to integrate. They came up with a plan whereby they
would integrate one grade per year. In other words, first grade would be
integrated the first year and then as those kids moved through the grades, the
other grades would be integrated. That way, those of us who had already
started school would not have to sit next to black students. So ridiculous.
Anyway, that was the plan. When that plan started, May Fete stopped.
The reason? There was a potential for a black person to have to dance with a
white person or to at least touch hands. That, of course, was out of the
question. So we stopped May Fete. Later, when I was in junior high, that plan
was abandoned and schools were integrated. Although we did not have any
black students in my junior high, the District cancelled all dances held on
school campuses at that time. My last school dance was the Valentine
Dance when I was nominated for Valentine Sweetheart in 7th grade.
At the end of sixth grade, out of 30 kids who graduated from elementary
school that January, 27 went to Cullen Junior High, where my brothers
had gone. But our elementary school had recently become zoned to Jackson
Junior High and I did not ask for a waiver to attend Cullen. Looking back, I
can’t really remember why I didn’t want to go to Cullen like everybody else, but
I chose Jackson. It may have been just to be different. I think my belief that
there is little value to “normal” probably was in my core long before sixth grade.
At Jackson, I would say that I was on the second tier in terms of popularity.
I was not in the “in crowd” when I got there since I didn’t know anybody. Soon,
however, I became friends with people in that group and became part of it.
My friends there were Nema Frye, Candis Davidson, Patti Wimberly,
Augustina Cutaia, Carolyn Crawford, Sheryl Culbertson, Jane Turner,
Karen Rodgers, Donna Glasscock, Diana Thomas, and Susan Arto. I dated
Thomas Bennett and Gary North.
In 1964, the Presidential election was between Barry Goldwater and Lyndon
Johnson. Since my family was still quite Republican, we were for Goldwater. I
didn’t know too much about politics, of course, but I became a “Goldwater
Girl.” I went to my first political rally, which was at the Astrodome, and b
ought tons of Goldwater paraphernalia, including a sweatshirt that I still
have. In that election, Goldwater was portrayed by the Democrats as being a
warmonger. There is a famous commercial in which a little girl is singing
and picking a daisy and then it shows an atomic bomb exploding. Considering
that Johnson was responsible for the later escalation in VietNam, its funny
to look back on that political tactic. Of course, Johnson was an unbelievably
great President in so many ways, particularly in the area of civil rights.
The next year I wrote a paper for English about Goldwater called, “I’d
Rather Be Right Than President.” I felt so smart and also so superior when I
wrote it! I really wish I had a copy of it. I’m sure it would make for hilarious
When I was in junior high, my mother started working outside the home.
During my entire time in elementary school, I knew only one mother who
worked outside the home and she was divorced so there was no man in the
home. But back then, it was just the norm. Men worked. Women stayed
home. But that had started changing in the 60s. My mother got a job,
through Verda Harrison, at Ben Taub Hospital working as an admitting
clerk in the ER on the graveyard shift – 11 to 7. It was perfect for her because
she would leave after I was in bed at night and then she’d get home in time to
see me off to school. Then she would sleep while I was at school. She
worked for Ben Taub until she retired. She really enjoyed her work there. The
reason she went to work was the reason that most people work. She needed
the money. Both of my brothers were in college by then.
When I started high school at Austin High School on Dumble, I joined the
drill team, called the Scottish Brigade. Being in Brigade was something that
nearly all of the girls in the “in crowd” did. There were parts of it I liked –
the little traditions, the rituals, the friendships. Yet in spite of those good parts,
overall, I hated it. I did not like the militaristic aspects of it. I did not like taking
orders, even if it was just to dance a certain dance at a certain time. But
mostly, I did not like the unflattering uniforms that we had to wear on
Fridays and above all, the bobbie socks we had to wear as part of that
reserve uniform. I lasted about three weeks after school started and then
I just couldn’t take it anymore. It was actually a very difficult decision and I
ended up crying about it a lot. I was a very loyal Brigade supporter after
I left, but I never really regretted the decision.
The one organization that held my loyalty during high school was, of course,
choir. I sang in the Choralettes, which was the girls choir, as well as the
Chorale, the mixed choir. I played the piano some of the time, too. I also
loved speech and wound up competing in lots of forensic competitions.
I did improvizational, comedy, poetry, and duet. My duets were with Bonnie
Weeks. We did scenes from The Miracle Worker. I played Helen Keller. My
big claim to fame about that was that, during the really physical scenes
when Helen is wild and Annie Sullivan is trying to control her, I would bite
my tongue so that there would be real blood. My tongue would be SO
sore if we made it to the finals. I was also peripherally involved in the Future
Farmers of America. Actually, girls were not allowed in FFA when I was in
high school, but I was an FFA sweetheart in my junior year and I was the
FFA Queen in my senior year. I dated a couple of guys in FFA and one of them
actually did become a farmer after he graduated, but only because his family
had owned a farm. In my junior year, I made it to the finals for Most Beautiful
Junior. I looked fine, but the real reason I made it was that I have always been
excellent with people skills. I listened to the introductions of the judges. One
had a degree in music from some midwestern school. One had a degree from
Rice. The third one was a teacher. So when I went up for the interview and
they asked me what I wanted to do after high school, I said, “My dream, really,
is to major in music at Rice and then teach in the public schools.” Yep, I was
My family moved while I was in high school. We had lived on Winnetka since I
was born, but Blacks were moving in, and in 1966, that meant that Whites were moving
out. For awhile our Civic Club distributed signs that said: “This is my home.
It is NOT for sale.” But eventually, more and more people sold their homes
and so did we. At the time, I didn’t hate leaving the house at all, but my
parents sure did. It had been their dream house and they had helped in its
design and watched it go up and it was home. It didn’t bother me to say
goodbye, but ever since then, when I have dreams about home, they always
take place in that house on Winnetka. We moved into an apartment –
called the Beautiful Marlin Apartments – at 1617 Marlin and lived there for
two years while I finished high school. It was a two-bedroom, two-bath
apartment. I lived in the master bedroom and my parents had the other one. I don’t know why they did that — giving me the master bedroom, but it just seemed like the normal thing to do at the time.
It was an upstairs apartment. I liked it, but I’m sure my parents must have
hated it. Moving from a big split level into a tiny apartment had to be
devastating. The apartment’s saving grace was that is was directly behind
Rettig’s Ice Cream Parlor. My dad went over there nearly every night.
We had always been a Rettig’s family. There was one on the way home
from church and we would frequently stop for ice cream if we were at a night
service. We would get banana skyscrapers or hot fudge sundaes. The
apartment was within walking distance of a Weingarten’s and was much
closer to my Dad’s office and to his mom. It also provided me with an
endless source of babysitting jobs.
There were three traumatic events that happened in high school that shaped
my experience. The first took place the first year, tenth grade. Just before
Christmas time, we were all standing outside waiting for school to start
and it was a pretty cool morning. I was standing with Butch Reid in front of
the school. He had on a cardigan sweater with pockets. I put my hands
in the pockets of his sweater. Miss Hart, the girls guidance counselor saw us
from her window and just about stroked out that we were standing so close
together. She was a gigantic woman – probably close to 400 pounds. She
came running down the stairs to catch us, but fell. I didn’t find that out until
later, but it really made me feel better about the entire incident. Anyway,
the assistant principal, Coach Katrola (honest, that was his name), came out
and we both got U’s in conduct for the semester. What this meant was that I
could not compete in speech tournaments and I could not run for twirler, which
was my plan. It was awful for me. My parents tried to fight it, but there was
really no way to turn things around. They considered just pulling me out of
that school and moving so that I could go to a different high school. I’m glad
they didn’t because I wouldn’t have ended up with Danny and Kendra, but I’m
sure it was tempting at the time.
My mother was working at Ben Taub and a former psychiatric patient came in to
be admitted and he stabbed my mother. I got the call, right after I had
arrived home from a basketball game. I stayed at Nema’s house that night.
We stayed up all night long, waiting for word of how she was. It turned out that
she was fine. She had to miss about six weeks of work, but she enjoyed
that. She was home for Christmas, which was nice. My brother Danny got a
hardship leave from the Air Force and Bill Worrell drove him home. At that time,
Pat was stationed on the Lexington and he did not request leave. He finally
wrote to us about it and he said that, when you work with animals, that’s what
you should expect. His Naval years were not his best years, to say the
least. In fact, on his birthday each year, he says he was born __ number of
years ago, but that he’s only lived for ___ (that number minus two) years
because he did not live during his two years of involuntary servitude in the Navy.
On January 17, 1969, my friend Carol Cole fixed me up with a friend of her
boyfriend, Frank Parrish. The friend’s name was Lonnie Vara. We’d been
in school together for nearly three years, and he had been on the football
team and was elected Most Handsome Senior, but I’d never actually met
him. We started dating that night and never really stopped dating until we
became engaged three years later.
I graduated from Austin High School in May, 1969. Graduation was really not
that big of a deal for my family. There was no party or anything. I graduated in
the top quarter of my class. I applied only to the University of Houston and I was
I majored in music at the University of Houston. Just about everywhere I’d ever
been, I was the best musically. I had always played the piano for every choir
and I sang solos in front of groups. In short, I was pretty hot stuff. I thought.
Then I hit UH. I decided to major in voice. They had try-outs in the summer
and I went in to knock their socks off. The only reaction from the professor
was, “So you sing a lot of pop music, do you?” The way he said it, I knew
for sure it wasn’t a compliment. I was assigned to Jean Preston as a voice
teacher. I really liked her. She was extraordinarily nice to me. I didn’t have
the best voice in the school, but what I lacked in talent, I made up for in volume. Not my voice, my music. I memorized more songs that anybody and had a knack for learning
the different languages of the songs I was assigned. We were also given a
theory placement test. I had never really been taught theory when I took
piano lessons so I didn’t know very much at all. I learned it all quickly, though.
I loved it.
UH had orientation weekends during the summer. Bunches of incoming
freshmen stayed in the dorms for two days and learned about UH. The person
who roomed with me asked me if I was planning on joining a sorority. That
was the first time I ever really thought about that. I decided to see what it was
like. I signed up for rush.
Because I had basically skipped a semester of school to keep from graduating
at midterm, I missed the last half of ninth grade, which was when Driver’s
Education was offered. Without Driver’s Education, I could not get my license
until I was 18. The only problem was that I didn’t turn 18 until two weeks
after college classes started. And rush was before that. I could not possibly
have my mom drop me off at rush parties, so I learned how to drive. Paul
Daigle, a dear friend from high school, taught me. He stayed in the car with
me while I drove around and around the parking lot at Gulfgate.
During that summer, we moved from the apartment into a house at 6029 Clover
Ridge. It had been built by the Jollys, who were the parents of a guy who
worked for my Dad at the Houston Lighting and Power Company, where my
Dad was the supervisor of Stores Accounting. The house was great and it had
a swimming pool in the backyard, which I loved.
So it was a busy summer between moving, learning to drive, dating Lonnie
(my Dad got him a summer job at the Light Company), working part time at
Sears until I got fired because they thought I was stealing, and getting ready to
start college. When rush started, I had decided in advance that I wanted to
pledge Delta Gamma, but once rush started, I really loved Delta Zeta. They
had the best songs. I pledged Delta Zeta and loved the feeling of being part of
a group like that. I felt such pride. During the first semester of college, I
became a little less enthralled with Delta Zeta, mainly because of the arcane
rules. It was the end of 1969, meaning we had already been through the 60s,
and yet, as “greeks,” we were not allowed to wear bluejeans to school. We
could not wear slacks at all, unless they were “pants suits,” which meant that
the top and slacks had to be the same material and the top had to come down
to the fingertips. Just stupid rules like that. Then came the big one. Lonnie
and I were still dating and we had gotten “pinned.” Our big winter dance was
coming up and I had my dress and Lonnie had rented his tux and the
sorority board called me in and told me they were kicking me out. I didn’t
understand why and their reasons didn’t make sense. They said I just wasn’t
cooperative enough and I didn’t put enough work into the pledge song I was
in charge of writing. They asked me to go to the Dean of Women and just
resign so that no questions would be asked. Looking back, I don’t know
why I cared enough to make it easy on them, but I did as I was told. A couple
of weeks later, I found out that the real reason they “de-pledged” me was
that I was dating a Mexican. I felt a lot better about the whole deal then.
Kendra Colleen Vara, born Thursday, February 3, 1977 at 9:38 in the morning, weighing seven pounds, 3 ounces, 19 inches long.
When I was pregnant with Kendra, I really really really wanted a little girl. I already had the perfect son and I was pretty sure this would be my last child so I wanted a daughter. I was thrilled when she was born (even though, as all my children know, I temporarily died (temporary dying being the very best kind) during labor with Kendra). She was a perfect little girl — so beautiful from the very moment she was born. She took to nursing from the time she was an hour old and didn’t stop for a couple of years. Some of my sweetest memories about Kendra’s babyhood center around her breastfeeding. Since I was the only one who could feed her, I got up with her during the night and those were very special times, just cuddling in the dark in the rocking chair that had rocked five generations of Brennans. When Kendra was two, she would still nurse from time to time. She called nursing “mama,” which was a convenient and nonembarrassing word when she would use it in public. I can remember her nursing, then wiggiling out of my arms to leave the room. She turned just when she got to the door, licked her lips, and said, “Good MAma!” I can still hear her voice saying those words. What a sweet little bit. Kendra always had an adventurous spirit so it wasn’t a real surprise when she wanted to go to another country to live for a year as a foreign exchange student. She selected Iceland so that she would have a truly different experience and she sure did. She experienced many firsts there — first time to eat yogurt, first time to eat lamb, first time to experience real snow, first time to ski, first time to scale fish, first time to clean out lamb skulls, and some even more important firsts. She came back home, got her GED, got into UH, majoring in political science. She then took on another adventure as a White House Intern during President Clinton’s last term. She learned a lot and it helped her focus on what she did and did not enjoy about politics. She did not like the policy end and really preferred the grassroots level. When she left DC, she enrolled in Georgia State University in Atlanta, majoring in political science and marketing. She became more focused on what she wanted, at that time, to do with her life — working in political campaigns. She graduated from GSU and continued to live and work (for Congress member Denise Majette) in Atlanta. One weekend, she went with a friend who was helping a friend of his move. The friend who was moving was Chris Swiedler. He was moving to San Francisco. Kendra and Chris hit it off and kept in touch. There were a lot of trips back and forth before Kendra ended up moving to San Francisco, where she worked for another member of Congress (Lynn Woolsey). In 2007, Kendra and Chris got married in a ceremony at Emerson Unitarian Church, followed by a reception at The Children’s Museum of Houston. It was an amazing night. Two years later, on May 23, 2009, Kendra gave birth to twin boys — Jack and Andrew. They have a separate page on this website and even a website of their own, mostly because their journey was not an easy one at first. As I write this, they are three years old. Watching Kendra become a mother was the most spectacular thing I’ve ever experienced. I’m so fortunate to have been the mother of such a incredibly wonderful daughter. With a child who is such a gem, you just polish her and let her shine.
Colin Patrick Brennan, born Friday, June 25, 1982, at 8:33 in the morning, weighing eight pounds, six ounces, 19 and 3/4 inches long.
Just thinking about Colin when he was a baby makes me feel all sentimental and gooey inside. He was a perfect little baby. He slept a lot, breastfed well, and had such a sweet disposition. This has pretty much continued all through his life. When other kids were in the terrible twos, Colin was a delightful toddler. When he got mad, he would just get quiet. If he was furious, he’d turn his back on whoever made him angry. It would be easy to see the negative aspects of that — of keeping his feelings inside. But he didn’t do that. He was always good at talking about what was bothering him. He simply didn’t get overly hostile about it. Colin has a husky little voice when he was a preschooler and just thinking about it makes me smile. He worshipped his older brother, Danny, and definitely got his love of sports from him. He also wanted to be like his Dad and got his love of music from him. When Colin was in first grade, his teacher told me, “This is a strange thing to say and I’ve never said it about a first grader, but Colin has a good heart.” That is so true. He really has a good, open, loving heart. He is a wonderful big brother to all the little kids. I have seen his heart brimming with love. I’ve always seen his heart shattered into a million pieces — when his baby brother Tyler died.
Colin has learning disabilities and it has made school a real challenge for him. But Colin has learned to enjoy what he loves about school and just put up with the rest without much complaint. I have had to fight for some things for him in terms of his education, but he makes every fight worthwhile because it really matters to him.
Colin is 30 years old now. I can hardly believe it because, if I close my eyes, I can still feel his baby breath on my neck when I used to rock him at night. He is in college and working and forming his own opinions based on his own reasoning on all kinds of subjects. I never thought that the child with whom I would have the most political conversations would be Colin. I so enjoy talking politics with him. He’s got great insight. I’m so proud of the young man he has become, but I’ll never forget the sweet, gentle, dazzling boy he was. And is.
Sean Tomas Brennan, born October 30, 1984 at 12:15 in the afternoon, weighing nine pounds, two ounces, twenty inches long.
I will never forget the day Sean was born. His birth was scheduled for October 30 and I was SO ready for it to happen. It had been a difficult pregnancy and I just couldn’t wait for my little Megan to be born. That’s right — Megan. I was positive that this baby was a girl.I had to have a bunch of stress tests where they saw the baby’s heart rate and every nurse said it looked like a girl. Plus I already had two boys and only one girl, so I thought that would be perfect. When we were in the delivery room and they said he was a boy, I was astonished. I asked the doctor to double-check. Tom was there and said, “Oh, he’s definitely a little boy!” And oh — he was so beautiful. And BIG! Nine pounds, two ounces. I went back to my room and Sean came with me. They put a little pumpkin hat on his head because it was the day before Halloween. Some friends from church sent me ballons tied onto a bottle of “its a boy” champagne. I remember that so well because, when those balloons arrived, I thought of the birth of Sean as a real celebration.
And Sean has been a celebration every since. It seems so strange now, looking back, that I ever thought having a girl would have been better. Imagining Colin without Sean is impossible. Those two have been so close from day one. I’ll never forget Tom bringing Colin to the hospital and Colin was sitting in Tom’s lap and Tom was holding Sean in his other arm. I said to Colin, “What do you think of that baby Daddy’s got there?” And Colin looked at Sean, and then said — “TWO babies!” If Sean was a baby, well then — he was, too! And those boys have been each other’s best friends ever since.
Sean is the child who is most like me of all my children. That’s both good and bad, of course. He’s very smart and very grounded in common sense. He’s good at figuring things out. He’s emotionally volitile sometimes. He loves with his whole heart, which means it sometimes gets broken.
Watching Sean grow up has been wonderful for me. He wasn’t a particularly easy baby. He became an adorable toddler. His preschool years were filled with an obsession with Mr. Rogers, which translated into Sean wearing coats and ties all the time, listening to Mr. Rogers tapes, and even having a poster of the man in his room. Sean was good in elementary school — both academically and in sports. He even won a trophy in the Big Shoot Out. He was easy going in school — doing well without getting too compulsive about it.
Sean is probably the most responsible of the kids, which is saying something since they are all very responsible. Even before he was an adult, though, he had an adult sense of responsibility.
This year, he married Cindy Campos, the love of his life. I love having another daughter, and watching them take responsibility for each other in ways that married people don’t always do. Sean works with young people at Neighborhood Centers right now and is finishing up his degree at UH. He is on the Board of Directors of A Simple Thread. I could not be prouder of his commitment to help other people and to live a good life.
I love being Sean’s mom and I am loving every minute of watching his future unfold.
Kelsey Brenna Roach, born September 17, 1986 at 11:04 at night, weighing seven pounds five ounces. Gotcha day was January 10, 1990.
Kelsey came to us in a really unusual way. We had adopted Paul and Megan already when we had a foster baby named Michael. He had Down Syndrome and we were in love with him from the start. We wanted to adopt him, but Catholic Charities had a rule that we couldn’t adopt two babies in the same year so he ended up being adopted by another family. Our experience with Michael really made us want to adopt a baby with DS, though, so I wrote to agencies around the state. We got lots of calls about babies, but none with DS. Finally, we sat down as a family and decided that there was just not a baby with DS out there for us now, but there were so many other kids waiting for homes that maybe we should really consider the next call. It came within minutes and was about this three year old little girl in Dallas with severe mental retardation of unknown cause. They sent us a picture and we fell in love immediately with her. We visited and then started the adoption process. Kelsey (her name was Stacy Stanton before we adopted her) had been adopted as a newborn by Dan and Rhonda Stanton. Nobody knew that anything was wrong with her. When it became apparent that something was VERY wrong, the Stansons asked the adoption agency to allow them to relinquish their parental rights because they knew they just couldn’t handle it. The adoption agency, Hope Cottage, was fine with that, but the judge in the case would not allow it. He villified the Stantons in the media and appointed a friend of his, John Barr, as the attorney ad litem. This guy was a piece of work and to tell this whole story could be a website all to itself. Ultimately, we became friends with the Stantons and were able to get the judge recused from the case. I ended up giving an ultimatum to the court, which got me on the cover of The Texas Lawyer, long before I became an attorney. It worked and we finalized Kelsey’s adoption. There was lots of media coverage, including a great trip to New York for the whole family to be on the Maury Povich Show. National television news, national magazines, and lots of local stuff both in Houston and Dallas. We got a diagnosis for Kelsey. Angelman Syndrome. Good to have a name for it, but bleak in terms of prognosis. Kelsey has an IQ of 19. She will never talk or be out of diapers. She will always be basically a 3 month old baby in a big body. Three month old babies don’t physically hurt people, but only because of their size. They throw things without much force; grab hair and ears and noses and earrings and anything their hand touches without doing much damage; they kick when their diapers are changed without hurting. But these activities from a child who is almost your size can practically maim. It got to the point where we couldn’t keep Kelsey at home. We were fortunate to find a wonderful group home for her in Orange where she stays in a suburban neighborhood in a house with five other girls that have similar disabilities to hers. They have awake staff there around the clock and, although Kelsey is not making progress and is never expected to, she is well cared for and loved. Every time I go to see her, I spend the whole drive there thinking what a terrible mother I am and the whole drive back being totally grateful that we found such a good place for her because we just could not do it. Unlike my other kids, when I look into Kelsey’s future, I do not have hope for her. I know that this is all Kelsey will ever be. It’s tragic for everyone, especially Kelsey.
Paul Callahan Roach, born April 23, 1987, weighing six pounds, 5 ounces, 20 and 1/2 inches in length. His Gotcha Day was May 15, 1987 at 3:00 in the afternoon.
Paul came to us when he was just three weeks old as a foster baby. Eventually, he was diagnosed with Prader-Will Syndrome, but we didn’t know that for about nine months. At the time we got Paul, we were not looking to adopt any kids. We had our four and that was plenty. Funny how love can change your mind and heart. The whole family was head over heels about Paul from the start. We adopted him just before his first birthday. Our struggles with PWS are constant. Paul is extremely typical of the syndrome. His appetite is insatiable and he is extremely clever, in spite of his mental retardation, when it comes to getting food. He is amazing at doing puzzles and legos. He catches on quickly to games. He is compulsive about routine and keeping everybody on a time schedule. He’s 25 now and functions at about a 6 or 7 year old level. The problem is that he is not so mentally retarded that he doesn’t know what’s going on, like Kelsey. But he has mental retardation and he will never have a normal life. Yet, that’s what he wants. He wants to be just like Colin and Sean.
A kind of a miracle came to us when we found Rock House, which provides small group homes for adults with mental retardation, and they have homes specifically for Prader-Willi Syndrome. We got on their wait list and he moved there in 2008. At the time, he weighed nearly 400 pounds. Three years later, he weighed 155 pounds. Rock House literally saved Paul’s life. He graduated from high school and works in the recycle center, which is a sheltered workshop environment. It allows him to make money, though.
It’s so amazing to think of the limp little baby he was when you see the man he is now. Paul is constantly amazing and keeps us laughing all the time. I really can’t wait to watch Paul’s future unfold. He’s our miracle.
Megan Siobhan Brennan, born May 12, 1988, weighing seven pounds and thirteen ounces, 20 and one-half inches long. Her Gotcha Day was December 15, 1988 at 4:00 in the afternoon, weighing seventeen pounds and one ounce, 25 and one-half inches in length
In 1988, we already had five children – Danny was 14, Kendra was 11, Colin was 6, Sean was 4, and Paul was 1. We had adopted Paul early in 1988. He had come to us as a foster baby and he had a lot of medical problems. Eventually, he was diagnosed as having Prader-Willi Syndrome. Our whole family loved Paul and the agency (Catholic Charities) couldn’t find a family to adopt him, so we asked if we could adopt him. His adoption started us down the road to adopting kids with disabilities.
Shortly after we adopted Paul, our daughter Kendra asked if we could adopt a little girl. She now had four brothers and really wanted a sister. I wanted another daughter, too. We had had several foster babies who were girls and I wanted another little girl as my own. So we told the agency that, if they got a little girl with special needs, we would like to be considered. We knew it would probably be a long time, because this agency didn’t really get a lot of babies with disabilities.
Four days later, our caseworker called us and asked us if we would consider adopting the baby girl that was in foster care with the Spears. The Spears – Paula and Rob – were friends of ours who were also foster parents. We knew the baby girl they had in their care. We had “met” her at a picnic when she was only 4 days old and had seen her several times over the preceding six months. She didn’t really have severe disabilities. She was just missing a facial nerve so her face didn’t work quite right, but she was cognitively normal.
The call came in November and we adopted Megan on December 15, 1988, just in time for her first Christmas. . Megan was diagnosed with Moebius Syndrome around the age of 3 or 4. Her 7th facial nerve was missing. This meant that she looked a little like she’d had a stroke on one side of her face. She had only slight movement on that side of her mouth. That eye closed almost, but not quite, all the way when she slept. She could not close her mouth at all, so she could not pronounce the sound for P, M, or B.
Megan’s infancy and toddlerhood were wonderful times for our family. She was loved by everybody. She was really adorable and funny and had this great husky little voice. She was just a really bright light in our family.
The only odd behavior I ever noticed when Megan was really little was that she would, usually when she was in trouble for something, just stand completely still and stare off into space and be unresponsive no matter what was said. Kendra started calling this her “statue mode.”
Megan has had problems in her life and they increased in her teen years. Almost monthly, I would think that she turned a corner and things would get better, but I was wrong about that every time for many years. She has spent more than a year out of public school because of all the behavior problems she had, but started back to junior high at Jackson Middle School — which is where my Dad and I both went to junior high. She did really well there and got involved in soccer. She made a lot of friends. She went to Austin High School, but soon started having serious problems. She started running away again. I would get calls from the police when they would pick her up. One time, she took a bus to see a boy in Michigan and made it all the way up there. She ran away for a week, and the police found her after she broke into an elementary school in our neighborhood, where she stole food from the cafeteria and was watching TV in a classroom when they found her. She dropped out of high school, got her GED, and joined the Army. She didn’t even make it through basic training before she was medically discharged, mostly because of psychiatric problems. She had a little money when she came back and we got her an apartment and she found a job, but eventually, she got into drugs. She got HIV. Lonnie was her savior during this time and paid for her apartment and for her to go to school. Ultimately, though, she just got worse and worse. More into drugs and doing whatever it took to get money for drugs. She was homeless. Finally, she was caught after the burglarized a home and she was sentenced to 2 years in prison. Prison seems to have been good for her. She got clean and sober, found religion, and generally just grew up.
Her life is completely different now. She is with Jeremy Weiss and they have a son together. His name is Casey Patrick and he is an adorable one-year-old. My friend, Susan, said to me the other day, “Are we ready to relax and say that Megan is going to be all right now?” I realized that I thought maybe we could. Maybe. I never thought I’d get there, but I think I did. Megan is taking courses at ACC to become a nurse. I hope she stays on this road.
Brigid Mila Brennan, born April 21, 1991, weighing six pounds, nine ounces. Her Gotcha Day was Thursday, June 13, 1991, weighing eight pounds, eight ounces, 20 and one-half inches in length.
I will never forget the day we adopted Brigid Mila Brennan and how she came into our family. We were in the midst of the legal battle over Kelsey and there was lots of news stories about us. In one of them, the reporter asked if we would ever adopt another child, considering the problems we were having trying to adopt Kelsey. Tom said we still wanted to adopt a baby with Down Syndrome. A couple who had been in one of my Childbirth Education classes read the article. A few weeks later, some friends of theirs had a baby with DS and did not want to keep her. She put us in touch and we met with them and agreed to adopt their baby girl. They brought her to our house a week later and Tom took her in his arms and said, “Hello pretty girl! Give your Daddy a smile.” And she did. She was so adorable and that hasn’t changed a bit. Brigid is as stubborn as a child gets, and as sweet as a child gets, too. And you think you know what manipulation is? Brigid could teach it! She’s the master.
Brigid graduated from high school last year. She lives in the Rock House group home as Paul and they’re still best friends. Right now, she’s into WWE wrestling and whoever the current teen heart throb is. She works at the Rock House recycling center and enjoys the friends she’s made there.
Any list of my children has to include Tyler Clinton Roach, born on November 9, 1994, weighing seven pounds, six ounces, twenty and one-fourth inches in length. We were there and his Gotcha Day was when he got out of the hospital on November 11, 1994 at noon, but I won’t really write about him here because the story of his life is on the “Eulogies” page.