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  • Third Story for My Personal Environmental Story by Molly Arthur
    “Please God, cut them off! Cut them off!” My older sister loved drama, but I was shocked to hear her cry, age 11, about her fast-developing breasts. Patty held the greatest promise of the 22 grandchildren in my Irish extended clan, which included four aunts and one fiery Uncle Red. Most of us grew up within four blocks of each other in San Francisco. We gathered frequently at our grandparents Woodside estate, where the family nanny/housekeeper, Chinese cook and serving maid and gardener helped take care of us all. Girls predominated (16) but the boys were doted upon and pressured to be successful- and they were, becoming Titans of Industry. But Patty’s blond beauty, creativity and wicked sense of humor somehow did not enable her to attain what was expected of the women in our family. I resented her incapability, self-centeredness and unproductive life. She became a burden on me, when at age 52, she had multiple myeloma cancer. Typical- a full system poisoning caused by her lifestyle of smoking, sloth and gluttony. She had no discipline, overshopped and couldn’t be on time for anything, for the life of her.
    I spent years resenting her and wondering about her after her death. What was her problem? Was she born an addict? When I investigated more about our environmental lineage, it became clearer. She was born with a bone birth defect-hip dysplasia- an unformed hip socket. Was this vulnerability connected to her bone marrow cancer and death? Geez, what about the astonishing amount of toxins in SF Bay when she was born in 1945 from all the war manufacturing? And the god-awful concoction of cow’s milk, sugar and lead that she was fed as an infant? (As I was!) Her early puberty. ..I realized that there were many, many influences over which she had absolutely no lifestyle control and that they possibly went back to my grandmother’s time, because she actually was in my mother’s body (as an egg) in my grandmother’s body in 1912! What was happening in San Francisco in 1912? Mercury from the Gold Rush, lead from the paint in all the Victorians.. .
    I dropped my anger at her. I better understood her challenges and heartbreaking failures. She was not responsible or seemingly capable of dealing with what her environmental lineage gave her. I began to grieve the snuffing out of her promise, potential and bright shining presence instead of blaming her and resenting her. .. I miss her and weep about it at unexpected moments. My mission now is to change our toxic world so beautiful, young women do not have to suffer the unwitting agonies of a stunted life and premature death. My grief is active and productive and healing.
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