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Reading Susan Parker’s “And Jill Came Tumbling After” [January 2000] reminded me of how precarious life is. What happened to her husband, Ralph, could just as easily happen to me or to someone I know.
I was especially affected by the reactions of her friends: “There were friends who disappeared the moment the accident happened and friends who held on for a while, but eventually had to let go. There were new friends who came and went and others who stuck by us.” I had to wonder what kind of friend I would be. Maybe after reading Parker’s story, I am more likely to be a true friend in times of sickness and need.
Susan Parker is to be commended for her tremendous courage and honesty. It’s refreshing to hear the unvarnished story of disability from the caregiver’s point of view: neither martyr nor victim, but just a woman in a very difficult position. There is no harm in being where we are, only in believing we are somewhere else. Parker may not be overflowing with gratitude and enthusiasm for her lot in life, but she is unquestionably brave, healthy, and well. I wish her, Ralph, Harka, Jerry, and Mrs. Scott the best, but I believe they already have it, whether they know it or not, because they have one another.
And if I may comment on Sharon Skelton’s letter in response to David Guy in the January Correspondence section: Ten years of counseling and befriending former sex workers here in prison has taught me that the majority of these women were molested, often repeatedly, at an age too young for most of us even to think about. As a result, they are tremendously confused about sex, anger, and love.
I don’t hear stories of birthday parties at the skating rink or boxes of crayon drawings, but I hear too many stories of repeated violations and molestation throughout childhood. I hear stories of abandonment, foster homes, and parental drug use and alcoholism. I hear stories of women who have given up on themselves, who cannot trust, who have abandoned their children and are filled with self-loathing. The only time they’ve felt any self-worth was when they could count it in dollar bills.
There are no goddesses in sex work, only troubled, wounded little girls in grown-up bodies craving love and attention, but with no clue how to get it. Let us not forget that these women are a part of our wounded, crippled society, and that, more than another fast buck or quick fix, they need someone to listen, to care.