Chapter Two – Warrior Women
By Steven Maisenbacher
I want to talk about something that is very important to me. This chapter has written itself over the past 62 years. It is one that I never even gave much thought to until recently and it’s long overdue. I want to talk about the women in my life; women who have come through my life and stayed, women who have now passed beyond sorrow, and women I have drawn strength, understanding, and wisdom from.
See, this is not so much about these women as it is about men and I feel that I need to say these things because I haven’t heard it said yet. They are amazing to me, these warrior women, and don’t get it twisted, they are warriors.
I would have to start with my mother, Judy Pierce Maisenbacher Montgomery, what an amazing woman! She adopted four children and made us all her own; she loved and nurtured us all and brought us to adulthood doing everything that she could.
My sister, Judy is now beyond sorrow, her life cut off far too soon. She was an amazing woman, strong yet beautiful, smart yet funny, nurturing and loving, raising her son, Josh, by herself helping him to become a wonderful young man. The world lost a whole lot when Judy passed but Josh’s story didn’t stop with his mother’s passing.
Another woman, my brother, Bob’s wife, Bab, stepped in to love and nurture her nephew. Josh is now grown with a family of his own; a beautiful wife, Anna, and a son, JP. I’m so proud of that kid I could just choke. I haven’t spoken to him for quite a while maybe someday soon.
That brings me to another woman who taught me what it means to love and how to love. My beautiful wife, my Janice. I miss you this second, with every beat my heart screams, please don’t leave, I feel so alone without you. I don’t know how I’ve made it this far without your guidance and your love and your giving me hell when I was being an idiot.
I think that ultimately we see women as soft and warm and motherly but we as men fail to recognize the warrior spirit inside our women – the spirit that would allow them to attack any predator, to love and defend their children to the death and meet any odds against them to do so with no fear. This warrior woman spirit is truly a blessing of the Creator. Just like always, Creator provides all that we need if we just open our eyes.
Many other women have made an impact on my life in different ways. One of my bosses, Patricia Groome, was the supervisor at a federal prison manufacturing site. She was more than just a boss. Her guidance taught me many of the skills I have now – how to effectively plan and execute towards a goal, a job that would usually take several people to complete. She also taught me not to fear any task because the only part of the task that you can’t complete is the part that you don’t get started, so if you start it you can finish it. This woman treated us like men and not inmates and that was amazing to me. I wish I could reach out to her and tell her how much of an impact she had on my life but I think she knows. She had a huge impact on all the lives she touched including those of her own family. Wherever you are Mrs. Groome, I hope you’re doing good.
She was just one of many females, warrior women to be sure, strong intelligent creative and courageous. Others have come into my life off and on tapping at the seams of my understanding sometimes getting through to me. After all I’m not the easiest person to reach. I’m stubborn and I’m opinionated and I’m hard-headed. Maybe that’s what has gotten me through all this, my determination to never bend and never give up. As I say most every day, I’m walks On The Grass and I Will Never Surrender.
Men, just think about all women do. They bear our children, they raise our children, they feed us, they give us compassion, warmth, love, and understanding, all the time knowing that they are on the front lines of life even when we are not! They’re loving us and they are doing what they have to do to fight the battle for their own. What else can you call them or what else would you call them but warrior women?
I’d like to speak about some other strong women who have come through my life. First, my “adopted” sister, Leontien, who has meant so much to me over the past several years. She came into my life in an around about way through Helga, a woman I corresponded with who claimed to love me but tried to change me into what she wanted me to be. She was not interested in who I was, nor who I am. Needless to say that relationship did not last more than a couple years and that’s okay because out of the deal I got an amazing woman in my life. Helga introduced me to Leontien. We talked online a few times and I spoke about my sister Judy’s passing and how it affected me. I missed Judy and I had no one in my life to talk reason to me when I wouldn’t be reasonable, to speak lovingly to me when I was angry or being mean. Judy always brought me back to earth and Leontien could too, just like Judy would. Her insight or laughter and her ability to see the same reason that Judy always used to see and to get it through to me in a way that I might understand and become a better man for it. Leontien is from Amsterdam or that area in the Netherlands. She’s has a beautiful family, a loving husband and two beautiful daughters, each as talented as they could possibly be in their own ways, good girls, amazing women, warrior women.
More than once, Leontien has travelled 7,000 miles to see me so that she could share a smile and a hug and to let me steal her strawberry kiwi drink when she got up. I think she knew I did it, in fact we often joke about that. We don’t get away with much when it comes to these warrior women; they just act like they don’t know in order to make us feel as if we did something special, something ingenious.
It’s rather silly but men will be boys and boys grow to men but only because of warrior women. There could be no other understanding of that simple fact; not a man alive would be the man that he is where there not a warrior woman in his past, his future, his forever.
Others that have touched my life, however fleetingly, are some of the women that are here with me right now in this halfway house. They are called MINT Moms, meaning Mothers and Infants Together. These warrior women are in the federal prison system; they are pregnant awaiting the birth of their babies. They live here at the halfway house to receive prenatal care and to give birth. They will be allowed to spend a month or two months with the baby before giving the child to a family member to care for.
These women must go back to prison to finish paying their debt to society, but their warrior hearts want only to go home to care for their babies and older children. The strength and human spirit of these women is amazing to me. They meet each day with a smile for the people around them, treating others with dignity and respect knowing full well they will be separated from that child. How they can share smiles and laughter is simply amazing to me. Warrior women, each and every one of them.
I don’t know Elicia very well yet. She’s a pretty young woman, friendly but stays mostly to herself. Who can know what burdens people bear? Maybe one day, we can be friends. Then there’s Larissa, also pretty, quiet and unassuming but ready with a smile or an offhand comment. To me that shows strength that a lot of people don’t bear. Larissa is really cool; she talks to me, she’s friendly and has been helpful. To me they are both warrior women.
If it wasn’t for some of these women I wouldn’t be able to just sit here and do what I’m doing right now. See, this phone, this technological pain in my butt would be my undoing. In my mind I’m still in 1980 but in this halfway house I’m forced to be in 2022. Things other people take for granted are amazing to me. Learning to use this phone is part of my journey and I wouldn’t be able to do it if it wasn’t for the help of these warrior women. You women are the bomb!
Then I want to speak about Crystal. She’s a young woman, ready to give birth just any day and so big that she looks like she’s toting around a basketball. After her baby is born she will go home from here. Though she doesn’t have to go back to prison, consider how strong will she need to be to take her child home after prison? Yet Crystal is still able to be caring and tolerant and helpful to an old man who is clueless in this world and alone. Sometimes, most of the time, at least in my mind, I feel that way. All these warrior women are here in my life and it feels like Creator has placed them there for me and for me to help them as well.
And then there’s my little buddy Candace. She’s a cutie and she’s going to have a baby. Candace already has four other children. They are beautiful kids; she showed me pictures. She’s so proud of those children, she just glows when she speaks of them. Candace has a wonderful heart and an awesome medicine spirit about her. She’s a Christian woman who found Jesus early in her problems. He brought her through addictions and she truly walks the walk; she’s one of those people that even if you are not a Christian you have to admire the radiance and the power that the Creator has given them. Through whatever concept, Candace is a warrior woman. In fact she’s the one that showed me what buttons to push to do this right. <smile>
Then there’s Siobhan although she’s not expecting a baby, she’s a BOP woman getting ready to go home. Siobhan has several children at home. She works all day, harder than any woman I’ve ever seen. She comes home to the halfway house so tired she can barely stay on her feet, and then I’ve seen her with a basket full of laundry to do so she will have clean clothes for the next day. After having been on her feet for 12 hours working in a hot, uncaring environment she always manages to make me smile. Siobhan is one of the real women, a warrior woman.
And last but definitely not least a woman who’s just phenomenal. She’s smart, more like genius. If brilliance came in baskets it would take a convoy of semis to carry her load. Her name is Sings Many Songs. Most of you know her as Edna. I know her as a woman of compassion and wonder and curiosity and love – unconditional love. This woman has helped so many people in her life. Without Sings, this world, this planet would be far less, with far less wonder and beauty for those that she’s helped. Sings reached out to me when I met her several years ago through my brother, Ghost. We hit it off immediately. She was able to reach me and from the first moments that we really talked, I knew I could trust her. This woman is the epitome of warrior women.
She has raised her own beautiful family and lived her life with her husband, Jack who is a smart man in his own right. He worked in the NASA space program and helped put a man on the moon on my birthday. Little did I know, none in fact, when I looked at the moon that night, July 20, 1969 from Shaheen’s Raceway that the rocket on the moon with the men walking there would be put there in part by somebody who would be put into my life many years later through his wife. Sings, I don’t know how I can say strongly enough what you mean to me.
You have never wavered in your support, you’ve never faltered in your love and nurturing and care for me, my thoughts, my beliefs or the goodness that’s in me. Often you have said you didn’t know the bad me and the funny thing is, I don’t know that man anymore either. I’m glad he’s a stranger and I don’t ever want to meet him. I want to be exactly the man that you’ve helped me to become. I want to face all these things in my life, this new adventure and journey with your help and your guidance.
You made me a part of your family, and even though we are related by blood so distant, yet so true and distinct, not everyone would take on the burden of a man like me. I thank you and I’m honored to know you. You are a warrior woman and I want to say this in closing. I now understand why my people have always revered our women, why we are a matriarchal society, and why we hold all that is sacred in the hands of our women. I understand and honestly, warrior to warrior, were it not for you there would not be a me ready to face the world.
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