The following is the first page of my memoir, Watching Their Dance: Three Sisters, One Genetic Disease and Marrying into a Family At Risk for Huntington’s
Some lives seem to move smoothly along a natural continuum, with one event or decision seeming to slide into the next. Such people seem to have faced no dramatic forks in the road, had few life-altering choices to make. Other lives, at least in hindsight, travel in a particular direction at one particular life-changing moment. That’s what happened to me, when, at age twenty-two, I suddenly had to confront the most complicated decision of my life.
I met John Anthony Marin in 1976, when we were attending junior college in Contra Costa County, across San Francisco Bay on the far side of the Berkeley hills. I was twenty and he was one year older, with light brown hair and kind hazel eyes, tall, handsome, and athletic; I fell for him immediately. We felt so close so quickly, it wasn’t long before we were a couple.
I quickly learned that being with John meant having his three older sisters in my life as well. The four had had a difficult upbringing and were exceptionally close. Their mother had been placed in a psychiatric hospital when John was just a baby. Their father, Big John Marin, would never tell them why their mother was gone and when she might come back. Of course, his life was difficult, too: In addition to having four children under age six and working full-time, he helped his elderly immigrant parents manage a five-acre ranch next to his home. Even so, he didn’t seem to take much interest in his children, never showing them affection or encouragement, only criticism and negativity. He treated his oldest daughter, Lora, as a housekeeper, and the others just stayed out of his way.
When I met them, Lora was twenty-eight, a blond, striking woman with a creamy complexion, twinkling eyes, and a welcoming smile. Her generosity and bubbly personality drew people to her; I always felt a light radiated from Lora. By day, she was a secretary at an accounting firm in Sacramento; by night, a highly creative chef. I loved visiting her and her husband, Dave, a jokester and life-of-the-party kind of guy. He and Lora had become a couple when she was fourteen, and Dave had embraced John, then eight, like a big brother.
Marcia was twenty-six. She was shy but sophisticated, glowing with gentility—the first woman I knew who looked chic in jeans, maybe because she had them dry-cleaned. Her light brown curly hair and makeup were always impeccable. Neither sister had a college degree; after Marcia graduated from high school, she’d gone to work in San Francisco in the typing pool at Pacific Bell. But she was smart and ambitious, and ten years later, her title was Marketing Representative. She lived in an apartment in Walnut Creek, about fifteen miles east of Oakland. She’d been with Glenn, a local realtor, for several years.
By the time I began dating John, Cindy, two years older and his childhood buddy, was working as a dental assistant in Surrey, British Columbia, just above the Canadian border. She visited during the holidays, so I’d been with her a few times. John called her a “free spirit” and the positive force in their family. Like John, she had a wide smile and hazel eyes, and there was no denying their kinship.
*******************************************************************Cindy with cousin Dee Yount
I have yet to meet another family whose siblings share the same closeness as did the Marin siblings. There were times when I envied the relationship John enjoyed with his sisters. Over the years, I have worked on my relationship with my sisters, having learned from the love between Lora, Marcia, Cindy and John.
I’ll be posting a page from my book each month for your enjoyment and to give you a flavor of the story.
Have a good day! Therese