This biographical passage about my cult leading grandma Carol Balizet includes mention of child death. You can read part one here.
It was the mid 1950s when my grandparents married and moved to the Midwest. He worked for his father’s livestock feed company, which he’d later inherit. She had a housekeeper so she wasn’t chained to the drudgery of cooking and cleaning. They were well off. My Giggy joined the Democratic Women’s League of Nebraska and became a lady who lunched.
They started growing their family right away. In 1956, 1958, and 1959 they had three healthy daughters, with my mother in the middle. There isn’t much oral tradition in the family about those years of economic stability. Several years ago I transferred all the aging photos and captions from my mother’s baby book to archival paper to preserve it. I read in my grandmother’s own hand frustrations, and jealousy that my mom was a daddy’s girl.
In 1961 my grandmother gave birth to her fourth child, a daughter named Natalie, which means “childbirth”. Natalie was born with a congenital heart defect. She died within a month. I don’t think Giggy ever really recovered from that loss. Psychotherapy and counseling hadn’t yet found the measure of acceptance they have today. No one talked things through with my mom and aunts, who became quite morbid in the years following.
My grandma must have felt truly crazy, driven mad by grief. She resented her husband for not appearing to feel the loss as deeply as she did, and I don’t think she believed she could stay in that house. She took her daughters off to her parent’s home back in Florida, never to return. Like the death of their sister, the abrupt removal of their farther from their lives wasn’t discussed. It just was.