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Real Mothers Never Give Up; Just Ask L.Y. Marlow

I never for a minute doubted that if I had gone missing, my late mother (referred to in this blog as “SWIE," for “She Who Is Exalted”) would have come to find me. I grew up knowing – and I mean “knowing” in the intrinsic, deep-in-my-bones, there-can-be-no-other-truth sense – that: 1) There is a God; and 2) My mother loved me more than anyone else in the world loved me, with the possible exception of my father. Even today, when I get pissed off at BMNB, I tell him that the only two things I know for sure is that there is a God and that my mother loved me; everything else is subject to debate.

If I had come up missing, I knew that SWIE would have hunted to the ends of the earth to find me. That she would have probably loaded up her Olds ’98 with my aunts – one riding shotgun, the other in the back, all smoking cigarettes and wearing house slippers – and set out looking for me and the poor sap who made the mistake of snatching me up in the first place.

I would imagine that hostage negotiations with SWIE would have gone something like this:

SWIE: Do you have my child? I said, DO YOU HAVE MY CHILD? . . . . Excuse me, DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU’RE TALKING TO? Put my baby on the phone. I SAID, PUT MY BABY ON THE PHONE, GODDAMN IT! DON’T MAKE ME COME THROUGH THIS PHONE AND KICK YOUR ASS! You are getting on my one good nerve . . .

And, once apprehended, the offender would have been castrated. Why? Because SWIE believed that men who brought harm to children should be castrated as a matter of course. No judge, no jury, no due process of law. Castration on the spot. Period. Knowing her, she probably would have used a boulder, too. Or a butter knife.

I also knew that if I had gotten in trouble with the law, SWIE would have sought my release until she was released from this earth. Mind you, I’m not saying she would have condoned the behavior that got me in trouble with the law in the first place, but she would have sought my release nonetheless: “Now, Baby, you know what you did was wrong. But I’m going to write the governor to see if we can get you some clemency. You have to pay your dues, but maybe if you act right, we can get the governor to let you out a little early.”

That’s how strong a mother’s love is. Real mothers never give up. It’s just not in their contract.

Just as L.Y. Marlow.

L.Y. Marlow is the author of “Color Me Butterfly,” a nationally recognized book telling the story of four generations of women who endured domestic abuse, L.Y. being among them. The abuse she describes is “domestic” not in the sense that it only involved husbands and wives; it was “domestic” in that it permeated the entire household, with children also being abused by the male head of household. Ms. Marlow recently held a book reading and signing at Underground Books in Sacramento, and she was unabashed in wanting to tell the truth of “intergenerational domestic violence” in hopes that it might change at least one woman’s life.

Perhaps the life of her own daughter.

You see, for all of Ms. Marlow’s success in the literary world and as a domestic violence prevention advocate, she has been unable to eliminate domestic abuse in the life of the most important person in her own life: Her own daughter. Yes, Ms. Marlow’s daughter is in an abusive relationship with the father of Ms. Marlow’s granddaughter, the granddaughter that this abuser has threatened to kill. And despite the fact that Ms. Marlow has moved her daughter three times to get her away from her abuser, the daughter persists in staying with him.

So at her book readings, Ms. Marlow tells her daughter’s story, her fears for her daughter and her granddaughter, and her efforts to enact national legislation through her campaign, the Saving Grace Campaign, to allow relatives of battered women to step in as guardians and get restraining orders on their behalf. The idea, although novel, isn’t new. Ruth Jones, a professor of criminal law at the McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific, published an article in the Georgetown Law Journal advocating guardianships for coercively controlled battered women. Ms. Marlow plans to testify before Congress on this proposal because it could save so many women’s lives, including the lives of her own daughter and granddaughter.

Ms. Marlow recognizes that she can’t make her daughter leave her abuser. That moving her daughter won’t matter if the daughter isn’t ready to break ties with him. But she hasn’t given up. She continues to encourage her daughter, to try to build the self-esteem that is crucial to leaving an abusive relationship, to advocate for changes in the law that will help mothers like her not remain helpless while some person who probably never knew a mother’s love abuses their adult children. Ms. Marlow hasn’t given up, and she probably never will.

A real mother never does.

For more information on L.Y. Marlow, domestic violence abuse prevention, and the Saving Grace campaign, please visit


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