Thursday, August 13, 2009

My Miracle Year: Saint Sandy

(To the right: from left, my dad, me, Grandma Husom [the only pic I've seen with her holding me], Great Grandma Butler, Sandy, Great Grandpa Butler, sometime after my mother died) Saint Sandy. That’s what I’m calling her. The most purely good person I’ve ever met. Sandy has turned a lifetime of one bad experience after another into a heartwarming chicken soup for the soul, one that’s nourishing, satisfying and wholesome in the best Mid-West tradition. Big surprise that she’s a fabulous cook and baker. Sandy’s mission is to nourish.

So, no blogging, just talking for 3 ½ days…talking until we are hoarse and dry as we share with one other, trying to cram in the most important experiences of our past 55 years. As I listen to Sandy’s stories, I don’t think she’s ever done or said the wrong thing. The lone adult in a 'Disneyland for Adults' country of immediate gratification and win/lose, Sandy always has her eye on the long-term goal, not the quick reaction or retort. She’s an adult in the most fulsome sense of the word.

Abandoned by a mother who for whatever reason, chose a new husband over an inconvenient child, then kidnapped at the age of six by a father she had never seen before, Sandy survives. She survives brutal beatings and attempted sexual assaults by a father who’s a respected deacon in the local Lutheran church, family upfront and center every Sunday; loves a new grandmother who she finds out years later encouraged her father to beat her mother when she was pregnant with Sandy – because no one was good enough for her son.

But the heart of Sandy’s stories is her experience of being a mom -- and too soon a single mom -- raising three good children on very little besides unconditional love, undivided attention, a vivid and playful imagination and the Norwegian pioneer spirit. Some stories are heartwarming, others bone chilling; she now has grandchildren she’s allowed to see only rarely. But through it all, she builds a life in which others are the center, never herself.

To be continued…

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