December 8, 1980
and Other Moments in History 

“Wake up, Carol! Turn on your damn TV!” My sister’s hysterical voice yelled at me through the phone from the East coast – Florida. 

It was 8am Denver time. The jarring ring of the phone woke me from a deep sleep. Not understanding her words, I stumbled out of bed and turned on the TV. I got back into bed holding the phone. On the Today Show, Bryant Gumbel and Jane Pauley looked shocked with tears in their eyes. The headline said, “John Lennon Murdered.” 

Janice was talking to me – words floating around the air in my bedroom, John Lennon. Shot. Murdered. New York City. The Dakota. Yoko. Forty.Years.Old. Mark David Chapman. 

Who? Why? What? Why? I felt sick. 

My younger sister and I were close, despite being 4 years apart and living across the country from each other. She knew I would be devastated at the news of Lennon’s death. I was, we both were. We cried together, 3 time zones away.  

We talked for a while and then hung up. I sat and stared out the window. It was one of those frozen December days in Denver, zero or below. I looked out my frosted window at a frozen world, still and quiet with the occasional sound of tires turning and crunching on ice, cars slowly moving down the street. I looked up at an apartment building across the street. On the 6th floor I saw a man in his pajamas staring out of a large window. I could see his full body, just standing there, silently gazing out. He didn’t see me. I watched him stand there and wondered if he’d heard the news. I felt we were connected in a cloud of frozen silence, shock and grief. 

The radio station was playing “Imagine” while our collective hearts broke and our minds tried to make sense of the senseless. “Watching the Wheels” and “Beautiful Boy” came later. Our hearts would keep breaking as our minds tried to understand how and why anyone would want to kill John Lennon, such a peaceful guy. 

I was 12 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in my 6th grade classroom when the announcement came over the loud speaker – “The President has been shot.” I remember the chaos – teachers, adults, parents – running around in circles. Kids waiting for parents to pick them up. I remember being one of the last kids to be picked up, my  mother finally pulling up in our station wagon – I saw she’d been crying. Coming home, turning on the TV, Walter Cronkite on CBS News removing his heavy black glasses, tears in his eyes, “President Kennedy died at 1pm EST.” 

The shock of what happened in Dallas (we lived in Houston) was seared into our memories by the Zapruder tape, being re-played on our black and white TV for days. Jacqueline Kennedy, in her pink pill box hat and blood stained pink suit, refusing to change into another outfit, standing next to LBJ, her face frozen in shock, broke our hearts.

As traumatic as that event was for the country, at 12, it wasn’t as personal for me as was the loss of John Lennon. As I grew older, I became aware of how profound President Kennedy’s murder was for our country – the loss of innocence never regained. 

Many years later I was in NYC and visited Lennon’s Strawberry Field Memorial in Central Park – the beautiful mosaic circle with the word, “IMAGINE” placed in the center, a scattering of fresh flowers strewn across the tiles. An homage to yet another loss of innocence.

When Janice called early that morning on December 8, 1980, neither of us could know that almost a year later, on September 16, 1981, I would be woken from a deep sleep again – in the same bed, the same apartment. This time it would be my father calling from San Antonio saying, “Carol, it’s your father. There’s been a car accident. Janice. She didn’t make it.” More words floating in the air, connected to nothing that made any sense. 

My world shattered into a million pieces at that moment. I’m still picking up the shards.

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I’m published!

It was both a long and short road to getting published. I’ve carried the story with me for half a century and once I gave birth to it – in the form of the written word – it seemed destined for the larger world. 
When I retired in March 2019 I was given a gift certificate to Lighthouse Writers in Denver for one of their writing workshops. In my mind being retired signified an open road paved with time – time to write my stories, a long awaited dream. No interruptions, just time. 
That first year I mostly traveled. Feeling free as a bird I took a lot of trips to see friends, my daughter, to NYC. I started writing but saved the gift certificate. Finally, in January 2020, I enrolled in a Lighthouse memoir writing workshop. The in-person 6-week course ended right before COVID struck. 
I took the first chapter (“Secrets & Lies”) of my memoir to workshop in class. The story was set in Texas when I was 18 and I intended to use that opening chapter as a portal into my life, picking up where my childhood began in Chapter 2. I received mostly positive feedback from the workshop instructor and writers including a lot of editing suggestions, advice, and questions about “what happened next?”.
After working on it for several months, I decided to re-write the story as a stand-alone essay. My daughter had recently had success having  several of her stories published in online literary journals and magazines. She encouraged me to submit my story, sending me an extensive list of literary and academic publications. I picked a few and submitted my lengthy story (~4000 words) in August 2021. 

In September I heard back from the managing editor (Martha) of the literary magazine, “Under the Sun”.  Martha liked my story and said she would publish it but UtS only publishes annually, their next issue slated for May 2022, and she felt that my story needed to be published sooner than that. She felt my story was politically important and needed to be read by a wider audience than her journal could provide. 

Martha asked if I would mind if she shopped my story to larger publications: The New Yorker Magazine, The Atlantic, Texas Monthly. I laughed (out loud) and said sure! She would copy me on her cover letter/emails to these publications. 
We heard back from Texas Monthly and they wanted to publish my story in their online News & Politics section. They would need to edit it down considerably, giving it a 2000 words max. Texas Monthly was the perfect place for my story. Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s misogynistic, anti-abortion law putting a $10K bounty on anyone who helped a woman obtain an abortion had recently been passed. My story, set in Texas in 1969, was pre-Roe v Wade and reflected a world where women had no voice or control in decisions over her own body or reproductive rights, and few choices.  
The 3-week editing process was a whirlwind and an emotional roller coaster. I literally did not sleep and my fingernails were chewed off up to my elbows. The monkeys in my mind at night kept me up with all manner of possible outcomes. The editor I worked with at TM was young (late 20s) and I worried that he would not be able to relate to my story. I felt he must’ve seen me as a dinosaur writing from the Ice Age. It was kind of funny. At one point he suggested I say something about “sex education” in my high school at the time. I almost fell off my chair laughing – generation chasm! We’d never heard of “sex education” in the 1960s! In the end, both TM editors who worked on my story made me a better writer. I learned a lot and was humbled by the process. 

My partner and I were leaving on a 12-day road trip on Wednesday and I had told my editor I needed to have it published by Tuesday, latest. After several promises it would be published one day, then the next, then the next, they finally published on Tuesday morning, the day before we left town. I was up at 6am waiting for it to go up on 



By 7am my story was published! It came in at 2400 words (.50/word). The byline, “Carol Park, Author” was printed in black and white for the world to see. At 70, I was living proof that it’s never too late to do or become what you’ve always wanted to do and become. And sometimes the Universe opens up and comes together at the right time, right place with the right story and right people. Thank you, Martha, for believing in me and my story! Thank you to Kelsey and a few initial friends/readers who encouraged me to keep writing. And finally, thank you to Barbara and Trey for giving me the gift certificate that started the writing ball rolling.  

Click the link below to read my story: 



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Small, Hard, Fast Balls

I learned early on I was a magnet for small, hard, fast balls. My first encounter with a hard, fast ball was when I was 6 years old. I was playing, hanging out with other kids in a rec center where parents dumped their kids while they went to the Piggly Wiggly or who knows what. This was the ‘50s; I’m sure the stay-home moms needed some time alone.

I was standing a little too close to a pool table watching some “older boys” (9-10 year olds) shooting 8-ball. Suddenly one of the pool balls jumped the table, flew straight at me, and hit me in the mouth. My lip split, my tooth broke and I was forced to drink from a water fountain while blood flowed from my mouth. I don’t remember the pain as much as I remember the discomfort at being the center of attention. My front tooth was chipped and my lip was swollen but otherwise I was fine. I had that chipped front tooth from elementary through my teens; it became part of who I was. (I later had it capped.)

The next time I was hit with a small, hard, fast ball was a couple of years later, when I was 8. I was standing in the backyard of a friend’s house watching her father hit golf balls. (I was still unaware of my magnetism issue.) It was a hot, Texas, summer day and we had nothing better to do. Her dad took a swing and suddenly the golf ball flew towards me like a speeding bullet and hit me square in the eye. Yep. It hurt like a-fucking hell, although we didn’t say fuck in the ‘50s. I didn’t lose my eye but I had a big shiner and was developing a fear of hard, fast balls.

Around the same age, although this has nothing to do with balls of any size, but does indeed involve gravity, in that same friend’s front yard, I was hiding in a tree from the older kids being let out from the school bus. I wasn’t intentionally hiding; I happened to be climbing the tree when the school bus stopped and I was so shy I didn’t want anyone to see me. Suddenly, I lost my balance, fell out of the tree, landed on my back and was knocked out for a couple of minutes. No one noticed me lying in the grass under the tree. Spread-eagle, staring up at the sky, through branches and clouds, I watched the older kids step over me on their way home. Apparently compassion was in short supply in the ‘50s. Before helicopter parenting, it was dog-eat-dog. I finally got up, dusted myself off and walked home. I didn’t tell my parents, or anyone. Well, I may’ve mentioned it to my Mom, but again, these things happen. No need to get excited if there was no blood or bones sticking out at odd angles. The idea of a concussion or brain damage wasn’t entertained. Thinking back, I may’ve suffered a slight concussion but it’s 60 years later and I’m writing about it so no worries. I decided to steer clear of this friend and her front and back yard for a while.

The last time I was hit with a hard, fast ball happened when I was 12. I was under some misguided illusion I should learn to play a team sport, softball. It was my turn at bat and sure enough, I’m standing there, bat in hand, watching as a softball comes hurling towards me and hits me in the head. I fell down and while lying there, I realized I wasn’t cut out for playing team sports. Especially any sport involving, well, you know, a ball.

So, there you have it. I learned early on that I am cursed with a magnetic energy field that attracts small, hard, fast balls. I’m like a planet with a gravitational pull. I don’t understand the metaphysical or mathematical reasons; I only know that I’ve got it.

And I learned to duck. Finally.

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“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” – Anaïs Nin

The first time I went for a run, I was 24 (1975). I had not intended to run, I was compelled. Walking my dog, Max, I discovered a sweet pocket park, not far from where I lived in Capital Hill (Denver) called Alamo Placito. One day, while walking around the park, I started to run. And I kept running.  After I ran around the park 20 times, I stopped; fell on the grass, breathing heavily, staring at the clouds, I felt alive, awake. Max came over and licked my face. A heaviness I had unknowingly been carrying for years was lifted. I didn’t have running shoes or what would become expensive, proper running gear (sports bra, anyone?). I was blissfully unaware of looking cool. In those early days, the popularity of running was just beginning to take off.  Frank Shorter, notwithstanding, the commercialization of the sport was in its infancy.

I eventually found other trails and paths close by. For my remaining time in Denver, my favorite trail was the Cherry Creek bike path, which I discovered when it was still partially dirt. I became stronger, liked how I felt in my body and loved the freedom of running. Gradually running became the medicine I needed to function. I didn’t know that my brain chemistry was being altered, that running released hormones (serotonin*, endorphins, dopamine) that flooded my brain, creating a euphoric high. I quickly became addicted.

* Serotonin – “runner’s high” – less anxiety and a diminished ability to feel pain.”

Running competitively never interested me. It was always about running solo – me and my thoughts. I worked out problems, had conversations with those whom I needed to talk with but couldn’t, wrote Haikus in my head, started stories, replayed broken relationships, tried to figure out where I was going in life, ran off stress. When my sister died in 1981, I fell into a dark hole of depression. I sobbed while running, tears streaming down my face, not caring what passers-by thought. Running lifted me and helped me find a way out. I processed the loss and grief with my feet pounding miles of pavement and dirt over the next few years. I would push myself until it hurt. And that felt good.

Over the years, I’ve kept running – more or less. I ran 5Ks and the Bolder Boulder 10K several times. My daughter and I ran a few 5 and 10Ks together. (She was/is more a natural runner than I ever was.) I fell in love with a beautiful, elite runner, who changed my life completely and forever. I never got tired of watching him run – he was a natural athlete, a gifted runner – gazelle-like, his feet seemingly never touching the ground.  After many years of training at a high level, competitively, his body turned on him. His hamstrings were so injured he was unable to run. While in physical therapy, trying to heal, weeks without running turned into months. He would limp out to run and come back within half an hour defeated, depressed and in pain. After months of not running, the chemicals in his brain changed.  Serotonin levels dropped, a genetic marker for depression was no longer controlled by endorphins, and he plummeted into darkness, and eventual psychosis. After almost a year to the injury date, he took his life, forever free of the pain that had taken over his mind and body.

I’ve read many articles about how healthy running is, how it changes brain chemistry, the “high”, the Zen of running, how running keeps you fit and sane. I’ve not read any cautionary articles about what can possibly happen to a runner’s brain, who has trained at a high level for many years, when the runner is forced to stop running, for whatever reason. My theory is that my boyfriend had a genetic marker for depression and mental illness (confirmed by his family) and because he ran and trained at a high level for many years, he was unknowingly self-medicating, keeping his depression at bay. Once he stopped running, the chemicals that were keeping him mentally healthy dropped precipitously and because they were not replaced (artificially) with SSRIs, a pathway was paved for the genetics of mental illness to take over. I’m not a doctor or a scientist, but this is what I sense happened, in retrospect, over the course of that fateful year.

After I turned 60, my body changed. I’ve kept running but it’s harder because of weight gain, worn out parts and injury (plantar fasciitis, knee, joints). I’m 66 now and I’m learning to appreciate walking. But honestly, when I get out on the path, all my body wants to do is run. I use to see older (in their 60s-70s) runners out on the path jogging, with a hitch in their giddy-up and I’d think, “Good for them! That won’t be me!” Well, guess what? It is me. And just like those older runners, I don’t care what anyone thinks. I’m out and I’m moving. It ain’t pretty baby, but it’s all I’ve got.

I do miss running. I think the main reason I ran was to mitigate stress and depression. Getting outside and running in every season, in all types of weather, was good for my soul on so many levels. I can still get about half of that high walking and enjoying, albeit a bit more slowly, what is going on in nature, being in the moment and moving to the beat of my own drummer.



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Road Trip Dreams

MY imagination was captured when I read a story about an 80-year-old woman in Cape Town, South Africa who decided she was going to drive her old Toyota to England, alone, to have tea with the Queen. She set out with great fanfare and drove, by herself, from South to North Africa. Along the way she was helped by strangers and joined by her children for part of the journey, but essentially she was alone. She somehow made it through Europe, across the English Channel, and to London. When she arrived at Buckingham Palace, the Queen, not appreciating this woman’s journey, was otherwise engaged. But, no bother, part of the woman’s dream was realized, she had tea with new-found friends, and headed back to her home in South Africa. The journey reclaimed her youth. I didn’t know it then, but a seed was planted by her story. 

AFTER leaving Texas in my early twenties, I had a dream of returning to Big Bend. When I was 20 I visited Big Bend National Park and though I wasn’t there long I never forgot the feeling I had of being there and I always wanted to go back for a longer visit. It was one of those geographical spots that deeply resonated with a siren call to return. Life happened and 48 years went by. 

I retired at 68 in March 2019. I was done. After my retirement party, I said adieu to my colleagues and walked out the door into the bright sun of a new life. I had a seed; I had a dream; I had a plan. And I finally had time. 

MY solo road trip (plan) took me south from my home in Colorado, through New Mexico, east into West Texas, and south to Big Bend National Park. My journey would take me through towns I had longed to revisit: Alpine, Marfa, Marathon. I longed to see the West Texas night sky again and the Davis, Guadalupe, and Chisos mountains. The wide open spaces and dry, pristine beauty of the geography was calling me back.

THAT was Leg One. Leg Two would be to Archer City, TX where Larry McMurtry built several bookstores lining both sides of Main Street. The dream of making a pilgrimage to Archer City, visit his bookstores and if the stars aligned, meet the great writer himself, had been on a back burner since I received a typewritten letter from Mr. McMurtry in the 1980s. 

WHY stop in Texas? Leg Three was to continue driving east to Birmingham, AL to visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice (National Lynching Memorial), which I’d wanted to visit and pay my respects to since I’d first heard of it on NPR. And because Selma is close to Montgomery (51 miles), of course I would have to drive over to Selma to walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, to pay homage to Martin Luther King, John Lewis and so many others who are a part of our shared history. 

FROM there I would turn my car around and head west, back home to Colorado. That was my plan – several stitched-together dreams into one crazy quilt of a road trip.  I excitedly told friends of my plan, showing my route on a map as a visual reference. 

PLANNING to leave in March 2020, I made lodging reservations (friends and Airbnbs). Lodging for Big Bend fills up far in advance but I miraculously found a place – an airstream trailer – in Terlingua, the funky, hippie town of Jerry Jeff Walker fame (¡Viva Terlingua!) and the Starlight Theater – prickly pear margaritas in the hot Texas sun. I made reservations for a kayaking trip down the Rio Grande. I was set and I couldn’t wait. 

AS the saying goes, if you want to make God laugh tell Her your plans. Stuff happened. In early 2020 there was a virus spreading, slowly at first, then picking up speed. As much as I tried, the reality of COVID became impossible to ignore. The world was snapping shut before I could say, “but, what about ME?” Who was I kidding? It turns out, I had indeed tempted fate. (Not that COVID was my fault.)

I woke up one day and reality had won. With tears in my eyes, I started canceling reservations, my solo road trip dream crumbling into dust. C’est la vie. 

FAST forward to 2022. I did take a road trip to Big Bend and fulfilled a portion of my dream. My partner and I drove to West Texas, stayed in Marathon, and spent a week in Big Bend. It was heaven – my memories of the wide open spaces unmarred, the spiritual connection remained and the night sky had not changed (maybe a few more satellites). We stared up at the twinkling Milky Way gobsmacked by the shooting starts, while our necks stiffened. The stars were SO close. The wilderness was as beautiful and magical as it was 50 years ago (haha – maybe even 50 million years ago?). We stopped at night to see the Marfa lights (unable to positively identify anything unworldly). We saw a herd of javelinas crossing a back road outside of Marathon. We kayaked the Rio Grande, hiked the trails (Santa Elena, Casa Grande, Chisos Basin, The Window), walking carefully among the prickly pear and ocotillo cactus; tarantulas, and wild burros. We soaked in the hot springs, walked across the river to Mexico, bought beaded trinkets from Mexicans who had crossed over  on horses. I had more than a few prickly pear margaritas at the Starlight, while listening to Jerry Jeff. The orange, pink and purple sunsets were stunning, the dark night skies a carpet of stars. It was pretty awesome – what dreams are made of. 

FROM there we drove to Archer City and visited the “City of Books” that Larry McMurtry built. Sadly Larry had died (March 25, 2021), yet his spirit was there. Boy, was it there – in every book we looked at, touched and left with. We spoke with his lady friend who inherited Larry’s thousands of books and bookstores. She spoke of Larry with sad eyes and with such love and admiration and shared some personal stories of their friendship over the years. We walked around town, down the middle of Main Street where an actual tumbleweed rolled by, where “The Last Picture Show” was filmed. Looking back, it was kind of surreal. My pilgrimage was complete.

WE turned the car around and headed back west to Colorado. I’ll do my solo trip another time – maybe when I’m 80!

ALWAYS have a road trip in the wings, even if it’s just a dream.

Photo: c. Bob Anderson – Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, Big Bend National Park

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Friday, June 24, 2022

After my initial reaction to the Supreme Court ruling today – rage quickly turned to heartbreak, back to rage, then tears, more rage, ending with a physical sickness like I’d been kicked in the gut. Now, several hours later, I just feel sick, physically sick. I’ve wanted to throw up all day. 

It’s a kind of shock. We were told – we were warned – this was coming but we couldn’t quite believe it. Like a parent who dies from a long-term illness, it’s still a shock when they die. For fifty years Roe v Wade was enshrined as law in the constitution. And now it’s gone. Just like that. It’s like we woke up to a world where a guaranteed constitutional right, something we took completely for granted, say, free speech, was taken away. Or, more specifically, if we woke up and women were no longer allowed to drive, like in Saudi Arabia. Or girls were no longer allowed to go to school, like in Afghanistan under the Taliban. You get my drift.

Choose your own simile (or metaphor). There are many. 

It’s late afternoon and I feel emotionally spent. I feel weak. I’m still fighting the urge to drop to my knees – to the floor, and just lay there. Defeated. I feel like … they have won. They’ve taken away, not just a woman’s choice, but her autonomy, her agency over her own body, they have taken away a woman’s freedom. We woke up and women no longer had the right to make health care decisions about our own bodies. Men were, women weren’t. Women were infantilized. We now need men to make decisions for us. We are not free in this country. Freedom is a joke for women. And of course, especially for women of color. Let’s not kid ourselves, abortion will always be available to women who have the means to obtain one, regardless of what state in which they live. 

You don’t believe me? Just wait. Wait until a young pregnant woman tries to leave her anti-abortion red state to seek an abortion in a pro-choice blue state. Wait until they start criminalizing women who seek abortions, or those who help them – doctors, nurses, friends, family, Lyft drivers. Wait until the first woman is charged with murdering her baby and put in prison, followed by more such women. Just wait. When it happens, don’t act shocked. Never underestimate the hatred men have for women’s power and the control women have over their own bodies. 

Yes, we will march. Again. And again. And again. Just like we did in the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s. And we will VOTE. And maybe, just maybe this decision will be the catalyst that stops the rip current pulling us all under in this country. Maybe. But, with this Supreme Court, I have little hope. I am 71. I’ve been fighting this fight my whole life it seems. Our daughters and granddaughters have just lost their freedom, they have fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers. They have fewer rights than boys and men and have been legally deemed unworthy of making their own health care decisions.

This ruling will seep into the very psyche of every child – in ways we can’t see now. Girls: you are stupid. Boys: girls are stupid. Don’t believe me? Think I’m over-reacting? I’m full of hyperbole? Then let’s imagine the opposite. What if we lived in a country where the law and leaders (all women) had faith in a woman’s right to make decisions about her own health, her life, her body, her family. And made child care, maternal care, and families truly the top economic value and priority? What messages do you think that world would send to our children? 

For that I am beyond heartbroken. No matter what happens, we have lost so much today. Right now I feel defeated and empty. In the coming days I will gather my wits and energy to fight on, to march again, to get out the vote. We can’t give up. I will go to my grave marching and fighting the good fight. In the name of RGB and John Lewis, we will continue to make good trouble. There is no other choice but that. 

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What I Saw

The year was 1976; I was 25 years old living in Denver in a house on 5th and Pennsylvania in Capital Hill. One warm, summer evening I was sitting outside on a lumpy couch on the front porch. I was reading a book using the inside light from a lamp in the living room shining through the window, when something caught my eye. I looked up.

I am 70 now. Forty-five years have passed and I have never spoken publicly about what I saw. I have told only a few trusted friends. I kept my story close to my chest for several reasons. I didn’t want to go public because there wasn’t anyone to validate what I saw and I didn’t think I would be believed. I didn’t want to be seen as just another wack-a-doodle weirdo claiming I saw a UFO. There were enough of those goofballs around. I didn’t want to be ridiculed. I also felt sworn to secrecy in an odd, unexplainable way.

What caught my eye was a bright light. A light so bright it didn’t seem natural. The sun was setting, it was quickly growing dark. The night was still but I noticed the tops of the trees across the street starting to move as if a big wind appeared out of nowhere. I stood up, staring at the lights. What appeared was something out of a movie. A huge flat oval, ringed in lights was hovering just above tree-line. The object appeared to be made of a metallic silver. Silently the oval started to slowly move down the street – still hovering above the trees and houses. There was no sound.

As if in a trance I followed, keeping my eyes on the lights, at first walking fast and then running down the street with my hair flowing behind me, my heart rapidly pumping, almost being pulled. I could not look away. I felt hypnotized as if my mind had left my body. When we got to the end of the street, the object suddenly lifted and disappeared as fast as it had appeared. It simply dematerialized. I couldn’t say how big it was – it seemed massive.

The trees stopped moving, the night was still once more. I looked around in a panic, wanting to find someone who had witnessed what I had seen. There were no cars driving by, no one walking. Only me. I walked back home in a daze yet keenly aware of what I’d seen. My heart beat slowed to a normal rhythm. It was almost 10:00, I was surprised it was so late.

I called the TV stations to see if anyone had reported seeing an unidentified flying object that evening in or around Denver. I first called Channel 9 (local NBC) and talked to someone – the person I spoke with said no and quickly hung up. I called Channel 4 (local CBS), same response. No one would talk to me. I left my name and number, just in case, and never heard back. I went to sleep and the next day checked the newspapers, TV news stations — nothing. 

The few times I did tell my story at a party – after alcohol fueled questions about UFOs – I felt as if I had betrayed a trust. I stumbled through the story, emotional and teary and then immediately wanted to take back my words. I couldn’t explain what I was feeling. I had nothing invested in people believing me or my story.

As time went on I tucked my story away. I never spoke of what I saw except to those few trusted friends who, although they said they believed me, I could tell they were giving me a side-eye. They knew me. They knew I wasn’t a conspiracy-theory nutcase. I wasn’t then, I’m not now, I never was. When the “are we alone?” question comes up and those who are convinced we are being visited by aliens speak up, I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut. I’m neutral. I’ve never felt a great need to know the truth of what happened; I know what happened and I trust what I saw. I’ve never felt a great need to go public with my story; I still feel protective of what I saw.

Now that NASA has publicly come forward with what looks like convincing evidence of higher intelligent life forms flying in and around Earth’s orbit, I felt it was time to tell my story. 

I’m left with one question: Why me? Is there some extraterrestrial technical ability to choose a particular human to reveal yourself to – screening out all others? An invisible cloak? And if so, again, why me? And furthermore, how fucking cool is that?

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The Day Twinkle Said Fuck

The first time I ever heard anyone say “fuck” out loud was when I was in middle-school, 7th grade. I was 13 years old, 1964, small town Texas. We were at a slumber party at Twinkle’s house and after freezing everyone’s bras, we were horsing around outside and suddenly, out of Twinkle’s mouth, flew the forbidden word, “FUCK”. You could see it floating above everyone’s heads in dark cloudy letters.   F—U—C—K

Everything stopped. The Earth stopped rotating. Birds stopped chirping. You could have heard a pin drop. We all stared. With that slip of a tongue, she gave permission to say this word. A word I’d seen written in public places by teenage hooligans, but never spoken. Certainly not by my parents or any of their friends. I’m not sure how, but we knew that some words were not to be spoken out loud.

I was stunned. My world suddenly cracked open in a way I didn’t realize then, but do now. I was liberated, my jaw unlocked. I could say a word out loud that before only existed in my thoughts. It took me several more years to use it as a verbal spice to pepper a conversation or written communication. And it wasn’t just that word. It was a joyous freedom-of-expression, power-of-language, moment of realization. I’m still staring at Twinkle.

If you’re wondering, Twinkle looked exactly like what her name implied. She was pretty and petit, twitchy with wild curly hair, a thin boy-like body and was crack-you-up funny. I suspect she hasn’t changed all that much.

It’s taken me this many years to realize I owe Twinkle a debt of gratitude. Thank you, Twinkle, wherever you are, darlin’, for setting me free.

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My Turn

via My Turn

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My Turn

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”
― Maya Angelou

I was between 19 and 21, early 70s in Texas. I don’t remember specifically the year or my age. The trauma wiped out those details. Rape was not something anyone talked about. I don’t know if I was ever warned about sexual assault. I don’t think I had heard, read or knew anyone who had been raped.  Where and when I grew up, young girls and teens were not taught or warned about sexual assault. We were barely told about sex. We learned about menstruation in 6th grade and that was pretty much it. End of story.

Afterward, the thought of going to the police never entered my mind. Who would believe me? I couldn’t imagine. I chose the path of forgetting. I shrink-wrapped the experience and put it away in a box on the highest shelf in the darkest corner of my mind and never looked back. Some might say I was in denial. Denial is not deep enough for what I buried.

And then one day, about 15 years later, the memory surfaced. I was watching the Oprah Show and the subject was “Date Rape”. A piece of a memory became dislodged in my brain and I remembered something. And then something else broke free.

I do not remember his name but I do have vivid memories of place and other details. It was summer. I worked at my father’s company in an office with a large open window that I could look out of while working at my desk.  There was a new salesman and every morning I watched him walk into the offices for the sales staff. He was from Southern California, new to Texas,. He was “older” – in his late 20s/early 30s. He was attractive in that 1970’s blow-dried-California-way. He was a loner; he didn’t socialize with the other salesmen and seemed to have no friends. As he passed my window, he would bend down, smile and wink at me. I was flattered and eventually developed a little crush on him. And he knew it. What I didn’t know then was that he was grooming me, the shy, insecure boss’s daughter with a half-formed identity.

One afternoon we were getting coffee, just the two of us, and out of the blue he spoke to me. I don’t remember what we talked about before he asked me if I’d like to go to dinner. He was charming and I said yes. I was flattered.

He gave me his address and told me to come by his apartment around 7:00 and we’d go to dinner from there. When the day came, I left work early, went home and got ready for my date. When I arrived at his apartment, a woman with a squalling baby on her hip answered the door. He briefly explained that she was his sister and he was staying with her until he could get his own place. He mentioned he wasn’t ready to go out yet and motioned to me to follow him.

I followed. He closed his bedroom door and almost immediately started to undress like it was the most natural way start to a date. I was confused and totally blindsided. He started taking my clothes off. I began to protest and stammered that I thought we were going to dinner. He said, “we will afterwards”. I didn’t know what was happening. After my “NO’s” and protests were ignored, I gave up. He was tall, strong and completely over-powered me. Fear took over and I was paralyzed. My body was on high-alert.

I remember kind of blanking out and going along because I was afraid to cry out for help. I was overwhelmed with the feeling of fearing for my life. Subconsciously, I did what every woman since the beginning of time has done, shut up and hope to live. Survival instincts tell you to go along and then get the hell out. What I know now, but didn’t then, was that this man was an experienced rapist. I wasn’t his first rodeo.

I remember feeling powerless in a way I’ve never felt before. He was rough, uncaring. His penis was huge and he was hurting me and I told him. He didn’t listen. He didn’t look at me. I cried, but intuition told me not to scream. I knew if I did, he would shut me up. I was scared, terrorized and trapped. I remember feeling that if I could just get it over with, I would live and be free to go home.  After it was over, he told me I could leave. Or maybe he told me to leave. I left. We never made it to dinner.

It was still light outside and I felt humiliated and ashamed as I stumbled to my car. I drove home numb, crying, feeling sick. When I arrived, I pulled myself together, quietly slipped in the house, grateful no one was there I would have to interact with. I immediately took a long, hot shower and afterwards quietly closed my bedroom door and stayed there until the next day. I never told a soul. I don’t think the thought of telling someone (my mother) even entered my mind. I knew how upset my mom or dad would be and I didn’t want to be the cause of that. I also felt I would be blamed.

And yes, I felt ashamed. I was the one who went over to his house. I was the one who followed him into his bedroom. I let it happen. I didn’t scream loud enough. I was stupid. The thought of reporting him never even occurred to me. I somehow knew who would be blamed.

I never saw him again. He disappeared – quit the company and moved away. Where did he go? Why did he leave California to come to Texas in the first place? Did his sister hear me crying, saying “No”, “Stop”? Did she know what he was doing in the next room? She must’ve known. Crap. Had he done this before and she knew it? She knew her brother was a rapist and said nothing. Was she a rape victim?

Unfortunately, I will never know because I didn’t go to the police. And because I didn’t report him, he likely went on to continue his career as a serial rapist. My prayer has always been that a woman – braver than I – did report him and he spent a significant portion of his life in prison. I’ll never know. He’s probably dead by now. I hope so.

I was marked from the first moment he saw me. I was a shy, insecure young woman searching for herself. That I was the boss’s daughter probably made me a more attractive target for him. He was in total control from the first moment to the last. He took a chance that I wouldn’t be a whistle blower. His instincts were correct.

I felt it was my fault for following him into his bedroom. What I was left with was shame. Shame is what prevents women from reporting. Shame and regret. Shame that I followed him into his room, regret I didn’t have the courage to go to the police.

I’ve shed the shame and regret. I write my story, not to elicit sympathy, pity or admiration, but to shine a light on what has long been buried. To tell my untold story. There are so many similar stories out there and all are unique and need to be told. I’m not that special, but my story is. So is yours.

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