DeAnne Writes about The History Chicks and TikTok

I am so excited! I am at the airport waiting to board a plane to Boston where I will be joining the The History Chicks Field Trip on a tour of sites they have previously discussed on their podcast.  I am fan girling out to meet hosts Susan Vollenweider and Beckett Graham. I usually travel solo and this will be the first time I have ever done a tour with complete strangers. But, the reason I usually travel solo is my family gets irritated with me having to stop at every historical marker and read every plaque I come across.  My husband’s most dreaded words to hear from me are, “Did you know……” I have a feeling the people on this trip will understand the inclination to learn all I can about where I am. 

I received my first not so nice comment on TikTok this morning.  The woman said my hashtags had nothing to do with one another (and that my hair looked bad but she was right about that).  The hashtags were, #soberlife #alcoholfree #alcoholicsanonymous and #danceteacher.  Granted they appear to be random. But, to the contrary- with out those first hashtags there is no dance teacher, or mother, wife, writer or daily bathing.   If I don’t have sobriety I risk losing everything and everyone I love.  When you understand it through that lens it is not at all random.

I am putting myself out there and not everyone is going to like what I have to say.  I guess I will learn to deal.  Haters gotta hate.  

Just now I was thinking how hip I was to be quoting Taylor Swift and posting on TikTok  and then I remembered I was going on a history tour.  Oh my God that woman was right!  I am so random.

DeAnne Writes

I won the Erma Bombeck comedy essay competition in 2020. It was a really bright spot in the middle of lock down. I don’t want to seem braggy so I won’t tell you the name of the judge. It was Bill Bryson. Coolest. Thing. Ever. I’m posting the essay two years later because what’s the rush?

2020 First Place – Humor – Global

“Not Everyone Should Have Kids” – Written By: DeAnne Spicer Todd – Altadena, CA, United States
My husband Don and I had “the talk” yesterday about whether or not to have children, and we decided that we weren’t cut out to be parents. The problem is, we should have had this discussion before we had three of them.
On a good day with my kids I feel like I’m the best parent in the world and should write a book imparting my great wisdom to the less-successful moms and dads.  On a not-so-good day, I lock myself in the bathroom crying, with a stack of parenting books and a bottle of wine.  Once, I forgot a wine glass but I was already cozy on a stack of towels so I used the toothbrush cup.

Our kids are eighteen years apart, so we’ve been doing this a long time – which our marriage counselor says makes us “experienced,” but we prefer the term “old and tired.“ Recently, on her first day of kindergarten, Addie was bursting with excitement while Don and I were trying not to burst into tears when we saw how young the other parents are. It’s not real good for your ego when you introduce yourself to the teacher and she says, “Oh great!  We love it when Grandparents get involved.”

I have to admit, though, watching my husband try to help Addie with her kindergarten homework at his advanced age is very entertaining. You would think he would have it down by the third kid, but he doesn’t. He yells that he can’t find the crayons, the scissors and glue are missing and that the instructions are unintelligible. Don graduated summa cum laude from a prestigious Southern university. Which part of color, cut, paste don’t you get?

Parents say things like, “It’s the hardest job you’ll ever love!” And, “It’s all worth it!”  The first one is certainly true, and I wouldn’t change being these kids’ mom for anything. But we don’t know yet whether it was all worth it, do we?  What if they grow up to be horrible people?  Andrew, our oldest, turned out to be a wonderful young man, but also an actor. No one will be giving me a prize for churning out another actor. At least he’s only hurting himself.

We wanted kids, and we got three great ones, and now, apparently, we are legally obligated to raise them.  I love them so much it hurts, and I would not like being in a world without them. I would, however, really, really, really like to be in a hotel room without them once in a while, and I would love Don to join me, just as soon as he finishes Addie’s homework.

About the Author:

DeAnne Spicer Todd is a former dancer and doula. (Not at the same time.) She has three children she is teaching to use their power for good and not evil. She also has a husband , two dogs, and three cats.

DeAnne Writes About Sobriety

Saturday September 24, 2022 was my eighteenth birthday in Alcoholics Anonymous.  

I knew for many years before quitting I had a problem and I would occasionally take the tests that tell you if you need to start packing for rehab but I thought the questions were so stupid.

  1. Do you drink alone?  Of course!  I live alone.
  2. Do you drink every day?  Of course. I live alone.
  3. Do you have more than two drinks a day?  Define size of said drink.
  4. Does your drinking interfere with your life?  Not really.

That last question is the tricky one and because I answered no and I kept convincing myself I was okay.   I had plenty of friends who answered the same way I did and I didn’t think they were alcoholics.  I thought I knew what alcoholism looked like. You see, I come from a long line of Proud Scottish Alcoholics.  I mean the hard core kind.  My Mom and Dad are both from Thermopolis, Wyoming where the Spicer/Robertson clan (my Dad’s family) had a bit of a reputation for being “wild” and “fun”.  When I was twenty-years-old my Dad (then sober) and I drove to Wyoming for my Aunt Dorothy’s funeral. Side note.  One night when Aunt Dorothy’s husband was out late drinking she locked him out of the house.  When he crawled through the window she beat him with a cast iron skillet.  Hard core.  Anyway, at the funeral my Dad’s best friend in high school’s ( Ray Bunch, who is now dating my Mom) parents asked the then twenty-year-old me, “How many times have you been married?”  Spicer’s Rock!

I have been around AA, because of my Dad, since I was thirteen.  My Dad was a successful attorney with his own practice, President of the Chamber of Commerce and much respected in our small town all within three years of passing the bar exam. He told me it was all too much too fast and he started drinking because he couldn’t ask anyone for help. The summer I was ten we took a Winnebago back to Wyoming to visit the drunk relatives.  It didn’t occur to me until years later that our joke, “The day doesn’t start until Dad has his first beer!”- while he was driving his family- was really messed up. This is the same trip I left my beloved blankie in a motel room and didn’t realize it until we were fifty miles away. I was bereft. Without a word my Dad turned the Winnebago around and we went back to retrieve it.  Spicers Rock.

Even though I thought I was passing the AA test I knew I was an alcoholic and so I decided I should create my own test tailored just for me. 

  1. Do you read the same magazine every night for six months because you never remember you read it the night before?
  2. When going out to dinner and most people are thinking do I want Mexican, Italian, or Steak?  Do you think, ‘Do I want a margarita, wine, or a martini?’
  3. Do you only drink after you put the kids to bed but you make them go to bed at 5:00PM?
  4. Do you wake up every morning saying you are not going to drink today but you do?

If you answer yes to one or more of these questions call me and I’ll take you to a meeting. 

The truth is it has not been easy the last eighteen years but it’s way better than being drunk or hung over.  I don’t do AA the right way.  I don’t have a sponsor and I don’t sponsor anyone.  There is a lot I could do better.  But, I stay sober because my life depends on it.  The Wild Spicer Alcoholics are hysterical on TV, film or in literature but not in real life.   We tell the funny stories about Aunt Dorothy and the frying pan but we leave out the ones about my Grandfather and Great-Grandfather both finding their escape from alcoholism by shooting themselves in the head.  I watched my sister die in the ICU three years ago. It was horrible.  It was ugly and painful. She couldn’t stop drinking and alcohol killed her when she was fifty-six-years old. I told you. My life depends on it.

In case you haven’t noticed I am not nor never have been “anonymous”.  I want people to know who I really am.  I am proud to be a sober alcoholic and I have never embarrassed easily anyway. Spicers Rock!

I am so grateful. I am so happy to be here and be able to live my life for the last eighteen years in sobriety.  Actually, eighteen years, 13 days and 12 hours.  But hey, who is counting?  

DeAnne Writes About Aqua Zumba

Yesterday I attended an Aqua Zumba class in the pool here at The Sheraton Waikiki. I’m not sure why I thought exercising for the first time in three years in a too tight bright red bathing suit in front of other people was a good idea but I’m not caring a whole lot about what people think of me these days.  Actually, I have realized people are not thinking about me at all. Go figure.  

I found a space in the very back of the class because it was in the shade and my people in Scotland didn’t do Aqua Zumba so genetically I am melanin deprived. The class was taught by two beautiful young women in their 20’s, Yumi and JoJo,  both of whom were really good dancers. We started off with a routine to Madonna’s Material Girl.  The last time I danced to this song was when in the 80’s in the dance club of my youth wearing a tight black dress, with my red hair standing straight up tripled shellacked in hairspray, surrounded by dozens of would be suitors.  Now here I was triple shellacked in sun screen and surrounded by tourists. The thought of this made me laugh out loud and I wished my kids were here to see me.  It would have embarrassed them so much.

Class was great but let me point out that the twenty-year-old teachers were doing it on dry land and we in the pool had water and age resistance working against us so we were always at least four counts behind them.  Yumi and JoJo were dancing on the concrete and I really wanted to tell them to quit doing that because it will cause injuries.  Then I would have to show them all the parts of my body that still hurt from doing parades at Disneyland 40 years ago. But, I didn’t. They were running around and kicking their legs above their heads telling us to, “Kick and touch your feet!”  I yelled back, “I can’t find my feet!”  

After a few numbers I was starting to get really irritated with the other participants because they didn’t know “hold your space and don’t get in mine” dance class etiquette. They were all getting closer and I was becoming a bit claustrophobic so I started dancing bigger and splashing to get them to back off. I was reminded of the Miss California Pageant 1980 when on the live television broadcast you see me push through the other Miss Whatever’s from the third row to the front row in the Loser Dance Number done while the Winners changed into their swim attire.  In my defense none of the other Losers knew the choreography and even if they did they did not deserve to be in front of me.  By the end of the dance I had cleared a path eight feet around me in all directions and I was working the step touches within an inch of my life.  I have the video if you want to see it. 

I was brought back to the present when JoJo said, “Get ready! We are Rollin on the River!” When Tina began to sing I hollered, “Get out of my way! I’m doing the original choreography and I need more space!”  Then, just like the the Miss California pageant in 1980, I pushed past the others and made my way to the front row. JoJo asked if I would please stop flinging my wet hair around because I was getting water in her eyes.  At one point the music stopped and she was trying to figure out where we were in the song.  I said, “One bar after the second chorus. Ready? 5,6,7,8!”, and started splashing her again.  She said, “I’ve got this” and made me return to the back row.

After class JoJo smiled at me nicely as I hoisted myself out of the pool.  I got the obligatory, “Good job” and then they she watched with confused amusement as I hobbled over to a chair and strapped myself into my Plantar Fasciitis boot.  I looked her dead in the eye and said, “This is your future.”

Aqua Zumba was really fun and I can’t wait to do it again tomorrow. In preparation I am going to buy a long sleeved swim shirt and Zinc Oxide so I can stand in the front row and not worry about the sun.  JoJo will be so happy to see me.


I live at the top of a pretty steep hill.  It’s a great excuse to not take a walk and an obvious metaphor for life — what if I get down and can’t get back up again?

I always thought I’d be successful and famous.  I was going to be an Academy Award-winning actor.  Then, when I lost interest in performing, I was going to be the world’s most beloved doula.  When I no longer wanted to be on call all the time, I decided to be a literary giant, leaving behind novels that would alter the course of history. Since I never write, I’m thinking that probably won’t happen.  I’m seeing a pattern here, and by my own definition I am a complete failure.

Today I decided to stuff my sixty-year-old body into yoga pants, and with my trusty walking stick I call Sheilagh took off to bravely conquer the hill that is my street. I veered off onto the Angeles Crest Trail and walked fifteen minutes up and then fifteen back while the song Climb Every Mountain played over and over in my head.  It was getting really irritating, so I decided to do the unthinkable and think thoughts.  This idea of success and failure has been looming large, so I decided to check in with it and see what it had to say.  I asked myself, “If you died today on this trail clutching your heart because you haven’t exercised in two years would you be happy with the life you led?”  The answer was — yes.  And the reason came to me quite clearly: I would be missed. I really can’t want more out of life than for people to want me to be a part of theirs. 

I’m happy to tell you I made it back up the street to my house.  When I got there, a man was sitting on the curb rubbing what I thought was his bandaged knee.  “Good job,” I said.  “It’s a tough hill.” “Yes,” he replied. Then he removed his prosthetic leg.  “Oh! Really good job,” I said stupidly.  Luckily he laughed, and I made my way into the house to further contemplate the definition of success. I don’t know that man on my curb but I will never forget him. If, like him, I can live a life that shows people beauty, adaptability, courage, and the ability to never stop climbing the hill, then I will continue to be a person worth missing. That is my new definition of success. It’s such a relief! I’m in control of whether or not I feel successful. I love being in control.  I’m a success!

Musings on Art, Racism, and My Weight

Let’s begin with the most important issue: my weight.  I know you’ve all been wondering, “What is going on with DeAnne’s weight right now?” and I don’t blame you.  The truth is, if I’d known quarantine was going to last so long I would have paced myself a bit.  Instead, I gained ten pounds. But do not despair!  I lost the Covid-15.  Now I just need to lose the weight I put on before lockdown, which I like to call The Trump-20. 

I believe there are two things you are not allowed to decide for yourself if you are: an artist or a racist.

You can’t call yourself an artist just because you’re creating art.  Creating a painting, sculpture, or dance, is just that – creating.  Your finished product could be the greatest gift to mankind since the Mona Lisa or one step away from craft time at the YMCA, but you don’t get to decide if it is art.  Other people will decide.  Sorry.  Skill, study, practice, practice, practice… these things may get you closer to “good,” but the quality that elevates it to another level – to art – is elusive.  It’s elusive and not at all fair.  Some have it, some don’t.  You get my point? 

Same goes for racism. I have not met one single person who says they are racist.  Yet I know many people whose actions prove otherwise.  Don’t think you are racist?  Here’s a little self -test you can take just for fun.  Do you have a black friend but an All Lives Matter bumper sticker?  You are racist.  You run a charity for underprivileged minority children, but you think a wall between us and Mexico is a good idea?  You are racist.  You really love you some kung pao chicken and Bruce Lee, but you call it The China Virus?  You are racist. You always describe people as that very nice Mexican man or the lovely Asian woman?  You are racist.  Do you watch the storming of the Capitol by people with Confederate flags and anti-semitic T-shirts, but still support Donald Trump because of the “good things he’s done?”  You are most definitely racist.   Sorry.  It’s really difficult to grasp.  I know it is. We all think we’re nice and caring people, but other people will decide if we are racist or not, and they’ll decide based on our words and behavior.  The angrier at me you are right now, the greater the likelihood you are racist. You get my point?.

I have always known racism was a huge issue in this country, but I didn’t know it was THE problem in this country.  My apologies for being so fucking late to the party.  It is at the core of every single political issue.   

I’m not asking you to change what you believe (yet). I am asking you to acknowledge what you believe.  We can’t get better until we admit the problem.  If you are old and/or unable to change and grow, that’s fine but stay out of the way. Enjoy your narrow, limited life of fear and anger but keep your mouth shut.  For the rest of us white people, we can step up.  Admit our shortcomings, our lack of education and the fact we are racist every day with our thoughts and sometimes our actions-even if we don’t think we are. We need to quit being afraid of “not doing it right” and learn. White People, we need to change.  Nothing gets fixed in America until we fix this.  I could go on, but you get my point.

Quarantine Quandary

I.  Will.  Write.  A.  Blog.  Post.  Today.  Blog, blog, blog, post, post, post.  We are finishing our fourth week of quarantine and here is what I have not yet accomplished.  I have not learned Spanish.  I have not practiced the piano. I have not written a single word.  I have not exercised even though every single friend of mine is teaching an on-line ballet or yoga class.  I have not started to eat well.  I have only read one book.  Here is what I have accomplished.  I clean the house (a lot).  I troll the inter- webs for food and toilet paper.  I go to the Jack-In-The-Box drive through to get a diet coke a few times a week and sit in my car.  I am cleaning up at Candy Crush.  I tell myself every day that tomorrow I will begin doing all the things that are on the first list. It’s the same day after day.  Wash. Rinse. Repeat.  Except for my hair.  I hardly ever wash my hair.

Therefore, I feel guilty everyday.  When this thing started I thought it would be the perfect time to create something, to build something, to DO anything.  Did you know Shakespeare wrote King Lear during The Plague?  Fuck Shakespeare.  I’m no Shakespeare.

This is not my time to create. I can barely concentrate when sorting the laundry.  I am tired of feeling bad about myself so I need to change my expectations.  It does not feel like a growing or expanding time to me.  This is the time to simmer.  It’s the time to put the creativity soup on the back burner and let it stew slowly for awhile. It’s the time to sit in my backyard and watch the much needed rain soak my plants.  It’s the time to make my husband and daughter watch “Enchanted” when neither one of them wanted to and then they enjoyed it. It’s the time to check in on my family and the people I care about.  It is the time to stay healthy.  That does mean I have to exercise but not because I think I’m fat but because if I do get sick I want a working cardio- vascular system to help me get well.  It’s the time to enjoy preparing and eating food.  It is not the time of deprivation it is the time of preservation and if that means cookies so be it.

It sounds strange, but I don’t want this to end and feel like I missed it.  I don’t want to feel  I spent so much time yelling at myself for not writing a novel that I missed the entire point of this quarantine which I believe is- STOP.  Stop doing business as usual. The way I have been living is not sustainable.  The way our country has been operating is not sustainable. How we have separated from the world is not sustainable.  How I have separated from Spirit is not sustainable.  The best way to reconnect is not to force myself to learn Spanish (although that will come in handy when I can once again register voters). I think, for me, now is the time to dig deep, to really rest and to begin a pursuit of mental and physical health from the inner most part of me instead of from the constant chatter in my brain.  Granted a lot of that chatter is really funny but most of it is not worth writing down.

No more to do lists.  There will be plenty of time for that someday.  However, if you want to write a book, or play the piano, or learn Spanish please do!  I’m just giving you permission not to if you’d rather be staring out the window.  Blog. Post. Finished.

Concord, Mass

I am in Concord, Massachusetts today and in the spirit of those great literary figures who lived here, Emerson, Thoreau, Alcott, and Hawthorne I offer you this highly important and well thought out poem I wrote in the car while looking for parking.

Ode To Concord

There ain’t no parking in Concord today.

Should I keep on looking or just drive away?

This town is so liberal- makes writing a breeze.

Just listen you’ll hear the words blow through the trees.

Revolution and writers, history abounds.

Free thinking encouraged. The mind has no bounds.

The Rainbow Flag’s flying from churches and cars.

But, I don’t see any of them there gay bars.

The say, “Black Lives Matter” on a big sign in town.

But, I don’t see any black people around.

Yes, here all are welcome but most look like me

A white liberal, feminist, writer- to- be.


This poem actually made Ralph Waldo Emerson turn over in his grave.  I know because I visited it today.

Saddle Up

I am in Sacramento, waiting for a plague of eighth-graders to descend upon me tomorrow for a tour of the State Capitol and a scavenger hunt that will take us around town to other important sites. Today I am alone, hanging out in Old Sacramento. It is a truly bizarre area where the historic buildings and souvenir shops blend to create a confusing few blocks of past-meets- present. Tourists push their strollers on the wood sidewalks right through the ghosts and history to get to a funnel cake or t-shirt shop. I have no interest in purchasing either of those things, but I kept walking around because I loved walking on the wood sidewalk.  I could hear my footsteps, and while the rubber soles of my tennis shoes don’t make the same sound as the cowboy boots that walked those boards many years ago, I feel a connection to them. I also feel like the sidewalk acknowledges my presence and is answering back with each step: “You are here.”

As I was walking, it occurred to me how terrifying it must have been to be a woman here in the early days of Sacramento. It also must have been pretty scary for the men. It was, after all, The Wild West. Among the thieves and murderers there were probably mostly good people who came in search of opportunity or adventure.  While I don’t believe people are inherently thieves and murderers, I do believe we all have the ability to be.  Maybe we become “evil” or “good” depending on how we deal with our fear.  Maybe, like Walter White, that first successful step into the darkness makes it easier to take another and another until you are the darkness and cease to be afraid.

I have never been fearful.  I am cautious and careful physically, and earned the nickname “Chicken Deeny” when I was a child.  It didn’t bother me because I thought I was just smarter and able to see the danger — so yes, chicken when it comes to the possibility of being injured. Back when I was a dancer, it was pretty well known to choreographers that if you hire DeAnne Spicer she doesn’t go upside down. But I’ve never lived in fear emotionally. I have felt strong and safe my entire life.

That doesn’t mean I walk around late at night or go into an elevator alone with a man. I’m not going to intentionally put myself in a vulnerable position. Even though I feel pretty confident, there is a constant vigilance about my safety.  I explained it this way to my husband: “It’s not always a conscious thought, but women are always trying not to be murdered or raped.  It’s just always there.” It is exhausting, and sadly not much different from the women who walked these planked sidewalks in Old Sacramento one-hundred-thirty years ago.  

On another note (I promise this will all connect in a bit), I discovered the site of the beginning or terminus, depending on which way you’re going, of The Pony Express.  I love the history of The Pony Express. It was only in operation for nineteen months, but the ability to receive news in days instead of months shaped the West. The men who rode those horses “hell bent for leather” across the country made an important contribution to American history. They must have been a courageous group.  In a pamphlet I found about the history of the Express is a copy of the hiring notice for riders.  It reads:

Men wanted! Men familiar with the management of horses, as hostlers or riders on the Overland Express Route via Salt Lake City. Wages $50.00 per month.

                                             -Sacramento Union, March 19, 1860

Riders had to be less than one-hundred-twenty pounds and carry twenty pounds of mail and twenty-five pounds of equipment.  They also needed to be of fairly good moral character and be able to ride the heck out of a horse.  This notice could be a description of my Grandfather, Merrill Brooks.  PaPa was born in Wyoming and was a true cowboy.  My Grandmother, Ema Lu, made him move to California in the fifties because she couldn’t abide the narrow-mindedness of Thermopolis, Wyoming any longer.  After living in Long Beach and Garden Grove, they eventually bought a few acres in Riverside where they could again own horses. PaPa re-created a place that was a bit out of character in California, and we called it The Ranch. I spent a great deal of my childhood there and I loved watching him with his horses.  He would ride full speed across the field and turn the horse on a dime, weaving back and forth herding the imaginary cattle.  It was beautiful. He was a small man large with character, compassion, love, and courage.  He would have made the perfect Pony Express rider.  

It heartens me to think the majority of the men and women who settled the West were like my Grandparents — not afraid of the unknown and staying even when times were tough.

Currently we have a President who is in no way, shape, or form a cowboy. Any self-respecting horse he tried to ride would buck him off immediately.  He is the size of two Pony Express riders tied together with a fifty pound weight, has no moral character, is probably afraid of horses anyway, and is one of those men who stepped into the darkness. Because of this man, for the first time in my life I am living in fear.  I am afraid of nuclear holocaust, of white supremicists, of our growing alienation from the rest of the world, and of women losing the right to control their own bodies. I have never felt so vulnerable and powerless.

But today, looking at the statue of a Pony Express rider and horse, something great happened.  I remembered who I really am and more importantly who I come from.  I descend from brave cowboys and strong intelligent women who stepped out of their comfort zone to build a life not only for their own children but for the betterment of society as a whole. They endured hardships far worse than having a Headless Horseman in the Oval Office and came through it stronger and more determined.

America is a mess right now, but I have to believe most of us carry the  DNA of our ancestors who came from all over the world to seek a better life, EVEN when they were afraid.  So it will be okay.  It horrifies me that so many people still support this President.  I am sad about that, but I am optimistic that this will be over soon and they can go back to their hideouts. In the meantime I will follow in my ancestors’ footsteps, remembering that I know how to sit in the metaphorical saddle, hold onto the reins, and ride.  I’m not sure who or what America is right now but I’m sure who I am.  I am a cowgirl, and I am not afraid.

Lost and Found

I have recently accumulated a bunch of hospital visitor’s stickers and they are in a neat stack in one of the cupholders in my car.  For some odd reason it reminds me of when I was a Rockette in The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular. For the Toy Soldier number we wore small red fabric circles on our cheeks affixed with Vaseline. This rather ingenious way of  attachment meant we could take them off easily and only have to repair a small portion of our make up for the rest of the show. A few of us would then stick the circles to the mirror above our dressing table.  Because we had new circles for every show by the end of the run our mirrors were almost covered with red dots. Some would make designs like wreaths or Christmas trees.  Mine were in a nice straight line. I haven’t thought about that in years but it occurs to me to do the same thing with my hospital visitor stickers. I could add them to the “I Voted” stickers along the bottom of my bathroom mirror. But I don’t really want to remember these visits

I sit now, wearing my newest visitor sticker, writing this in the family waiting room while my mother has knee replacement surgery. It’s a fairly simple procedure – not even under general anesthesia – but when they took her to the O.R., I cried.  I know she’s going to be fine, but it’s just too soon after my sister’s death to be back in a hospital, defined by a sticker.

For almost my entire life I have carried two burdens.  They were sometimes forgotten, sometimes running my life, but even when I put them down I still knew they were there.  Somewhere. These burdens gave fuel to my anger and a reason to feel sorry for myself. I carried them for so long they became a part of who I was. They were my story.  

Burden #1: My Dad

My Dad is brilliant.  He was a Marine, a Police Officer and then became a Marshall, all while going to night school to study law.  He passed the Bar Exam on his first try. He has just one teeny-weeny problem- he is a major alcoholic. He sobered up for a bit when I was a teenager so at least I knew to go to AA when it was my turn. Then he disappeared. For 28 years I didn’t know where he was, but I figured he was no longer sober.  Every once in a while I would do an on-line search to see if he was dead. For a long time I was confused about why he didn’t want to see me or his grandchildren. Then for a few years I was angry. Then I got sober and forgave him because he was an alcoholic and it wasn’t about me. Then I was angry again because I remembered I was an alcoholic, sober, and would never leave my kids.  The years went by. My emotions went back and forth until a few years ago when something odd happened: I really forgave him. More important, I forgave myself for being like him. Still, it was there. Where was he and why did he deny me?

Burden #2: My Sister

We never got along.  According to family legend my first sentence was, “I don’t know why we gots to have a baby sister anyway.”  We were only fourteen months apart and as different as two people could be. We often thought we hated each other, but actually we loved each other fiercely.  I always felt responsible for her. She was often lost and afraid. She was tiny. She was blonde, really cute and by age four she already spoke like a truck driver.  When I was in kindergarten she was across the campus in preschool and one day she got lost in the cafeteria. Lost…. in the cafeteria. She was so upset they took her to the nurse’s office and called me out of class.  I can still vividly remember walking up the stairs to the office thinking, “What has that kid done now?” I was five.

When my Dad’s alcohol spilled all over my family, I survived by trying to be the best at everything. It served me well, and I did my Malcom Gladwell 10,000 hours of studying dance and was able to make a living as a professional dancer.

My sister went the other direction. Drugs, alcohol, run-ins with the police, run-outs from home. She was smart, beautiful, talented, and a much better dancer than I was, but she didn’t spend 10,000 hours in ballet or practicing in her room.  She spent it with dangerous people doing dangerous things. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t morally superior so much as I was afraid. Afraid of being out of control or being hurt. Afraid that I would disappoint my mom or my teachers. My role was to be good and (sorry to quote Mrs. Trump), “BE BEST.”

In our twenties my sister and I both married and had children around the same time.  She was her happiest during those years. She loved being a mom and she loved babies. Then there were a lot of years that were not so good.  Fast forward to five years ago when she began to show physical sings of severe liver damage. I offered to take her to AA and she said she didn’t need it. I offered to pay for rehab to which she politely thanked me and refused.  I think she tried to quit on her own a few times but mostly she just lied about her drinking. Eventually I stopped going to family gatherings because It was too painful for me to see her sneak off to drink and pretend she wasn’t committing suicide in front of our eyes.  The last few years we hadn’t seen each other very often. She sent me some texts on my birthday but I eventually became irritated and quit responding because I could tell she was drunk.

Three months ago I was checking the obituaries again to see if my Dad was among them and I found a phone number for his wife.  Without even thinking about it I dialed the number. She answered! Shit!

Me: Is this Barbara Spicer

Barbara: Yes…

Me: Are you married to Doug Spicer?  Is he alive?

Barbara: (now a bit suspicious) Yes, who is this?

Me: This is DeAnne Spicer.

Barbara: Hold on a minute.  Doug, take the phone, it’s DeAnne Spicer.

Me: No! Fuck, fuck, fuck.

Dad: Hello.

Me: (beginning to cry) Are you my Dad?

Dad: Yes.

Me: Are you sober?

That’s the first thing I asked. The conversation was going to end if the answer was no. I was about to ask him if he voted for Trump but I decided it could wait.  And I started sobbing. “I don’t care what you’ve done! I don’t care where you’ve been! I forgive you and I love you!”

When I told this story to my friend Wendy, she said, “Way to go, Poker Face.”

I asked if I could come see him.  And four days later I was sitting in his home. He has had a very difficult time with alcohol, but has been sober fifteen years.  I think he’s done it by never leaving his house. He looks the same and sounds the same, only older. He was never abusive to me in any way, or I would not have gone.  I should say he was not intentionally abusive, but It does affect your developing psyche somewhat when as a twelve-year-old you can yell at your six-feet-tall, two -hundred-twenty-pound dad and tell him to “Turn off the stove before you burn the house down.“  Or, “Put the baby down and go to bed. You’re drunk.” He always did what I said, and that might explain why I am so bossy now. Still, I have memories of being young, before the alcohol took him over, and he was actually a good Dad. That’s the one I care to remember and that’s the Dad I went to visit.  FYI, he did not vote for Trump, thank God, and is still a card-carrying Democrat.

After our visit, I felt like a piece of me that had been missing was back in place.  I felt acknowledged by my father, and it made me feel whole. I know I would have been fine if it had never happened, but I am so grateful it did.  It’s like I was playing the CandyLand game of life and I pulled the ice cream bar which meant I could skip a whole bunch of steps toward healing. I was found.

The last time I spoke to my sister was to tell her I had found our dad.  I texted her afterward and told her to call me, but she never did. Then on December 10 I received the call I have been waiting for, I do not exaggerate, for forty-two years. My sister was in the hospital on a respirator.  She died three days later of multiple organ failure caused by Alcoholic Liver Damage. She was lost.

I knew this would happen, yet I am still having a hard time believing she died.  You expect your parents to die. You fear your children will die. How do you wrap your brain around losing a sibling?  When I got home yesterday a box with her ashes was on my kitchen counter. They mailed my sister to me in a box and she was on my counter.  What the fuck?

Those two burdens that I let define me – I was abandoned by my father and I have to save my sister – are gone.  Gone. So, now what? Who am I now, and what will fill all this new emotional space? I haven’t a clue.

For today, I will wait until my Mom is out of surgery, get her settled, and hang out with her a bit.  I like to talk to her when she has had medication because she says really stupid and funny things. Then tomorrow I’ll come back to take her home and get another visitor’s sticker. And then I’ll find all the other hospital stickers in my car and put them in my purse because I’m not saving them to stick them to anything.  Instead, this time when I leave the hospital I will throw them all in the trash.