Yearly Archives: 2011

Okay, listen up everybody, this is important.

First of all,  I strongly recommend the book Women Are Not Small Men by Nieca Goldberg for all women.  There’s nothing but truth in the title.  My  grandmother was told (twice) when she went into see a doctor (because of heart pain)  that she had gastritis.  Her autopsy showed that she’d had two silent heart attacks.  Do the math.  That was my mother’s mother and because she didn’t have the “classic” (aka male) symptoms and because she was female and most people (especially then) thought of heart disease and heart attacks as a gentleman’s game, she was told she had gastritis.  My grandmother had lung cancer from decades of smoking, however, that’s not what killed her.  Her heart gave out.  I’m sure that’s at least partly due to all the damage it incurred from her silent heart attacks.

My mom had a heart attack on Monday, this is Wednesday.  This kind of blew us all away a little bit.  Fine, it blew us all  away COMPLETELY!  Even though we know about her mother, this happening to my mom was something we’ve braced ourselves for to happen to our dad…not our mom.

These are the facts:

1. One out of every two women will die of heart disease.

2. More than 500,ooo women die of heart disease each year.

3. More than 250,000 women die from heart attacks each year.

4. Heart disease is the most common cause of death every year in women aged 35 and up.

5. I’m taking these facts straight from Nieca Goldburg’s book so I hope I don’t get sued for whatever it’s called when you use someone else’s research with out their consent.

6. I would think it’s free advertisement for her book because it’s definitely a “must read” if you value your life.  My copy is dated 2002 and by now I’m sure all the numbers are higher and that she has more information.

I come from 2 families of bad hearts.  That’s not why I own this book.  I started smoking when I was 14 years old and that’s not why I own this book.  For all of my adult life, the only thing I’ve done that’s good for me (although not necessarily for my health) is to wear underwire bras.  True confessions, that’s it.  I can’t even call it a vanity thing, I would have to call it an easy thing.  When faced with the question “do you do anything that’s good for you?”  I could always say “yes”.  It helped that my mom worked in lingerie for a few decades…I was conditioned.  Anyway, the reason I own this book is because of Carmen.

Anyone who doesn’t know by now that Rob and I were divorced for 13 years just doesn’t know me.  That’s the fact, we were divorced for 13 years and we lived life and dated other people and had relationships…and a lot of fun. Well I know I did.  During those 13 years, one of the people Rob dated was Carmen.  Carmen died of a heart attack when she was 36 years old.  Rob is a bit paranoid on the subject, especially knowing the histories of the families I come from so sometimes I try to make him think I’m paying attention to my health…that’s why I own the book.  I’ve never read it cover to cover, however, I know there’s a ton of good information that we should all know.

In the bit of paging through this book I’ve learned that we, as women,  for the most part, live in denial about our hearts.  If we feel any kind of discomfort we just wait for it to go away instead of having it checked out.  It’s a proven fact.  I am totally guilty of this as well.  That’s my comfort zone. This book tells stories of  women who finally did agree to go to a hospital…but not until they’d neatened their houses.  There have been cases where the little time it took to do that made it just a little too late to save them.  My mom was walking uphill when she started having chest pains.  She sat down and waited for it to go away.  From my understanding that happened a few times. Ask me where I get my living in denial from.  That’s probably the single most eye opening thing I’ve learned.  That we do that.  That we should pay more attention.

Another thing is that a lot of women who have heart attacks experience back  pain.  My mom did.  I thought not but apparently she did know that can be a symptom of a heart attack but she’d also fallen or something recently and had attributed the pain to the fall.  My mom’s heart attack was in the back of her heart.

I think that we, as  a sex, deny any sort of heart warning unless it’s a classic (aka male) symptom.  The chest pain, the left arm, the jaw…these we’ve heard about over and over again because it’s what happens to most males.  These things do happen to females as well but these are more  common in men.  According to Nieca Goldberg, the most common symptoms in women are as follows and this is word for word so again, I hope I’m not sued.

Unusual fatigue

New, unusual shortness of breath during everyday activities (or at rest).



Lower chest discomfort.

Back pain.

Upper abdominal pressure or discomfort.

Then there are, of course the classic which apply more often to men:

Pressure, fullness, squeezing pain in the center of the chest. spreading to the neck, shoulder or jaw.

Chest discomfort w/lightheadedness, fainting , sweating, nausea or shortness of breath.

Not that I’m good at taking my own advise but at least I know the facts so I can pick and choose.  I want every female to be able to pick and choose.  Pick up the book, learn the facts and take note of yourselves and your moms and your sisters and your daughters and your girlfriends and don’t live in denial.  That’s all.


For years I made it a point to NOT work a “real” job.  I needed to be available during the day for “I forgot my lunch” or “I forgot my report” or field trips or school graduation ceremonies, what have you.  I have worked as many as 3 part time jobs at a time but I never looked for a “real” job (aka: M-F 8-5).  Brother bear had tried, for years, to get me to apply for a job where  he worked.  I remember once, early, early on, entertaining the idea and realizing that I couldn’t do that and talking to the manager about part time and that just wasn’t an option.  Funny, while I was a full time waitress I had so many job offers from customers.  Never an option, I can’t even imagine what day care costs for 3 would have been.  As the years went by the job offers lessened…hmmm…makes one wonder if the offers came because of looks or service.  My goal was always to get the last child thru elementary school before taking on a full time/real job.  Part time jobs are so much more flexible.  No benefits excepting you get to work when it’s convenient.

When the last of the litter was ending her elementary school years a position became available where Brother bear works and he again pushed me to apply, that time I did.  It was the end of spring in 2001. So, I applied and nothing came of it.  Someone else was hired.  No biggie, I still had time to play with, Samantha was just ending her 2nd to last year of elementary school.  I had another year at least.

Fall was just starting when again, a position became available.  Again I applied, doesn’t hurt, right?  I was invited  to come in and sit and watch to see if this would  be something I’d be interested in and be able to do.  Okay, fine.  It was a Tuesday, I’d gotten my kids off to school and drove to the office and was sitting at the desk of my future manager when my future co-worker walked in the door and said “Hey, did you hear?  A plane just flew into the World Trade Center.”  It was just before 8am CST.  Me, I live in denial, I wrote it off to an accident.  Brother bear, he called it immediately…terrorist attack.  It must have been the radio that alerted us to the 2nd plane hitting the 2nd building.  At that point…there is no denial.

I stayed a few more hours.  Brother bear had taken a 1/2 day off and when he left I felt my oxygen line leave with him.  As soon as I could think of a reason to leave, I was outta there.  I was on my way home when the radio reported the plane going down in PA.  The radio station immediately made the “maybe” connection to the Trade Center, I shook my head and hoped they were wrong.  I got home and watched, repeatedly, the 2nd plane crashing into the other building.

The kids came home from school later, they’d been informed what was going on during the course of the day and Alex, this is too cute, Alex told me all about what he’d heard and said “think about it mom, look at history, who was it that was willing to kill themselves for their country?  Remember the Kamizes?  I think the Japanese did this!”  Again, how cute is that?  Alex was in Junior High and was going on historic events.  As the mom, I wasn’t any more informed on world news than my son was because I didn’t want to be.  I gave up CNN when Alex was a baby and as I was rocking him in my rocking chair, I thought about all the moms throughout history who rocked their baby boys and later learned  they were killed in war.  I shut myself out on purpose.  However, if  America was under attack  I couldn’t shut myself out anymore.  It was time for me to pay attention because I have a son.  Do the math, it was 2001…we’re going to go to war, no doubt there.  Alex would be up for the draft in 3 years and a month.  That’s the kind of math that my head works out automatically. I’m a mom. I was terrified.

I worked that night, at the restaurant, and it was entirely empty.  The few tables I did have were people who had come to the Mpls. area to catch a flight out but were unable to leave .  Two things happened that night, one: it was the 1st time I’d heard the name Osama Bin Laden and two:  I realized that anyone who worked in the service industry was not going to be able to support their families anymore.  Think about it, if there’s a war… don’t take your family out for dinner.  I also worked at B&N at the time,  it’s also a service industry and I was going to sink.   Apparently I had to make sure I got the job that I’d spent the morning at.

Nothing happened.  No call from the manager, nothing.  I asked the managers at B&N and the restaurant if they’d gotten any calls inquiring about me…nope, nothing.  Um….not good.  I had to support my family and my income was going down the drain before my eyes.  I had to support my family, war or no war.  It seemed like a long time but it probably wasn’t since I’m not a patient person,  before I called Bob’s manager.  He’d always told me that if I had any questions, feel free to call.  I was feeling a tad desperate knowing that my industry was going for a dive and suddenly it irritated me that he never even gave me a chance, never called to references  about me  and that sort.  I was mad when I made the call, most likely not a good thing to do when applying for a job but there it is.  I was mad and I called and in a nutshell said “you said to call if I ever had any questions and I have questions.  Why have you never checked out my references, why don’t y0u want to hire me?”  There was more in between but that was the gist.  Never used to be but the older I get, the more confrontational I can be.  Push my back against the wall, I’ll get in your face.  Ef w/my children, I’ll get in your face.  This was an “I need a job and you’re effin’ w/my kids” deal.  After all, they’re the ones who needed to be provided for. Wouldn’t have done it at 20 but I was 41 and had kids to support.  Nothing like children to give a person backbone, right?

I can only guess that I took future boss by surprise.  He agreed that he hadn’t checked references and whatnot and told me that he didn’t think I’d be right for the job since I ran around for a living and I’d be stuck at a desk.  He also offered me a job.  That irritated the shit out of me.  As angry as I was I had to accept it.  I had to.  I had children.  Honestly can’t tell you if he offered the job during that same phone call or if he called me back.  I do know that I was angry that I HAD to accept it.  Also don’t know if I accepted right away or got back to him.  I do know that there were a few rough years in the beginning where I hated my job.  Part because I pressured the boss into giving it to me and part because no one…NO ONE (including my cousin, Skip) wanted me there except for Bob.  That’s a horrible feeling,  knowing no one wants you there.  That’s also another story.

Anyway, look…it’s now 10 years later.  Osama Bin Laden is dead…and that took WAY too much time, there are children who were born after their fathers died and there have been no more terrorist attacks on our homeland.  Okay, that last one is a good point because we seem to be more than able to ef ourselves from the inside so incredibly well.  God help us all. Right, I need not discuss politics.

News story: September 14th, 1957 3

“Minneapolis police patrolman Robert H. Fossum, 31, married and the father of three, lay dead in the middle of 39th Street from a bullet wound to the head. His partner, Ward Canfield, writhed in pain next to him, critically injured from a bullet that hit his pelvis. He’d been dragged and then run over by the getaway car driven by his assailants, three South Minneapolis brothers in their early 20s.”

The end of that story was chases, hostages and a shootout that left 2 of the 3 O’Kasick brothers and a hostage dead.  The 3rd brother shot himself after his brothers were killed in the shootout.  He lived, was imprisoned and managed to commit suicide in prison.

In 2004 I read the story of the O’Kasick brothers in a badly titled book called Greed, Rage and Love Gone Wrong; Murder in Minnesota.  There were somewhere around 10 stories in the book, not all of them interesting and personally, I hate it when someone tells me a true story but the ending or the culprit is still a mystery.  There were a few of those.  The only story that stuck with me was the story of the O’Kasick brothers.  The youngest O’Kasick, James, was only 2o years old when he killed himself.  He wasn’t the leader of the pack, he was just a follower sticking to his brothers, when they were dead he was alone and had to atone for everything the others had done.  The eerie thing about him killing himself is that he stabbed himself 3 times in the stomach.  Who could do that?   How unhappy does a person have to be to actually stab them self in the stomach to begin with, but to do that 3 times?  That is simply unimaginable to me.  That’s what entirely creeped me out about that story, why it stayed on my mind.

I remember having lunch with Leon shortly after reading that story because I asked him if he remembered anything about the crime spree the O’Kasick brothers went on that led up to the night the police officer was murdered and everything following.  I know the media followed them and Leon is the oldest person I know.   Leon remembered the brothers and filled me in on what he remembered.  That conversation satiated me and my interests went on to something new.

My mom’s biological father died when my mom was 4 or 5, her mother remarried and mom’s step-dad was, in my mom’s eyes, her dad.  He was the only dad my mom remembers having and she adored him.  His name was Claude Brewer and he was a Minneapolis police officer.   Claude Brewer died in November, 1959 of pancreatic cancer.  I was born in March of 1960 so I never met him.  I have, however, heard many wonderful stories about him and am sorry that I missed ever meeting him.   He was sick for a few years before he died.  His fellow officers used to help cover for him during his illness.  Some nights while he was on duty he’d be laying in agony in the back of the squad car while his partner drove around.  After all, if he didn’t work, he didn’t get paid and he had a family to support.  Buddies are a very good thing to have.

Four years after I’d read and left behind the story of the O’Kasick brothers I got a call from my mom one evening.  She recently had joined a rather large bookclub, as far as bookclubs go and their club had just read and discussed the book The Pact written by Walter J. Roers and she’d called me after getting home from the meeting.  She sounded a little off kilter.   I told her that’d I’d read that book years before and I’d met the author and that I had an autographed copy inscribed to “Goddess Jacque”.   Yep, in my 1st few years working at B&N that was my fun thing to do.  I have around a dozen or so autographed copies of various books, some I haven’t even read,  addressed to me in the same manner.  My only defense is that I must have needed ego boosting at that point in my life.  Anyway the story in The Pact is a story about a couple boys that grew up in south Minneapolis and that’s where my mom grew up.  As she was telling me that she liked and appreciated the book because of her memories in those very same places the author had told about and the conversation that the women had had  about the book she sounded on edge.  I just shut up and listened as she spoke.  She said that another woman, that she wasn’t familiar with had spoken up and said that she’d also grown up in south Minneapolis.

After relating that part of her bookclub meeting to me my mom told me the story of the O’Kasick brothers.  It had been 4 or so years since I’d read the story and had picked Leon’s brain about it  so was not at the forefront of my memory.  As my mom spoke it came all came back and I let her know that I was familiar with the story.  As she spoke her voice seemed to quicken and I wasn’t sure what the stories had in relation to each other or why she has switched gears so I just shut up and listened.

My mom then went back to the bookclub meeting and the woman who also grew up in south Minneapolis.  They spoke after the meeting and it turned out that both of their dads were policemen in Minneapolis during the time of the story of Roer’s book.  One of them asked which prescient and it turned out that their dads both worked for the same prescient.   My mom asked the woman what her dad’s name was and then went through a wave of emotions once the woman told her.  The woman’s dad was Robert Fossum.  It was this woman’s father who was murdered, actually in what I’ve read the real term is “executed” by Michael O’Kasick.

That’s where this all ties together and where it gets bizarre.   The night of September 14th, 1957 my mom’s dad was scheduled to work.  He was far too sick to do so and called the prescient to let them know that he just could not make it in that evening.  Robert Fossum, this woman’s dad, replaced my mom’s dad for that particular shift and was executed.  If I were my mom that night my heart would have dropped into my stomach.  Well kind of, for a little bit that night, my heart did drop into my stomach.

According to my mom, her dad never forgave himself for not working that night.  He shouldn’t have been so hard on himself and he died only 2 years and 2 months later and he suffered plenty.  Let’s talk variables, Claude Brewer was not Robert Fossum.  Had Claude worked that night the chances of the squad car being in some other location than it was in when it got the call to chase the O’Kasicks would, most likely have made it not the closest squad car, therefore the not the 1st to arrive. Maybe it still would have been but history is history and none of us has the ability to change it.  I just think my mom shouldn’t have to go through the rest of her life feeling guilty about something she had no control over.  My heart goes out to the family of Robert Fossum and from what I’ve heard they’ve never blamed my mom’s dad.  I just thought it was an odd story so I thought I’d share it.