By Judi Curry
Labor Day means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. In my case, at the age of seven, the first time I knew about “Labor Day” was on September 2nd, 1946, because that was the day my mother went into labor with my sister, Andy. (Andrea Jane.) The house was a flutter and my own governess was going to take care of my sister, leaving me for the first time in my life.
I was going to be “a big girl” now, and I no longer needed to have Nanny Parsons monitor my every move. All of that was fine with me, except for one small thing – I did not know that my mother was pregnant. I do not want to say that she kept it a secret from me – but it was not talked about in my presence.
To this day I do not know why I wasn’t told, but I do know that my mother had many different quirks that as an adult I never understood. For example, she bragged about my father never saw her naked. Never. Strange, for a lot of reasons, but my mother was a beautiful woman and would dress beautifully and flaunt her beauty often.
Having a baby in the house was strange. Nanny Parsons was always with Andy. I never remember seeing my mother holding her, or talking to her, or, for that matter, feeding her a bottle. It wasn’t like as she was giving me – an only child for 7 years – any attention, for I never saw her either. She spent 3 weeks in the hospital “recovering” from the birth – a normal birth, mind you – and always said she loved the attention afforded her when she was in the hospital.
A rather ironic situation happened when I went into labor with my own first child. My sister and I were both born at Cedars, in Los Angeles. So was my first daughter. And when the nurse saw my mother visiting me she remembered my mother. And said to me later that “ . . .she almost refused to come to work during the 1 ½ days I was scheduled to be there because if I were anything like my mother, she didn’t want have to take care of me!
Andy’s life was hectic from the beginning. At her first birthday party she went around drinking all of the unfinished drinks people had left around. The drinks were alcoholic and she was rushed to the hospital to have her stomach pumped. Even at a year old she managed to get into trouble, and no one paid attention to this little 12 month old that wobbled from table to table. They thought the “wobble” was because she was learning to walk. No sir! She knew how to walk. She wobbled because she was drunk.
Life moved on in uncomfortable ways. My parents filed bankruptcy and we had to leave the beautiful house we lived in for many years. We went to live in the upstairs of a triplex my grandparents owned in a poor area of Los Angeles. Gone were the beautiful clothes; gone was the expensive furniture that was uncomfortable to sit on anyway; and gone was Nanny Parsons and the maids that helped her in her daily chores.
My Dad, a charming, green-eyed Hungarian, loved Andy and me. (I think he loved her more than me.) He and my mother fought constantly and eventually became divorced when I was 16. Andy continued to live with my mother in an apartment over a dance studio in Beverly Hills, and I lived with a friend. I was married at 17, with my mother’s approval, because the day we came back from Las Vegas, Andy moved in with us.
Prior to that time she had been termed “incorrigible” by the schools, and my mother had taken her out of public school and placed her in a “reform school”, which she hated. As I look back over the years now, I think that both my father and sister were “bi-polar” but it was never diagnosed as such. And because of that lack of diagnosis they both had mental problems they were unable to cope with by themselves.
I know that my sister was looking for acceptance by others; she was looking for the love that she never got from my mother; she was trying to anchor herself in a world that she didn’t understand. When my mother removed her from our care – she had a new rich boyfriend that would pay for Andy to go to boarding school – she floundered even more.
They next few years were tumultuous in their own right. After getting out of the boarding school, she met a man – Billy – and ended up getting married to him. This was primarily to get out of my mother’s reach, and I honestly think she thought she loved him. As one can imagine, they also had a rough marriage, but through all of it a delightful young lady was born – my niece.
Somewhere before Lisa was 5 years old, Andy and Billy were divorced, and I saw a lot of my sister. She’d bring over Lisa and she and my kids would play together. But we were not very close – maybe the age difference; maybe that I went back to college and earned a degree; maybe, maybe, maybe.
Andy lived in Downey, a suburb of Los Angeles, and met a police officer on the Downey police department force. She fell for him, and he fell for her. He told us that he wanted to marry her and adopt Lisa. He told us, around Thanksgiving, that he was going to propose to her on Valentine’s Day.
She wasn’t happy. She wanted to get married before the end of the year, and hoped that he would propose to her on Christmas Day. He had not saved enough for the ring to ask her to marry him then and so he still was going to wait until Valentine’s Day. In a fit of anger, Andy told him if he didn’t ask her to marry him before the end of the year she would kill herself. He was used to the dramatics my sister used to get her way, and he thought she was not serious. He was wrong. She committed suicide two days before Christmas; found in bed with a telephone in her hand; and Lisa visiting a friend down the street. For years, Lisa has said that she didn’t want to go to visit the friend; that Andy made her go. Lisa always felt that if she were home – she was only 5 – she could have stopped her from taking those pills.
We have always wondered who she was trying to call before she took her final breath. Was it 911? Was it the police officer. He was the one that found her, and shortly afterwards quit the police department and went elsewhere.
So, Andy, on this your 67th birthday, I am thinking of you with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes. If only you could see the success that Lisa has made of her life you would be so proud. And you know what else? Lisa and her husband Chris have a son – your grandson – who just presented her with a beautiful baby daughter – your Great-Granddaughter. And she looks like you.
Happy Birthday Andy. I miss you, and I love you.
Anna Daniels says
Judi- this was a deeply moving article. I am so sorry that your lost your sister. There is consolation when you can still hold a part of her when you embrace your great niece. May the days ahead provide you many opportunities to hug and hold her close.
Judi, What a touching tribute to your sister Andy. I’m so sorry. Andy & her great- granddaughter are beautiful. You’re in my thoughts & prayers.