#MeToo: Why I Lock My Gate

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This morning, Donald Trump tweeted:

“I have no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents. I ask that she bring those filings forward so that we can learn date, time, and place!”

Putting aside the fact that we can all agree that sexual assault in any form—rape, attempted rape, or fondling—is inherently bad, Donald Trump has done here what men throughout American history have done: minimized the female experience of sexual violence. He has blamed the victim. Why didn’t she come forward? Why didn’t she report it?

I’ll tell you why.

Women and girls who survive a sexual assault have many reasons for not coming forward, one of which is the fear of backlash, which Donald Trump himself has just provided a prime example of in his tweet.

Women are also subject to intimidation following a sexual assault, especially considering that 72% of women were acquainted with or in an intimate relationship with the man who assaulted them. They knew the perpetrator. That means he would be around after the assault, perhaps in the same classes, at the same job, or even in the same house.

I know of this first hand, and it is the reason why I lock my gate.

I spent four and a half years in a verbally, physically, and sexually abusive relationship. The reasons for why I stayed are many, and include the facts that I was young, I had nowhere else to go, and I was scared to leave—he was a police officer and former marine; he had guns and he was very possessive.

But I tried to report a rape once.

I told him, after he assaulted me, that I was going to call 911. He stood between me and the phone—all six-feet-four-inches of him—and put his hand on the police-issue utility belt that hung on a coat rack beside the phone. It held his Glock.

He said, “Go ahead. Bill’s on duty. He already knows you’re crazy.”

So, Mr. Trump, it wasn’t that the assault wasn’t that “bad”—it was. It was that I had to go through a big man, a Glock, and a 911 system that would have been answered by a friend of the man who assaulted me. And we lived together, I had nowhere else to go, so the assaults continued. I was afraid that if I reported him, he would have killed me.

I am still afraid, twenty-four years later. That is why I lock my gate. My fence is tall—six feet, but the lock makes it secure. It is a regular padlock, attached to the inside latch. No one can open my gate when I am home. I am safe.

Which is good, because he is now a chief of police three hours away, a member of Donald Trump’s darling “Law Enforcement Authorities.”

Yes, you read that right: a chief of police. He is in charge of investigating cases of domestic violence and sexual assault.

God help the women in his town. I hope they lock their gates.

 

#MeToo

The Lost Children: Vietnam

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“Rejoice O young man, in thy youth…”
– Ecclesiastes (from Platoon)

 

I had a strange thought today.

Those of you who have been reading my blog know that I have two fathers: my Dad, George, who raised me; and Jim, my birthfather.

My strange thought today was about Jim.

Jim was in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970. He was based at Lai Khe, headquarters of the 1st Infantry Division and an important base for the outer defense of Saigon. The base had a sign over its gate that read, “Welcome to Rocket City”–in part because by 1970 it was, along with Khe Sanh, one of the most heavily-rocketed bases in South Vietnam.

Jim was in the Air Force, flying back seat as the weapons specialist in an OV-10 Bronco, the Forward Air Control “plane of choice” during the war. He and his pilot served the same type of duty as army scouts–ranging far ahead from the main detachment in search of NVA and VC troops. Once those troops were located, Jim, as the weapons specialist, would mark the target with white phosphorus. Then Air Force, Marine, or Navy aircraft–or artillery–would take over.

My strange thought came as I was watching the film Platoon this afternoon. I thought I remembered how many American soldiers died in Vietnam, but I wanted to be sure, so I Googled it. It was as I remembered: 58,220. I remembered the number from my teenage years, when I was fascinated by the Vietnam War and consumed anything I could find related to it–books, movies, TV shows, magazine articles.

But I never thought about the number. I knew it was a horrific amount of people, but I never thought until today that the majority of those killed in action were just kids–average age nineteen–who would never become husbands and fathers. I thought today about all the children that weren’t born because those 58,220 men were killed.

And then I thought of myself.

Jim survived. He wasn’t shot down. He didn’t crash. Despite being in a light, slow-moving aircraft far out in front of the main group for a full year, he did not go down. He survived.

Which means I survived, too.

A strange thought, like I said.

I’m here, but the children of thousands of other soldiers are not. This is devastating.

But this also means that I may have some role to play in the world, some purpose. As many Vietnam veterans themselves say, why did I make it when so many others did not? There must be a reason.

I suppose the children of veterans of World War II and Korea may feel the same way. A certain sense of grace or luck. Just one well-aimed rocket-propelled grenade, just one loose screw on a wing or engine part, and I would not be here.

I guess, in a way, we can all say that about ourselves. We would not be here if not for the ones who came before us. But there’s something about knowing your DNA survived a war when others did not that makes it different. They are the lost children of Vietnam–the ones who were never born.

As I said, I was always fascinated by the Vietnam War, even decades before I knew Jim served there. I cried at The Wall as an eighth grader, drawing stares from my classmates on a school trip. I felt something back then, staring at the black granite, I just didn’t know what.

Maybe now I do.

Adoption: My Final Post

Loch Lomond, Scotland. Ancestral home to one side of my birth father’s family.

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I’ve realized that people who aren’t adopted will never understand the experience of being an adopted person. And for that reason, this is my last post about the topic of adoption.

There are some things a person simply cannot understand unless they have lived it. I, as a white woman, will never truly understand what it means to be a woman of color in the United States. I can study the issue, listen to stories and experiences, but I can never feel it in my core and in my bones because I’ve never lived it.

It is the same with adoptees and non-adoptees. If you grew up amongst your family of origin, you took certain things for granted. Your mother was Irish, so you were Irish. Your father had black hair, so that’s where your black hair came from. You have eczema or gastritis or acne or bunions–and so did your grandmother. You know where it came from. It makes sense. The pieces fit together.

Adoptees don’t have that. The pieces don’t fit. Nothing can be taken for granted–not the hair on your head or the bunions on your toes. It all comes from an elusive “somewhere;” a nebulous, mysterious place where the family of origin lurks, in the shadows. Sometimes, reunions happen and mysteries are solved–I know that one quarter of me comes from the region of Loch Lomond, Scotland, for example, and I cling to that like a drowning person clings to a life raft. But the full puzzle is never made complete. It can never be made complete because the adopted person was erased from the family of origin.

No matter what, you are still a person of two worlds. You are still betwixt and between. You are still a person who was lost and then found.

It is a mythological archetype, the lost child found and raised into greatness. Orphans-turned-heroes abound in popular fiction: Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Jon Snow, Rey, Frodo Baggins. But the reality of the lost child found is much different. After his parents’ death, Harry Potter was rescued from a life under the stairs and became a famous wizard. Luke Skywalker was plucked from his uncle’s farm and became a great Jedi Knight, only to find out later the not-so-great truth about his birth parents. We, the relinquished ones, were “rescued,” too, but we retain our wounds. We do not become great heroes. The only heroic thing we do is make a path for ourselves in the world, holding close the little baby we once were and doing our best to make peace with our shadowy origins.

But that peace does not come easily to everyone. Some adoptees find it, yes. But others do not. And, I have decided, non-adoptees cannot fully understand us in our struggle. Because they are not us. They do not have the knowledge that they were relinquished at birth. If you are a non-adoptee reading this, imagine, for just a moment, how you would feel if your parents had decided at your birth to relinquish you to strangers. Think of that. Think of how that would have shaped your view of yourself and of the world.

And I am not blaming the birth parents here. I am blaming the system. I am blaming the system that for decades shamed women and men who had children in a non-traditional way and forced them, for society’s sake, to give those children away for whatever reason. Society became more important than the family.

And so, I have, in these three posts, spoken my truth. And that is all it is–my truth. No more and no less. I have caused consternation in some circles with my posts, but that was not my intention. I can only write what I have lived.

I am a strong believer in the importance of dialogue, especially in the times we are living in now. I have always felt that discussion and discourse can solve any problem, can settle any misunderstanding. But perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps there is no way to fully communicate the experience of the adoptee to a non-adopted person. I’m a pretty good writer, and I’ve done my best. But I guess that wasn’t good enough.

So, take my posts for what they are–my experiences. If they leave you angry or confused, move on. You are likely not an adoptee, or, if you are an adoptee, you have had a very different experience than me. Consider yourself lucky.

My truth is all I have. It is all I can give. Take away what feels right, and leave the rest.

Adoption: The Double-Sided Sword

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Everything about adoption is double-sided, like a sword. And, like a sword, the issues of adoption cut both ways and they cut deep. Excalibur, the sword of the legendary King Arthur, was pulled from a stone–by Arthur–after dozens of unworthy men tugged and yanked but could not get it free. Like Excalibur, many of the issues surrounding adoption are stuck hard and deep and are nearly impossible to budge. The search for birthparents, medical histories, and understanding each other within the adoption triad all come to mind.

Now that we have the metaphors firmly in place, let’s explore the realities of the experiences of the people within an “adoption.”

For the adoptive parents, it is the act of acquiring a child, a child they have long waited for and are eager to love. This is the side of the sword that shines brightly in the sun–the side we all smile at and the side that warms the hearts of people not within the adoption triad. It is the fairytale side, the happy side. The side we all, including the adopted person, are expected to rejoice in.

For the birthparents, it is the act of relinquishment. It is the act of giving up a child, a child they have either carried themselves in their own body for nine months or whom they have helped to conceive. This is the side of the sword that is dull and tarnished–the side we do not think of, the side that is full of pain and guilt and regret and, sometimes, shame. It can also be filled with relief, but that relief may still be tinged with sorrow. This is the side that we all, including the adopted person, are expected to ignore.

For the adopted person, it is the dual acts of being abandoned and then received. This reflects both sides of the sword–the dark and the light. But for me, and for every adopted person I have ever known, the sense of abandonment is stronger than the sense of reception, no matter how loving the adoptive family. There is always a darkness inside, a sense of loss, because you were, as an infant, left behind, abandoned. This has been referred to as the “primal wound,” posited by Nancy Newton Verrier in 1993. This is the side of the sword we adoptees know very well because it is in our bones and in our blood, but non-adoptees might be completely ignorant of because they have not lived it. Their bloodline has not been severed.

I read a blog post yesterday in which adoption was described as “a monster.” I both agree and disagree. There it is, the double-sided sword again.

The part of me that agrees feels as the author felt–that in order for an adoptive family to be created, another family has to be destroyed. That is monstrous. That is the dull and tarnished side of the blade. That is the side of the blade full of grief and pain and feelings of abandonment and original trauma. I, personally, will never be whole, I know that. The monster took away my chances of ever reaching completeness the day I was born.

The part of me that disagrees is perhaps swayed by the fairytales and my own experience. The shiny side of the blade gave me my Dad–my best friend. My Mom loves me. I was given every material thing I ever needed as a child–summer camp, horseback riding, fishing. I have been more than blessed as an adult by the generosity of my family. I have aunts and cousins who are dear to me.

But I am still an adopted person. More importantly, I am still a relinquished person. And that blade cuts deep.

So, if I exhibit a sense of loss–or a fear of loss–or appear to have a basic mistrust of others, perhaps it is not such a mystery after all–it is the primal wound. Perhaps if you think back to when I was a tiny baby, alone, it will make sense to you.

When you think of the word “adoption,” please remember “relinquishment,” as well. The two go hand-in-hand.

Like a double-sided sword.

 

The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child by Nancy Newton Verrier (Amazon).

His Angel

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“He didn’t want you to be given up.”

Lori, my sister-in-law, Thursday night.

She was speaking of Jim, my birth father, and words he had spoken to her years ago about me–the child he called “his Angel.”

I didn’t know any of this.

I grew up knowing I was adopted. I grew up feeling like some essential part of me was somehow wrong, somehow missing. Off-kilter, out of step with the rest of the world. If the very people who created me were willing to give me away to strangers, then who would, really, want me?

But now I know Jim wanted me. And that has made all the difference.

I’ve cried a lot the last day and a half. Tears of finally feeling accepted. Tears of belonging. Not sad tears, at all. Tears of a sort of relieved joy—a feeling of fitting in at last to the place where I came from.

I have a picture of Jim from 1969, three years before I was born. The picture was taken at Lai Khe, South Vietnam. Jim is young and blond and confident-looking, leaning against a jeep with a cigarette in his hand. He has my cheeks. He has my chin. He has my hair. One of his grandsons, too, has my cheeks and hair. Mind-blowing, after a lifetime of being physically different than everyone in my family.

I never met Jim. He died before I was able to. We had a complex relationship in the years between my finding him and his death. He never told me what he told Lori. He never told me a lot of things.

He never told me I was his Angel.

But through the years, I’ve often thought of him as mine.

I miss you, Jim. Thank you for your words. I’ve heard you now, and it matters.

 

Spiders

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In 2011, I went to Botswana. It was a two-week safari, and a dream fulfilled. I am an animal nut, so being in the Kalahari, the Okavango, and in a white rhino reserve were all ecstasy for me. I saw every African animal imaginable, with the exception of a cheetah.

But I’m not writing about the mammals today–although I could write pages and pages about the lions and the elephants and the hippos. No, today, I’m writing about the spiders.

When you go on an African safari and you’re staying in tents, you’re not permitted to go anywhere in the dark by yourself. This is for the very obvious safety reason–no tour company wants a client eaten. So, you wait faithfully for your guide–in my case, Francis–to walk you to and from your tent when the sun goes down.

One night in the Okavango, we were staying on a small island surrounded by rich, green marshland. We had gone out in mokoros, or narrow canoes, in the afternoon, and had been serenaded at dinner by snorting hippos. It was a lovely day. It was pitch black when Francis walked me back to my tent. As the only solo traveler in my group, I was often the last one dropped off by Francis. I opened the wooden door of my tent and said goodnight to Francis. He told me he’d be back for me at five a.m., and said goodnight.

I stepped into my tent and flicked on the small light by the door.

Someone had lit my mosquito coil, and it burned lazily in a red clay dish in the middle of the room. The smoke curled slowly upward, and for some reason, my eyes rose with it. The ceiling of the tent–dark green canvas gathered in the center at a large, looping knot–was covered with dozens and dozens of spiders. Big spiders, medium-sized spiders, small spiders. Spiders with spots, spiders with stripes, spiders with long, arching legs that looked like they were made for leaping.

Now, I have spent the majority of my life afraid of spiders. And at the moment that I flicked on the light in that tent, I was afraid of spiders. I’m the girl who used to scream when there was a daddy-long-leg in the shower, hoping my Dad would come in and kill it with a paper towel.

But in the Okavango after dark, you can’t leave your tent alone.

So, what did I do? I looked up at that ceiling, and I said, “I am no longer afraid of spiders.” Then, I climbed into my pajamas, slid into bed, and turned off the light.

In the morning, the spiders were gone, away back to whatever crevices of the tent they called home during the day. Francis came for me at five a.m., as promised, and we went to breakfast.

This story comes back to me now as I battle sudden-onset hypothyroidism. I have been very sick for nearly three months with extreme fatigue, weakness, and muscle pains. I am blessed to have a job that is seasonal, and I have had the time off to rest and try to get well. But Tuesday, the junior hockey season begins, and I return to work. I am not yet one hundred percent. And I am scared.

But I am no longer afraid of spiders. I stared dozens of them down in Africa despite a lifetime of fear. And so, I face Tuesday with the knowledge that I can overcome fear and I can overcome odds. I am strong–my trip to Africa taught me that in a hundred different ways.

Right now as I type, I am afraid of what Tuesday will bring, I am afraid of how I will feel physically when the alarm goes off at five a.m. on September 4th–but when the time comes, I will look at the day squarely and say, “I am no longer afraid.”

The spiders taught me that.

Ana de Osorio

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Ana de Osorio was the Countess of Chinchon, a Spanish noblewoman assigned with her husband, the Viveroy of Lima, to a post in Peru.  The assignment came in 1630, and by all accounts, Ana was not thrilled to be leaving Spain for the New World.

Very soon after arriving in Peru, both Ana and her husband came down with malaria, a mosquito-borne illness endemic to South America. Ana tried many home remedies to solve the crisis of their fever, but none worked. She soon learned of a local cure, and instructed her servants to search for the specific magical plant which would solve their illness.

Eventually, the plant was found. Its bark held the ingredient quinine, which when ingested by Ana and her husband, had them quickly on the mend.

In 1638, Ana and her husband were sent back to Spain. Ana, thinking ahead, put some of the malaria-curing bark into her luggage. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect, as they arrived in Spain just in time for a malaria outbreak there. Ana shared the wealth of her quinine bark, and cured many a sick Spaniard. Ana became famous throughout Spain as the woman who could cure malaria.

A century after Ana brought quinine to the Old World, famous Swedish botanist Linnaeaus developed his Latin-naming structure for plants and animals. In a honor of Ana, Countess of Chinchon, he named the quinine plant’s genus Chinchona.

In British India and elsewhere in the tropical British Empire, gin and tonic was consumed because of the quinine found in tonic water, thus preventing malaria in the consumer.

 Although it has been replaced in modern times by artemisinin medications, today, quinine is a major preventative treatment for malaria worldwide. It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medications.

All because of the discovery of a woman you’ve probably never heard of—Ana de Osorio.

Uppity Women of the Medieval Ages

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Operation Babylift

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Following on the heels of my post about First Lieutenant Sharon Ann Lane, I wanted to write about the heroism of another group of women at the end of the Vietnam War.

In the spring of 1975, commercial aircraft leaving Saigon were filled to capacity. The military, out of necessity, began offering seats on cargo planes to American civilians in an effort to get them out of the country.

But there was a special group of civilians, not quite Americans—yet. Vietnamese orphans, who had families eagerly waiting to adopt them in the United States.

Orphanages in South Vietnam were suffering gravely from a lack of basic medical supplies and food, and aid workers were scrambling to try to get as many orphans back to the United States as they could. The problem was transportation.

USAID (Unites States Aid to International Development) eventually came through and promised three Medevac flights for the orphans to be sent from a base in the Philippines.

But the day after this promise was made, April 4th, 1975, aid workers were told that one of the world’s largest planes was to be sent instead—the C-5A cargo plane. President Gerald Ford had heard about the plight of the orphans and authorized the use of the giant plane for what was soon termed “Operation Babylift.”

The plane was massive—six stories high. Under normal circumstances, it carried helicopters and tanks. It was not suited to carrying passengers. For this reason, aid workers decided that only children three years of age and older would be sent out on the C-5A, because only they could be properly secured.

Twenty-two infants were sent, however. They were chosen from among the very strongest, and were secured in the seats of the troop compartment of the plane.

Fifteen minutes after take-off, as the plane was approaching its cruising altitude, the back doors blew out. The pilot was skilled enough that, despite a lack of rudder control, he was able to turn the plane around and head back to Saigon. But he was unable to control his rate of descent, and the plane impacted in a rice paddy outside Saigon at 350 mph.

Approximately 130 passengers and crew were killed, including an estimated seventy-three children and thirty-eight women. All of the women who died worked for various U.S. government aid agencies at the time of the flight, with the exception of Laurie Stark, who was a teacher, and Captain Mary Therese Klinker, an Air Force flight nurse assigned to Clark Air Base in the Philippines.

The goal of these women was to get a group of orphans to loving homes in the United States, and they died in service to that goal. They should be remembered for their heroism. And the children should be remembered, too, for the lives they could have lived here in the States, after spending their early years in a country marked by war.

I was three years old in 1975, and I’m adopted. Were I born in another place and in other circumstances, I could very well have been on that plane.

To the women and children of Operation Babylift: we remember.

The Women:

Barbara Adams 
Clara Bayot
Nova Bell
Arleta Bertwell
Helen Blackburn
Ann Bottorff
Celeste Brown
Vivienne Clark
Juanita Creel
Mary Ann Crouch
Dorothy Curtiss
Twila Donelson
Helen Drye
Theresa Drye (a child)
Mary Lyn Eichen
Elizabeth Fugino
Ruthanne Gasper
Beverly Herbert
Penelope Hindman
Vera Hollibaugh
Dorothy Howard
Barbara Kauvulia

Captain Mary Therese Klinker
Barbara Maier
Rebecca Martin
Sara Martini
Martha Middlebrook
Katherine Moore
Marta Moschkin
Marion Polgrean
June Poulton
Joan Pray
Sayonna Randall
Anne Reynolds
Marjorie Snow
Laurie Stark
Barbara Stout
Doris Jean Watkins
Sharon Wesley

Virtual Wall

Operation Babylift Memorial

 

Sharon Ann Lane

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I usually write about ancient women on this blog—women from Classical times—because I’ve always felt like their contribution to history has been forgotten. But I recently came upon the story of another woman, a modern woman, whose story I think has also been forgotten. And I want to share her story with you because I think it deserves to be told.

Sharon Ann Lane. First Lieutenant in the United States Army. A nurse stationed at the 312th Evacuation Hospital, Chu Lai, Vietnam in 1969.

Sharon was born in 1943 in Ohio. She graduated from high school in Canton in 1961. After high school, she attended the Aultman Hospital School of Nursing, where she graduated in April of 1965. She worked at a civilian hospital before joining the U.S. Army Nurse Corps Reserve in April of 1968.

She received her army training at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, where all army nurses trained in the 1960s, graduating as a second lieutenant in June of 1968. Her first assignment as an army nurse was on a tuberculosis ward at the Army’s Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver, Colorado.

On April 24th, 1969, she received orders sending her to Vietnam.

Sharon was sent to Chu Lai, the home of two army hospitals in the first half of 1969—the 27th Surgical Hospital and the 312th Evacuation Hospital. Sharon was originally assigned to the Intensive Care Unit of the 312th, but a few days later was moved to the Vietnamese ward. There, she cared for women, children, and the occasional POW. It was not an assignment most staffers wanted, but Sharon repeatedly declined offers of transfers to other wards.

In addition to her twelve-hour shifts on the Vietnamese ward, Sharon spent her off-duty time working with critically injured American soldiers in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. According to those who served with her, she was “adored and respected” by everyone in the hospital.

Early on the morning of June 8th, 1969, the Viet Cong attacked the 312th with 122mm rockets. Sharon was just finishing up her night shift on the Vietnamese ward, when one rocket struck Ward 4—her ward. Sharon was struck with shrapnel in the chest and throat, and killed instantly.  She was twenty-five years old.

Sharon was the only female American military member killed by enemy action in the Vietnam War.

Although seven other nurses died in Vietnam, their deaths were the result of accidents or illness. Sharon gave her life the way so many of her patients had—at the hands of the enemy.

Following her death, Fitzsimons General Hospital renamed its recovery room in honor of Sharon, and a statue of her was erected in front of Aultman Hospital, where she had been a nursing student. Roads in Denver, Colorado and in Belvoir, Virginia have been named for her.

Approximately five thousand nurses served in-country over the course of the Vietnam War, most living in tough conditions doing a brutal job. They have been dubbed “Angels of Mercy” for their work.

But Sharon truly is an angel, if you believe in that sort of thing. She would be seventy-four today, retired from a long career as a nurse, most likely. But instead, she lost her life at a young age doing hard work for a country that, at the time, had little in the way of gratitude.

Thank you, Sharon. And God bless.

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The Virtual Wall

Army History

Defense Media Network

Livia, Empress of Rome

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Two weeks ago, I sat in Livia’s dining room.

Not her actual dining room, but within the four painted plaster walls that lined her dining room two thousand years ago and now are located at the Museo Palazzo Massimo in Rome.  And as I sat there surrounded by those four walls, I wondered what those walls had heard, what they had seen.  I wondered about the woman who called upon the Imperial painters to create a dining space that gave the illusion to her guests that they were eating al fresco.  I was mesmerized by the paintings; drawn to this woman whose taste was so much like my own.  Who was she?  What was she like?  What did she and her women friends discuss in this room?  Their children?  Their men?  Their joys and their sorrows?

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And so I decided to write about Livia, one of the most famous women in Roman history.  Wife to Augustus, first emperor of Rome, mother to the emperor Tiberius, grandmother to emperor Claudius, and great-grandmother to emperor Caligula.

When she married Augustus (at the time, Octavian), she already had a son (Tiberius), and in the fifty-one years of marriage to Augustus, she had no other children.  Her role, however, was that of counsel to her husband, and she gave him wise political advice and support throughout his reign as emperor.  This was wildly unusual for the times, as women were considered to be outside the sphere of politics for much of the span of Roman history.  For this alone, we should admire Livia.

Livia lived humbly, despite her status as empress.  She was the role model for the Roman “matrona” or matron.  She wore very little jewelry or makeup, often made her own clothing and that of her husband.  Augustus even gave Livia the (then) outlandish right to govern her own finances and dedicated a public statue to her.

When Augustus died in AD 14, he bequeathed one-third of his estate to Livia, and he also adopted her into the Julian family dynasty, giving her the honorific title of Augusta.  All of these things meant that Livia was able to maintain her power after her husband’s death, and as the mother of the new emperor, Tiberius, she still maintained a position of importance in the empire in any case.

There are tales from ancient sources that tell of tensions between Livia and her son Tiberius during his years as emperor.  It is even said that Tiberius’ retirement to the island of Capri was an attempt to get away from his mother.  At Livia’s death in AD 29, Tiberius refused to return to Rome and vetoed all the honorifics the Senate wished to bestow upon Livia.  However, thirteen years later, during the reign of Livia’s grandson Claudius, all of her honors were restored and her deification was completed.

Women spoke her name during their sacred oaths, her statue was erected beside her husband’s at the Temple of Augustus, and races were held in her honor.  Her ashes remained beside her husband’s in his temple until the Sack of Rome in AD 410, when they, like his, were scattered.

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Painted wall from Livia’s dining room, Palazzo Massimo, Rome, Italy.  Author’s photo.

 

Read More: Empress of Rome: The Life of Livia by Matthew Dennison.