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Getting to Know You with Kathy Plourde

edited by Roberta Croteau

I was born on July 23,1952 and named Kathleen Anthony Donahue. The name Kathleen was popular in 1952 and throughout my school days there were always three to five other girls named Kathy, Cathy, Kathleen or Catherine … I always wished my name had been Catherine but according to my 96-year-old aunt my mother liked the name Kathleen.

Anthony now … nobody ever had that name unless it was a boy and that is indeed my middle name. It was a challenge to grow and hear your name called out loud—Kathleen Anthony. The story is, Grandma Zint, my mother’s mother was sick all of my mom’s life with a rheumatic heart. When my mom turned up pregnant, she made a promise to St. Anthony of Padua that if her mom lived until I was born, she would name all her children after him. Yep, Grandma Zint lived until I was 11 months old, and all the Donahue children were given the middle name of Anthony, girls and boys. The boys didn’t care, and the girls hated it. I especially disliked this name because in addition to being called by a boy’s name I was always the tallest girl in the class and of course there were no boys taller than me, so I was always the last one in the girls’ line and always without a partner or with a partner who was significantly shorter than me.

My favorite things to do are to hike and hang my feet over very high places.

I laugh as I write this because it was so difficult as a young teen to be this person and today I’m proud of my height and my middle name. I love the story and although I don’t understand my mom’s attraction to St. Anthony—Patron Saint of Lost Things—I respect it and it wasn’t until my mom died at age 54 that I learned the truth about my birth. Out of wedlock in 1952 was a big damn deal, and the punishment was going to hell in the church that she was raised in and that she raised us in, Roman Catholic. She was the Lost Thing.

All artwork was created during the pandemic.

My father’s mother, Grandma Donahue told me this story after my mom died and I called my dad and told him what his mother had told me—he would not agree or deny—he went silent so I flew to Florida and took him to breakfast and asked again. Again, he would not answer. I looked him in the eyes and said, “Dad, no answer is an answer. Please tell me the truth.” He looked me in the eyes and said, “I promised your mother that you would never know”—and then he began to cry. My heart hurt for my dad trying so hard to honor his promise. I reminded him that everyone knew but me…

We were all raised in the Roman Catholic Church and most of us went to Catholic grammar school, and I went to Catholic High School. As the parents got older, they let go of all the notions of sin and eventually left the church that taught hell and damnation and never the notion that God loves all of God’s Creation.

When I got to high school, I was not doing too well. I was a daily dope smoker and consistently skipping school, but I still maintained a good GPA … I wonder today how well I might have done if I had a smidgen of support at home and let go of the pot smoking. I became the stand-in for my mom when I was 10 years old. Both my parents were drunks and I was in charge of the whole kid clan and if they didn’t listen I got the blame. The only thing I am certain of is that I did my best and when it was time to get out of Dodge I went at fast and as far away as I could.

The only good thing that happened for me in those Catholic schools is that I met the man I was to marry. I was a sophomore in high school and after Christmas a new boy came to our school. I was looking for a way to get to the senior prom and the only way a sophomore could attend was with a senior. So … this new boy was a senior and I saw him coming into the lunchroom. I planned my attack. I caught him coming in the door by smacking him on the rear end and inviting him to a pot party. He declined and I got busted and expelled for a bit and when I got back, he asked me out. I remember him coming to the door and my mom answered and I was right behind her (she was short) and she says, “so you’re going to Pirates World?” I am nodding my head YES and he got it … “Yes, ma'am that’s what we’re doing tonight and well, we'll be home about midnight.” The truth was we were going to the drive-in movies to see the film Valley of the Dolls. The rest is history.

I got to go to the senior prom and as a senior he was allowed to smoke so he held my cigarettes so I could smoke on breaks. I continued to get high but not as regularly in that sophomore year. After Al’s graduation he started college and I longed to be with him—we spent hours on the phone—there were no cell phones, and we would run up big phone bills that ultimately got Al thrown out of college and drafted into the Vietnam War. Rather than be drafted Al joined the Navy and by this time I had just barely graduated.

Al left for bootcamp in April 1971 and two days after he returned, we married and left for California. We moved 18 times to 11 states and loved every minute of it. We have been in Tennessee longer than anywhere else in our lives.We have two sons and five grandkids. Our anniversary is July 15th, and this year was our 50th anniversary.

It has been an amazing journey and I would not trade one moment of it—the hard times taught us how to negotiate and resolve problems—our world view has been enlarged by meeting and interacting with people from all over the world. We never got to live overseas but we got to travel more than was likely in our families.

I have been a member of Art & Soul since April 2010 and it is one of the best things I’ve done in my life. My creative self was always present but never free to create without a very loud critic. My first love was fabric art and being in the many classes I have taken I have become a Jill of all trades and a master of none. I love learning new processes and I hang with them for a bit and then I’m onto the next thing.

I love that my therapist sent me to A&S when I asked her, "What was I to do with this spirituality and creativity?" She responded to go to Art & Soul—that is where she was. I felt that she gave me pay dirt and when I took my first class, I asked Nima if this was art therapy and she responded: “Absolutely not!” and the whole class went, “but it is very therapeutic.”

Indeed, it is therapeutic and spiritual, and I have claimed Art & Soul as my Church since the beginning. I meet the Creator in the creating and the critic is always sent away. When I joined— not long after my first class—I justified the member fees as my tithing … just what I would be doing in church and this is indeed MY church.

One of my favorite memories is learning to engage in the practice of sounding and movement. I was so embarrassed and afraid to make a sound. I had no idea what it even meant to listen and make the sound that wanted to be made. I remember being so grateful for all the loud voices in the circle so I could make my tiny sound and the tears that came almost immediately as I had no idea that my spirit wanted to have a voice. I am ever so grateful for this experience and that I have found my voice and I can listen to my body and my spirit without judgement.

The last TV show I binged on was America Ninja Warrior.

My most recent book is Book of Longing by Sue Monk Kidd … excellent!

I am now reading Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah—a captivating story line.

I love the movie Soul and second runner up is The Queens Gambit.

My guilty pleasure is purchasing books and art supplies … I need to stop.

My favorite vacation is to the beach—Indian Rock near St. Petersburg—because it is not full of high rises and loud people. It is mostly quiet and it’s not too hot and the water isn’t too cold, there are seashells on the shore and dolphins jumping in the distance. I get to walk and play all day without worrying about getting sunburned.

My favorite holiday is … all of them!

My favorite food is shrimp or lobster.

My favorite song is “I Do Love You” by Billy Stewart. 1968 for me…

The craziest thing I believed as a kid was that only Catholics went to heaven. Such BS.

My favorite job is being Grandma. My grandkids make me laugh and challenge me in every way possible. When they were young, they loved to create with me and as they have gotten older this has disappeared, but I have been told by several that it will come back and they will always remember creating with me.

In a time machine I would go back to my mother being alive so we could have a real conversation.

My desired superpower is to time travel.

At 13 years old my first celebrity crush was Dr Kildare/Richard Chamberlain.

My perfect happiness is to wake early and watch the sunrise with lots of clouds and colors while listening to the birds sing and day begins.

My greatest fear is to develop Alzheimer’s disease.

The trait I most deplore in myself is called walking farts.

The trait I most deplore in others is not honoring commitments.

I most admire Michelle Obama.

My greatest extravagance is purchasing books and art supplies.

My current state of mind is to stay in the present and not ruminate.

I overuse the words: “If I told you this you can stop me!”

My most treasured possession is my going-steady ring, my engagement ring and my wedding ring.

My motto is: Do it for fun and for free or don’t do it.

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