Mona O'Connell

I'm 66 years old, and back in the day, you were supposed to be born in a hospital. So, naturally, I was born in our New York City apartment. My father was a foot doctor. He had his office in the front and we lived in the back. I had a brother who was born the year before, in the same bed and the same room I was born in. The doctor said the baby wouldn't live for 15 minutes. They finally called for an ambulance and he died in Queens General, the city hospital, 33 hours after he came into the world. He was buried in some public grave and my mother never knew where. My father did not allow my mother or me to speak of my big brother. Rarely my mother would refer to "the boy" in hushed tones of grief she never was able to express.

She was 37 when I was born and my father was 56. Since I was a girl, as far as my father was concerned, I was all my mother's doing. He had 3 other daughters, the oldest of whom was 9 years younger than my mother. He only agreed to conceive a child at 56 so he could have a son. Back then, my parents’ age difference alone would not have made them the ideal couple. In the final analysis, compared to everything else, that was the least of my problems.

My father died when I was 15. I dropped out of high school when I was 16 and earned a masters degree in education when I was 59. Quite a few things happened in between, and little by little, I evolved into who I am. The good news is because of everything I've been through, I've learned how to feel other people's pain. I now have 3 adult children and a precious granddaughter. My prayer for her and the rest of the world is that everyone one will agree that to question with boldness is one of the best ways not to have to answer to tyranny.