I began my writing career based on a childhood promise I made myself, following the death of my younger brother, Charlie boy, that I would preserve his story in a memoir. Of which A Goodbye To Rita & Charlie, following On The Ropes, is the product; a story founded on that loss and my family’s encounter with Dorothy Day, secular Saint, and co-founder of the Catholic Worker.
I was nine when Charlie boy died. We had moved from the Bahamas, 1951, when I was six. We lived in Florida briefly, a year and a half more or less. For my family Florida was a game changer. We had come from affluence, in the Bahamas, to encounter a down turn in fortune, as well as encounter a hitherto unknown disease peculiar to the States —racism! From privilege in the islands, we found ourselves in turbulent waters. My father, an oxford graduate, was profoundly affected by our downward spiral.
“Knocked off his pins,” you might say. And false pride would not allow him to return home. Hence, we were beleaguered. My mother, however, the youngest daughter of a prosperous farmer, was, by birth and inclination, though unlettered, better able to cope. It was at this point that my father fortuitously enough met Dorothy Day. After hearing his story, she invited our family to stay at a Catholic Worker farming community on Staten Island.
Other than my birthplace, Nassau, I spent two of the most wonderful years of my childhood on that farm among intellectuals, anarchist, poets, artist, radicals, defrocked priests, agnostics, atheist, would be saints, and social outcasts, all seeking a redemption of sorts.