All grown up

The day I feared and hoped for came: Rhia graduated from school. When she turned 22 in May, she officially “aged-out” of her school based programs. She is now an adult.

Her school had a small ceremony for the three students who were also moving on to adult based services. But first, every student in the program got an award. One was for “Best Dancer.” Another was “Kindest.” A tall, shy boy was given an award for being the “Most Helpful.” And then it was Rhia’s turn. She stood up on her wobbly, colt legs and walked to the front of the room where she was given her Graduation Certificate and her award. Her’s said, “Most Likely to Speak Her Mind.” Everyone cheered.

They know my daughter well.

When Rhia was 5, she got in trouble for something (I don’t remember why). Instead of backing down, my tiny, elfin child put her hands on her hips and glared up at me with fierce eyes. “You can’t talk to me like that!” she declared. Fighting laughter, I sent her to her room. I was so proud of her and prayed that nothing would break that powerful spirit.

17 years later, nothing has… not multiple doctor’s appointments, losing her hearing, worsening eyesight, three hospital stays, deteriorating strength, ataxia, and anxiety. She will tell you exactly what she thinks and will fight hard if she thinks you’re wrong. Brutally honest, she is also extremely kind. She’ll tell you the truth, but be the first with a hug if she realizes she’s hurt you. She’s never intentionally cruel and fights for others as hard as she fights for herself. I wish I had been that strong when I was her age; instead I allowed others to walk all over me. I didn’t believe I mattered, but Rhia knows that she does.

I’m afraid. She’s not. But she doesn’t understand how complicated services for adults with disabilities can be. I see road blocks, paperwork, questions, and meetings. I’m afraid her world will get smaller now that she doesn’t have an ASL interpreter. Will we find one? Can anyone or anything replace the incredible support she’s gotten in school? How will I manage to piece together anything close to that?

Rhia is happy. Her greatest joy is she can now wear all the Disney t-shirts she wasn’t allowed to wear in school.

“I can wear anything I want!” she said, tossing school shirts on the floor. “I’m all grown up!”

“Yep,” I said, “You can wear Disney everyday.”

“Hooray!” More shirts flew into the air. I quietly scooped up the best ones to keep for the times she needs to wear something nicer than a Princess t-shirt. That will be another battle on a different day.

I need to have faith in my daughter. A deaf-blind young woman who wins an award because she always speaks her mind is no one to underestimate. And I’ve always got her back. We’ll find a way.






To my first love, Richard Hatch


Richard Hatch died yesterday of pancreatic cancer. He was 71. Reading the news, I felt as if I’d lost my first, dearest love. In a way I had. I have loved Richard Hatch since I first saw him on Battlestar Galactica when I was 11 years old in 1978. From the moment I saw his smile and those hazel-green eyes I was madly in love, and I stayed in love for the rest of my life. I’m not sure why, but there was something about his voice and those cheekbones that made my heart beat wilder than anyone else on the planet, even Johnny Depp.

While other girls decorated their lockers in Middle School with pictures of Scott Baio and Leif Garrison, I plastered mine with a collage of Richard Hatch. Richard in his Battlestar costume. Richard playing the guitar. Richard looking serious with his dark hair in a center part. Richard in a scene from The Streets of San Francisco. I collected everything I could find about him and kept all the clippings in a secret scrap book. My infatuation didn’t end; even after I graduated high school and went to college, I worshipped Richard Hatch. When I was 20, a jealous boyfriend found my scrap book and burned it. That relationship died, but my love for Richard remained steadfast.


One day when I was living in San Francisco in 1991, I saw an add for an acting workshop taught by non-other than Richard Hatch. I stole the flyer and called the number to sign up, spending the last of my grocery money that month to be in the same room with my first true love. Then I spent the next two weeks trying to decide what to wear.

At last the day came. Wearing a green sweater, a jean mini-skirt, black tights and my Doc Martin boots, I entered the room and instantly hated my outfit. There he was, Richard Hatch. He wore faded blue jeans and a light blue, button-down shirt with the cuffs rolled up, revealing his beautiful forearms. Oh god, don’t stare at his forearms! He smiled and nodded as I walked in and I quietly found a seat on one of the folding chairs at the front of the room. Why am I the first person in the room? Thankfully more people entered, but I wished I’d actually said something rather than just staring at my feet.


There were about 20 students and the class began with a short introduction. Richard explained the class was about finding your own, inner strength and talent to make you a better actor. We all introduced ourselves and when it was my turn I thankfully remembered my own name and said I was studying drama at San Francisco State. After introductions we formed a circle for warm ups and spontaneity exercises. There were more getting-to-know-you exercises, including one that required us to say the first thing that came to mind about the person directly across from us.

Paralyzed, I mumbled responses, growing more frightened as time went by. I can’t move in front of Richard Hatch!  I might faint in front of Richard Hatch! Does he know? Does he understand how badly I want to have his children? Oh my god I want to touch him! No, don’t touch him! That would be creepy. Don’t be creepy. Don’t look at him. Oh no, he wants me to look at him. He’s asking me a question. 


“Sorry?” I asked.

“This seems like a challenging exercise for you, Terena.”

Oh my god he said my name! Richard Hatch knows my name! “I’m just a little nervous.”

“It’s okay. Everyone feels nervous sometimes. So this is what I want you to do.” He moved into the center of the circle and gestured for me to join him. Slowly I moved and stood beside him. Putting his hands on my shoulders, he said “Close your eyes.”

Richard Hatch is touching me! I closed my eyes and he gently spun me three times. Then he let go and said, “Put out your arm and point. Keep your eyes closed.”I did what he said. I would have jumped out the window if he said to. After a moment he said, “Now, spin once on your own, stop, open your eyes and say the first thing that comes to mind about the person you’re pointing at. Don’t second guess yourself, just do it.”

Taking a deep breath, I spun around and then opened my eyes. I was pointing directly at him. Dropping my arm, I just stared at him in horror. A few people laughed and one person said, “Come on. You can do it.”

Richard smiled kindly. “What do you want to say?”

“I’ve been in love with you since I was eleven years old!” I said loudly.

There was a pause, then the entire room cheered.

Richard blushed and grinned. “Now that took guts,” he said. We both laughed and he gestured that I should rejoin the circle. The ice had broken. Finally relaxed, I enjoyed the rest of the class and learned quite a lot about improvisation and trusting my acting instincts.

However, after class I gave him one of the awful, passionate poems I wrote in high school about him. I wish I hadn’t. He probably thought I was the weirdest stalker he’d ever met. Oh well, at least he knew my name.

Goodbye Richard. You will always have my heart.



Today is my 50th birthday.

Last night I tried staying up past midnight to watch my 40’s disappear, as if being awake for the event would make it more believable.  But I fell asleep and when I awoke a whole new decade of my life had begun. 50. Half way, or maybe more than half. Do I really want to live to see 100?

My daughter has been sick with pneumonia and had to be hospitalized. Rather than getting  a massage and a manicure as I’d planned this past week, I spent several days by her hospital bed. Nothing mattered to me outside that room. On Tuesday I forced myself to go to work because I had a deadline, but I left early and rushed back to sit with her in that little room. When she was well enough to go home, I began round the clock home care, which included waking up at 3 AM to administer a dose of antibiotics. I didn’t care about sleep; I just wanted my daughter well again.

And then came my birthday.

I hadn’t wanted a party; going to the March on Washington was my party. But sleep was necessary. So on this first night of my 50’s, I am in a hotel room just a mile from my house (just in case…) so I can sleep and write and sleep some more. I used to be able to manage on 4 hours of sleep a night for months. Now, I can’t get through a day on less than 6. I must be 50.

My 40’s kicked my butt! I feel beat up and worn out and then left in the sun too long. I feel year after year of stress in my bones. Will my 50’s be more of the same?

The odd thing is I feel excited about a new decade. It feels like a new book in a series. The old book is done and now I start a new adventure. I’ve never been this age before. And I feel such freedom and relief, because I don’t care so much what other’s think. I’m not worried about making people happy or wondering if I’m doing something wrong. Other people’s opinions matter less than ever, which makes me feel strong. I know what is right for me. I still struggle and have a lot to learn to be myself, but at least I finally know who that person is.

Plus, it’s raining on my birthday. It hasn’t rained on my birthday in many years. When I was a child it rained every year and then sometime in my 20’s I realized my birthday wasn’t in Winter anymore. But today, it is cold and gray and damp, just the way I like it.

Rain is a good sign, and my daughter is getting stronger. Now to sleep and dream and regain some strength. It’s a whole new decade to explore.

Good night.


Alice Barker sees herself dance and makes me cry.

Distractify posted a story about 102 year old Alice Barker, a dancer during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1930’s and 1940’s, who saw herself dancing for the first time. The films show a beautiful, strong, vibrant young black woman dancing with a big smile on her face. Alice today is a frail, tiny woman who lives in a nursing home and is shown in bed. But her smile is the same.

While watching the video of Alice watching herself dance, I thought of the years and the life that happened between then and now. There she is at 20, so thrilled to dance she seems to fly. And here is is today. Alice’s body can’t dance anymore, but Alice’s hands can.

I cried.

Here is the link to this beautiful story.