Ann’s Story, as Told by Ann
Born in Lewiston, Maine, October 12, 1963, fourth in a family of five children. Parents were born here; grandparents on both sides, paternal and maternal, were born in Canada. I consider myself Franco‑ American. My [grandparents] migrated here specifically for work, to work in the mills. They were raised on farms. Extremely large families in Canada. A brother of my maternal grandfather had 18 children with one wife and the wife died; remained [and] had 17 children. Lived on a farm and stayed in Canada, never came here. At the time they [had] these very large families. There were two influences: one was religion. Birth control was, you know, births were a gift from God, and the other was just the workforce for working on the farm. They had food; they made a their clothes.
So my grandparents came here for work in the mills. This was in about the 1920s. My mother was born here in 1927. My father was born here in 1926. My father was the baby of a family of four [children] and interestingly my mother was the oldest of a family of four. I’ll just talk about my dad first. My father was born into a family that had more money back then than my mother’s family. My mother’s family lived down on Lincoln Street, winch is where a lot of Canadians [lived] ’cause it was so close to the mill; they could walk over to the mill. But my father lived up on the hill up on Acadia, off Lisbon Street, further up in Holy Cross Parish. Grew up there. My dad’s parents were born in Canada. They were young [when they came here]. At the age of 12 they were working in a shoe shop, 10 hour days for five days in a row for 11 dollars a week. As far as schooling, they went to like second and third grade and that was it ’cause then it was time to go to work. Worked hard all their lives.
[My father] was extremely close to his mother. My father never wanted to disappoint his mother; his mother was very controlling. He was very jealous of his older siblings because they made their own decisions. She kind of let go of them, but held very close onto my father. Just an example: my father after graduating from high school went into the Navy for four years; came back to Lewiston, started working in a shoe shop. His mother was also working there. My father returned from the Navy. He wanted a car, and I he was now dating my mother. He found a car that he wanted and he brought it to the house, and it was a very big deal because nobody had cars and he could afford it. His mother saw the car and said that a car destroys a young person. So he didn’t buy it, and for the rest of his life my mother swears that he always regretted and resented the fact that he didn’t get that car, and it’s because of his mother. That’s the kind of influence she had.
My grandmother was working in the shoe shop and met a man who had left the shoe shop to go to barber school in Portland. [She] came home, told my father that’s what he should do, and that’s what he did. He quit his job at the shoe mill, and he moved to Portland. He lived at the YMCA in Portland and went to barber school. I don’t know if that’s what [my father] wanted to do. He was always extremely jealous of my uncle, but that’s what his mother wanted him to do so that’s what he did. Worked as a barber all his life, and complained about how much he hates his job. He was in an accident, fell off the roof of our house. I was probably 8, which meant that [my sister] Jane was 4. It was winter, and for some reason he was on the roof of the house, and he fell off the roof and landed on his back on our frozen pool. My Aunt Connie, who lived down the hill from us, saw him fall and‑I was in the house so I answered the phone‑called and said, “Your father fell. Go out and see your father, he’s on the pool,” whatever, so I went out and he was laying there on his back. By then my aunt had called the ambulance. My dad was out of work for a year and a half, in a back brace. He had broken some vertebrae and broken a wrist. In that time he went to CMVTI to learn electronics because he was going to change his career, but he never did. I remember him going to work in that brace, just doing like a couple customers. That’s as close as he got to getting out of barbering.
My great‑grandparents grew up in the vicinity of each other up in Canada and everybody was making this mass exodus, moving to the United States, and Lewiston was a place they went. My material grandfather Ernest Sampson was born in Canada and came here at the age of 17. My maternal grandmother, my mother’s mother, was born here. My great‑grandparents on my mother’s side stayed in Canada. They never moved down here. They worked on farms up there. My grandmother’s mother had 21 children. They were all born here, they were all single births, and there were only two boys. My grandmother had 20 siblings. Many of them died young, from tuberculosis, from meningitis, from ear infections, mastoiditis. A lot of them died of mastoiditis, and it’s very odd because I have a list of all of them and their date of births and what they died of. One of my great‑aunts had put this thing together. And child after child have the same name. Rosa was bom; Rosa died at one month 2 days; so then Rosa was born, and Rosa died at 2; so then Rosa was born …. I mean it’s bizarre [laughs] and I tried to find out from my mother and from my aunts why that is. A lot of them were named after saints so it wasn’t … now it would be like a bad omen, but then they were named after Catholic saints. They had very strong Catholic religion.
So, my mother’s mother and my grandfather married. They were about 25 years old. My grandmother died at the age of 33 from a pulmonary embolus, nine months after childbirth. My grandfather died at the age of 86 of heart problems. My grandfather never remarried, never dated. He was a very shy man. Very hard worker. His routine, my mother was telling me, he would work all day like 7 in the morning ’til 5 at night in the shoe shop, come home, they would eat and then he would go out for one hour. He would leave from 6 to 7, and he would be back at 7. And then Saturday afternoon he’d be gone all afternoon, and he was gone to play cards and drink at the Pastime Club, where they all went to smoke and drink and play cards. He did that until he had a stroke at the age of maybe 82. That was his routine, on Saturday afternoons he’d be at the Pastime Club, that’s what he did, down on Lincoln Street.
My grandfather was a very stoic man. My mother does not remember him ever telling her that he loved her, or how was your day, or anything. They were frightened of him. They were frightened. She says now they know they were frightened of losing him. There were times on Saturdays when he’d go to the Pastime Club and come home and lock himself in the bathroom‑I remember the bathroom they had, it wasn’t really a bathroom, it was like a toilet in a closet‑he would go in there and lock himself in there ’til the morning and he would just be vomiting. And the girls were so frightened because they thought he would die. They didn’t want to lose him.
My grandfather was left with four children, the oldest was 4, [ages] 4, 3, 1 ½, and 9 months. My grandmother had sisters, the Vaillaincourts; they lived a few buildings down across the street, and one of them, Yvonne, who was the oldest, took over the role of mother. She would go over. My mother says she does not remember Yvonne not being there in the morning when they woke up, and not being there at night. But she would not sleep there because it was inappropriate for her to sleep there. She was a young woman and she was single, and her mother, my great‑grandmother, wouldn’t allow that. So she would cook their meals. The only meal my grandfather would make was on Sunday afternoon. So my mother said they would all be sitting around the table and he would come in and he did not communicate at all. So he would come in and say, “Do you need anything at the store” to Yvonne and Yvonne would say yes or no, and they would sit down and eat and then he would go in the livingroom and when Yvonne had done all the dishes and everything was done he would leave for one hour, at which point Yvonne would walk the four lads over to her house and then bring them back and tuck them into bed and everything, and then go home, and then be there the next morning when the kids woke up. For years, until Connie got married, that’s when she actually left, when she actually stopped. She just stuck with them through all that. [My mother] remembers Yvonne crying because my …. Yvonne’s sister Laurette would say that they need her at home to do la menage, which is the work, the housework. Housework is very important to get done, and they needed her at home, and, you know, stop, you don’t need to go there anymore, they’re old enough. And Yvonne would be crying and my mother would say to Yvonne, my mother was in high school, said to Yvonne, “You’re old enough, you don’t have to do what Laurette says. You can do what you want to do.” And Yvonne did not go; she stayed with them.
They were very poor. They wouldn’t have anything new, ever. Everything was hand‑me‑downs. My mother says she remembers sewing holes in socks, and never had really good winter clothes or anything. Very rich diet, very heavy cream and butter.
My mother remembers her mother. Her mother died [when she was 4]. My grandmother would bake bread and my grandfather would slice a piece of warm bread. Back then they had ice chests, big ice blocks, so there were these big chunks of cold, cold butter, and he would take a big chunk of butter, and he would put a big chunk of butter on the bread and he would pour warm maple syrup on it so it would melt, and my mother remembers going between them, jumping off her mother’s lap, going over, taking a bite of bread and then going back and jumping on her [mother]. And she remembers her mother sitting and stitching a quilt. As far as my mother remembering her mother’s death, she remembers being under the porch and a lot of people coming in. There was a little area under the porch where the kids would go sit. She was with her two sisters and a lot of people were coming in and they knew something was wrong. Nothing was ever said to her about, “Your mother’s dead” or anything‑ it was just over, she was gone, and that was it. She doesn’t remember the funeral, she doesn’t remember any of that. She remembers a lot of people after. It was very traditional, and it still is, for Catholics, you go to a funeral and it’s like a three‑day wake and after that you go eat for days. You have people stay at your house and you eat. It’s a lot of food, a feast kind of thing. That’s what my mother remembers about her mother. Other than that, Yvonne was her mother. Yvonne was an old maid. Yvonne never married. Once they were all married off Yvonne moved in with her sisters, and died.
Yvonne actually played a very big role in our lives because she was our babysitter. One of my earliest memories, and I can’t really say how old I was, but I remember being rocked by Yvonne. Yvonne used to rock, and Yvonne used to give you back scratches. And I don’t know how old I was but that was young, because she died I was probably, maybe 6; I don’t think I was even 6 when she died. I remember going to the house, I remember my mother being so upset. [Yvonne] was just so old to me, I remember thinking, you know, I didn’t really understand why Mom was so upset, but this was like her mother, dying, again.
I remember my paternal grandmother’s funeral. That’s the first funeral I remember. She died before Yvonne and we figure it was about [when I was] 4. I remember my brother telling me to touch her in the casket. She was laying there and I thought she was just sleeping, and my brother Paul, who’s two years older than me, said, “Touch her.” You know, she’s dead, she’s cold, “Touch her; ” I remember him saying that to me, and I did and how that flipped me out. I was very, you know, she was cold, she was hard, she was dead and it … I remember that feeling. I remember her lips, laying in the casket, how fake it looked.
My parents both graduated from high school, and that was a very big deal then because their parents, like I said, only went to second grade or third grade. My mother married my dad at the age of 25. She thought my father was just it. He was very handsome, he had been in the Navy so he had traveled all over, and that was a very big deal. He was educated, drove a car, dressed nice, came from a well‑to‑do family. For a majority of her life she was very afraid of losing him.
My parents lived down on Lincoln Street in an apartment above her father’s. They lived down there for two or three years ’til they got enough money. My father had gone to barber school and my mother was hairdressing now. My mother got into hairdressing because one of her aunts was a hairdresser, and that’s how that aft happened. So my mother was working, living in an apartment on top of her father, and my father went to barber school, came back, opened a shop ‘in Lewiston, and they lived there, saved money, and then bought a lot of land on Mary Street in Lewiston and built a house. It took them like a year to build this house. It was a big house, big ranch.
They had Sue before they moved into the house. They had Sue down on Lincoln Street. Sue was the idol of my father. Sue could do no wrong, Sue … they had extremely high expectations of Sue. Sue was great until she hit adolescence. Sue was very smart, she was very pretty. Sue is 48; I’m 33. During the ’60s‑I was born in ’63‑during the 60s Sue was in high school. Back then it was the hippie generation, and smoking pot and being cool …. Sue started hanging out with what they called hippies back then, boys with long hair. My parents were extremely worried about her. [She] wore black clothes, bell bottoms, and she used to wear really big earrings, got the hair cut short, you know, the whole hippie thing. My mom remembers they used to walk around with walking sticks.
My father had a barber shop on Lisbon Street and he talked to a lot of people, and one day a Lewiston police officer came in to get his hair cut and told my father that he needed to be aware that Sue was seen in Kennedy Park with a hippie, with a guy with long hair and a walking stick. My father, that was like on a Thursday, my father was admitted to St. Mary’s Hospital on Saturday with an anxiety attack. He thought it was the worst thing. He talked to Sue about it, and Sue kind of blew it off, said it was just friends. And he had an anxiety attack. He thought he was having a heart attack, that’s how anxious he was. She also skipped school, I guess like that Friday or something, and my dad went into the hospital either that Friday night or Saturday and came out on Monday. Heart was fine. But it was anxiety, and my mother said that they decided they were going to go to family counseling. Back then it was very expensive; it was expensive for them because they now had four children. But they had some state counseling service or something and they went three tunes. At some point prior I guess they had gone to one counseling session and then, that following week, my mother was checking through Sue’s drawers in her room and found a pipe, a pot pipe. The next counseling session my mother brought it up, and the counselor said that, “This is what’s going on. Don’t you read the papers, don’t you listen to tv, this is what’s going on with teenagers now,” was the response from this counselor. [Sue] also started doing diet pills because she said that she felt like she was fat. She was on the swim team, she was very pretty, but she started doing diet pills. And both my parents were going nuts, getting physically ill worrying about Sue.
My Aunt Connie, who is my mother’s youngest sister, called my Aunt Pauline. My father’s brother [Bob] married my mother’s sister [Pauline] and they have three children. Bob was always considered the rich, smart, older brother. We were all very close. They would come over, or we would go there, but usually they would come over ’cause we had a pool and tennis court and a lot of room. They would come over for a month at a time in the middle of the summer (and that was just another example of how rich Bob is, he can take a whole month off of work), but they would come. I mean we would go there, to Cincinnati. I remember going to Cincinnati for weeks, for like two weeks, but they would come here for long periods of tune. And that went on every single summer. So we were very close to them.
So Connie called Pauline and told Pauline that Lou and Lorraine are getting sick over Sue. Sue is making them sick, and all ” stuff is happening. Bob, my father’s brother, called his brother Lou, my father, Lucien, on a Friday. Sue left on Sunday and went to live her senior year in high school in Syracuse, New York. She did her senior year in New York and graduated in New York. The only time that my parents saw her was she came back at Christmas, and then in April, the end of April, when she graduated. And then she came back to Lewiston.
Sue got out of high school [and] she went to hairdressing school in Portland. She had aspirations of being a model. She was very pretty. And my parents did offer and encourage her to go to college, but she didn’t want to do that. My mother now feels that they had way too strong expectations of Sue. It was such a disappointment to my father, one, that I think he couldn’t handle Sue or deal with Sue, and then all the jealousy and antagonism he had toward his older brother Bob. Now he can’t father this child; now we’re going to send her to Bob. Bob takes care of her for a year.
It was so much for my father that after that he pretty much gave up any discipline of the children. It was [that] he was so disappointed in himself. It was like, just gonna let Lorraine take care of it, so I never remember my father disciplining us. I remember him disciplining Paul once, Paul and Rick, ’cause they needed it [laughs], and it was ridiculous. But we were afraid of my mother, and my mother was the disciplinarian. If you had to go tell Mom something you got in trouble. My father with that whole episode pretty much gave up decision‑making. My mother would decide. [He] gave up really a whole lot of control. He would say over and over and over again to my mother, “Well, this is your decision, so if it doesn’t work out it’s your fault.” Which made my mother very powerful, a very strong matriarch in our family. So that was the thing with Sue and my Dad.
My relationship with Sue. Sue was very pretty. I always thought Sue was really cool. She pierced my ears and bought me my first album, Doobie Brothers. I’ll never forget it. You know, it was just really cool. She cut my hair like Rod Stewart’s hair once, I felt really cool, all layered, all feathered [laugh]. Sue was cool. I remember when I was in my teen years, dating, being very jealous because she was very flirtatious. She had very poor self‑image and she was very flirtatious, and I used to feel she flirted with my boyfriend. We had it out about that once.
I remember Sue getting married when I was 4 years old. Sue was pregnant, she was 19, met this guy and she got pregnant. My parents told her she didn’t have to get married, and she wanted to get married ’cause she loved this guy. So she got married at Holy Cross Church. I remember it, her dress. So I was 4 and the reception was downstairs in our cellar. We had a big finished basement and it was really nice, it was like a big dance floor and they had set up long tables. There were probably 75 people there, place was packed. Sue got married and moved to a small apartment and ended up having three kids, and then ended up getting divorced.
My brother Rick‑I’ll just quickly go through my siblings‑my brother Rick, he was the second in birth order. Rick is seven years older than me. I was always very close to Rick. I remember Rick was driving, so he would drive me and my friends places. We were young, you know, he would take us to the beach or whatever. Rick didn’t have a whole lot of friends. He and my brother Paul fought like animals, fist fights, they hated each other. They shared a room. They hated each other. They’re good friends now but growing up …. Similarly myself and my younger sister Jane, who’s four years younger than me, I couldn’t stand her. We shared a room. It was awful. Small room. But Rick was relatively benign until he was …. I remember when he was dating; he dated this girl Sandy off and on and he was like 17 and we thought that he was going to be with Sandy for a long time. And then all of a sudden they broke it off and we couldn’t really figure out why. And then he started dating this girl Doris‑and I remember Doris, I still see Doris and she’s always concerned about Rick‑but Rick was gay was the bottom line, and he told my mother at the age of 17. This was a period when we were very strong in religion . We were doing a lot of religious stuff. He told my mother he wanted to kill himself that he was gay.
My best friend Sonia, growing up she was my neighbor, and her brother Mark was gay. Mark was two years older than Rick. I didn’t know that this happened with Rick. Sonia was the one who told me [laughs] that my brother was gay and I’d say, you know, “How do you know that,” and she’d say Mark her brother was, and she knew that my brother Rick was. But I didn’t know that really until he graduated from high school. He went to culinary arts school in South Portland for two years and then he left, he went. He packed up; it was very short notice; and went to California, went to San Francisco. He was out there for like six months, and then moved everything back, I mean stereo, brought everything, it was really weird, but that was kind of his coming out. Don’t remember how my father … I don’t remember the reactions then. I don’t remember. My mother said that the biggest thing in her life was the whole thing with Sue, losing Sue; this was not.
My brother Paul is four years younger than Rick. Paul is really the opposite of any middle child I know. He’s really, he’s extremely laid back. He graduated from high school, very industrious, he’s very … he’s just a pretty happy guy. Nobody can really figure him out [laughs]. No big conflicts. I remember him growing pot under a grow light in his bedroom. And my mother knew it was there ’cause Sonia and I told her. It was still there like the next day and the next day and then it was gone, so who knows. I mean, I don’t remember anything big with Paul except that he used to tease me. I remember saying, “When I’m older than you, when I’m bigger than you I’m gonna beat you up,” that kind of stuff, but other than that.
My younger sister Jane is four years younger than me. We grew up [staying] in the same room. And it was typical sibling rivalry. I mean I was the baby and now she’s the baby. And that’s how it was. As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten extremely close to Jane. That started when she left to college in Orono. I used to send her care packages, and then from there she moved to Waltham. She moved down to Boston by herself, her boyfriend had another year in Orono. I remember thinking how cool that was, that she did that, how strong she was to do that.
Growing up I remember Yvonne rocking me. I remember family, lots of family around. Every Sunday we had grandparents over for lunch, Sunday dinner.
Growing up I lived in a great neighborhood. I had really good girlfriends. Never really had friends that were boys, ever. My best friend was Diane Grenier. She lived down the hill, and her sister Celeste was a year older than her, and my neighbor was Sonia, so the four of us used to hang out. But Celeste and Sonia were really cool, and Diane and I were the younger ones. We really kept our friendship through high school, and then we parted our ways. But I think they were very strong influences on me as far as growing up, learning about things, learning about boyfriends, and learning about sex, and learning about menstruation, and learning about the facts of life stuff. Because my mother would not, my mother didn’t talk to me about that stuff
Sonia told me about, you know, starting your period. Her mother had multiple sclerosis. She had this fence in between her house and my house and we used to hang out on the fence, and she had told me that her mother bled every month and I thought it had to do with multiple sclerosis; but apparently now I’ve found out it’s not that [laughs]. Different things, like telling me about my brother Rick. We used to go sleep over her grandmother’s house. Her grandmother used to snort snuff and [laugh]. [Sonia] would always say, “Bring your slippers to my grandmother’s, bring your slippers.” Well, I couldn’t figure out why. It’s because all this black snuff was on the bottom of my slippers. She didn’t want to walk around barefooted at night! Her grandmother would go to bed at 7 o’clock, she’d be in bed. Her grandmother’s very French. And we’d sit there and watch the French channel because they had sex on the French channel, and we’d sit there and watch, you know, I mean all this stuff. They’d be having intercourse, they’d be having oral sex, all this stuff on this French channel. So like we were probably 9, 10. “Let’s go sleep over Memere’s. ” Yeah.
[In] our neighborhood it was always the boys and the girls; there wasn’t any crossing those lines. I remember going to play cards at Steve Cormier’s house. We’d play spin the bottle up in his room‑only for some reason Steve and I were in the closet and [laughs] Paul and Sonia were like behind the bed or something, and Steve’s mother walked in and we were playing strip poker, that’s what we were playing, and his mother walked in. I would never take anything off, but Steve had unzipped his fly, and his mother opens the closet door and [he] was sitting there with cards. And so I learned a lot in that neighborhood. It was all, you know, it was all very experimental. I remember having a club in‑this was all girls‑in Karen Ouellette’s closet. She had an enormous, biggest closet I’ve ever seen in my life, and we had a club in there but it was all girls. And we would go in and talk about these things that we’ve seen and heard about, so that was something. It was very eye‑opening because Sonia knew a lot more than I did and so did Celeste, and then Karen’s brother had Playboys or something, Playgirls or something, so we saw pictures too. So I learned a lot of stuff through them. Nothing‑ I don’t remember my parents talking to me about any of that. My mother never did.
Religion played a very strong role in my family. My father’s sister Jeannette was in the music ministry at Holy Cross Church, and she had talked my father into being in the choir. So my father was in the choir, and then became choir director. My mother now says that she hated it, but did it to support him. Of course now my mother’s still in the choir. She really learned to love it. But in that time through the influences of Jeannette …. Jeannette was my father’s oldest sister; now his mother was dead [so] it’s his oldest sister telling him that he should go to these charismatic prayer meetings. Which he started doing, and my mother went, and really got into it and started bringing us. Both my parents got way into it.
We all did sacraments of the Catholic Church. We’d do it through school, but we only went to Catholic school, really I just went first and second grade and then high school. My brother went through fourth grade, Sue went through all Catholic schools except for high school. So when we were in public school we had to go to CCD after school and do the sacraments.
Rites of passage in my family were usually related to religion. Confirmation was like in eighth grade, and after that it was Re you’re all grown up now. It was usually related to the steps of the Catholic faith. I remember my mother was working on Saturday mornings, and she started leaving us alone when Paul was 14, I was 11, Jane was 7. She’d leave us alone on Saturday mornings and she’d leave a fist of things we needed to do around the house, vacuuming and dishes and whatever, and Paul would always get up early and change the list. So he would rewrite the list so he didn’t have to do anything [laughs] and I would call my mother at work. We called my mother at work so many times in the course of a morning. “Paul changed the list!” So he got in trouble for that, so then he always had to vacuum. So what he would do was Saturday morning he would get up really early and he’d vacuum, and our doors would be closed, and he’d bang the door with the vacuum cleaner. You know, Paul didn’t feel that he should be vacuuming. I mean mowing the lawn, yes, but vacuuming was like … pushin’ it.
I don’t remember ever babysitting my sister Jane. I was four years older. I would go away and babysit in my neighborhood or whatever, but I don’t remember babysitting Jane. And Paul was 2 ½ years older than me. I don’t remember Paul babysitting us. I remember Rick babysitting us, but then Rick left, and it was just Paul, Jane and I, and my aunts would come over. My mother’s aunts, I mean, it was always them. Even when I was in high school Rose, one of her aunts, would come over, and she would be there so that when we got home from school there’d be somebody there. And I remember once it was my turn to do the dishes and I didn’t clean the sink out, and it was like there was food in the sink. Rose threw a fit, and she said, “When you start your period you’re gonna know why it’s important to have,” this was all in French now, “the sink clean, to clean the sink, when you start your period you’re gonna know that.” Now I had started my period, so I felt like I was missing something. So I think what she was trying to say to me was that, when I’m older I’ll realize how important it is to clean the sink. She like flipped out on me so I flipped out back on her. She never came back to babysit. And from that point we were coming home alone. My mother would leave a key and we turned into latchkey children basically.
Parents spoke French to the aunts, they were always speaking French. In the neighborhood they spoke English, you know, everybody spoke English. But my aunts were always around, so there was a lot of French. My grandfathers always spoke French. They spoke broken English, but they always spoke French to us, and my parents spoke French to them. So I heard a lot of French, and it’s funny [now] ’cause [at work] patients come ‘in and they assume nobody understands French, so they speak French and they’re really slammin’ ya or slammin’ the hospital or whatever, and I’d jump right into the conversation. It’s very difficult for me to speak French, but I understand everything that’s being said.
Holidays were very important; family was very important growing up. My grandparents were over every single Sunday for big Sunday dinner all together. We always had a lot of people around. It was very social. Neighbors and my parents’ friends. In the summer it was lobsters, lobsters were, you know, it. And, like, fondue. I remember my parents, big fondue things of hot peanut oil, and you’d skewer meat and it was so good, it was so good, but we were kids. This hot oil. There’s no way I would do that now, you know? It’s just wild. Think about it. [But] for the most part it was, you know, meat and potatoes, it was meat and potatoes and vegetable. For the most part. For a while my mother was on a low‑fat kick. I would say that was in the late 70s, early 80s, when women were women and men looked like women [laughs]. Low‑fat, like tofu, vegetables, stir‑fry, tofu chili, tofu lasagna, it was because of my father’s cholesterol. I mean we had like nothing to eat, it was awful.
But Christmas was a very big deal. My father would mega‑decorate. We’d have the entire family, cousins, everybody over Christmas Eve. They’d come over at, like, 6 o’clock. At 11 o’clock everything stopped; we piled into cars, we went to church. Then we’d come back for the reveillons it’s called, and it’d be meat pies and buffets of food, and everybody would eat again, and we’d usually pick up a few more from church and they’d come over too. We always opened presents Christmas Eve. Santa was not, really, Santa was like a stupid cartoon thing, [laughs] really. We always bought each other gifts. There were a lot, I mean tons, of presents. Always.
Family was very important. Daycare was, you know, relatives. Aunts. Food was always. I remember going to my great‑aunts’ house, and it was soup, their homemade soup. It was just like broth with some tomatoes and noodles but it was, like, it, and now my mother’s making it for [my son], Kyle. When my mother picks Kyle up at school she’ll say, “I’ll make you soup,” you know, and she makes him soup, this tomato soup stuff which tastes exactly like my aunts used to make. She just made him some yesterday, and it’s a very big deal to Kyle, and it was a very big deal to us. We’d go visit my aunts, no matter what time of day it was, first thing you do is you sit down and you have a bowl of soup, their soup, and then they’d take out the chocolates, and they’d play piano, and we’d stand around and sing, and everybody would be singing around‑the‑piano stuff. Music. My mother sang and my father played the organ and then he was choir director, and my brother played the organ, my other brother played the guitar. It was always music, always. My father had it piped out to a speaker by the pool so that we’d have music when we swam [laughs]. Always music.
Sunday afternoons my grandparents would come over and the guys would move into the livingroom and watch football or whatever. Oh, actually, it was movies, we’d watch old movies. My father was very big on old movies, and we would watch old movies. My mother would play cards with her father and my other grandfather. They would sit at the table and play cards, and I remember sitting in the livingroom like all afternoon watching old movies. On Sundays.
Every Sunday we had to go to church; that was my father’s rule, not my mother’s, and we had to dress up. I remember him always pulling my hair back, or telling me to get my hair out of my face, or stroking my hair; used to drive me nuts. He was very into image, my father. Always. During that religious part when they were really into it they started doing Bible study classes, and that was taught by a man by the name of Brother John. He got very close to my father, and my father kind of took him in. He was a staple in our family life for probably two years. He would be there at mas; at dinner time he would be there. My father actually built an apartment in his apartment building for him; didn’t charge him rent because he had left the brotherhood shortly after he met us and he needed a place to stay. But he was still doing the Bible study thing, and it was, like, “Oh poor John.” I remember him being extremely close to my sister Jane, and to this day I still think about it and I get an uneasy feeling about it. Jane was young, and she used to run up and like jump on him, and he would pick her up and swing her around and kiss her, and I remember, I mean I was young, you know, and I didn’t feel …. I can still now feel that uneasy [feeling]. I didn’t like it. I talk to Jane about it now, and she doesn’t think that any abuse happened, but she doesn’t know that ’cause she was young. She says “I’m not sure,” you know. Jane gets that uneasy feeling about it. He was too close for anybody, you know, even if, and it was okay with my parents which is weird. So that was the Brother John thing. He took up so much time, my father gave hun so much, that it got to a point where my mother said, you know, “It’s either Brother John or me, it’s either John or me,” because John was very manipulative and my mother had had it with him being around. And that was a very big bone of contention between my parents. My mother says now that they would have probably gotten divorced over it. And you know it makes me question; I look back at my father’s relationships with men, and with priests, and I wonder what his orientation was, you know, because like my parents did not have a good sex life, you know. So I just wonder; and my mother wonders now in looking back.
So religion was a very big deal. I remember skipping church with Sonia on Sunday, and my father wouldn’t say anything. My father would be extremely angry but he wouldn’t say anything, and my mother used guilt for discipline. Basically my mother laid it on. “Do you know how much you’re disappointing your father” kind of thing. And that was like the last thing in the world that I wanted to do, ’cause my father was extremely good to as. We were always with him. He would do so much with us, he would bring us everywhere. I think about going places and doing things, and I don’t remember my mother even being there, I remember my father. With friends, he was very caring, he gave to anybody, he gave heart and soul, shirt off his back. He wanted you to like him. That was very important. If he felt that he was slighted by someone that was the end of the relationship. He had this pretty much lifelong friend, adult friend, and their whole family, we were all close, and the guy didn’t go to my father for a haircut once and that was the end of the relationship. He was very …. You see, I look at him and think, he had unconditional love for us; but he wasn’t, I mean if I look at it logically it really wasn’t that, you know, it wasn’t unconditional because I think he needed so much reinforcement. He got a lot of reinforcement from us for his own, I don’t know if it’s self‑image, for his own self‑worth is what it was, but I didn’t know that at the time. He was the person that you walked by his barber shop on the way to school and everybody knew that Mr. Doyon was right there. If you had any problems you’d stop at Lou’s.
I had a very, very hard time with separation. In going to school. I used to … well, sleeping over people’s houses I’d get homesick through the age of 10. I mean, I did not like sleeping over other people’s houses. Even older than that, I remember. But going to school, I distinctly remember kindergarten, just standing at the fence because I could see my father’s barber shop, and just bawling, I mean bawling. My mother said that it was awful. And I mean halfway through the year I’m still doing this every single morning, bawling. So what happened is I managed to manipulate my father into coming over at lunch. He would come to the school yard and he would hang out with me at lunch recess, and we’d play, and then after school. He’d take me to school in the morning, and the Hi‑Style [catering] truck would come and we’d have something gross and fat off the Hi‑Style truck, and then he’d walk me to school. And at lunch he’d be there. After, I’d walk over and cross the street and I’d go to the barber shop.
Even in eighth grade. Mr. Harvey, math teacher, gave me a hard time, big hard time like every single day. I was a candy striper at St. Mary’s. I had taken art lessons, and some of my oil paintings were hung up in the hallway at St. Mary’s, so my picture was in the paper. Sonia and I, we took art lessons together, our picture was in the paper. And Mr. Harvey saw it, so from day one, that was like the end of August, so from day one he said, “We have an artist in the class, everybody.” I would be going down the hall at the old Lewiston Junior High School, coming down the hall, “When are you going to paint me a picture, when are you going to paint me a picture?” Day after day, after day, after day, after day, “Where is my picture,” day after day, after day, to the point that I was so uptight about going to this math class that my father had to come in and talk to him about it. And my father did, and [Mr. Harvey] said, “Aw, I had no idea that it bothered her that much.” You know [my father] was always, you know, he was always there for me. I mean he always picked us up. It wasn’t my mother, it was my father.
After that I went to went to high school at St. Dom’s. I remember my parents giving me the choice: do you want to go to Lewiston, do you want to go to St. Dom’s. All my friends, everyone I knew, was going to Lewiston High School. I was deathly afraid of Lewiston High School. They had just built it, just maybe 10 years prior; I mean it was still relatively new, and I was so afraid of that school. It was huge. I remember my brother Rick going to school there, and him taking me through the hall, and it was so big, and I was so scared about going there that I chose to go to St. Dom’s, because it was like two hallways, and it was small, and it was comfortable. So I chose to go to St. Dom’s. I was not into the sports, I was not into all that stuff. It was very academic, so I went to St. Dom’s. Celeste Grenier was going to St. Dom’s, so Celeste and I, we’d take the bus and we’d go to St. Dom’s. I made a lot of friends there, and I met Gerry there sophomore year. But I don’t want to get into that, yet.
High school was fun. I dated around; I dated a few people, not a whole lot. I wasn’t really popular, but I wasn’t the other end of the spectrum either. We had to wear dresses, and it was very competitive dressing‑how sexy can you get. It was stiletto heels. The skirt couldn’t be more than like an inch above your knee, but I remember wearing tight skirts and heels. I mean looking like French hookers. Really. Yup. It was weird.
High school was pretty uneventful except for … I mean I learned a lot, I mean, the social stuff, the parties. And I knew a lot of people, everybody at Lewiston High School, so at all the hockey games I’d know like everybody in the whole civic center, you know? It was very cool. Sonia went to Lewiston High School, so I went to all their parties. They had all sorts of different parties, and I’d go to all their parties. Dated a guy from Lewiston for a while, and it was fun. I think back about High school, and it was a fun time. I would have done it different, but I would have done it different in that I would not have stuck with Gerry from sophomore year through after high school .
I didn’t know what I was going to do. Everybody was graduating and planning on going to college, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I don’t remember my parents ever pushing me to go to college. We were driving up Main Street‑it was in the end of May, we hadn’t actually graduated yet‑we were driving up Main Street and my mother said, “What about CMMC School of Nursing, why don’t you apply there?” And I said, “All right,” and I did. And I started at the end of August. As long as I can remember my great‑ aunts would say, “You would be a good nurse, you’d be such a good nurse, Ann.” Well, they wanted me to be a nurse because they thought I’d look good in the hat. That was the big thing. “You’d look so good in the nurse’s cap.” That’s how I ended up at CMMC School of Nursing. I mean, there was no direction at all. That was it. I applied. I got in there at the end of August. I started after graduating. I was 17. I was going to be 18 in October and I started in August, so that was like two years straight through.
As far as my job goes. I started working, it was under the table, I was like 14 years old. I was just turning 15, it was that summer. My brother worked in a restaurant, and he would take me on weekends and after school to the restaurant. I would clean the kitchen and stuff. I would help him. He got this job from one of the people who were at the prayer meetings [who] owned a restaurant; that’s how it all came together, and that’s actually what got him to culinary arts school. Rick would pay me under the table. The following summer I worked at Clover Manor Nursing home ’cause, again, Rick was working there. He got me a job in the laundry. Well, laundry in a nursing home is the worst job you could possibly have. To this day the stench, I mean, gags me. It was awful, but I was making money, you know, I was making minimum wage, and that was very cool. But it was awful.
My sophomore year I got a job at Marcotte Nursing Home as a nurse’s aide after school. I would work from 4 to 8 three days a week. I remember one of the patients had a code, I don’t know if heart, or what. Mister Lebrun. I’ll never forget it; he was really cool, he liked me a lot, you know, I’d kinda flirt with him, and we’d have fun. And he had a heart attack or something, and fell, and the nursing supervisor, the RN, the only RN really, came over and, you know, she started doing CPR and everything and he, you know, he was dead. And she sat and talked to me; I just happened to be there, and she was talking about how it is when people die, and how important I was to that man, in his life, and that I really made him happy, and, you know, she really stuck in my head. I was very impressed by how cool it was that she knew what to do with this guy. That was really the only other thing that really struck me until my mother said as we’re driving up Main Street, “Why don’t you become a nurse.”
There was a time in nursing school when my grandfather, my mother’s father, was dying. My parents had gone away, I don’t remember where, and I told ’em that I would watch my grandfather, who was living alone at the time. He wasn’t real healthy. Actually it was after nursing school because I was working nights, so first thing in the morning I would drive down by his house and make sure everything was fine, that his curtains were up and everything, cause it’d be like 7 in the morning. At night before I went to work I’d stop on the way up. But one morning I went down, I was driving by, and the curtains were still pulled down so I stopped and I went and I knocked and knocked, and no answer. So I had the key and I let myself in, and he was unconscious, half in the bathroom, half out of the bathroom; stool everywhere. Breathing really hard, you know, [it’s] dark, everything’s pulled down, so I called the ambulance. He had stroked. After that he lived alone for a while, my mother took care of him. He lived with us for a little
while, but he ended up in a nursing home and then in the hospital. I remember when he died he was in his 80s. I remember thinking how my mother wasn’t very, didn’t seem upset. I was upset ’cause I was … really, he loved me. I was really close to him. I did a lot of stuff with him. But my mother wasn’t, you know, I don’t know, I guess she never got close to him. I don’t know what it was, I don’t know, it was weird.
So. I married Gerry in 1984. I was 21 years old. I had been seeing him since sophomore year in high school, except for a little time when we broke up. He was working for his father, as a mechanic at his father’s place, which he now runs and owns. Gerry after high school went to CMTC for two years for mechanic something. When I met Gerry, his family was a total shock to me. I came from a family that, you know, we were going to church on Sundays. I never remember my parents yelling at each other or anything like that. Fighting. I mean the kids fought, but not the parents. Going down to Gerry’s, and just sitting in Gerry’s bedroom, closing the door and crying because his parents used to yell at each other so loudly, throw stuff around, fight, call each other names, swear at each other. Drink a lot. Partying. Drinking was a very big deal. His parents used to host parties for the kids. They used to like go out, buy the kegs, bring it in the cellar, [Gerry’s brother] Roger’s having a party, and be a hundred people there. I was a junior in high school. I thought this was all pretty cool. They had an apartment on the first floor, and then an
upstairs apartment where Roger’s room was, and now Roger’s gotten like two people pregnant by this time. Gerry’s older brother had a room, and he had like marijuana pipes. So this was socially a very big shock to me, you know, it was like, oh my god.
I think from the moment I met Gerry, I remember we were at a dance, and he really used to be really, really big, fat, and had lost a lot of weight, and [I remember] thinking he was pretty cute, and telling my friend Monique, “Boy, he’s pretty cute. ” Sophomore year, Valentine dance, and I said, “Oh my god, he’s coming over here.” And he was coming over, going to Monique to ask Monique to dance, and Monique said, “I don’t want to dance with you, but she does.” And that was it, you know. We danced and that was it. And I remember teachers at school saying, “Ann, you could do so much better,” at St. Dom’s saying, “Why are you seeing him, you could do so much better, why are you staying with him, you could do so much better.”
So Gerry’s family was a flip. I mean it was okay for me, as a junior in high school, to go over there and have a rum and Coke. You know, that was okay. And they all smoked; I mean Gerry was a sophomore in high school [and] he was smoking cigarettes. People were smoking pot in their cellar. I remember when Roger would have a party it was wild. I was exposed to a very, very different lifestyle than what I had been previously in my life exposed to. I don’t remember my parents fighting. There was this one family in my neighborhood‑we lived at the top of the hill, and they lived three houses down, on the other side of the road. Their parents used to fight. I remember in the summer time‑because we had a pool, we were always outside‑in the evening we would hear their parents arguing. You know, it was a big kind of scandal, I mean, I was not allowed to go over to their house. They had kids, and they would come over.
Up the road from us a family moved in, and the girl was our age, I was probably 8 or 9. Her father was an alcoholic, and they used to argue, they used to fight. We went to Martel School and my dad, like I said before, would take me to school in the morning with him. We were driving off to school, up the road, and Debbie, who was my age, was in a sleeping bag, sleeping on the corner, next to the lamppost, next to the light. I remember there was a lot of dew on the grass, it was wet, and I said, “Oh Dad, look, there’s a sleeping bag.” And then my dad slowed down [and] we realized Debbie was in it, so we took Debbie back to our house. She was very upset because she thought her father would be very angry. Apparently her father got drunk, and when he got drunk he got very abusive, and she was scared and she left the house, and she went to sleep across the street is basically what she did, in a sleeping bag.
Those are the only things that I can remember [as far as] out and out fighting. I remember fighting with my siblings, but as far as adults go. So when I met Gerry it was very upsetting to me. I remember sitting in his bedroom. His father was always in the chair in the living room watching tv, and his mother was always in the kitchen. The only place to go was his bedroom, and I remember, I mean, like the first day I went there, introduced them, okay, “Come on in, come see my stereo,” we’d go in, close the door. I was so uncomfortable. I mean, his bedroom, and his parents are right there, and it’s very, very odd. But it was fine, it was cool with his parents, it wasn’t a problem. So I had been there and his parents were fighting, you know, swearing, throwing things, and I would start crying. I would be so upset, and I’d leave. Gerry would take me away. We’d leave.
He was driving early, so he was very cool, he had a car. He brought me flowers. He was always at our house. My parents loved him, thought he was a really nice kid. My parents thought, you know, his parents were French‑Canadian, and basically thought his mother was ignorant and his father was a hard‑working man. My parents had them over in the summer, swimming, and we’d have barbecues. Gerry also used to ride a motorcycle, and I was young, I was like 15, 16, on the back of a motorcycle with a helmet, driving all over town. It was just wild. I remember once he got stopped for speeding, and it was right on the corner of our road. My father was driving by. Gerry was pulled over, and my father pulled over, you know, “Are you okay, is everything all right?” and Gerry was like,”Yeah, yeah, I’m all set, I just got stopped for speeding,” and it was okay. I don’t remember my parents ever coming at me, saying, “Ann, why are you staying with this guy?” or, you know, “Move on, there’s other things out there, you’re too young.” Nothing, ever. I remember teachers saying that to me in high school, I went to St. Dom’s, you know, they would say, “Ann, why stick with one boy.”
I mean, I was young, I was a sophomore when I met him. Dated Gerry a through high school. So his family was a flip. I mean his sister. When she was an LPN and I was going for my RN at CMMC School of Nursing, that basically broke the relationship between me and Diane, his sister, because Gerry’s parents thought I was wonderful, and [said], “Ann will always be your boss,” and “You should go for your RN, an LPN is just an assistant.” I mean, it was awful. Very ignorant socially.
So I married Gerry. I was 21 years old. Got out of nursing school. There was a time, I mean, we’d broken up, off and on, but he was really nice to me, he drove me around. The negative effect at that point was that my friends didn’t like hun. My friends didn’t like how much tune I spent with him. You know, he was very antisocial. It was okay if you were partying, but to actually do something with Sonia …. Sonia didn’t like him. And growing up, you know, she was a really good friend. But we used to do everything together, Gerry and I, all the time. And now that we’re adults, you know, Sonia says, “I look back on how much you and Gerry did together all the time, and I was so jealous of that. I was so jealous that you had somebody,” because Sonia’s husband doesn’t do anything with her, so that’s where that whole thing came from.
But Gerry was everything. And it was very cool, you know, we were on a motorcycle … and we got married. We were living in an apartment. I was working three 12‑hour nights at CMMC. Soon after I graduated from School of Nursing I had a charge‑nurse role on nights. I was really way too young to be doing that, but I learned a lot from it. That’s what I was doing, and Gerry was working for his father and going to school at CMTC. Gerry back then was saying how he, you know, his aspirations were not be like his father, and not do what his father does; to move into something else, or to someday just own the business and to be his own boss, which is where he’s at now. After his father died he assumed the business‑but we weren’t married at the time, that was after we got divorced.
Kyle was born in 1987. We wanted to have a child, and we were trying to get pregnant, and I got pregnant pretty much right away. And that was pretty much when we really started running into problems, when I got pregnant. Gerry was going out a lot, and I couldn’t go out with him anymore‑well, I could, but, you know, people are drinking. I would [in the past] have some beers, but it was always more of a social, being‑with‑people kind of thing for me, and for him it wasn’t so much that. When I got pregnant, as the pregnancy progressed I basically saw less and less of Gerry. I mean, he would work, the days got longer, he wouldn’t come home at night, you know, he would call and say he was working late and then going to the club. He started going to Club Cairo, which is right across the street from the station. Basically it’s like a biker’s club, and I was very upset with that, didn’t want him doing that. But he was doing that. I remember he had met this guy who lived by Tacoma Lake and hired him. Gerry talked his father into hiring this guy down at the station, and the guy was working down there, and now in retrospect I know the guy was a cocaine dealer but I didn’t know that at the time. He was very personable. He was really, you know, life of the party, fun to be around. Had barbecues out at his house, and lots of people all the time. But Gerry was spending more and more and more time with him, would go to the club with him, and go out to his house in Tacoma and show up at 2 in the morning maybe. And all this time I was very worried. I’d be calling the club, saying, “Is Gerry Levasseur there,” and they’d say, “Oh, is this his wife, no he’s not here,” you know that kind of stuff. I was, like, very pregnant, and just wishing I wasn’t pregnant, wishing, you know, I knew then that things were…this isn’t gonna happen, this isn’t going to be a good thing.
When I had Kyle I went in on a Thursday night. I worked all day. I never took any time off when I was pregnant until, well, the day I went in. I worked the day; I was supposed to go ‘in that day, so I worked the day, and then I went in after work, I went up to the third floor and threw a coat on the bed that I wanted on M3 [laughs] and told ’em to save the bed. And I went home and packed a bag, and I didn’t know where Gerry was, and went in. Gerry showed up, it was like 9 o’clock that night, my mother was with me. Gerry showed up at 9 o’clock that night and I didn’t deliver until Saturday morning at like 2 in the morning. They induced me Friday morning, and Gerry was there. Gerry spent the night. Gerry was there all day, and my parents were there.
My father had never seen any of his children born, and he kept saying, you know, he always wanted to go in, and it was Dr. James at the time, and he stood outside the door. Dr. James let him stand outside the door, and he could hear my mother, but he never saw any of us born, and how that would be the greatest thing. So when I was pregnant I had taken him to CMMC, both of them, up to the education room one evening, and I let them watch like four deliveries and two C‑section deliveries, just in case, which was very weird. It was a really weird thing, you know, my mother was just legs crossed, arms folded [laughs] ‘cause my mother had been there. But my father was in awe of the whole thing. That’s really the greatest gift I ever gave to my dad.
So they were there. They were there all day Friday. It was very, very tough on my mother, and my father was very quiet, but at the end when, you know, head’s coming and everything, they were outside the door because they couldn’t stand watching me anymore. And I yelled, “Dad!” I remember yelling,”Dad! ” And he came in, and my mother came in, and they saw Kyle born. Kyle was blue, and cord around his neck [cries], and he wasn’t breathin’ for … um … it seemed like two hours [laughs], but it was probably, it was a minute and a half. He was all blue. They were really stimulating him a lot, they were giving him oxygen and auctioning him, and my father was really, you know, shaken up about that. But [Kyle] starts screaming. His APGAR scores were like 1 and 4, and I never knew that until, like, maybe two months later. At work, I went up to M3 and I said, “By the way, what were his APGAR scores, can you look them up?” and they looked them up and they said, “Oh, he must have cerebral palsy,” and I said, “Oh my god, I don’t think so, I mean he’s fine.” He seemed fine, and he was fine, but. So. So Kyle is born, you know, 2 o’clock Saturday morning. I’m exhausted. Gerry, everybody leaves. Next morning I woke up and ripped out my IV and took a shower, and did all that stuff, and Gerry didn’t show up til like 4 o’clock Saturday afternoon. Everybody came, all my brothers and sisters, and my parents, and “Where’s Gerry?” Gerry’s parents came, “Where’s Gerry?” I didn’t know. I was calling from my hospital bed, calling all over the place, and apparently he had gone out to Fred’s, out to Tacoma, and showed up at 4 o’clock with a …. Now, I had [had] fantasies. I remember thinking, you know, he’s gonna show up with two dozen long‑stem red roses, you know, and a bottle of champagne, and what he showed up with‑this was in September, September 5, Labor Day weekend‑he showed up with a Christmas ball that says “Baby’s First Christmas.” That’s what he showed up with. And I was so disappointed. I was so disappointed, and he was, you know, lit, I mean his pupils were all dilated.
So then came the circumcision thing. Nobody wanted to circumcise [Kyle], and I ended up staying in [the hospital] ’til Tuesday. My OB guy was not coming back ’til Tuesday, and I said, you know, I want him circumcised. I really had no [complications]. I think I just didn’t want to go home. I think I just didn’t want to go home. And it was that whole thing. From that point it was me. I was basically a single mother. Gerry had been doing a lot of drugs now, and drinking, and not coming home at night. I remember Kyle that winter, bundling him up at night, little, little baby, you know, asleep in his crib, and [being] just so worried. I knew now that he was doing drugs and stuff, and I remember bundling Kyle up and putting him in his little infant carseat. It was snowing out, jumping in the car; it was probably 1 in the morning; I had to work the next day; and going looking for Gerry. And his car was parked in front of a building in downtown Lewiston, on Birch Street in downtown Lewiston, and, you know, at that point I thought he was seeing somebody else. I thought that he was there for the night. So I went home.
We went through the holidays, and I made all the excuses about Gerry not being there, you know, he was sick, he had the flu. It was always something. Gerry would show up after we all ate at my mother’s Thanksgiving dinner or whatever. I made up all the excuses for him. My parents, my family, nobody really knew what I was going through. They had no clue. And I, at that point, I just totally dove into work. I was [now] working days in the recovery room. I took on a management role. My supervisor had a bad back and was out or something, so I took over her job. And I worked 60 hours a week. Had daycare for my son, it was a lady that my mother knew. Gerry had to be at work at 8 in the morning and I had to be at work at 7. I would bundle Kyle up, make sure he had everything, drive in the opposite direction of the hospital for 15 minutes, drop Kyle off at 6:30, turn around, drive back to the hospital, so it’s now a half hour drive [and that’s because I didn’t trust Gerry].
That New Year’s Eve went by and New Year’s Day went by, and the day after New Year’s I told Gerry‑I mean New Year’s was awful, it was a big drunk, throwing up in the bedroom on my hardwood floors which really pissed me off, so [laughs], you know, didn’t pick it up, it was like dried on kind of thing‑so I told him, that’s it, come on we’ll get in the car, I’m taking you to rehab. And I drove him to St. Mary’s ER, and I dropped him off and left. I got a call a few days later from him so he could tell me what the visiting hours were. He was in a 28‑day program, four weeks at St. Mary’s, and I visited him with Kyle. My mother would go on support days. Gerry’s mother was usually busy, [of] course she didn’t work so who knows what the hell she was doing, but of course at that point his mother was doing the same thing‑his mother was drinking every day, so she would go visit, bring chocolate. But my mother was the one, my mother would go. There were days when they wanted a support person, but not a spouse, and my mother would go for Gerry. At that point my dad was sick. My dad wasn’t really around, so.
It just deteriorated from there. Gerry basically took AA instead of cocaine, and wasn’t around. He would go to AA group meetings seven days a week, twice on Sunday, every single evening. So he didn’t even bathe Kyle at night, get him ready for bed, or anything, you know, ever. And I [became] totally wrapped up in Kyle, I mean Kyle and work.
Work was …. I mean, I went back to old …. I mean, that’s how my parents did it, and that’s how I did it, and I worked like a fool. Work was everything. I got certified in my specialty, and it was my identification, really.
We got divorced after seven years in ’91. And, again, that was a very hard thing to do, but I know it was the right thing to do, for myself and for my son. I remember the divorce, you know, my family is very … family‑oriented. I mean, we have holidays, everybody gets together, funerals, everybody gets together. Family and extended family are very important, and to get divorced, even though my sister was divorced, I felt like such a failure. Here’s Ann the nurse, you know. That was a big deal, very big deal. I think that they see nursing as a very noble profession, and here I am getting divorced. I felt like it was an enormous failure on my part, and even though it was a failure the feeling that it was the right thing for me was stronger dm those feelings of failure. I had gone to counseling, and that helped a lot. Counseling through my family has been like this consistent trend [laughs]. Well, my parents went to seek help with my sister, and with their own marriage, actually, at one point. Counseling was never looked at as a bad thing. It was looked at as a strength; if you had the strength to go, you know, that’s a good thing. And I think that it’s never been a negative.
There was a time after I got divorced when I went to California. I went just like a couple times with a bunch of friends, and they were free‑spirited and they were, I mean, they sent me money for a ticket to go over for like four days. It was just ridiculous, really [laughs], but it was so much fun, and it was so free and it was, maybe we’ll eat and maybe we won’t eat, maybe we’ll sleep and maybe we won’t sleep. I remember thinking, if I didn’t have Kyle I would be here, I would come here and I would work here. Now I think that it was this big runaway from Lewiston, Maine. But it was a good thing, it was a very, very good thing. Because there’s no way I’d live there. There’s no way I’d want that lifestyle, but it was a very good thing at the time. My sister Jane said, “You needed it, you needed it so badly. You know you’re 21 and married and here you go, you’re working,” and I needed to go and have a really good time with a bunch of young people. And that’s what I did, and I’ll never regret it. It was a fun time. And my mother supported me. My mother was like, “Go, go, have a great time,” Yeah. Yeah, she was very … in looking back it surprises me that they let me, you know, really let me get married so young and everything, in looking back. But.
So we got divorced in ’91. Gerry got an apartment. I had the house. I was very worried about being able to keep the house, financially. I made more money than Gerry, and I was still worried about it. I did a really good job, though. I lived in my house for four years. Got married to John in ’95, so that’s when we moved into this house, Kyle and I. During those years [when] I was seeing John he was going through his divorce. It was one of the strongest … looking back, it was one of the times that I realized how strong a person I am, to be able to stand on my own two feet, financially and emotionally. How strong I was. My mother was telling me the story about Sue, and how much they worried about her. My parents didn’t know anything about Gerry until Gerry was in rehab, and that’s when I came clean with everything with my family, which flipped them out, really. But my mother told me that, as much as she worried about Sue, she never worried about me. She said, “I never worried that you weren’t going to be okay because I knew you were going to make the decisions.” That was like one of the biggest compliments my mother could ever give me. She [would come] over and [watch] Kyle, and she’d babysit and stuff, she’d go pick him up, but she wasn’t there. She wasn’t. I can’t remember, like, her calling and saying, “Are you okay today, dear,” or overly concerned, ever really [laughs].
My father, again, was sick at this time. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. He was getting ready to retire, wanted to retire all his life, said, “I can’t wait not to do barbering anymore,” but when it came time not to, he started getting signs of Parkinson’s and signs of dementia. He was 62 when we started seeing him acting, you know, [paranoid] …. I remember once he grabbed the keys to the car. My mother would hide the keys to his truck so that he wouldn’t take off, and he got the keys. My mother had gone somewhere, and he got the keys and took off, and he drove to Auburn. He used to go to Grossman’s. Grossman’s was like, you know, he loved it there, guy thing. And Grossman’s was closed. He went to turn around and he didn’t know where he was. Somebody called my mother and said that he was on the median on Court Street in Auburn not knowing where he was. Instead of the side of the road he’d pulled onto the median. Didn’t know where he was. Totally disoriented. And somebody drove by and recognized him, and hopped in his truck and drove him home. My mother hung up the phone and he showed up, and that was the point where we had to hide the truck [laughs]. My mother basically gave my father’s truck to my brother.
My mother kept my dad at home for three years, and in those years he wouldn’t always recognize us. He would get extremely paranoid, felt like my mother was doing, you know. My mother would give him his pills that he was on, lividopa and stuff, and he would think that she was poisoning him and want to run away.
One Easter he had taken off, and we were all scouring the city looking for him. He went to Burger King, and someone had seen him, and my mother went over to get him and he wouldn’t get in the car with my mother. There was a police officer there who knew him‑my dad knew everybody, my dad cut all their hair and all their kids’ hair‑so the police officer said, “Lou, get in the car.” My father had this profound respect for police officers, so he got in the car. The guy drove him over, and he would not get out, he would not get out and go into the house. The cop said, “Well, I can take him to an emergency room somewhere,” so at this point my mother and I went to the emergency room with my father. We were there for a good six hours. He was on a stretcher, and we just sat there, you know, they did blood work and stuff, but he just sat there ’til we could talk him into going home. And finally he was so tired, and we talked him into going home, and he came home.
My father got to a point where he was essentially … you know, he was incontinent, he was falling a lot. My mother’s a little woman, and we were afraid for her health. So I called a meeting and we all got together, and sat with my mother and told my mother, “It’s time to place him somewhere. ” I, as a nurse, I think, was looked to all the time for, you know, what’s the best thing to do here, and how are we going to do this. And so I really felt like it was my decision that, okay, now it’s time, Mom. Because I had to call everybody and tell them this is not good anymore.
So we walked my father into the Lamp. He walked in the Lamp Nursing Home. He was the first man they’ve ever had, so I had to show them how to clean an uncircumcised male, and how to basically take care of a man, which was very awkward and strange ’cause I never knew my father was uncircumcised ’til that first day [laughs]. So he was there. We would go see him. He was there for almost three years, like 2 ½. years, and deteriorated. He wasn’t walking. He was total feed. He was incontinent. He was in diapers, had to be turned over in bed, he was stiff. And I’d go and I’d sit and I’d talk to him, you know, sometimes he’d kind of react and smile, but. And then the Lamp Nursing Home was changing to an Alzheimer’s unit, so they had to move him.
They moved him to d’Youville, Marcotte Nursing Home. He was only there a week when my mother called me and said, “Your father’s got a cold or something, he’s coughing a lot, I guess he had a little fever but I think it’s okay,” and I said, “Okay, I’ll go see. I’ll go over,” and she said, “Well, you know, it sounds like he’s raspy and his lungs, it sounds when he breathes …… I was shocked when I went over. It was a Monday morning, and I went over. I brought a stethoscope. He had all ” black stuff in his mouth; he must have aspirated; he must have either thrown up, or, I don’t know, and it went into his lungs. That was Monday morning, and he was essentially unresponsive, I mean, he wasn’t drinking. He was very thin; he hadn’t eaten a lot the previous week at all, after the move.
He died … let’s see, he died Saturday night. By Wednesday we had called everybody and said, you know, it might be a good idea to come and see Dad, you know, he’s not doing so good. People were coming in and out, but by Wednesday we were all there, Sue, Rick, Paul, Jane and I and my mother, and we just stayed from Wednesday ’til Saturday night. I lived on Bushey Circle, right off Sabattus Street, so it was kinda, like, people would go over to shower and then go back. John, my husband, the doctor, you know, I had him go over and I remember we all went out to the room to hear what he would say. I said, “John, his breathing’s heavy,” and John said [that] he could last like this …. I thought he could last maybe 24 hours, this was on Wednesday. John said he could last like this for days, you know, he could last like this for a week, and I thought, god.
Now he was he was pretty much unresponsive, we’d all take turns holding his hands and talking to him, and being like right in his face. His mouth was so dry, I was taking mouth swabs and wiping his mouth, and he would like suck on it, but that’s a very, that’s like an instinct, reflex, to put something in your mouth and you suck on it, like a very, a baby reflex. So you know we looked at that, and I knew that in my head, but we looked at it like he’s responding, you know, it’s a response.
My sister Sue had sat by him, this was like Thursday, he wasn’t responding, he wasn’t even squeezing our hand or anything. My sister Sue sat near him and was talking to him, and he opened his eyes and he smiled at her, and to Sue that was forgiveness, you know, his forgiveness and his love [crying] … it was awesome [laughs]. And I mean to this day Sue says, “Dad was okay with me,” you know.
And we all stayed there. On Thursday he was still peeing, no intake, you know. They kept looking at me, saying, “Anr4 do you think he’d be more comfortable with an IV,” “Ann, do you think we should give him morphine.” He was at a point on Thursday where he was breathing, moaning, you know [moans], doing that, but it wasn’t pain, you know. I kept asking John, “I really don’t think it’s pain, I think it’s just vocal, it’s air,” and John, you know, agreed with me. But it’s very hard to listen to, and he was so thin, you know, he was just skin and bones, but he was still making urine, which is amazing, which means his kidney’s still working and if his kidney’s still working he’s gonna keep going for a while.
Friday we thought he was gonna die, on Friday, and we were all there on Friday. And at this point, Friday afternoon, my mother started telling him to go. My mother was sitting next to him, holding his hand, telling him to go [cries] telling him that he, you know, he must see, “Your mother, do you see your mother, Lou, do you see,” she would name people who had died, her aunts, and “Do you see them, Lou, it’s okay, go, we’re gonna be okay, you know, we’re gonna be okay.” He didn’t wanna leave. We were all there.
Friday night we decided to have a pizza party [laugh] because we were all so tired, and, you know, this wasn’t our father anymore. He was this man that just didn’t, it was so obvious to us that he didn’t want to leave us, you know. So we ordered a bunch of pizza for all the nurses on the floors and everybody on Friday night, and we told Dad, “We’re having a pizza party, Dad.”
Friday was a really long day, and my mother’s sitting there telling him to go, and we’re all kinda crying, and Friday night we have the pizza party, and Saturday Dad’s still around. During this whole time I lived on Bushey Circle. They were looking for the body of the Croteau kid that had hung himself, they couldn’t find him. They were all over my house, my back yard abutted his, so they were like in the swamp looking for this guy. I had given them permission to look around my house and in my field and behind my house, so every time I would go home they were …. Police tape was like at the end of my driveway, like no crossing, so my house was a very uncomfortable place to be. So I would go to the house that John was renting at the time. I went there instead of going to my house ’cause it just made me too uncomfortable.
Saturday [Dad] was moaning a lot louder. It was a rainy, cold day. It was like 4 o’clock in the afternoon and he was moaning a lot. All this time John’s sister was planning this big 60th birthday party for her father, John’s father. Very big deal, catered, you know, a lot of money, belly dancer, down in Massachusetts. Friday night John came to the nursing home after work and said, “Ann, he could be like this for a couple more days,” and my mother was saying, “Go, go to his party, go with them.” The plan was for all of us to go on Saturday, down to the party, and I said, you know, “I can’t go, I can’t go,” and John said, “Well, I won’t go, either,” and I said, “You have to go, it’s your father, he’s alive, you know, my father’s dying.” “But I want to be here with you.” I said, “I understand that, but you need to go.” So John went with his kids down to the party, down to Massachusetts, and I was with my family, and my dad passed away.
He was moaning a lot, and they were looking at me, like, you know, “Do you think he’s in pain,” I mean every two minutes they would say, “Do you think he’s in pain,” ’cause you just want to do something for him, and I said, “Well, I’ll go talk to the nurse,” who I knew, and I said, “I’ll see if there’s anything ordered.” They did have morphine ordered like 2 milligrams subcu, which is nothing, and I said, you know, “I think we could give it to him, I don’t think it’s gonna hurt anything,” and they gave it to him and he died within two minutes. I really felt like I made the decision to kill him, you know, I made the decision to kill him, but it was okay, it was like, it was okay. It really, it felt okay, and it still feels okay, and I think about it, and I think, could that morphine have done it, you know, stopped him. I mean we rolled him, I helped her roll him over, she gave him the shot, we rolled him back, my mother was holding his hand, my mother was saying, “Go, Lou,” and he let out this enormous moan, really like a … almost like a scream, I mean it was a big moan, and then he stopped, and that was it.
And then, you know, we were all cryin’ and huggin’ and then we all went to my mother’s house. Sue went home, Jane and Ben went to my mother’s, Paul went to my mother’s, I went to my mother’s, Rick went home. And we just kinda sat around with my mother, and then we felt we didn’t want to leave my mother alone there, but she wanted to be, she wanted to be alone. My dad hadn’t been there for, it had been like, six years now, and so I left. I was physically, emotionally, I was just sick to my stomach. Drove home. I usually cut across through Farwell Street, but Farwell Street because of the Croteau thing there were cops, and everybody was there, we couldn’t cut though, so I went down East Avenue, turned on Sabattus Street, and on the corner where Shop ‘n Save used to be there were all these cars and television, you know, cameras, and I’m thinking, “What is going on,” and they had found the Croteau kid back there.
I went to my house, and the police tape was still there, and I went in to my empty house and I couldn’t be there. I just couldn’t be there, and I thought, I’m gonna go to John’s. He was renting this house, and our bedroom, his bedroom, our bedroom was right up here, it was the boys’ old room, and I came into this house. It was pitch black. I could smell my father. We had just a mattress, he had just a box spring and mattress on the floor up here, and I just, you know, I took a shower, and I turned off the water, and I could hear him, I could hear his voice, I could smell him. I went to bed. I went, laid down, fell asleep, and I would wake up and I could smell him, I could smell my father, and I just had this dialogue. I sat there and I had a conversation, not a conversation, I had a one‑sided dialogue with my father, and I just told him that I didn’t … this isn’t how I remember him, you know, I don’t remember him like this, and that it’s okay, and that he’s with, and, you know, named all these people from his past. And that’s it about my father.
I got a lot, I got a lot from my father. Every time I have a party it’s real important to me to have really good hors d’oeuvres [laughs] ‑ My father was so big on really big, really good hors d’oeuvres, even more than the meal, it was a big deal. And to this day, you know, my mother hates it. I just had this conversation with my mother and she said, you know, “I’ll do Thanksgiving, I love just cooking a turkey and not having to do hors d’oeuvres.” My father was into impressing people, I mean he wanted to be liked, he wanted to be lov4 he wanted to be ….
Work, like I said, was very important to me. It was a very big part of my self‑image. I wanted to be really, really good, and I was. I was very young, I didn’t have a lot of experience, and people would come to me as a resource, you know. They gave me management positions, charge nurse positions. And I really didn’t have enough experience, six months out of nursing school I was in charge of a 40‑bed unit. I mean that’s stupid. But I was very dedicated. I was there all the time. It totally took up … I mean I had the responsibility of my son, but what I was missing with my husband at the time, you know, it was totally filled with work. And I got a lot of self‑image kudos from that.
When I met John it was like this instant attraction, connection. He was a physician, and he would look at me and say, you know, I’d walk in in the morning and he’d say, “Are you okay?” And I would have just had like this terrible night where I was out looking for my husband in the streets of Lewiston, you know, and that was like the first man aside from my father who would like, care about how I feel? You know, he would be like, “Are you okay,” “How do you feel about this,” and “What do you think about this,” and “Good job, Ann,” and really I felt very connected to this person before I was ever attracted to him. I felt like he could just tell from the look on my face or he could just tell by my demeanor, you know, that something was either really right or really wrong. And that was extremely attracting to me, ’cause I didn’t have that.
[At work] we moved to the new recovery room, and I was involved in organizing that whole thing, planning that. I took a management job there as clinical coordinator, and that was of three departments. That job ate me up alive. I gave everything I had to that job. I would come home and I’d worry. Physically, I had lost weight. I was not healthy, didn’t feel healthy. Psychologically I wasn’t healthy, I was angry, and I was jealous, and it was just not good. Did not feel strong as a person.
My job in the recovery room and in nursing in general has been very rewarding. I now work per diem, and going per diem was a big change for me because I associate so much of my own self‑image and my self‑worth with my job. I really feel that it was a good eight‑ or nine‑month grieving process, going through quitting my job and going per diem because everybody looks at per diem as a little less, you know, important, or less of a nurse or whatever. I’ve managed to keep my status, if you will, of resource person. People are still coming up to me, saying, “Ann, how do you do this,” or “What do we do with this,” or when things go wrong they call me over to go help. But the transition was very, very difficult, in my personal life as well as in my professional life. In my personal life my husband very much values income and status, as far as what level you’re at in your job, and it’s been, you know, it’s been hard, but I think he has come around and realized I am much happier now. I’m still really good at what I do, and I do more now than I’ve ever done. I feel like I’m much more balanced than I’ve ever been. I feel that my job is still very important in my life; I do you know it’s important in my self‑image. I mean, I wouldn’t want to quit it. But I know that if I did, and if I did something else I would be really good at that, too. I need to be really good at what I do as far as work goes.
What the future holds, who knows. My biggest goal, I think, would be to get my son to a place where he’s a happy, healthy adult. To help John’s kids get a balance; and when they’re all through, when the kids are gone, to still have a healthy relationship with my husband. I think that we can get very lost in the kids, and I really try to guard against that, but it’s hard. And to not lose myself in the process, I guess. I think that I’ve done well with that.
Religion is really not a big deal in my life anymore. I sent my son to Catholic school because they have full‑time daycare and because I felt that the classes would be smaller and all that. That hasn’t turned out to be true. Classes are not smaller. But he has done very well there, I think. Gerry does the take‑him‑to‑church thing. Religion … I think it’s important to, morally and ethically, have some grounding, but I’m not a go‑to‑church‑every, you know, my father was, you go to church every Sunday, period, or, you know, mortal sin, you’re gonna go to hell. I don’t believe anybody’s gonna go to hell. I don’t believe in this heaven and hell thing. I believe there’s something – I believe in ghosts, and I believe in angels, and I believe in guardian angels. When I’m in trouble on the ocean I talk to my father and I’m always okay. “Dad, you gotta help me,” you know, he’s like right there. Sometimes I’m alone in this house and I’ll click off the tv and it’ll click back on, and I’ll say,”Dad, knock it off.” I talk to him like he’s still around sometimes, and it’s usually when I’m alone. And I think it’s okay.
I think that I have been a great gift to [John’s] children. I think that as many people as can possibly love a child, you know, a child can’t have too many people loving them. I’m not threatened by Gerry’s girlfriend, who’s now living with him, you know, taking my place or anything. Kyle loves her to pieces. Yvette is not his mother. The way I feel I think Kyle’s very lucky to have this other person who cares about him. And that’s how I feel about the Crispin kids. I think I can bring them balance, more of a balance, or a different point of view. They’re a challenge as far as step‑mothering goes. There was a time when I didn’t know what my place was. It’s hard to be parenting one child and be step‑parenting another. All in the same room. It’s hard to delineate. It was difficult to delineate my place in the step‑mothering role, in the mothering role of these children. I think I’ve worked on that a lot, and I think that I have reached a pretty good place. I’m quite comfortable, relatively comfortable where I am right now, but you know that could change tomorrow with each new little twist.
If my situation were different I would have more children. If I could do everything all over I would have more children. At this point in my life I can’t, I don’t want to. I mean I really in the pit of my heart [laughs] don’t want any more kids in my house. I don’t want that responsibility. In fairness to a new child, I don’t feel like I have the emotional energy to do it again. Had I not married someone who has three kids already I would definitely want more children.
School, you know, I’m still in school. Schooling to me is a very important thing. I don’t think it’s so much what you learn, facts, you know, but I think that it opens up your mind to other ways of thinking. And I think that in itself makes life easier in getting along with other people. When I need to make a decision, it’s very difficult to me for me to react. My mother [said], just the other day, “Oh, you’re the kind of person, you just react, you just come right out and react, and you’re strong, and you’re sure.” I don’t see myself like that at all. So I found it interesting that she sees me that way. Must be from the stories I tell her of how I react to John. Yes, when it comes to something emotional, I usually react, ‘No, that’s not right!” Or whatever. But when it comes to something intellectual that I have to think about, “Okay, if I make this decision, what’s the ramifications of the decision,” or whatever, I need to think about how I’m go’ to react to that. Relationship stuff, same thing. I really need to stop.
When I’m sitting in a class and I’m listening to a professor 98 percent of that time my mind is just going, and I’m totally absorbed in what this person is saying. It’s a really good feeling. This is my last class and I’m gonna miss going to a class, getting books, being responsible to write papers, whatever, because I really enjoy it. If there were no grades attached, it would be ideal.
But I think I shoot from the gut. A lot of my decision‑making is based on my emotion and that I attribute mostly to my father. My mother is not, my mother was never, you know, I didn’t see her as, I don’t see her as [a] very emotional person, and her reasoning for not being emotional is that she was afraid to get hurt. I think that if you show people your emotion you’re immediately vulnerable to them hurting you or not hurting you, but I don’t feel like I run around in life thinking, can this person hurt me, can that person hurt me. I think a lot of my thinking has to do with what my heart is saying to me. I still am very interested in, you know, like Jonathan Livingston Seagull, and The One, and other lives and where you came from, and in saying other lives I’m not talking about reincarnation, or whatever, however we need to label it. But I think we’re just so incredibly involved, complicated. I have other lives in me: Ann the artist, Ann the nurse, Ann the mother, Ann the stepmother, Ann the daughter, Ann the… you know. Older sister. Younger sister.
The life of Ann. I always thought that I’d die at the age of, you know, before 35, and I’m 35 so I’m still here. Always had this feeling in my pit of my stomach that I would die young. And I don’t know if it’s that I would die young, or that my son would die young. I’ve always felt that it was me who would die young, that I wouldn’t be around, and I don’t know why. I don’t know where that comes from. Always. Teenager. I remember thinking, probably never get married ’cause I probably won’t be around. I remember that. I don’t know where that comes from ’cause I really … I mean my parents, well, except my father, but my grandparents lived to ripe old ages, except for my mother’s mother. And you know, maybe, here I am, the mother of four, and my grandmother died at the age of 33 [as a mother of four], maybe that had something to do with it. I don’t know. But it’s weird. I’m glad I’m still around.