Marilyn Nolan and Scott Nolan

Recorded January 5, 2006 Archived January 5, 2006 01:16:01
0:00 / 0:00
Id: MBX000908


Marilyn remembers her daughter Renee who passed away.


  • Marilyn Nolan
  • Scott Nolan


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00:06 My name is Scott Nolan. I'm 34 years old today is January 5th 2006. I am in a storycorps booth at st. Armands Circle in Sarasota, Florida and I am here to interview my mother.

00:24 My name is Marilyn Nolan. I am 57 years old it still January 5th, and we are indeed in Sarasota. Beautiful, Sarasota. And Scott is my son.

00:35 Are you ready? I'm ready. We're here because this is a good opportunity for us to talk about Renee and to remember my little sister and your youngest child and I have some questions that I prepared and we don't have to stick to them. But I think that they'll help us talk about her. Tell me about Renee and your words.

00:58 Renee was the youngest child. I had yourself your brother and then Renee and with two sons first and then a little girl it was a joyous thing. Anyway, just behave his dress up and everything else. She had a very big areas personality right from the very beginning was a very easy baby child teenage years ago, very interesting. She was a very independent young woman and was certainly willing to express that high energy level always very involved in her high school activities and everything else in was the party planner said it was always something happening around Renee and as she kept her friends and her environment very Lively.

01:39 Whenever they look like she was about 5758 probably about a hundred 10 lb dark blonde hair freckles freckles came through and she just had beautiful eyes blue eyes and just dumb her personality was reflected when you saw her.

01:57 What was your relationship with Renee? Like it was challenging at times? Of course, I mean the beginning it was fun and easy and you know, just little girl things and everything and then I'm very active. We were always doing dance instructions or getting ready for the cheerleading which she started in kindergarten and was going into college to do also so she always kept I kept me very busy taking her from here to there and as a young adult it was I realize that she was very much my daughter very strong-willed and independent and not easily swayed.

02:33 So sometimes it was like typical mother-daughter differences and other times it was just fun. You never knew what was about to happen.

02:42 What was your first memory of Renee when she was in the hospital one of the first things I remember is when I brought her home and you boys were staying with my mom in Rutherford, New Jersey and I went over just to show Renee to my mom and my sister Lane came in and she and I put mene down in the seat on the couch and I went inside and I was with you guys and she came and she said Marilyn. I've never seen such a beautiful baby hirl on fingers and I realize that I really hadn't really talked to her yet and I went back and it was like Wow and then it's a little girl. I remember she used to love to have a dress on even when we had the horses. We have backyard ponies that you remember she had to wear a dress when she was riding western and everything else you had to be dressed up and those are early beautiful memories.

03:31 What did Dad think about having a little girl after 2 boys my goodness? He was just feeling so Joyce about it and he work very long hours in his he was a professional driver and he would come home and no matter what time he came home. You kids. The boys would always be rough and tumble right away and and he would just sweep Renee up in his arms and they would dance around the dining room. And there was a special song with an Earth Angel song that he would sing to her. And it was like he was just in awe of her almost. He didn't know what to do. He was an only child and a girl, you know is it was fascinating watching them?

04:12 Renee what are the things that I think was most remarkable. Renee were her friends that would you talk for a minute about tell me about her friends basically became associated with her almost in kindergarten first grade second grade. I guess I'll ask him in one or two came in at high school, but it was a close-knit group of friends that we were extremely close knit. There wasn't a lot of the I mean, it's always some differences in arguments with girlfriends and you know who said what and all that but this group had such a strong core to it and Renee was really the point person. She was always organizing all this and eliminate became ill of course, they were all when I had completed her first year of college when she was diagnosed and all of her friends were off at different colleges and what not and they just started coming home some of them every weekend in the beginning other some others for commuters to colleges, but they were just there and those young women were able to comfort her and keep her company. I remember

05:12 Come over next to watch Saturday Night Live and they don't climb into bed with her and I have two surgeries and stuff and just spend time with her and they stood by her. She stayed a major focal point and help her as much as she helping them deal with the Transitions and everything and they were incredible group young lady and we still have contact with them. They come and visit. They're having babies. Now. One of the girls actually named her baby Madison Renee Which Wich Donna from Lincoln Park in New Jersey who was a high school friend more than anything else and she was the first one to get married and have the baby and she named her little girl Madison Renee and I regularly get updates and photo electronic photos ever on my email to let me show what she's doing in fall leaves and everything else. So it's it's a very special group of young women are very proud to be associated with them.

06:07 How do you think Renee's friends would describe Renee or would have to scratch Renee? Wow, the X wild fun when she was young? I don't know if you remember she used to do a hyper hyper and she would just all the sudden jump up almost like a valley girl image and start going. Oh my God and jumping around and just getting the place all excited end and she would just make them laugh and just get everybody involved and it was just it was it was as though she was the spark to it all and they picked up on it. And and even today I think they they always sending emails and staying in touch in the remember store and share it with me about Renee. Sometimes I don't want to know the more. But anyway, I should we should we say for the recording what in very brief. What what happened to Rene Rene was attending Seton Hall University in New Jersey.

07:07 She completed her freshman year was starting her sophomore year and she was an education major. She was going to be a elementary school teacher and she already had the assignment to start assisting in a public school as part of her curriculum plan and she can't work at Seton Hall and she actually came into my office one day and said I can't walk up stairs. Then don't understand why I asked why can't you walk up stairs said my legs won't go upstairs. So we had been going to a doctor. She thought she had sinus infections and they've been treating her for such an for migraines. They thought and finally after we went to an eye doctor to get glasses. That didn't work. The eye doctor said it's either an aneurysm or brain tumor turned out to be a brain tumor. We were fortunate we got connected with Mary.

07:54 World-renowned surgeons in New York City at Beth Israel hospital and they were they did miraculous things and did everything they possibly could be had some very Innovative treatments and what not, but they gave us four years the diagnosis later on. I was told that the diagnosis is so if it was called an astrocytoma was a death sentence then and basically it was a tumor right on the face of the brain stem.

08:27 Some of the

08:29 Some of the most Vivid memories I have of Renee. Well, I shouldn't say that. I have such joyous memories everyday from before she got sick and and it took a little while from right after she passed is that most of the memories were about her in bed and ordered from the treatments and things but I've been gift I've been given back memories of her before she was sick, but one of the things that was really remarkable about that for years where relationships

09:02 With Renee and the family not just our nuclear family. But how are your brothers and sisters in Ark have a gazillion cousins? And how did how did relationships with Renee Renee is relationships with her family and friends to change.

09:22 But there ain't from after she was diagnosed in begin treatments when you have a life effect like this question beginning this denial this confusion there is

09:34 How could this happen to another shock you dealing with shock and within a week and a half of the right diagnosis? She was undergoing her first surgery. They do they the surgery for a weakness or 20th birthday was coming up and I said let her go celebrate her 20th birthday with her friends and they the surgeons agreed and dilated and as after the surgery she came out and it was as though she was a stroke victim on one side couldn't speak was paralyzed as she was right-hand dominant. She wasn't able to feed herself. There were many residual effects very similar to a stroke victim. So life drastically changed and relationships immediately responded as you mentioned. We have a very large family and want to date you don't have quite a gazillion cousins, but maybe maybe twenty-four so and if my family Rose in a way that I don't know if family is normally would because we were never alone, you know, you had that feeling you were never alone.

10:34 That weather was friends or sister or brother or cousins the phrase that would come by and neighbors neighbors were there to some neighbors right in the beginning or incredible even coming over there late at night to help me turn her why she couldn't turn and we take so much for granted. But I remember one of the first time we brought her home after surgery and we've been in the hospital for a couple weeks. You've been kind in a coma State and we weren't sure if she was going to survive and we brought her home and we had to change and be prepared almost like a hospital room with it. And I thought I was more than competent came home with a list of medications. I think I might have been 15 and times you had to give him a schedule and I remember walking into a house and start to go upstairs to change.

11:18 And all the sudden I just sat down on the floor cuz I didn't know what to do. And I called one of my siblings and within an hour or Carol Aunt Carol and Uncle art and they were at my house within an hour taking charge and setting up a grid for time schedules and getting this and getting that and just knowing that support network and they were always at the Forefront because you remember your car has an EMT and everything and Uncle art some very health-conscious and everything else and just that support never cuz I didn't think

11:54 It was almost a feeling when you had your first baby and you get into the car and you have the baby in the car and you about to leave the hospital and it's like he had this is exciting. This is exciting and I was sending the door closes and you think oh my God, I'm responsible for all of this and it's like that type of overwhelming Panic that you can have. Like how in on Earth are we going to do this and she can feed herself. She can't get up. She can't do this or faculty her physical control was affected and and just have everybody step up the way they did and support it was a great gift.

12:32 And Renee understood and valued at

12:37 She became more conscious of the simplest thing somebody moving the pillow to make her comfortable in and I would off and I if somebody wanted to do something I would just step back and let them in it was like wow how fortunate we were to have such a supportive environment.

12:56 Circulation ships became much more important stream of visitors always coming in and out of the house, especially towards the end of her illness.

13:05 And we've kept company and we had support friends family the pastor of our Parish in a we were very grateful for all of it.

13:24 What about what about your relationship with her today? I feel like as as I wasn't living there at the time that was for southern Florida than I was in Washington. Then I was in South Carolina, but every visit home by I felt like you were closer and you have been closed a lot. But I just feel like I just felt a real sense of closeness that could you talk about that at all.

13:53 It's almost hard to try to find words, you know that our word sufficient to describe that type of closeness. I would climb into bed with her.

14:03 Her friends would do that people would do that when I get in here with me and just

14:10 Simply holding a hand and she would reach up and touch my cheek.

14:16 Sometimes I get poked in the eye because she couldn't quite control the movement was a little spastic, but then nothing that the

14:23 Was Ivan the silences even it was it was incredible to be able to share that I don't think I was before Renee's honest. I was much more intense. I was so involved in some of the community activities going to school for my undergraduate degree. I just rush rush rush from one item to the next and what I learned immediately was there's this moment and that's all there was some times. It was just this moment for this moment and I think hold on to this forever remember this touch

14:57 And even though this time that I'll just touch my face and it's like

15:01 That's where she would touch it and it brings Joy sorrow the whole the whole quantlet of the Motions, but

15:09 I don't know that mothers and daughters can ever get to that level without an event such as this.

15:16 To connect soul to sell

15:22 If you could talk to Renee right now, what would you want to tell her?

15:26 How much I miss her?

15:28 Big ways go to Waze silly ways. I'll still hear a song on the radio of something that she loved Goo Goo Dolls or something inside. I remember that she used to like to dance to that an end silly little thing. But I think I've thought about this a lot. What would I ask her? I think at the end one of the regrets I had was I didn't we didn't talk more about the end.

15:54 Can I she asked me one day am I going to die? And I said we are doing everything humanly possible.

16:03 There's no stone being left unturned and her sorrow in the beginning went on for days and days sobbing and stopping in the beginning and funny. I said to her Renee if I only have a certain amount of time left. Do you want to spend it together with you sobbing and not being able to have conversation and afterwards I was like, oh my God, why did I say that?

16:26 But she stopped sobbing and we just were

16:30 But one of the things I will never forget is the way she would celebrate a new morning. She was very very young because I'm not to say that the two boys were a little bit harder in the morning to deal with but Renee had such a joy that very early I'd go into the when she was in her crib is an infant and I go in and I've walked into the room and open the door and she have a big smile on her face. So I always used to say to a good morning sunshine and it was just kind of like a teasing tag song. I think it was a song is popular in the 70s and 60s about that and it was like how we started the day and I was never a real morning person myself. I was like you guys got it from me. I think Dad's up and bouncing around but I kind of was like moving slow in the morning and yet I see her and it was like Wow right from the beginning of the smile was there and that carried through all of it that always was it and even towards the end.

17:30 Remember one time her side had failed her one eye was closed and there was no vision of the other eye and we were very near to the end and it was a beautiful beautiful sunny morning and Uncle Arthur came in and was visiting before he went to work and when I woke up and I was there and he was there and I said good morning sunshine and she tried to smile and I went on to describe the sunrise for her what I was seeing at the yard and all right later on came back to me and said it was one of the most beautiful description that he ever heard and he said I know she saw the colors and it just touch my heart. You know that

18:10 It meant that much to somebody else to witness. I know what it meant terminer.

18:14 So she was always very she was very much like okay. We're here. Let's do the things down get excited.

18:20 It's hard to lost a sister and I know it's even harder to have lost a daughter. How did you and Dad deal with it and get out of bed in the morning and start looking forward and

18:35 Eye pressure in a State of Shock, you know, it's like, oh my God do not like she's not here today anymore. You know, it's time. You don't know. I mean you starting to move around but you don't know what you doing and the one wonderful gift that somebody gave us Carolyn drummer who was the dean in the College of Nursing at Seton Hall had become part of our family support group and they owned a home down in a hole. We are you done in New Jersey on the shore and she loaned us her beach house for a week after it's the dad and I could connect because Dad and I really hadn't been communicating this such stress renting the nuclear family at the time. Everybody thinks that they know the right way to go right now and everybody has all of the glass in the best intentions at their heart, but you know, we we can be very diverse and dad and I weren't being excommunicated stiff as we would have liked towards the end and afterwards when we went away

19:30 And walked into a house where we were staying for a week where there was nobody. There was nobody when you looked at each other and we had to start talking and we've been married for a long time already at that point, but it was like we're married 36 years now. So it was I guess 30 31 years more and we felt it back together again.

19:52 And I when we just go on and this time's up, we'll see something and just touch each other's hand and we know what each other is thinking the tears come and the tears stop and sometimes laughter and sometimes it's not but we've both been blessed minase love surrounds us. We believe that

20:15 How do you think Renee would want to be remembered?

20:22 As a woman who left life so passionately in God people she never miss school in high school because you didn't want to not be with her friends and not be healthy environment. She just yet. I should go to school sick just because she had to be with the world and enjoying it. She'd want to be remembered as the loving woman. She was and the caring person she was I remember for her 18th birthday right before she was hell she was leaving high school and she was all upset you wanted to go to college but it was such a transition in the friends were going to be the same and I actually found out later on that I'd sit and sat down in her Bittner letter that I put inside her card and said don't be sad. This is a wonderful time you have more opportunities than I ever would have had in my life at your age and the world is out there waiting for you and everything and it really I am so thrilled that I gave her things like that and told her things like that because now they gets back to me. I found it on my computer. I forgotten that I done it.

21:19 And I'm one day all the sudden one of my colleagues said Maryland look at this and there was this note that I'd written to Renee and I felt when they sent it back to me as a gift. So I think when they would want to be remembered as and loving Lively enthused about life young woman took up most of her face and she shared a beautiful. Yeah that this one picture in particular we have that was with Grandma and angle and it just it was a snapshot done with throw a camera and it just capture Renee's Essence. It was made later made into a little oil Portrait by a friend of the family and I have it on our wall in our new home and it's that was minute. That is the essence of Renee. That was her just beginning to get to her her own.

22:10 Freedom's and everything else Independence

22:14 This is a hard question because how do you pick one? But what is your happiest memory every day?

22:23 1

22:25 If you could say more in a way, I could go on forever probably but I won't do that. I remember her picking a flower for me when she was a little girl single daffodils daffodils in the yard and and just look on her face and I just happen to have the camera and not shots in with me or high school graduation. She came down and was going out remember I was present of the Board of Ed and was going to give her her diploma and she came down in the shortest dress. I ever seen that she thought she was going to hurt her graduation. I know that because you know how strong-willed Renee was and she came down and everybody's there and we're taking pictures that I took one. Look at is that okay fine? You think you wear that dress go put on your cheerleading pants. So we compromised and she did but the look on her face like Mom, how could you do that? But she knew she was pushing the edges out of my gown on I said not all the time you want. So it's silly things sometimes sometimes and ugly images come through. It just depends of what flashing.

23:25 I remember Renee every time we see a rainbow if I get the lucky enough to see a rainbow because you recorded her funeral rainbow was up in the sky over the Meadowlands and we'd actually gathered balloons for all the other nieces and nephews in the girlfriends and they got them loose at the end of the ceremony and every one of those balloons went up into a circular rainbow. So if I can see a rainbow, I know Renee is in the air I get little messages from her that way.

23:54 Is there something about Rene that you think no one else knows?

24:02 Her love was so deep.

24:09 And how frustrated she was within herself at times how her pain was so you know that she knew what she couldn't do. She always put on a happy face. So people no matter what even when she's going to smile for smiling had that crooked smile from on her face when her girlfriends came in it was like what how's your day going? She's asking them or writing then or just like whatever and Danielle mastria one of her good friends. Once I said to mix sent me an email after when I had passed recently on a year ago and said she remembered a story she came over to watch Saturday night with live with Renee and as the show is going all of a sudden when I looked up and kind of moved up in the bed and said happy new day. It's those simple little joyous celebrations that she had not everybody knows about them.

24:57 You know, they had to be in the moment with her.

25:06 Renee and her she was dating a boy at the time. I don't remember his name, but I came to Florida when I was going to Eckerd College and we spent a week and we're just hanging out, you know that they would take my I had an old ratty car and they would take the car and go to the beach and go to Busch Gardens and go wherever but actually now that I remember this this is really funny. I picked her up at the airport when she flew in the town in that old car and it was a 1978 Chevy Caprice that someone had given to me and I had a dent in the door and sometimes the tires were flattened. So I put these Fix-A-Flat things in anyway, I'll pick him up at the airport. We were driving back and the exhaust started falling off of this is the life of a college student and a 10. We're driving down the highway and something starts dragging and we here

26:05 And Renee was in the back seat and it's going on what's going on and she was she was sort of nervous about it. But I think she was enjoying the adventure of it and I stop the car we looked and it was the muffler that was dragging on the ground and we just got in the car and start driving and eventually it fell off it was gone and then the car just was louder than it had been before and that was picking her up from the airport and for the week, they drove that car around and I think she was at the time she was thinking about how she was thinking about transferring to a college and she came down to Eckerd with kind of an idea in mind that maybe I'd want to transfer here and I think she you know, we she was old enough to be in college and I was in college and

26:59 So we were we hung out together in a different way than we would have done as kids growing up and she partied with my friends and all that all that kind of stuff and she thought this guy from England Alistair was was was with her buddy and he was stupid when she left she actually respected Hereford for this. She said that she didn't think she could go to Akron because it's so small that everyone is no secret that I had such image was important for that trip was the childhood to the adult woman making a new relationship. I think those are some of our we also there was a time where Renee and her friend and me and my friend and Sean and I think Sean

27:58 Six of us went down the Jersey Shore and one summer. We just went for the night. We went down to the boardwalk in Road. Some of the cheesy rides at the Jersey Shore in a Slurpee drinks. They not Slurpees. I forget what they're orange something when I get home at 3 in the morning, it was funny because when you're when you're growing up, at least we're at week, you know, we'd be together, but we can go off with our friends and do things at that point. We were doing stuff together all of us together and it was a great memories.

28:44 Sean your brother Sean was at home the whole time with Renee's illness. So he was gradually dealing with most of the things in the differences and there were times he would pick her up to carry her upstairs because she couldn't do it and he was always very involved in the daily care and and thought he was wonderful. We were so glad for that but I never thought about how hard it must have been for you coming home and seeing the different stages.

29:09 Of changes

29:11 With mayonnaise on this and what was coming on? Can you talk about that? I don't know.

29:21 I hated to watch her suffer through all of that. I hated about yourself or throw that.

29:30 She showed us strength that that. The only other person I know as strong as Renee is you but then she handled things with Grace and strength and kept going but it pains me to watch her going through that. So it's very important to me to remember Renee before she was sick. Not that I want to Discount those those times. I feel like I missed out on some of the closeness that the family felt I'll get it together, but

30:07 It was just it was sad. I was just sad to see her suffer like that because she was so full of life. And then her world was closing closing closing closing closing in on her, yourself. And that was the hardest thing about it at one point. I was concerned Renee and I were using Gilda's Club for support networks and I was concerned about how you were dealing with it and actually had tried to find some contacts for you to be able to have somebody to talk to you no more than the family. She might have sent me and everything else. So it's we knew the stress of it, but

30:37 As I said, I think we're very close as a family and it's a gift that we have and when it continues to be around us with this stuff and it's great to be talking about her remembering those wonderful things didn't think that made Renee's so you need two eyes.

31:00 I'm trying to think about where we should we have about 10 minutes left. Maybe now or down to 9 or 8 or something.

31:09 Tell me a story from when remember when we had the backyard ponies and and I was doing childcare at home. So there was always a bunch of kids around with you guys and what it was like to be out in the backyard growing up in the no one family home talk about those type of memories you guys when you're out there playing hide-and-seek and all that stuff. Will I feel like when I met Amy she I met her in Washington DC and she didn't believe that we had horses grown up because she knew I was from New Jersey and the wild It's All City Jersey is the New Jersey Turnpike or it was and how she felt when she came and saw our property and then the when we were children are a lot of woods out behind the house and I'm sure they're still are there but not nearly as many as there used to be but the

32:09 Childhood memories that I have their most Vivid are with 7-Eleven are horse a little pony horse a pony. I always made a point of saying that he was he was on the horse side of the line between Pony and horse could because it was important that I had a horse not a pony but it was really close to that you love I didn't know that but okay. I know every day was always very much in control of herself with the horses, but I would bring these guys home who probably the only times I've ever ridden a horse was with us and saddle up 7 and then and then take one of the other horses whether it was hawk or chips or Satan.

33:09 NMU go off in the woods and and we got through the woods. I'm down this Trail and we come up to this Lake that used to be a swim club In The Swim Club it closed if you remember Beachwood and and 7-Eleven would get in the lake with the end. He was the smaller horse. So I wanted to ride the smaller horse and they didn't know how devilish he was and and then we go in Lake and 7 would lay down in the water. And then whoever was on seven would get off. I'll always and forever West supposed as soon as they got off. They were in the lake 7 we get up and run home. I think I remember it being like this more than one of than any other horse. We just want to follow us not be stuck in the woods with us. So y'all had so many.

34:09 Signs that you shared and they were great adventures in the woods in the forts in the streams and what not and it wasn't just your friend. It was a group of friends type thing and a blessed have experienced that but yeah, I remember you could take off for hours. Like is he coming back yet? He'll find his way back the horse will find the way back but you and Renee really enjoyed the writing most I think John was a writer too. But Renee was was the very relaxed Rider just go but how did Renee rides more like in the yard and Wetmore up and down the street? She wasn't quite as Aventuras going up with the horse into the woods and stuff. I remember the time that you broke your arm when the horse threw you up there or whatever and a truck. I brought you home or somebody drove by and brought you home with a broken arm. The last came home first and I was concerned that time was my son LA Lakers. Why would someone fell on the arm?

35:09 Cousin has a distant cousin but Renee was more riding in the area because she like to be she couldn't be too far from people. So, you know people to come out and and I should like to have the Neighbors come out and check the horse and talk to her on the horse. And I remember she's make valentines for everybody on the street and distribute them then she was she was just always the party person and I like you would go off and go up the mountains and come back somewhere later, but you didn't want to see that solitary. She wanted company in fun and activity, but it was a great experience. Remember the pool the pool in the backyard next to the barn and everything and the other things I remember is when you guys have to carry out the border from the inside the house because the ice the line was frozen we couldn't get water the carrying buckets out across the yard and it was great experience for your kids and your friends did. But we have got to sleepovers because of it.

36:00 You're right. We thought about stuff like that.

36:08 Is there as early as other things that we didn't talk about or didn't cover that you would want to talk about her but I think we touched the main the main points and I think we certainly accomplished what we wanted to accomplish were having our dialogue in and remembering Renee as Renee was and is

36:32 Generations from now someone new great great great great grand cuz it was me. This. Is there one, you know something you really want the future to know about their great great great great great aunt

36:46 I think they would want I would want them to know how much she loved and treasured life.

36:52 And I would hope that would be a quality that would.

36:57 Be felt by Future generations of family members and and the value of it in if we only have today we'll make today beautiful and that was kind of mayonnaise philosophy towards the end and that's that's important and face facing up it in the future and I'll wait we had our Catholic belief system to support us and that was an important important background for us all so the Gulf of life and the love of family the love is faithful and just join the moment. I think that would be a quite a novelty for anybody and it certainly would help describe what she might want people to remember.

37:40 I love you very much, Mom. I love you, and I'm very proud of you. And I love that we've had this opportunity because we've never done this and this was a great opportunity with using storyboard as the communicative price. So thank you. Thank you so much for arranging it.