Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Island of Lost Soul?


Just a small post script from our trip, which you can see more of on Instagram HERE and HERE.

A few people have asked me how we chose Curaçao and there are a number of reasons -- its being Dutch and a UNESCO World Heritage site being at the top of the list. But also my maternal grandmother (Annamarie Kearney) and her (third) husband were big fans of the island, so I had heard a few stories about it that made me curious about a place that's kind of off the beaten path. (It's not even mentioned in "Kokomo"!) Here she is (in yellow) on what I believe was her penultimate trip there in 1969.

My great aunts say my grandmother and her husband, the 10-years-her-junior Dr. Tom Kearney, were on vacation there in January 1970 when they had an explosive fight, which culminated in his leaving her there with no money or passport. She was forced to go to the American Embassy, which arranged for her return to the U.S. 

If anyone recognizes the travel partners, please let me know! 

When she arrived back home in Westport, Conn., Tom had checked into a rehab facility to address his alcoholism. He then served her with divorce papers. Although by all accounts she seemed to be regrouping, at some point in the weeks after her 50th birthday, so had a dark moment and ingested vodka and pills before starting the car in their garage, where she succumbed to carbon-monoxide poisoning. She was six years younger than I am now. 

She and my mother had been estranged for the previous 10 years in part because of my grandmother's cruel reaction to the death of my mom's first baby, my brother Kevin, telling my mother in the limo after the funeral that she could now divorce my dad whom she never approved of "now that this has been taken care of." (Ouch.) And while the relationship may have been unsalvageable anyway -- there was a history of abuse and neglect -- it's heartbreaking that they never even had the opportunity to reconnect, if not reconcile. And my siblings and I never got to have a grandmother, having lost my father's side of the family following his catastrophic brain injury shortly after my parents' divorce in 1973. My paternal grandmother, Stella Ryan Walsh, lived until 1982 but sadly we didn't reconnect with the Walshes until we were all in our 20s. 

Annamarie and Tom at their house on High Point Road in Westport, Conn. They had just returned from Washington state where Tom did a residency at Northern State Hospital in Sedro-Woolley.

My grandmother's last home, 3 Marvin Place, Westport, Conn.

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