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Art of Recovery

Coral Sadowy

Reciting the Truth

Creating singsong verses as a little girl and reciting them over and over in my head, and aloud, helped me escape the fear I felt growing up with violent, alcoholic, very disturbed, parents. Writing and photography are a strengthening gift, opening my eyes to the simplest treasures. A child's smile, the broken down truck, clutters of broken glass, clouds, jonquils, starlight and a myriad of magical moments.

Working on this project with photographs and verse from my childhood has helped me heal, as well as find understanding and forgiveness for my mother and father, and their own suffering.

Verse I Our family photo and my voice as imagined, as a baby in mother’s arms.

Verse II The photo, taken sometime after an event in 1952 when I was 4 years old and pronounced dead at a Minneapolis hospital. People say memories cannot stay with us from that age, but they can. The verse is one of many singsong secrets I hid behind, quietly afraid, hearing my mother’s often told tale/lie of how I’d fallen down the basement stairs, where my brother jumped up and down on my head, until mother found me unconscious, rushed me to the hospital and where I was pronounced dead; then miraculously alive, but always “different.”

The verses helped me escape the memories of Mother’s voice raging as she slammed my head back and forth on the doors edge in our hallway with my brother’s little voice, begging her to stop. Gary was then 5 years old.

Verse III Came about after many years of physical and verbal abuse with an out of control, violent, alcoholic mother who had no inclination at all to protect me from my father’s sexual abuse, but instead added her own, always telling me, “You’re an ugly little girl.” Then later, she

called me a lot worse, and did it over and over, and often times did not speak to me for days.  I do not recall mother ever once hugging me or being there for even a simple conversation. She played mind games, took my friends places and gave them my favorite clothes.

The verse was gleaned from many pages of running thoughts in preparation for my escape at age 16.  In 1964, my brother was sent to “Red Wing,” a boy’s detention school, for drinking and truancy. The truth was that he had frightened my mother and father with his rage at trying to stay alive and they wanted him gone. With him gone, I had no protection.

Soon after, he escaped Red Wing, bringing his friends home. That same day, Mother filed for separation from my dad and within hours had a restraining order, forcing him out of the house.

Thus began the tirade of Mother harboring run-away escapee boys from delinquent boy’s homes in Minnesota; buying them alcohol, cigarettes, hiding their stolen goods, allowing them to mainline narcotics in our living room and having sex with them, among things even worse.

Treating these young boys, as soul mates, she gave them her life, was drunk every day and began full throttle attacks on me physically and verbally. I slit my wrists and she kicked me in the head while my friends hurried me out to their home.

Terrified, I slept with my dresser pushed against the bedroom door. Still, in spite of this, one night I woke with my mother trying to strangle me with a clothes hanger around my neck.

A few days later, she carried my clothes to the street and drove over them in her Buick. There was much more, and eventually I found the strength to leave.

Verse IV Sitting next to mother. Taken when I visited with my son in 1970.

The verse was poignant because I knew I wouldn’t bring my children around her again.

My brother killed himself in 1971 with an overdose of Darvon and Valium prescribed for great pain experienced from a metal pin in his hip, since his teens. It needed removal. He had been sober for many years, but while visiting mother who knew he was overdosing, instead of getting help for him she forced him to drink a full glass of gin. He died within minutes, at age 25. I loved Gary dearly, a kid that got beaten a lot, yet still kept truing. I miss him every day.

I saw little of mother after that visit in 1971 while at my brother’s funeral, until three months prior to her death in 1979 — a brief visit to introduce her to my newborn daughter. Mother died a miserable, lonely woman, bleeding to death internally from a bout with cirrhosis in an emergency room in Tulsa. She was 54. I think of her with deep sadness.

My life has been one of immense self-reflection, therapy, depression, alcoholism and PTSD. I’ve been sober for 30 plus years, and my life is immensely rewarding, not just from finding courage to survive but to challenge myself daily to embrace life as a precious gift to live to its fullest. Most precious is the love of my children and grandchildren, friends and remaining family. The cycle of my life’s madness ended. For that, I remain ever so grateful.

I continue to tell my story, in verse and otherwise, in hope someone is listening and will reach out to help other children that live in silence and unknown fear.

Verse i Verse II
Coral Sadowy, Verse I Coral Sadowy, Verse II

Verse iII
Coral Sadowy, Verse III

Verse iV
Coral Sadowy, Verse IV


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