Josette Kubaszyk grew up the youngest daughter of an artist mother and a second generation Polish immigrant father, young parents who within 10 years of marriage had produced eight children. Raised under the stifling confines of their control, Josette early on learned to keep to herself any failure in living up to her parents’ perfectionist expectations. As she became more and more practiced in hiding faults and her own dissention from truth, she learned to mirror her mother’s inherent ability to keep the family secrets—eventually even from herself. By the time she was married, Josette was convinced she had grown up in nothing less than a perfect and closely knit, loving family.

But all that changed shortly after the birth of her son Nathan, diagnosed with cerebral palsy and a genetic abnormality (“syndrome other”) that left him with severe mental and physical disabilities and a bleak life expectancy. Josette soon realized that children, especially disabled ones, are anything but perfect, and when brief snapshots of her own abusive childhood began disrupting her days and haunting her nights, the evanescent memories collided with her new experiences of motherhood and all she’d been taught to believe about what it means to be a perfect child.

In the Never Never is a collection of lyric essays that attempt to tease truth from memory and to reconcile uncertain recollections with what we are taught to believe about family truth. But it’s more than that. It’s the author’s attempt to break through the silence, find her voice, and provide a voice for those who have none. Into the Never Never works to speak the unspeakable and ultimately, to understand what it means to be a parent, a mother, a child, and what it means to be human in a less than perfect world. 

In the Never Never

A Lyric Memoir

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     He bends to tie his shoe, the grey lace smoothly slipping through his fingers with a practiced ease I can never accomplish. They say Converse, once white and new and smelling of rubber and canvas, but now a dull grey that no amount of washing will remove.

            It’s done. Simple as that. He scootches up his jeans and slips out of the bathroom. The linoleum is still cold under my thigh, my ability to produce heat forced out with his collapse against my naked chest.

            I pull on my strappy shirt, pink and flowered and wrinkled. I can’t get my underwear right, both legs tangle in the same hole, tripping their way out. I need to hurry. I need to get out. Get out. Before my mother comes home.

            My stomach hurts….hold my breath….if she catches me. Hurry. Fumble with the door. I need to get out. Bare feet. No shoes to tie. I am lucky.

In the Never Never