OPINION: A woman of her time
Ralph K. Ginorio
| June 23, 2022 1:00 AM
Patricia Ann was a woman of her time. Conceived before the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor, she was born 80 years ago next month, between the Battles of Midway and Guadalcanal; dark days indeed!
Her father was of Vermont Congregationalist stock, people who arrived after the Cromwells were driven out of power in England and who later fought for their freedom with Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys. They were Abolitionists before the Civil War and fought to set other men free in that war, as well as in the First World War.
Her mother was the child of immigrants from Kilkenny and Waterford, Ireland, who had settled in Harlem and then the Bronx, New York, New York. Her parents shared a house with her mother’s sister in the Parish of St. Anthony.
Pat grew up in a neighborhood where boys and girls of all ages played together, as in the song “The Sidewalks of New York”. Neighborhood kids from ages 5 through 16 shared adventures with one another. With them, she learned to be brave.
This neighborhood was destroyed by Robert Moses, when he drove the Cross Bronx Expressway right through it. For the rest of her life, Pat has mourned this good fellowship.
Attending the Villa Maria Academy with the children of Mafiosi, and Hunter College where the United Nations Organization used to meet, she studied English and Education.
She became a teacher in a tough Bronx High School, marrying her colleague and fellow Hunter alumnus Ralph G. Ginorio. They had three children, and then immediately divorced.
When Pat was divorced, it was far from common. As her ex-husband evaded his responsibilities of child support, she faced the daunting challenges of simultaneously providing for and raising her son and twin daughters.
She did so without much help from her family, or from the government. What help she did secure literally meant the difference between food and hunger for her children.
Her ex-husband’s sister encouraged Pat to leave the Bronx and join her in Meriden, CT. Her sister-in-law Stella gave myself and my sisters the priceless gift of being from the Bronx, rather than growing up there.
Pat worked as a secretary, substitute teacher, Catholic school teacher, and then became a police detective. Her experience as a teacher in the Bronx and New Haven, CT, combined with her intelligence and courage, made her a great detective.
From the mid-1970s through the mid-1990s, she primarily worked cases that her Korean and Vietnam War veteran colleagues assiduously avoided. She worked to bring some justice, security, and closure to victims of rape, incest, and child molestation.
The horrors of these crimes haunt her to this day. They damaged her ability to live life without support. But support was denied her. She had to be strong for her kids. She walked into hell daily, as do all police officers, to provide decent childhoods for her children.
Two of her cases were argued successfully before the United States Supreme Court. In most of her years as a sworn officer, she earned the highest conviction rate of anyone in her police force.
She retired on the earliest day she possibly could do so. Her children were on their way in life, and she had reached a final breaking point. During her decades with the police, she had reached rock bottom on several occasions.
Pat’s demon was alcoholism. Spirits made it possible for her to function, to live with her memories, but like all addictions it came to consume her utterly. When she looked back at her life, she looked back not with pride but with shame. It was not until a dozen years after her retirement that she was finally graced to give up the bottle.
In these later years, Pat delighted in the lives of her children and her granddaughters. She insisted on living simply, and found some peace in the simplest things such as a tea party with the grandkids or the birds calling at sunrise. But, the echoes of trauma were never far from her.
Just under a decade ago, she was captured by a progressively debilitating dementia. Her mother had spent a decade with Alzheimer’s disease, and Pat had prayed that her body would fail before her mind. This blessing she was not granted.
As I write, she is approaching her 80th birthday. Her body is finally beginning to fail. She will likely not live much past 80, if she reaches that milestone. As she no longer remembers herself or her family, she lives in a perpetual now. On her good days, it is a happy ongoing moment. On the bad ones, well, there are worse things than death.
More than anyone I’ve ever known, my mother Pat is my hero. She did not divorce and seek out a career out of vanity. While an ardent feminist and committed liberal, her dream for herself had been to be a housewife and mother. This also was denied her.
Her life is a story of brave self-sacrifice, a total commitment to serve. What drove her was need. There was no safety net, no cash reserve that she could count on when the chips were down. She strove alone, for her children, for the victims who came to her, and because she really could not count on another human being for help.
Patricia Ann lived the fierce benediction of the Spanish mystic Miguel de Unamuno, “May God deny you peace but grant you glory!” At great cost, she saved lives. So did and do many others who share our world, living lives of quiet desperation and indefatigable determination to stand between those whom they love and harm, at any price.
In Maine and then Idaho, Ralph K. Ginorio has taught the history of Western civilization to high school students for nearly a quarter century. He is an “out-of-the-closet” Conservative educator with experience in special education, public schools, and charter schools, grades 6-12. He has lived in Coeur d’Alene since 2014. Email: email@example.com