Karen Cathers, Nikki Pison, and Justin Peone

Recorded February 9, 2008 Archived February 9, 2008 53:47 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: GCT004736


Karen Cathers tells her kids, Nikki Pison, Justin Peone, Christina Pappalardo about her childhood growing up with Communist parents during the Cold War, marrying an older man when she was 17, and feeling determined to be a “perfect” mother for her children.

Subject Log / Time Code

Karen remembers getting pushed around by kids in her neighborhood from being a Communist. They used to push her against the wall and ask her if she believed in God. Afterwards, she would go home and ask her mom if they believed in God. She told Karen to say, “Yes and that she was Protestant”.
The family talks about a word game they used to play on road trips and they demonstrate how it for a few minutes.
Karen describes her ex-husband’s children growing up during the depression in New York City. Eventually he was placed in a Catholic home for boys and always told fond memories of this period.
Karen tells a tragically funny story when she had her first child and was so preoccupied with taking care of Christina that she neglected their dog, who became very sick and had to be “put down”.
Karen talks about leaving her husband later in life after realizing that she is lesbian. This was a difficult time in her life filled with regret and doubt.


  • Karen Cathers
  • Nikki Pison
  • Justin Peone

Recording Location

Grand Central Terminal


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00:05 I'm Nikki pison and I'm 35 years old. Today is February 9th 2008 and we're at Grand Central Terminal and we are the three children of Karen cathers.

00:20 Hi, my name is Justin peone and I'm 32.

00:23 I'm Christina pappalardo and I'm 37 and I'm Karen cathers The Matriarch. I'm Karen antonson peony cather's the matriarch of these sort of family here part of the family and 60.

00:44 So you're probably wondering why I called you here today.

00:53 It was interesting to me because when I asked your mom to to do this project, I was envisioning you talking about your own life, which is so interesting and and you have so many amazing experiences and and characteristically of you you want to talk about, you know, other people because you know, it's part of our heritage and Heritage of our very interesting family is kind of Heritage of selflessness and and giving and and so it was very typical of you to not want to talk about yourself to talk about your your family history. Well, you got an interesting family and I think I really want to put it some of the characters they are truly characters and your family in terms of the historical. That they were growing up in because it just seems to make sense to me. They put them in context because a lot of the decisions they made

01:53 A lot to do with the time they were living. I mean going back to your great-grandmother Madea Madea Shaffer antonson who married my father is Father. She was born in 1880 and she she wrote a lot of stories to me. So I have a lot of her information about her traveling from Indiana to Kansas and they went in coach and wagon, and so I have a lot of history from her and because she was born at that. Of time.

02:29 She became influenced by actually was after the Civil War there was a great movement of spirituality and one of the key things about her life was that she was a spiritualist but there were many people that were spiritualist at this. Of time because there many people there are many losses in the Civil War and everybody was trying to connect with it their departed death, you know, they would many people both sides different parts of the of the issue and it was extreme loss and people wanted to connect so they were hiring spiritualists and mediums in your grandmother or great-grandmother became a spiritualist in a medium and shine member. I have this one wonderful photograph of a convention hall in which there are hundreds and hundreds of people who admit and it was called the spiritual Society. So

03:19 And so she was a spiritualist and used to do seances and automatic writing and things like that. And of course your grandfather said she's crazy, you know, he was too in love with one of his issues that she was crazy. And but she was also a socialist because of the Socialist Party was very, you know, in the in the turn of the century. There were a lot of lot of political change going on a lot of people looking at answers and questions and things and of course, the Russian Revolution had happened in 1990 was 17. So they were there was a progressive movement. I think it's actually pulled the progressive era era. And of course, we've spent a lot of the political systems in the since then have put an extreme amount of energy and money into destroying this Progressive Era and that they've done pretty well in this country. We're living in a very fascist country now because of that the backlash of that Progressive.

04:19 And so your your great-grandmother had her own spirit guide whose name was Igor and that's how your grandfather got his your great-grandfather. Right. His name is Igor. So Secor was my father and he was a true character and he was a person of his time of course, of course is both his parents were.

04:47 Socialist and so it wasn't much of a leap to become a communist and an especially after the Russian Revolution and in and he lived in New York and live in Manhattan and I'm just about every corner there were people standing up on boxes talking about socialism and communism in a change in the possibility of actually changing the system that was well established in which the rich got richer and the poor got poorer and the inequality and they they were very selfless people you talking about selfless stuff. I mean my name being a communist was sort of anathema in in my growing up years, which I can eventually get to but being a communist was even know there were many many Communists during that. It was a conflict about it, but it was a very selfless mode to take it was a selfless point of view to take because it meant that things they were

05:47 Sing is future utopian future in which people could actually share the resources. So they had a very idealistic point of view. And I think of them is very good people that they were real much of what they did they did from the heart in terms of their political convictions.

06:05 So one of the things that they did was they used to go to MayDay Parade's every year and I used to go to them when I was a little kid to Union Square and I just remember the excitement. I was a little bit young to remember much about this car, but there was a car that my my father it was a Model T Ford and it broke down and he decided to dress it up and bring it to the MayDay Parade and put because it was broken down. He said well, it's just like capitalism. It's falling apart and had a that was a tire on it that had a deliberate hole in it. And it he put a sign on it that said inflation and did what you could see the the hole and then he had the with the radiator of course was constantly overheating so he had a big can a red can and it said

07:05 First Blood and he had put dye in it and he'd pour the dyed water into the radiator everytime it overheated and and there were signs all over it and it was cool. He pulled the car capitalism and bite. I mean the crowds of course, we're just they loved it. I mean, you know that either the people who were again, it would say go back to Russia a communist. You can tell you but the people who are for it they would cheer and you know, so they got a lot of attention and it was very very exciting have lots of pictures. There aren't many pictures in the United States because it wasn't you knowing it there was that, you know attempt by most of the press to hide and re-educate Americans in terms of what the American Press wanted to educated about. But I know that my father when he he didn't do it the next year because he couldn't get the car together and he went into Communist party has headquarters and this guy

08:05 Who is an official said where were you last year? And he said Zeke said well, I just couldn't get it together. He said well you make sure you get it together this year because they let you know. I know the Press was you know, hardly there was hardly any press about it here in the United States, but they were laughing all over Europe. So that gives me an impetus to look for some of those pictures and some of that film in Europe. So that was a lie One mission I'm going to do is go to look at some London papers and peruse them and then I have to do a research project in England. What was it like for you to grow up in a family where your parents were largely ostracized and and persecuted in a way.

08:50 Well, that could be a whole tape in itself. I think it really was I grew up in Staten Island, which is very conservative area. It's Republican is conservative. I happen to live in a little Community just off the Goethals Bridge and then which they were 10 houses. So we had an interest in community. We had a Fire official couple though. It was on biracial. He was he was white and she was black but there was sort of ostracized. I mean they were everybody was respectful to them, but they didn't mix all that much then we had the guy that became a hit man for the mafia and was eventually killed. So that was the gangster kind of community the family spend it with a German immigrants who were very hard-working and that was always there. They were the hard-working rich ones. We used to call them rich. I thought they were rich is a very working-class neighborhood. Then we had the luniz their name was Looney. They were Italian and they store to sort of Stay by themselves, but I got a great story about them to

09:50 And there was the in-house which there were a lot of people moving in and out and and that was probably you know, because of a lot of their kids in that household and I ended up hanging is very interesting because I in the beginning when I was little I remember being pushed up against the offense and beans asked if I was a member of the Communist party and did I believe in God and what religion I was so of course, I went back to my mother. I mean I had been terrified by this and I don't remember exactly where it happened and I had to guess my mother like what religion are we need a religion is all just tell them we're Protestant. So then I go back and somebody would push me up against the fence and it said Protestant I'd say what sect, you know Protestants what kind of protestant and I was like, I know how to go back and find out what what insect Protestant I was so I was very uninformed in terms of making it in this so it was hard. It was very hard.

10:51 But I developed kind of a strength and Leadership qualities in the community and that little thing there and because I had good ideas and I was a natural teacher. I sort of organized people around games and around, you know activities. I made a field day and week we had you no ribbons and jumping things and I I actually develop leadership qualities by and I actually was a very fine athlete so I was valuable in terms of playing ball. So I'm I actually thrived in that little community in spite of the fact that there are stories of being very frightened. I mean by the FBI and other many stories, I was work very hard at being invisible because I knew that I didn't want to call attention to myself. So I worked very hard at being invisible and I have many stories about you know about

11:50 My father things in terms of him preparing me for the revolution teaching me how to shoot a gun at the age of 5 so that I was an excellent marks person by the time I was seven or eight I could get a 22in really shoot em, and of course the nightmares that I would have about the enemy coming he was always preparing us for the Revolution and the enemy and I was unclear who the enemy was but I would have these nightmares that would look like police mostly police. So I picture that the enemy looking like police and other things in which you know harassment from neighbor personal phone calls with people with hang up and this guy Buzzy who threatened my father's life and my father and it's the whole story around that around how he he actually shot. That was something annoys on the

12:43 I know the porch roof and my father shot through the window with his gun, which he always kept close to him and that Buzzy was limping the next day. So it was not easy but it also made me stronger and also made me and because I knew my people my mother my mother and father were good people. It was very confusing to me because I heard so much about how they were evil people and I knew so it made me distrust what I heard very early very young age. I knew that propaganda was wrong that they were wrong you're wrong about my parents that they must be wrong about a lot of things. So it was good to have that personal connection.

13:35 Let's see, we talked a little bit by MattyB

13:39 I think it'd be good to talk about your father a little bit because you know

13:48 It was interesting how you know, I met your father Through The Fire And basically our house burned down and I was very much a child of the Revolution as matter fact, my father has said that he wanted to have more children so that he could have replacements for him when he died that to carry on the movement. So we were it was such a political household to grow up in it was very political. So when your father came along and he was so a political it seemed really attractive to me was very attracted to your father's lifestyle. I was just sort of

14:29 You know just day-to-day enjoying family is very Italian families in food and hanging out and laughing a lot and it was very attractive. So I and when we had the fire and I move towards your father was a total change of life for me. Just is it, you know having

14:49 Having your mother my my my mother join the Communist Party my mother actually join the Communist party and that's how she met my father but her family always thought that my father had, you know, I'm brainwashed her and taken her from the very middle class upper middle-class background and piano playing and duets with her brother and a and the biggest house on Oneida Lake and things like that of every upper-middle-class background and that she had in Syracuse the ended up by being abducted by my father so that we very had at that point. We had very little contact with the cathars family we go up there once a year, but my father never went so it was a separation of the family.

15:37 So it's kind of this interesting where my mother comes from this upper middle-class background. My father is very working class. I had these this conflict here, but we became a very political household because of them, you know by both parents being a communist but for being communist and then I was pulled into this very just sort of a political family and I think they're very a political the peony family is very a political so it's kind of interesting but they're good people are very good people and it was in many ways. It was a very easy transition because the the the step children, I've always been very good to me a course. I've always been very good to them. I felt guilty about the changes in their family. So I worked very hard to be super step mother of the year and I in and it paid off because they responded in kind they were very respectful and loving towards me.

16:35 So

16:37 But your father who told me lots and lots of stories. He didn't tell you that many stories and I think he probably can't he had had seven children before that and I don't know where they told her told he was done, but he did tell me a lot of stories a night. I need to tell them they're a lot of good story than one of my favorites is about when he was in Germany during World War II.

16:58 And he was they were they were stationed in a town a small town. And apparently they had some time to sort of just hang out with some of the people in the community which it wasn't always with, you know possible, but he and his bloody would go out and they take their rations. They have expiration said they'd have chocolate and they they befriended these two women and a who were actually sisters and so they came in they got to meet their father and they came into the house and they would hang out with the father and enjoy drinking tea and hanging out with the father and talkin and talkin to lead to the evening and finally it was time for me to go to bed so Pat and his buddy would go out the front door say goodnight and go around the house and knock tap on the window and the girls would let him them both in and they spend the night sleeping with the

17:58 So this was a great arrangement in they did it in a day after day. They come the next day. They do, you know come towards the house towards the evening and they'd come knock on the door and they old man would let them in and they sit around and they did some of the relations and they have tea together and he'll eat they eat they leave some chocolate for the family and then they'd say goodnight and go out the front door and they go around the house and tap on the window and go in the house and sleep with the girls and all of spend some time and then one night or one early morning, you know, they do is get up, you know before reveley discussion about reveler every and reveley and be back to the barracks and time.

18:50 One morning. I was this loud knocking at the door knock knock knock.

18:56 In her this voice get the boys up there going to be late for rent.

19:07 So he had lots and lots of stories which need to be told and and he was a great Storyteller. So and you know, he was and who actually I think we should do a little bit of the game. You want to do the game for you. What do you mean game? What's a game a game is to go to the gym last time things are like not there. They're like, you knows two things are like they're doing a game. I'm not crazy. And I know that's saying saying saying the train train is not like when you look out the window train,

20:00 It looked out the window trying to blame blame all flame on a very long trip 500-mile trip, and I don't know anybody else that ever played if I put my father. I don't know where he got that he made it but he had a terrible beginning. I mean, his mother was killed when he was 4 years old and Chris. Tony is two years younger than he is and

20:47 And so they were two and four and their parents have been separated already. So they were out in Canton Ohio the kids were with the grandparents in the grand grandmother and three generations of mothers. And so at some point or another Pat was brought back to Brooklyn after after the murder and I'm in their mother was murdered actually shot by a jealous boyfriend and it was like, we're not sure whether he witnessed this or not, but it was traumatic. I'm sure and he went back to live in in Brooklyn with his father.

21:22 And his father by then had had a stepmother for Pat and said come along and so he was there for a while and then Tony came along and Tony was always a little bit behind Pat he would come you know, a few weeks later, but it always Miss Pat and he decide he wouldn't come wealthy step mother is one was worse than the next and they were all sorts of stories about abuse and neglect. And of course this was during the Depression your father was born in 1926. So he had everybody was stressed. I mean, I don't know that he's so much of his father. His father was out a lot and I don't know who is struggling to earn a living for his family, but he hardly has any memories of his father's father would always come in late at night. So one of the things that the kids had to do is go out and earn money as much as possible. And of course at that time, this is during the Depression. This was in the 30s.

22:17 There was the streets of New York were filled with you know, these homeless kids just crowds of them. And so one time your father he had his little shoeshine thing and he was supposed to collect his nickels and his dimes and bring them home to Maria based want to step my mother at the time there actually were two or three wicked. Stepmother is an one that was one of the things that made me determined to be the best step mother on a planet was hearing these stories from your father and Maria said that if you don't bring home money, you will get beaten and of course she may be a couple times that he didn't bring enough money home and he had gotten beaten.

22:58 So he at one point or another he had sat there all day or one of the round with his shoe shine thing and not gotten any money at all and he was scared to go home. So he slept on a park bench and when he

23:13 He woke up to this officer standing there and the officer said you know, what are you doing here and explain what happened that he was afraid to go home and didn't have any money and he says I'll take you home and he took him home. He said if you heard this kid, he knocked on the door and I guess Michael and Maria were there and he said to both his parents. If you beat this kid up you'll be in worse trouble you're already in trouble or the next thing that he remembers his being in front of a judge and the judge took him into the back room to talk to him by himself. And he said how would you like to live in a van home? We were there lots of boys your own age and you can have it all you want to eat. And of course that says he has sure so he ended up that's how we ended up in Staten Island at Mount Loretto, which is a boy's home. I think I was a boy, but I think it was a boys home at that time. And so they got a lot of the kids off the streets then it was Catholic Charities and it made your father of pretty that he was of course Italian and he was pretty

24:13 He was you know, traditionally a Catholic but it made this made him a profound Catholic so much so that he went to St. Peter's high school and he's very well and he wanted to become a administer a priest. And of course then World War II came along and he ended up by lying about his age and enlisting at age 17 to go across the ocean because everybody who was anybody was trying to go over the ocean. I mean, it was just like the thing that young men did and he felt compelled to quit school and that's how we ended up with not getting his diploma from St. Peters and going across to hide during World War II so but didn't write his first day. He tells the story about his first day at Mount Loretto and his first meal there and the way he describes it is just couldn't leave it that there was plates of food for people to help themselves and couldn't believe it like he had been given portions and that was it and he could get seconds or

25:13 And he just remembers gorging himself for that first meal and pictures of milk. He couldn't believe that they were pictures of milk in which you can actually pour out by yourself a second or third picture of milk now it's a pretty profound memory for him. So

25:31 So how we doing on time here?

25:34 Do the camp story will we have time for the Kim story? This is a this is a current story this we must have time for camp start.

25:45 How much butter?

25:54 When when your father and I moved back from New Bedford and I was I was 21 or 22 and Christina you had just been born you were.

26:08 It was in July. So you are probably in a few weeks old and I was really into being a mother. I was really into it. I was going to be the perfect mother and I was going to do everything right. I've read all the books and everything and I knew that you know, you should have cloth diapers. It was good for the environment. It was good for you and I didn't want you to have diaper rash because that was one of the problems, you know around people if I having diaper rash and so anyway, so I was really into taking care of the diapers and making my soft as possible and I use the clothesline and I use the soaking and I'm really into these diapers and then nursing you and singing to you you cuz you had to have songs and you have to have needed to talk to you in so I was very into it. So but we would go because your father had his first family responsibilities and he was very, you know, committed to taking care of them financially as well as going back and forth. We would travel down from the New Paltz area down.

27:08 Staten Island two weekends out of every every two we can we go to weekends and in the third weekend, we'd usually go up to Massachusetts and he would work for the weekend for his brother Tony who had the Tony's Auto radio.

27:24 I think it's called Tony's Auto Radio Drive in because cars with dry their cars and there was a big parking lot in people with drive and they would work on the cars right there and he would go up and work for the weekend in the at Tony's Auto radio and I would hang out with Lorraine and the two kids Jermaine and Gary and

27:46 So one weekend when we went up to up to New Bedford pack got sick, and he had had these ear aches ear infections with this one was really bad. And so I'm by Saturday night or so. He was not able to work the next day for Tony and he was lying on the couch, and he was really sick and had a fever really high fever and we were getting concerned and then it was clear. He shouldn't travel until it was and it got to be like Monday or Tuesday before we felt that he was well enough to come back to Staten Island or not to Staten Island, but to Upstate New York, so I drove us back and

28:26 It was another couple days of him being on the couch and he actually finally did go to a doctor and it was clear that he had a mastoiditis and that infection receded at that point. But eventually he had to have an operation. I'm a straight-up operation that and I could have killed them. It's a very serious is Right close to the brain. The mastoid is very close to the train. So he was really sick.

28:51 So, you know he went back to work and I went back to you don't really focusing on you Christina with the diapers and hanging him out on the line and pulling in the line and smelling them and making sure that they were so often everything and change and we didn't use rubber rubber pants in at least of these plastic pants Oh no now I am a change all the sheets and all the sheets would go out and you know, I was really into it in somewhere, you know a few days later. I I suddenly realized that my dog Kim big beautiful collie who is about 8 years old at the time. I I hadn't noticed his presents much. So I started calling him all I forgot to say that I brought your Mane back from New Bedford. So I had to remain with me who was she was about thirteen at the time.

29:37 And

29:39 Acid rain was there helping me take care of the baby and everything so likely be the three of us there and I couldn't find him and I started calling him and calling a minute and then he's probably under the trailer cuz that's where he goes when it's hot. So I looked under the trailer and Larry was your son to the trailer and he was keeping cool. So I figured okay, I'll put some food there and I'll put some water there and I'll go back to taking care of Christine and hanging out with your main and singing to Christina and making hanging the diapers on the line and smelling them when they came in and made it was like I was like my life and the next day I go down and I put some food and water down for Kim and then I started after about 2 or 3 days it is I said Kim you've got to come out of their you've got to come out of there. It's like you can't just stay down there. I didn't see him anywhere except under the trailer.

30:28 So I gave you to Germain to hold while I crawled under the trailer and I pulled his feet out and I dragged his feet out and I got them out into the daylight and I realized that the reason he wouldn't it didn't come out is it he was very very sick and he was covered underneath his tail and around his hair and underneath his tail. It was filled with maggots. Oh my gosh, he's really he's very sick. He's very sick. And he's so I got the hose and hose them down with a force of the get rid of all the maggots in but it was still still really clear that he was sick. So Jermaine and I picked them up and put them into the back of the truck and we drove the truck down to hop instead's and Hopper instead is only like 2 miles away. So we got him there and Avery Smith was the doctor there we can deal with hop instead that day and he was very angry with me. He just was it. How did you

31:28 Religious store get into this kind of condition. What kind of dog owner are you in? I'm in I'm like, I'm still trying so hard to be a mother. I've neglected my dog and I was feeling terrible and I just feeling off when you said is I don't think I can say this dog's life. He's in he's just too weak. He's in just his condition is too poor. He says I even give me $50 deposit and I'll try to to take care of him. But he's he's he's probably not going to survive and he said the best thing I would recommend is that you give me $8 and I'll have him put to sleep right now. Well, I didn't have any money and he also convinced me that the dog was not going to be saved. So I gave him the $8 and I watch them as they gave him the needle and I was just devastated and I left I left him there. He buries them to the for that $8 they bury them in the back or somebody does.

32:27 Many many years like they probably just throw them the bed sheets of Pitt game is at the bottom of that pile.

32:38 So you get home we drive home and I'm crying the entire way. It's only two miles. So I'm and I drive in and go in and I walk into the trailer and the phone is ringing.

32:50 And I pick up the phone and it's your Uncle Tony from Massachusetts from New Bedford. And I said, oh hi, Tony and he says how's the old man? And I said Tony has been terrible. It's really been terrible. He he's dead and he said dead and I said, well, yeah. Yeah. I hate that. The doctor said he couldn't save him and you know, he had maggots all over him. He was covered with maggots. I said maggots headed to get maggots all over him. And I said, well, he was underneath the trailer. You know, it's July and he's underneath the trailer and rounds of back-and-forth before we finally figured out that I was talking about Kim and he was talking about your father.

33:58 So I thought I took a little bit but Jerry since Jerry is departed now, but Jerry is

34:05 Part of the first family of 7 and she because she was born in between Joey and Christopher and there was free kids born within three years and I'll I don't know whether was 28 months or something. It was just like bang bang bang any rate. She was sandwiched in between these two boys and the two boys were rambunctious and outgoing and so she she was very much.

34:33 Overwhelmed I would say and so much attention went to the boys that I recognized her as the quiet kid in the class that needed the attention. So I would focus a lot of my attention on Jerry. And so one time I am your father used to call her baby doll because she was so tiny. She was just a little they put her in a little dresses. I mean, he's really tiny like you Niki and like he called her baby doll, but even though I'm sure he adored her his attentions off and went to the boys because they demanded it.

35:06 And even though they were your your siblings were very all very outgoing as a matter of fact, the five of them had a group called The peony Bunch. It's just doing The Brady Bunch family thing and they had costumes and everything and and their mother put them in costumes and everything and they would sing and you know, they had routines and it was it was pretty wonderful and we have lots of photographs about that. But Jerry within the context of the family was often overlooked. So one time when we came back from Staten Island, we're going to go on a camping trip and we got home and we realized that we had left a tent at Elvis house.

35:50 And we said all my gosh so we don't know what to do. We were going to that we were planning to go camping the next day. So I got it into my head that I would go back to the tent. I was just drive back there. I told Jerry I said listen if I wake up in the middle of night. I sometimes have a lot of energy. I'll just drive back. Would you like to go with me? And she was delighted that I had chosen her to go back with her and we spend the trip was a wonderful trip and she talks about it. You know what she's deceased now, but she talked about it. She remember that trip is being so special because it was a time that she and I just hung out and we sang songs and I told stories and we picked up the tent and came back and we were like Heroes of the day. He was pretty amazing amazing wonderful thing.

36:37 So Linda but your your your sisters and brothers are you know are quite they were quite you know, gregarious and outgoing and you know see a trickle and they did lots of wonderful things and Laura who was the littlest one. I remember when I first met them they called her Charlie. Did you know that they had it for Charlie? Her name is Charlie until she was three or four years old baby of the family and each one is more, you know, of course now they have this karaoke sing and they you know, they're all singers and they really enjoy being theatrical and of course your father loved being theatrical reason. I'm holding a lot of these stories got recorded somewhere another somewhere cuz they're pretty outgoing outgoing family. And that's very much what attracted me to the

37:37 Different from my Sirius political family what's on the news and shut up the news is on and

37:49 The dating do you guys ever talk about politics or was it very different for you to have conversations that that weren't steeped in politics or what were some of those interactions like what was interesting because I I started dating him when I was seventeen. I was very young. I was very very young and it was a whole nother world to me because I've never gone on a date with a guy. I was very I had a horse and I refused to ride my horse through the woods and and didn't deal with the whole social thing and I had never really had never been asked out that they never went on one. And so I when I first that went out with Pat

38:32 The idea of being treated to a and we went to a pizza place and we had a pizza. I'd hardly ever had pizza in my life. Even though we lived up roll up in Staten Island isn't very Italian area. It was like it was a big treat number one time. We went on a date and he got me this big sandwich was a roast beef sandwich the the the quantity of roast beef I was so I was very impressed with the dating process with Pat and when we talked about politics, I found him very from my point of view now, I see those who he was extremely conservative and reactionary is a matter of fact, he eventually registered in the Republican party so that he could be electrified to be elected in a Town Council and kind of thing, but it was very much a political move. He had been he had chosen to be a Democrat as I was but I think he was just trying to please me because I think he really

39:29 So we were really trying very hard to kind of make up a a mix of this marriage. We were very very different and we got along very well we good we worked as well as a team in terms of raising children and everything and we don't didn't go near politics too much because I I think I mean some of the things that he said, I realize we're very, you know racist and I think that I actually

39:58 Argued with him and Ashley convinced him from other points of view. Is he he and I remember when I first met him, he said something about believing that African-Americans were really

40:09 Inferior intelligence that they really were less capable and I I said I know some African-Americans and some people that I know but then of course, please this is partially why you I thought to myself well, maybe he's right, you know, but if it should have it we were very good at getting along with each other and we even though I disagreed with him it never became a conflict kind of thing. It was just really clear that and I was so happy to be non-political for a while.

40:50 I'm so happy to be non-political for a while that it was a real refreshing change for me to just be involved with family and good food and Blue alcohol, you know, it always made me a little happier to be have a little alcohol and it wasn't until later on that. I started to realize that we had so little in common and what since I was so involved in my raising of the children. I never it didn't become a conflict at wall in our relationship because I was focused on my children and so I was very a political for many years and I think basically I'm trying to make up for it now. I don't go anywhere and talk and I just talked about it all the time because I just think this in terrible trouble in this country and we need to this country this world.

41:50 And we need to really look at where the capitalism is working for us. So is actually I'm a man into a bumper to bumper sticker but it was a statement that more people can Envision the end of the world than the end of capitalism said it was easier for people to Envision that and that we you know, so it's capitalism is not working for the world. It's it's non-renewable its non-sustainable. It means it is based upon us consuming until we self-destruct and if we don't turn it around in terms of a culture and turns of a world we are going to self-destruct and I think that we need to let me know my parents are right. It's kind of like hard to come around to that, you know, the stuff that I it was a very difficult, you know place to live in my household is very serious.

42:41 It was about the news all the time. It was about what was going on. And I mean, that's what I heard. I mean I when I was growing up on the Roosevelt Roosevelt, that's an interesting blender. The rosenbergs are being executed. I remember it was just all my parents talked about was how that trial. You know how that was going. I mean they talked about it. They would come home and say what what happened today? What was in the news, you know, when they were going back back to New York City for stays of execution and it was just so much a part of their lives and they were political people. They were 100% political people even my existence was about replacing them to carry on the movement. So

43:30 To come from that very much your father and that the reason you're here is a reaction to my that overzealous in and they were definitely fanatic because it was it was more important than anything, you know, I'm in and it did and I was

43:50 Determined to have a balance that you know that the news is important, but it was never more important than my children and I was determined to have a balance. So I went in the other direction which I focused totally on you. I wouldn't even read a novel because I was afraid I would be reading the novel and you guys are drowned in the pond, you know, because now I was a very compelling you get three the man you can't stop so you get sucked in.

44:25 Yeah, you ain't.

44:27 It must be really it must have been very hard for you having this positive relationship with Daddy and having all this this working relationship where you know, I remember you telling me the reason it worked is cuz you both put in way more than your 50% and you never kept track. That was what the recipe for success of your relationship was but then to go through that and then to make a decision to leave him must have been very difficult. It was devastating. It was really because I went through about two years of depression and recognizing that I

45:04 I I wasn't happy but I didn't understand why and and when I when I finally left.

45:15 And I mean, you know, I mean, this is a

45:19 You know, this is kind of I mean, it's it's hard to talk about things without talking about the sexual aspect. I was never a sexual being with your father, even though I loved being cuddled and held by him and the fact that you guys are born are because of his persistence and nothing but I never was into it. I never was into it and it and it wasn't until I came out as a lesbian and had a relationship with Joan which you know, and then I realized oh this time because your father used to say I was frigid and there was something wrong location and I needed you no pills or anything, you know something to help me from stopping frigid. And then when I had my first sexual experience with a lesbian I said, oh this isn't home with me. So the fact that I came out as a lesbian and left your father at that time was a very it changed my life.

46:16 But I spent a year in absolute torture because I had worked so hard to create this family this perfect family. I wanted to have it a perfect family in it. So I spent a year watching him those who Norma Spain and watching me feeling guilty and almost going back many times. You know, I can sacrifice myself. I can make this. Okay, I can go further. I can stay with him. I can make myself happy. I can find other ways of making myself happy. Maybe we could make out on Oprah. We went for therapy. Should we have to see if we can develop an open marriage and you know us some kind of way of making this work, but by then he was too.

46:58 You know, he's just unable to and he is very conservative Republican kind of guy. He was not able to work with that and it's just as well. I mean it would have been very hard to work it out. But I did it was it was it was one of the hardest things to continue doing that in spite of the fact, you know, because of always feeling guilty and bad like I had destroyed something that was good and he actually did me a favor by getting arrested a year later, you know, and then all this stuff coming out which is probably not necessary to get into now, but it actually made it possible for me to go on with my life and let him go and let go of the fantasy of a perfect marriage and start looking at the truth of what was there.

47:46 In which I was a seventeen-year-old who was another one of his, you know.

47:53 A relationship that was inappropriate cuz I was 22 years younger than he and you know, it should not have happened and he actually said that at one point before he died that it should not have happened and I simply he was apologizing to me and I said Pat it. He said I said, how can you say it shouldn't have happened look at our children. And he said yeah, I was like, you know if it happened it happened happened and it's actually kind of an interesting story but there is a complex believe me about motherhood. There's other such a strong.

48:33 Strong strength inside of you about your drive to be a mom and and dedication to it. How did I guess your did your conception of marriage change when you went through this personal transition transformation in terms of marriage itself.

48:57 No, I absolutely think it's the most important job on the planet. I mean, you know in terms of you know on a personal level it also means that we need to fight to make the planet of political and ecological ecologically safe place to live but bringing it down to the personal it was the most rewarding thing I've ever done and it an end. Of course. I'm an educator as well and working with 4th graders for so many years and I fell in love with my my my students and absolutely was able to see each one of them as an individual. That was my strength in my in my in my career. I wasn't decorated assessment each kids individuality and made try to make a kid feel stronger for having been in my class.

49:51 And giving them skills to to move on. So I was a pretty successful educator and I think that I'm so well trained as a I mean I started this in my neighborhood in terms of organizing kids and doing field days. I've been I have been educating him being a mother figure since I was 11 and so it's pretty hard to turn it off now very hard when I'm in a room and there's a kid no matter what's going on. My focus is on the kid and when the kid speaks I hear the kid, I don't hear the rest of the conversation. So it's like it's saw its Hardware at this point and I'm going to get the kids.

50:33 Funny thing is you look at their grandkids with the kids and when we when Leslie and Nico were little and we live next door to each other. They were always right together done more like a sister and brother than cousin serving the very much its it takes a village. So in terms of you know, parenting and motherhood, I think it really has to be a community thing and that we need to structure things. So that mothers are free to have balance lives in so they can read novels so they can read novels and they can have Rich lives but there's someone there and that's why they extended family, you know, in which several generations and uncles living in the household made it possible for people when you have an extended family, which many cultures of the world. There are extended families in which people are not isolated.

51:33 The children are being raised by a community rather than and this was the appeal of my mother. My mother actually wrote a book when she was on her way in which she talked about families living in communes in which they people the meals would be served in a central house in the childcare would be right with within and the work would be close by so that everybody was helping to raise the family in that this children had the strength of the the support and we've only done that so kind of remarkable and and I know that some of the things that is that I've been able to accomplish in my life. I've been able to accomplish because I've had you to take care of my kids and because I've had Justin to take care of my kids and because if I'm in a jam, Tina will come and pick, you know, the reason that I've been able to

52:33 Accomplish anything has been you know, this model that you've kind of, you know, anyway, you've created this model a lot of family. That's that let us all be more successful. I've done half my job, then the beings that you are but also to help to pass on for each generation the responsibility of taking care of the planet and and and becoming you know, in terms of taking responsibility not just for the family, but the bigger family the blue Global family. So but and you are you're very conscious you're very aware.

53:15 So my father would be proud.

53:22 All right.

53:29 Yes, I saw you crying there Tina.

53:36 And a little daddy