Double Click Then Scroll Screen

Judy's Life

For the 13 months that Judy was at Southern after my release, we kept in touch by writingletters. This was something totally new for Southern because most of the residents couldn't writeand didn't receive mail. Someone would tell Judy that she had a letter and she would go to theadministration building to pick it up. My letters were Judy's lifeline to freedom; they kept herhopes alive that someday she would be released. She was a nervous wreck for those 13 monthsof waiting, sure that something would arise that would prevent her from being freed. But only theusual bureaucratic stuff slowed the process. It was hard for normals to be included in thedeinstitutionalization process because they shouldn't have been in an institution in the first place.So how could they be included in a movement to normalize their lives which should have beennormal from the start? Dr. Phillips and Dr. Mather decided to continue the practice of pairingnormals with mildly retarded people to make for an easier transition. The people being releasedfirst were those who would be employable in the community, mostly at unskilled jobs like foodservice workers, janitors, and some factory work. They wanted to have good results for the firstwave of people who were deinstitutionalized to pave the way for other folks with harderproblems.

Judy was paired with Lola. They had a close relationship from years of workingtogether in the sewing shop and living in the same ward. Lola was mildly retarded, but only inverbal areas. She was what would be called culturally disadvantaged. She really shouldn't havebeen institutionalized, but at the age of 12 she was placed at Southern, probably because she wasacting out sexually. Her mother left the area and no one knew where any of her other relativeswere. Sadly, she was another throw-away kid. She was in her mid 30's and good looking untilshe opened her mouth showing her few rotten teeth. Like Judy, she was great at handicrafts.They were going to be roommates in a newly established group home for women - theLawndale House which was to house 12 women in an old remodeled building. It was laid outwith the resident manager's office on one side of the front door and the night manager'sapartment on the other so there could be monitoring of who came and went, not for the purposeof controlling the residents' lives, but for safety. There was a living room where residentssocialized and a large kitchen where meals were cooked by the residents. The residents wereresponsible for cooking all meals and cleaning all public areas as well as their own rooms.

Lawndale was their home, and they were trained to treat it with respect. In the living room therewas a T.V. and games and cards. There were 52 cards in the deck and all the puzzle pieces in thebox. Life was starting new. This room was opened 24 hours a day, but after 10:00 PM anyoneusing it had to be quiet so as not to disturb the other women. Everyone was encouraged to get outof their rooms and socialize.

There was a counselor assigned to every six women. They taught them skills in doinglaundry, cooking, cleaning, shopping, and self care. Although Judy wasn't retarded, she neededhelp in learning independent living skills because of her lack of experience living in the outsideworld. Judy had never ridden a bus, never shopped, never cooked, and never even walked downa street. A vocational counselor from the central office of Chicago Disability Services, theorganization that owned Lawndale House, got jobs for the women and provided on-the-jobtraining until they could manage on their own. Then the counselors monitored them in case anyproblems arose. Interestingly, most of the problems that did arise didn't involve the performanceof the tasks required for the job, but interpersonal problems with other workers.Judy and Lola were given jobs at Midwest Clothing, a factory where they could use theirsewing skills. It really was like an old-time sweat shop with hundreds of women sewing the samethings - blouses, pants, dresses. They worked eight hours a day five days a week, but now theywere being paid for doing the same work that they did for free at Southern. Although they gotminimum wage, they were in the system. They paid social security. It was a good entry level jobfor Judy. It gave her experience so she could move on. As it turned out, Judy never did move on;she was at that factory for her whole working life. Eventually, she became a supervisor in chargeof about 50 girls and earned a decent salary. At Southern, she was in charge of 10 girls and paidnothing, and at Midwest she was in charge of five times as many workers and got paid.When Judy wrote me the date she would be arriving in Chicago, I arranged to meet her atLawndale House. I asked Mrs. Brown to watch Sarah that day because I wanted to be alonewhen I met Judy, just as I had been when we met in the ward at Southern almost 10 years before.I had a big bunch of flowers and two balloons that said Welcome. Judy was supposed to arriveat 1:00, but I was waiting at the front door at 12:00. By 2:00, she still hadn't arrived. I went tothe manager's office fearing that Southern hadn't let Judy out or that the car bringing her toChicago had crashed. The manager told me that she hadn't heard anything and to just wait. So I

went back to the front porch and sat on a rocking chair, furiously rocking back and forth. Then Ispotted a car with the Illinois state logo on the side. Judy was free! She saw me as soon as shegot out of the car and ran to me. We hugged and cried. Our dreams had come true. I handed herthe bouquet of flowers and said "Welcome to the World."

The manager welcomed Judy and Lola, and then showed them to their room. She gaveeach of them a keychain with a key to the front door and a key to their room. Judy lovinglystroked the keys, symbols that she was truly free. She could lock the world out; she was nolonger locked in. She could have privacy. No one would look at her when she went to thebathroom or showered or slept or changed clothes. She could go to sleep and get up whenevershe wanted. She could even stay up all night. She could go to the movies or bowling or take awalk or just sit on a park bench.

Judy's room was spacious with two single beds, two dressers, two small tables, twochairs, and one closet. Judy kept touching the walls and the furniture as if she was proving toherself that these were real and not part of a dream. She went to the window and opened it. Shestuck her head out and yelled hello to some people walking down the street. They waved at herand she waved back. She was deliriously happy. Then the manager took them on a tour of thehouse. To Judy, it was as beautiful as my house.

This was a Friday and Judy didn't start work until Monday. She had orientation onSaturday and church on Sunday so I wanted to spend some time with her before she got busy. Ofcourse, we had to include Lola in everything we did since Judy was supposed to be her mentor. Iwatched as they unpacked. They had been given new clothes, but of course nothing like what Ihad. They left their ugly institutional uniforms back at Southern. They had let their hair growlong. Judy was wearing hers in a pony tail which made her look younger. It bounced as shebounced around on her club feet. Lola curled her hair so she looked like a cherub. I wished that Ihad a camera so I could have taken a before and after picture of them - before showing them asanonymous institutionalized people and after showing them as distinctive individuals, in fact twoattractive women.

Then we went to the manager's office so that she could share plans for the weekend withthem. On Saturday she would teach them how to take care of their room, do laundry, and explore

the neighborhood to find the stores they would need to shop in. She gave them their firstallowance. This was money that was to be used to support themselves until they got their paychecks, and then if the pay checks weren't enough to live on, they would be given additionalmoney. They didn't have to pay for food, rent, telephone, or transportation because these werebeing paid for by the state so their paychecks should cover any expenses they had. If they usedtheir money unwisely, they were given instruction on budgeting. Remember, these were peoplewho had no idea of the value of money. They had never had to buy anything for themselvesbefore so learning budgeting was hard, very hard. Believe me, I know from experience.On Saturday night, they would have a social with the other deinstitutionalized womenwho lived in their house and the deinstitutionalized men who lived at the Kildare House nextdoor. Kildare House was like Lawndale House except it had 12 mildly retarded males. Now menwould be within reach for those women who were interested, and most wereAfter two hours with the manager, I took Judy and Lola to eat at McDonald's. Judy hadnever eaten in a restaurant and Lola couldn't recall being in a restaurant before enteringSouthern. The women loved everything about McDonald's - the food, the servers, the chairs, thetables - everything. The Big Mac was the most delicious sandwich ever made and the fries weretruly freedom fries.

One of the activities offered for Sunday morning was mass at a nearby Catholic churchwith an outreach program for people with disabilities. The program included social services andsocial activities, but most importantly, the church reached out to genuinely integrate retardedpeople into the congregation. Lola was excited about being involved in the church because someof her fondest memories before being institutionalized were going to church. Although thefundamentalist church that Lola went to in Seymour was as different as could be from thisCatholic Church in Chicago. Judy was an atheist, but she liked the idea of going to church. It wasanother part of being normal. After the mass, they were warmly greeted by the priest whoencouraged them to be involved in the church community. There was a little party hosted forthem by the church members. Everyone was warm and welcoming. They had a receiving linewhere the members hugged all the newcomers. Judy couldn't believe that normal people couldbe so nice. She didn't know if it was because they were religious or because they were goodpeople or both. Lola wanted Judy to come with her to church every Sunday morning. Judy said

that she would decide later. And she did go to that Catholic Church every Sunday until she metLeo, and then she went to his church. She has gone to church every Sunday since that firstSunday of freedom. Gradually Judy grew to believe in God. She realized that there had to be aGod because only God could create a love like she and Leo had.

On their third weekend of freedom, Judy and Lola came to my house. I tried to preparethem for what they would see. I told them I lived in a big, rich, fancy house, but I don't thinkthey could have imagined how big and how rich and how fancy it was. I asked Judy if shewanted me to go with them on the bus, but she insisted that she could do this alone. It would bethe first time she and Lola traveled by themselves. They took the bus to work with theirvocational counselor so they knew something about public transportation. I wrote downdirections for where to catch the bus, what bus number to take, and how to walk the two blocksfrom the bus stop to the house.

We had arranged for Judy and Lola to be at the house by 10:00 AM. I'd gottenpermission from Dr. Warner for them to enter through the front door. I hated the thought ofmaking them go in the back door. It would be so demeaning, even though they wouldn't realizewhat the back entrance meant. I did. I got up early that morning and nervously waited for 10:00to arrive. The doorbell rang at 9:30. They were early. Judy left at 9:00 thinking that it would take40 or more minutes, but the bus came as soon as they got to the bus stop, and it only took them afew minutes to walk the two blocks after they got off. When they got to the Warner house, theywere stunned. They thought the house was more than a mansion; they thought it was a castle.They fearfully rang the bell, thinking this might be the wrong house. I opened the door with ahuge grin and a loud welcome. I had explained to Sarah who was coming to visit, but I wasn'tsure she recalled Judy and Lola even though it had only been 13 months since she'd last seenthem. Oh, but she did remember them. When I opened the door, she rushed at them calling theirnames and hugging them. She wouldn't let Judy go, and kept saying "I love you Judy." Thenshe saw Lola and hugged her as she said, "I love you Lola." It warmed my heart to see theaffection that she felt for them, and they felt for her. Here were people to ease her out of herisolated life.

I took them to the kitchen where Mrs. Brown was waiting for us with lemonade andcookies. I don't remember what we talked about. All I remember was the loud laughter and

constant hugs. We took them to our rooms and showed them our clothes. In my room, I showedthem my books. Judy said that she couldn't believe I could read such hard books. I told her aboutstudying for the GED and how I was going to go to college.

Judy said to me, "If anybody can make their dreams come true, it's you Mary. You willgo to college and you will graduate." It filled me with such joy to have someone other than Dr.Warner show such confidence in me.

At noon, we had lunch served by Mrs. Brown. They never thought they would be servedby a maid someday. Of course, neither did I. They thought the chicken salad sandwiches andcole slaw and apple pie were the best they'd ever had, and they were.Later I learned from Mrs. Brown that Edith didn't know that Judy and Lola were coming.Dr. Warner had planned the visit for a day he knew she would be out of the house. Afterwards,when she found out about the visit, she said that she never wanted to have THOSE KIND OFPEOPLE in her house again. She was furious that Mrs. Brown had let them eat with china andsilverware. She said that she should have used paper plates and plastic ware so they didn'tcontaminate anything. I'm surprise she didn't make Mrs. Brown disinfect the kitchen after theyleft. I'm glad she didn't find out that they used the fancy downstairs bathroom. If she found out,she probably would have never used it again, or she might have ripped it out and replaced it witha new bathroom. I've wondered how she found out that Judy and Lola came to the house. Whotold her? I can't believe that Dr. Warner would tell her. Maybe she had a secret camera takingpictures of everyone who came into the house.

I continued to see Judy every weekend, but at Lawndale House. I always took Sarah withme. She loved traveling on the bus, but most of all she loved being with the residents. I realizedthat she might be happier at Lawndale House than at the Warner house where she was isolatedwhen I was away at school so much of the time. Lawndale House had people who understoodher, and more importantly, accepted her. Mentally, I started making plans for how to prepareSarah to live in a group home in the future. I realized that someday I wanted to be free to livecompletely on my own. I didn't want to be Sarah's caregiver forever. Somehow in the future, Iwould have to get Dr. Warner to agree to place Sarah in a group home. But not right now. Sarahwasn't ready, and neither was I.

Judy was happy working at her job and socializing with the people at Lawndale House,but she wanted a man. Not just a man; she wanted marriage and children. And she found whatshe was looking for on the 7:30 bus she took to work every morning. Leo Pulaski was a 35 yearold widower with two children who came from a close-knit working class Polish family. He hada 10 year old son, Joseph, and a seven girl old daughter, Monica. His wife had breast cancerwhen she was pregnant with Monica. She refused treatment because she feared that it wouldaffect her baby. Unfortunately, she died a year after Monica was born. Leo raised his childrenwith the help of his mother who lived in the apartment next door. Leo was short and chubby. Hehad to wiggle to squeeze into the driver's seat of the bus. He was plain looking until he smiledwhich was often, and then everything about him changed. His face lit up like a neon sign. Heradiated goodness and happiness. And he was funny. He made jokes and puns non-stop solaughter always surrounded Leo. I never met a person who didn't like him, especially thepassengers on his bus. He was serious about his responsibility for getting his passengers to theirdestinations safely and for keeping them well-behaved and respectful of each other as well asentertaining them with jokes, stories, and even songs.

Since the bus went by Lawndale House and Kildare House, he was used to carryingretarded people. He was always helpful with them about having the right amount of money forthe fare and letting them know when their stops came up or helping them up and down the steps.The first time he saw Judy, he flirted with her, and she flirted back. He asked if she needed helpnegotiating the bus steps, but she said that she was fine. Although she got on the bus with agroup of retarded people, it was obvious to him that she wasn't retarded. He thought that shewas a new counselor at Lawndale House. They joked back and forth every morning. One Fridayabout six weeks after they met, Leo was waiting for Judy when she got back from work."Hey Judy. Remember me? I'm Leo. I thought you might not recognize me without mymy bus."

"Leo, I'd recognize you anywhere. You're the handsomest bus driver in Chicago.""Judy, I came here to ask you out on a date. I hope you don't think I'm too pushy. Ihaven't been out on a date since I first met my wife Monica so I'm rusty. In fact I'm so nervous I

feel like I might faint. Now that would be a sight, wouldn't it? You'd have to get a fork lift topick me up. How about Chinese?"

Judy wasn't sure what he meant, but she assumed that he wanted to take her to a Chineserestaurant. She tried to control her excitement. She wanted to scream yes and throw her armsaround his neck and crush him, but she acted nonchalantly, like she always went out on dates toeat Chinese.

"Sure. Let me go in and clean up. I'll be out in ten minutes."

Judy was going on her first date so she would have loved to have spent hours primping.Instead, she washed up and changed in a record seven minutes. Leo drove her to a nearbyChinese restaurant. They were both extremely nervous and didn't talk much until they wereseated and ready to order.

"I don't know what to order. I've never been to a Chinese restaurant before.""How about we order two things and share? How about chicken chow mein and porkfried rice? How does that sound?"

"Great." She had no idea what either was, but she didn't care. When they waiter broughtthe food, he asked if Judy wanted chop sticks. She didn't know what they were, but she said yes.Leo tried to teach her how to use them, but she was only able to pick up a few grains of rice at atime so as you can imagine she didn't eat much.

Leo talked about his family. "My wife Monica loved chicken chow mein. That was herfavorite, but my kids don't like Chinese so I haven't been to a Chinese place since Monica died."He then proceeded to describe his life with Monica, their love, and his crippling sorrow when shedied. It had taken him a year to recover, but now he was moving on with his life."Judy, I never thought about marrying again, but when I saw you get on my bus, I fell inlove with you. I don't know what it is about you, but I feel this connection to you. I hope I'm notscaring you away with talking like this. I'm not the type of man to have girlfriends and flings. Idon't really know how to date. I'm serious about life."

"No Leo, you're not scaring me off. I felt the same way when I met you."

Leo talked about his kids and his mother until they finished eating. He never asked Judyabout herself. He sensed that that was a taboo subject. Judy realized she couldn't end the eveningwithout telling him about herself. She couldn't start a relationship with him, and then have himfind out and reject her. That would kill her. So she did an unbelievably brave thing - she toldhim about her past then and there in that Chinese restaurant.

"Leo, before we go any farther with our relationship, I have to tell you about my past. Ican't fall in love with you and then have you reject me when you find out about my past life."She took a deep breath, looked Leo in the eye, and said, "Well here goes. Leo, I was bornand raised in an institution for people who are retarded. I'm not a counselor at Lawndale House.I'm a resident." She proceeded to tell him about her birth to a retarded woman and a worker atSouthern and how she was raised by retarded women. Then she told him about her talent forsewing. And finally she told him about me and how we loved each other. She told him almosteverything about herself. Wisely, she didn't include her sexual experiences."Judy, I want you to forget your past life and feel like you were born when you met me. Iwant this new Judy to be Judy Pulaski, not Judy Smith. The name Smith shows that you have noidentity. The name Pulaski shows that you are part of me and my family."After 20 minutes of non-stop talk by Judy, Leo said, "You are a miracle, but you will bemy secret miracle. No one can know about your past or they wouldn't accept you. Judy, I acceptyou without question. Let's tell everyone that you were raised in an orphanage and you don'thave any relatives. I think that will satisfy people who have questions about you. But honestly, Idon't think people will care about your past. If they see that I love you, they'll accept you." Andhe was right. Leo's acceptance of Judy meant automatic acceptance by his family and friends.When Leo dropped Judy back at Lawndale House, he gave her a light peck on the cheek,but to Judy it was a romantic kiss like no other. She knew then and there that she wanted tomarry Leo more than anything in the world. They made plans to go to a movie the next night.When Leo picked her up, he asked if she minded not going to the movies, but instead going tohis apartment to meet his family. Within an hour of meeting them, Judy had bonded with thechildren and Leo's mother. When Leo took her back to Lawndale House, he kissed her again.

But this time it was a passionate, lingering kiss hinting at the intimacy that would follow oncethey were married.

Leo was a devout Catholic and went to mass every Sunday. Soon Judy went with Leoand his family. In no time, she became a mother to Joseph and Monica. They were children whowanted and needed a mother and Judy wanted and needed to be their mother. They were easychildren - good at their school work, polite, and affectionate. What more could a stepmother askfor? And she was a loving, caring, supportive mother. What more could stepchildren ask for?After four months of dating, Leo and Judy were married in St. Mark's Catholic Church. Iwas the maid of honor. Judy sewed a lovely ivory colored lace dress for herself, a blue silk dressfor me, and a pink dress for Monica, who was the flower girl. Next to my wedding dress, thatwas the prettiest dress I've ever had. Judy had started the process of converting to Catholicism sothe priest agreed to marry them. After the ceremony, there was a reception in the social hall withdelicious, greasy Polish food and an accordion player. Judy's club feet didn't hinder her fromdancing one polka after another. It was so hard to believe how easily and quickly Judy fit intoLeo's world. Here was a woman without a family, without a history, without a religion, and yetshe truly became Leo's life partner and Joseph and Monica's loving mother. Today her sonJoseph is 40 and a detective with the Chicago Police Department and her daughter Monica is 37and a nurse in a cancer ward. They both have two kids who Judy dotes on as only a grandmothercan.

Judy and Leo had a biological son named Carl. Now that's a heartbreaking story. Theirperfect marriage was marred by a very imperfect child. He had problems from birth. He fussedall the time, slept little, and wouldn't eat new foods. He didn't respond to affection. There weretimes when I baby sat with him and tried to hug and kiss him, but he'd push me away. He did thesame thing with Judy and Leo. He didn't want to be loved. Whoever heard of a kid who didn'twant affection? This was especially difficult for Judy who wanted more than anything tophysically bond with her child. He refused her breast when she tried breast feeding. This wastotal rejection of her as a mother.

From the first day of kindergarten, Carl had academic and behavior problems. It wasimpossible for him to sit in a seat for more than a few minutes. Judy and Leo took him to a

specialist who prescribed Ritalin, but it created more problems. He couldn't sleep and he totallylost his appetite. They tried other medications that made him sleepy all the time or just didn'twork. They were never able to find effective medication to treat his hyperactivity anddistractability.

No one seemed able to help Carl, but it wasn't for lack of trying. Judy and Leo took himfrom one psychologist and therapist to another, and even put him in an expensive private schoolfor problem children. He dropped out of school at 13 and ran away from home. He got into drugsand was arrested and placed in juvenile homes and rehab centers, but nothing worked. At 16, heran away to California. They usually knew where he was because he'd call to ask them to sendmoney which they always did. They tried every enticement to bring him home, but nothingworked. Because of Joseph's police connections, he tracked Carl in and out of jails in California.When he wasn't in jail, they didn't know anything about him. Judy and Leo continuously prayedfor his rehabilitation, but God was deaf to their prayers.

Judy has talked with me about her feelings that she caused Carl's problems. Well not herexactly, but her parents and Southern. We had this conversation after Judy got a call from Josephtelling her that Carl had been arrested for armed robbery and faced 20 years in prison."Mary, you know why Carl is like this as well as I do. It's because of the genes that werepassed on through me by my mother and father. They were poisoned. They caused Carl'sproblems. All the love Leo and I gave him and all the professional treatment we got for himcouldn't counteract the effects of those tainted genes. They condemned Carl to a life of addictionand crime. They made him into the unloving, anti-social, hateful person he became. I loved Carlat first, but I can't love him anymore. I've tried so hard to love him, but I just can't. I know that'sterrible of a mother to say. I can't love someone who hates everyone and everything around him.I can't love a person who poisons the world."

"Judy, you know I've thought about addiction a lot because of my mother. I blamed mymother for not overcoming her addiction. I don't think I can blame Carl. I really don't think hecould be any different than what he turned out to be. He couldn't change. You did everythingpossible to help him and nothing worked. Medicine, therapy, education, and most of all love.

Nothing worked. You proved that some people are destined to be evil. If you couldn't changeCarl, no one could."

"Mary, it wasn't the genes that did it. It was Southern. Southern has its claws in me. Ithought that I'd escaped from there, but I hadn't. It followed me into my womb when Carl wasconceived. Carl has been cursed by Southern. To me, Southern is more than a collection ofbuildings. It's an entity. It's the embodiment of evil. And that evil is what I passed on to Carlbecause I am a true product of Southern. That unknown father of mine wasn't a worker, it wasSouthern itself. When I look at my club feet, I see that I am the child of Southern. When I hobblearound on these damn feet, I feel Southern in me. My name isn't Judy Smith or Judy Pulaski. It'sJudy Southern. I'm not evil myself, but I'm a carrier of evil."

When my brain heard her words, I felt that she was reacting irrationally. It was crazy tosay that Southern lives on. But when my heart heard her words, I agreed. Southern is somethingthat can't be erased. Somehow it lives on and it is living on through Carl. It's a reminder that evilis in the world, and I don't know how to fight it.

"Not only did Carl ruin my life, he destroyed Leo's. Leo who gave him endless love andonly got hatred in return. I was responsible for Carl, not Leo. He had two wonderful childrenwith Monica and he had one damaged son with me."

Judy never talked to Leo about any of her feelings. She knew he could never understandwhat Southern was and how it lives on. I'm the only one she has talked to about this. I'm theonly one who can understand how Southern can reach out and take control of your life eventhough you're not there anymore. Even though it's not there anymore. You can erase thememories of everyday life at Southern, but you can't erase what it did to Carl. Judy's right.Two years ago Leo died from pancreatic cancer. Judy quit work to nurse him througheight months of pain and suffering. She was with him 24 hours a day. She loved him socompletely. She often said that she wished she had died instead of him, and I believe her. If shecould, she would have given her life to save him. Since his death, Judy hasn't been the sameperson. She doesn't laugh the way she used to and even when she's with her grandkids, there'sstill a sadness about her. I suppose I'll be like that if Charlie dies before me. The difference isthat I won't have a family to take my mind off of Charlie the way Judy has a family to make her

forget Leo for a while. Who would have thought that Leo, the chubby bus driver, and Judy, theskinny club-footed former resident of an institution for the retarded, would have a deep abidinglove that could be written about in the classics? Since Leo's death, Judy baby sits with hergrandkids just as her mother-in-law did for her kids when she worked. That family involvementis good for her. It keeps her from being overwhelmed with grief at the loss of Leo and Carl. Shegoes to mass every morning to pray for her beloved Leo and her lost son Carl.Judy's first 25 years were spent living in a prison because of the crime of having beenborn with two club feet. Her life of freedom has been one of extremes. She has reached the topsof the highest mountains with her love of Leo and she has reached the lowest depths of theoceans with her hatred of her son Carl and his personification of the evil of Southern StateSchool for the Feebleminded.