Adapted from a recent online discussion.
On telling a child s/he was a mistake:
In the '50s, it was totally radical for any woman to be pregnant and not married. Whispers abounded about the girl who took a year off from school and went to "live with her grandmother for a while" and then came back to total ostracism from her peers. Even those with early marriages had people counting the months until the first birth! There was no abortion, no birth control except for unsatisfactory trials most women were deathly afraid to try for fear of reprisal.
When I found myself pregnant and desperately not able to cope, there were no abortion choices, except perhaps in Mexico, expensive and dangerous. Unable to find help, I chose to go ahead with the birth and give the baby up for adoption; long before the birth, I was coerced into signing papers giving my baby away. The night I had the baby, it was snatched out of my arms, despite my tears and entreaties to please let me keep it. I had changed my mind and would find a way to survive.
I got out of bed and went into the hall; I sobbed toward the nursery, only to be dragged back by two large orderlies and then locked in the room. The next morning I was released from the hospital and told nothing. My child, a son, would be a man now. I often wonder how he turned out, what he looks like, what he thinks of me.
With the choices women have today, I can't imagine having a child who is not wanted.
On planning family gatherings after one family member has blacklisted another:
My mother excluded my brother from family gatherings because she didn't like him or his lifestyle choices. I first approached my mother and appealed to her not to exclude him. When this failed, I then started declining her invitations to family gatherings (holidays, birthdays, etc.) when my brother was excluded.
I also would inform her and the rest of the family that we welcomed all to join us at my home for the holiday dinner, making sure to schedule it at a time that did not interfere or compete with her planned event. She stopped hosting gatherings, and everyone started showing up at my house, where we had many happy years of family gatherings.
My mother never changed her attitude about my brother, was not particularly cordial to him at gatherings and always left early. Her loss. Not my problem.
Peacemaker in Florida
On keeping up with friends who are drifting away:
Whenever I go out of town, I grab 10 stamps and my address book and toss them in my suitcase. As soon after arrival as possible, I buy 10 postcards. Then at slow times during the trip I'll just go through my book and pick people who might get a kick out of finding a postcard in the mailbox. Many times this prompts a phone call from them or a return postcard when they are on a trip. One person I never forget is my 90-year-old high school Latin teacher, who now lives in an assisted living facility. He always returns a card with a thank you.