Lion, film about Saroo Brierley

October 20th, 2016

At the movies last week, the kids and I saw the trailer for “Lion,” due out November 25. The film is based on the memoir A Long Way Home by Saroo Brierley, published in the US by Putnam in 2014. You might remember the story: at five years old, Saroo was separated from his brother in a train station in India. The two boys often hopped trains to other towns in search of food. After living on the streets of Calcutta for three months, Saroo was placed in an orphanage and ultimately adopted by a family in Tasmania, Australia.

Twenty-five years later, through the wonders of Google Earth, Saroo located his hometown and the train station where his saga began, and, through determination and persistence, found and reunited with his birth mother. (His brother was killed by a train the day he and Saroo were separated.)

I’ve ordered Saroo’s memoir and can’t wait to read it. And you know where my family will be November 25.




October 18th, 2016

At 10 PM Saturday, Mateo decided to make strawberry shortcake. Talking him out of it was futile. Bedtime is a battle I fight only Sunday through Thursday.

The shortcake was more biscuit than sponge, which we discovered we prefer, and made from scratch. Mateo whipped the cream, too, using a hand whisk. We bought the strawberries at 10:15 at the grocery store down the hill, when Mateo realized we were missing the recipe’s key ingredient.

Is there anything on earth more interesting than the mind of an 11-year-old boy? Strawberry shortcake, why? Apropos of what?

These are questions I don’t ask.



Queen of Katwe

October 13th, 2016

Yesterday, school let out at 12:30, so the kids and I saw a matinee of Queen of Katwe, about a young girl from Uganda who is revealed to be a chess prodigy. The film was inspiring, uplifting, and beautiful. We loved it.



Book group

October 9th, 2016

Our Guatemalan adoption group book group met yesterday to discuss Kelly Kerney’s novel, Hard Red Spring. The consensus: tough but worthwhile. Several people who hadn’t yet finished–it’s long!–were inspired to read to the end. Others were inspired to go back and read again, because the first time around, information may have been missed. (I count myself in that camp.)

The plot is dense with history and complicated, and that’s a good thing. We learned more about Guatemala than we knew previously, and the book expanded our understanding of the role of the US in Guatemala politics. The book also caused us to examine adoption through the lens of the country’s past, always sobering.

Once again, I’m grateful to live in an area with other adoptive parents who share my interest in all things adoption and Guatemala, and who are avid readers, too. I love my book group!




September 29th, 2016

A death in the family can bring up big emotions for our children, as it has for my 14- and 11- year-olds. Another dimension is the reaction by other kids. My 11-year-old son Mateo is in 6th grade. One recent conversation:

Mateo: When kids in my class heard Grandma died, they asked me if she was my “real” grandma or my “fake” one.
Me: What did you say?
Mateo: I said she was my mom’s mom. Not my birth grandma.
Me: (Pause.) How do you feel about that?
Mateo: You know, Mom, most people don’t understand about adoption. They don’t know the words “birth mother” and “adoptive mother.” They say real and fake.
Me: What do you think about that?
Mateo: I’m fine with it. I’m used to it.
Me: Yeah. It doesn’t bother me, either.
Mateo: I love you, Mom.
Me: I love you, too, Mateo. ~



Eulogy for my mother

September 28th, 2016

My mother’s funeral Mass was on Monday, at San Rafael Church in San Diego. For me, ritual is healing, and I was grateful to listen to familiar Bible passages–the 23rd Psalm, Lamentations, and the Book of Revelation–and hear music I’ve listened to since childhood–Amazing Grace, Ave Maria, The Prayer of St. Francis, How Great Thou Art.

Friends from different areas of my mother’s life came–the “Needlework Ladies” from Palomar Hospital, dressed in their pink smocks and volunteer pins;  three tap dancers she performed with often, still standing tall, even the one using a walker. Members of the Resurrection and Traditional choirs from San Rafael Church, who sang with my mother; neighbors from the old cul-de-sac in Rancho Bernardo, and the men who attended daily Mass with my father.  Friends of mine from the museum world, and college, and high school, friends of my sisters and brother. Grandsons and granddaughters. Sons-in-law and children. Our cousin from Los Angeles. And the many, many people who joined us in spirit.

Afterward, we gathered for a reception in the church hall, where we reminisced about my mother while viewing images from her vibrant and well-lived life. Thank you to everyone for sharing your memories, and your condolences. They are a comfort. ~

Eulogy for My Mother:

Good morning. I’m Jessica O’Dwyer, Gerry’s third daughter. Gerry—and her husband, our father, Bob–had five children, eight grandchildren, and one great grandchild. On behalf of my father, and all of us, thank you for coming. And to the community at San Rafael Church. We’re very grateful.

Gerry was a former Radio City Music Hall Rockette, a lifelong performer. She would be thrilled to see everybody dressed to the nines and looking their best. And for her! Thank you for that.

Because, to use an old show business term, Gerry was a show-stopper. Even at the end, confined to a wheelchair in a memory care unit dressed in sweat pants and a hoodie, she was gorgeous, with her dancer’s posture and elegant profile.

Gerry had an expression she used often: “Rising to the occasion.” Which means, no matter what you might feel like inside, no matter how blue or achy or tired, you pull yourself together when the occasion calls for it and put your best foot forward.

Gerry was a master at that. She felt duty-bound to show the world her best self, always. To be joyful, and kind, and completely committed to whatever she was doing, to be attentive to whomever she was with. To be, as she called it, “ON.”

If you were ever lucky enough to see my mother dance, you understand she had a gift, a little something extra. She understood it, too. She had a gift, and she felt a responsibility to share it, to use it to make the world a better place. Because who can watch a talented tap dancer do a triple time step and wings and Shuffle Off to Buffalo, and not feel happy? Not feel joy?

My mother understood that she herself was a gift. We all are. Each one of us has something unique to contribute to the world, something only we can give. Ourselves. The best selves we can be.

Gerry took her first ballet lesson at age seven, but there came a time when her body failed her, when she could no longer high-kick over her head, or stand without help. That’s when she started singing. She never did learn to read music, and claimed she never could carry a tune. That didn’t stop her. She joined the choir of San Rafael Church and lifted up her voice, offering what she had.

One more thing about Gerry: In my life, I never heard her say a single negative word about anyone.

There’s a great quote by Saint Teresa of Calcutta: “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”

That was my mother. She was kind and she was good. And she was loved.

Gerry has taken her final bow and left this stage. Now, she’s dancing with angels.

Thank you.




My mother’s obituary

September 23rd, 2016

Geraldine Quick O’Dwyer (Gerry) died peacefully in San Diego, California on September 12, 2016, with her husband Bob by her side. She was eighty-seven years old. Gerry and Bob met on a blind date in Newport News, Virginia, where Gerry was born and Bob was serving in the Navy. According to Bob, Gerry ended the date by informing him of her ring size: 4 1/2. Both agreed it was love at first sight. They were married sixty-three years.

Gerry danced through life, beginning with ballet lessons at age seven. After graduating from Newport News High School, she moved to New York City and knocked on the stage door at Radio City Music Hall, requesting an audition. She was hired as a Rockette and high-kicked with the troupe for five years. For more than half a century, she remained active in the Rockette Alumnae, and, as a member of the “Breathless Twelve,” danced at the United Nations and the Rainbow Room and on the television shows “To Tell the Truth,” “Mike Douglas,” and “Jack Paar.” Until the end, Rockettes numbered among Gerry’s closest friends.

Gerry passed on her love of dance to countless children and adults, especially at her studio, the Geraldine Q. O’Dwyer Dance Centre in Allenhurst, New Jersey. After Gerry and Bob retired and moved to San Diego, Gerry dusted off her tap shoes to perform professionally with the “Palm Springs Follies.” She also appeared with the “Hot Flashes,” “Tap Tones,” and “Rockerettes,” and the musical revue “Way Way West of Broadway.”

Gerry was a dedicated volunteer at Palomar Hospital, Jersey Shore Medical Center, and San Diego’s Old Town. She sang second soprano in the choir at San Rafael Church. A believer that anything was possible if she worked hard enough, she earned an Associate degree in dance from Palomar College at age seventy-three.

Gerry was a beloved mother to her five children. Her grandchildren adored her. She cherished her many dear friends and extended family, from every period and place of her life. Gerry walked with grace and radiated kindness. She embodied goodness.

Gerry was predeceased by her parents, Ethel Allen Quick and Robert Eldridge “Tommy” Quick, and her first cousin, Charlotte Garrett. In addition to her husband Bob, she is survived by her children Patrice Anne O’Dwyer, Adrienne O’Dwyer Phillips, Jessica Elizabeth O’Dwyer, Robert Joseph O’Dwyer, Jr., and Deanna O’Dwyer Swensen; eight grandchildren; one great-granddaughter; and several cousins. Gerry’s family thanks the staffs of Avalon Home Care, Always There, Coronado Retirement Village, and Sharp and Sonata hospices.

A funeral Mass will be held at 10 AM, September 26 at San Rafael Catholic Church, 17252 Bernardo Center Drive, with a reception immediately following. Cremation was arranged by Cortez Cremations. At a future date, Gerry’s ashes will be interred at Miramar National Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial donations be made online to Alzheimer’s Association,, or mailed to Alzheimer’s Association, P.O. Box 96011, Washington, DC 20090-6011.




September 21st, 2016

Toward the end of her life, as her thinking became cloudier, my mother called out often for her mother, seeming to see her mother’s image and hear her mother beckoning her. It was as though she remembered nothing except her earliest formative years, when she lived in the little house on 28th Street, the only child of an adoring mom. Everything that came after–career, husband, five children–fell away and was forgotten.

Sometimes as I witnessed this, I wondered about people who grow up in orphanages, without any one specific, known person they identify as “mother.” At the end of their lives, who do they call out to? Who do they see? Who reaches out to greet them as they pass from this dimension to whatever is next?



My mother’s address file

September 20th, 2016

Yesterday, I sat with my dad and went through my mother’s index card file of names and phone numbers, of friends to call to let them know. I spoke to a woman who grew up in a house a block from my mother in Newport News, Virginia. She and my mom attended first grade together, and every grade after, graduating from Newport News High. The friend is eighty-seven now, too, a widow, who lost both her sons twenty years ago, to AIDS. We chatted for a long time, talking about her sons and remembering my mother, and other friends they had in common, many now gone.

These days are full of tenderness. xo



Writing about my mother

September 18th, 2016

Tonight, I finally finished the hard assignments of writing the Obituary and Eulogy for my mother. Her Funeral Mass will be at 10 AM on Monday, September 26 at San Rafael Church in Rancho Bernardo, California with reception immediately following. I’m now going for a walk to clear my head, and when I return, plan to eat a very large bowl of her favorite snack, chocolate ice cream. xo