A Daughter’s Story

A Daughter’s Story

A Message From The Creator

A Message From The Creator

Inspirational Woman Of The Day

Inspirational Woman Of The Day

Inspiration Of Motherhood

Inspiration Of Motherhood

A Daughter’s Story: I Almost Lost My Dad — And We Never Talk About It

By Michelle Persad

Posted: 06/16/2012 9:03 am

This is a story about a women and her father

 I fumbled through my wallet, trying to make out the foreign currency in the dark cab. During our short vacation in Vietnam, I hadn’t taken the time to figure out what the bills looked like. I had no idea how much I owed, but I did know that the ambulance couldn’t have been more than 10 minutes ahead of me. I shoved a couple of dong at the cab driver and leapt out of the car, sprinting to the emergency room. When I got inside, I started asking everyone where I could find a nurse, but all I got were blank stares. Finally I found a nurse and spat out, “I’m here looking for…sick…ten minutes ago…tourist” Somehow even between the language barrier and my frantic panting, she figured out what I was saying. “Okay little girl, this way.” At 17 years old, I was hardly a little girl, but there must have been something about me that night that made a woman half my size refer to me as a child. The nurse led me across some grass that divided some buildings. During my mad dash out of the cab I hadn’t noticed all the people waiting outside of the hospital walls. There were families sleeping in tents, young women preparing meals and small children jumping rope. It was like a small village within the hospital gates.

As we crossed the patchy grass, I tried to figure out how I ended up there. A few hours ago we were in the Ben Thanh Market. We ordered Pho, bought matching sunglasses and some “Good Morning Vietnam” t-shirts we knew we’d never wear. We stocked up on snacks and water for the hotel room, explored the busy streets of Ho Chi Mihn and even planned our trip to the War Remnants Museum for the following day. Operating rooms and heart attacks were not part of our vacation itinerary. He had always been healthy.

We reached a concrete room and the nurse opened it with a key, just wide enough so we could both slip inside. Before the door shut behind us three small Vietnamese women tried to squeeze in, only to be yelled and batted away by the nurse.

The empty 12ft by 12ft space was hotter than it was outside, if that was possible. The smell of bleach in the air was suffocating, and the bright fluorescent lighting made it hard to focus. Before my eyes could adjust, the nurse was shoving a document into my stomach, mimicking a signature motion with her hand. The 3-page document was entirely in Vietnamese. I reached for my travel book hoping it could help me with some translation, but the nurse just yelled “no time, no time” and handed me a pen. As I signed the bottom line, the nurse urgently pulled the clipboard away, smudging my signature. She disappeared into the operating room and left me standing alone, listening to the hum of the light.I sat down on the only piece of furniture in the room and leaned back against the cool concrete. I looked out the window, only to find ten pairs of eyes starring back at me. My mind was racing. I had to find some way to stop thinking, I had to occupy myself. I opened my purse 4 times to make sure I still had our passports. I checked my wallet for cash. I tied my shoelaces. I untied my shoelaces. I attempted to do a French braid in my hair, which is laughable because I can barely do a regular braid. Then I heard the door open and a surgeon with a white mask motioned for me to come inside the operating room. I tried to ask if I should put on a mask but he just pushed me through the door. The operating room was simple and sterile, no fancy equipment, no big machinery. There were three surgeons hovered over the table, all in white masks. One of the surgeons said “heart not okay, we try something else, alright?” I looked down at the table, right into my Dads eyes. He looked so small and weak, not like the man that used to carry me on his shoulders. “Okay, do anything, do everything, just make sure he’s okay.” The surgeon shoved me out of the room and I returned to the bench. Tying and untying my shoelaces.

I spent the next week making trips between the hospital and the hotel and every day followed the same pattern. I would wake up early and find a cab. The cab driver would always say, “You go to Notre Dame Cathedral? Saigon Central Post office? Museum of Vietnamese History?” and every morning I would cut them off before they listed every Lonely Planet attraction and tell them I was going to the hospital. I tried my best to explain where it was, but still, every morning we would end up lost. When I finally got to the hospital, I sat next to my Dad’s bed and talked to him, desperately trying to avoid eye contact with the other patients in the emergency wing. My Dad asked me how I was and joked that he was craving a chocolate croissant. I smiled, noting in my head that his days of baked goods were long over. In the afternoon I spent hours on the phone talking to the insurance company, coordinating faxes and e-mails. I talked to my mum everyday, although their recent divorce made things complicated. At night, I returned to the hotel room, ordered room service but never ate it, and tried to force myself into a restless sleep.

About a week later he was discharged. Two days after that we were on a plane home. As soon as we got back and someone else could look after him, I disappeared. Not literally, of course, but mentality. I had no interest in talking about what happened. I didn’t even want to look at the photos I took on the trip before he got sick. All they reminded me of was my former dad, the dad who coached my t-ball team, the dad who jumped in to save me when that huge wave swept me off the beach — not this new dad I was beginning to know, the one that was fragile and far from eternal.

When I was little I used to think that my Dad was the biggest and most powerful person in the world. After he tucked me in at night, I made him promise that he would live forever. And he would, he would always promise. As I got older I realized that he wouldn’t live forever, but that was an idea I pushed to the back of my mind. But that night in Vietnam, as a scared teenager, I realized the implications of that broken promise. Four years have passed, and my Dad and I still haven’t talked about our time in Vietnam. I can’t bring myself to look him in the eye and bring up about what could have happened that night.

That doesn’t mean it’s not on my mind. I live in constant fear that I am going to have to sign another document, go into another operating room and spend another 3 hours tying and untying my shoelaces. If the phone rings too late at night or too early in the morning, the first thing I think of is that concrete room.

When I go home to visit him, I ask if he has been exercising and going to the doctor regularly. He usually just shrugs off my questions. When we get to the topic of eating, his shrugs turn into defensive claims about how good he’s been. I usually go through his pantry to see how he’s really doing. More often than not, I find chocolate cake or pastry crumbs, and my own heart hurts all over again.

Women In The News: Barbara Streisand

Women In The News: Barbara Streisand

A Message From The Creator

“It’s time for you to move, realizing that the thing you are seeking is also seeking you.” – Iyanla Vanzant

Inspirational Woman Of The Day: Beverly Johnson

Beverly Johnson

Born in 1952 in Buffalo, NY; daughter of a machine operator and a surgical technician; married Billy Potter (a real estate agent), 1971 (divorced, 1973); children: Anansa (daughter) with Danny Simms.
EducationAttended Northeastern University.


Professional fashion model, actress, and singer. First hired by Glamour magazine, 1971; first black to be featured on the cover of Vogue magazine, 1974.

Life’s Work

In the summer of 1971, a stunning nineteen-year-old beauty walked into the office of Glamour magazine and asked for a modeling job. Editors took one look at Beverly Johnson and hired her on the spot. Within months she became one of America’s most sought after models. She was the first black woman to make the cover ofVogue magazine, setting a trend for black models to follow.

Johnson was born in 1952 in Buffalo, New York. Her unusual bloodline contributes to her striking features–the classic nose, high cheek bones, and thick black hair. Johnson’s father, a machine operator, is part Blackfoot Indian and her mother, a surgical technician, is a Louisiana Creole. As a tall, lanky child, Johnson often compared herself to her younger sister, whom she considered to have inherited the beauty in the family. Johnson’s agility and love for sports brought her within a hair’s breadth of qualifying for the 1968 Olympics in the 100-yard freestyle swimming competition. She entered Northeastern University in Boston on a full academic scholarship, following a pre-law curriculum. But her outstanding beauty and 5-foot-eight, 115-pound figure made her an obvious candidate for a modeling career. At the urging of her friends Johnson headed with her mother for New York City’s Madison Avenue in the summer of 1971 in search of a modeling job. After several unsuccessful attempts, she tried her luck at the office of Glamour magazine. A quick study of Johnson told the editors she had exactly what they wanted. She was hired on the spot. In the fashion world, Johnson quickly outdistanced the others. When she first appeared on Glamour ‘s cover the magazine’s circulation doubled and set a record. In two years, she was on the front of Glamour magazine six times.

Johnson’s so-called “supergirl next door” image captured the attention of Americans of all races, places, and walks of life. In an interview with Glamour, Johnson recalled, “When I started being on the cover {of Glamour }–white southern readers–for the first time–said they wanted to be me. Black models never had that positive a reaction before. Maybe the world had evolved. Maybe they saw through my eyes that I’m a terrific person–very honest, positive, optimistic. I always see the light at the end of the tunnel.” Others qualities might be added to explain her success: grace, charm, and professionalism are words often used by associates to describe Johnson.

When Eileen Ford, who, with her husband operates New York’s foremost model agency, caught the perfumed wind of Johnson’s promising career, she was quick to recruit Johnson. Ford is credited with shaping Johnson’s career. Through the Ford Agency, Johnson was soon booked from morning to night. She worked as a runway model for Halston, sang “Come On and Fly with Me” in a television advertisement for National Airlines, and appeared in other commercials; at age 23 she was earning over $100,000 a year.

When approached by Vogue in 1974 to do a cover, Johnson was more than ready. She had felt for some time that she was exactly what Vogue wanted. The magazine’s editors agreed. Johnson was black and beautiful–and a class act. She had, as Vogue said when she appeared on the front cover, “the today look,” which the editors, as quoted by Ted Morgan in the New York Times Magazine, went on to define as, “a natural look … wholesome without being bland, strong without being tough, a girl who has character rather than a rigidly painted mask of beauty. It is the girl with great skin, great hair, great teeth, great eyes, a great figure and a great personality, the supergirl next door.”

Johnson was such a smash hit that her face reappeared on the June 1975 cover of the “American Woman” Vogue issue. She was also the first black woman to appear on the cover of the French magazine Elle. Johnson soon became America’s most sought after fashion model. According to Morgan, when Johnson was asked how it felt to be the biggest black model in the business, she said that she wasn’t simply the biggest black model, but “the biggest model, period.” Johnson was proud that she was booked, not as a black model, but simply as a model. She felt she had set a trend that would make it easier for other black models to follow.

Johnson has not limited her career to modeling. She took voice lessons for many years, and in 1977 she teamed up with rock singer Phil Anastasia for two singles. She also came out with an album called Don’t Lose the Feeling, which Stereo Review called a “capable performance … in a sexy, confident style.” Johnson has dabbled in acting as well, appearing in the 1975 documentary Land of Negritude, which was filmed on location on the Senegalese island of Goree. She has also made feature film appearances, most notably as the kidnapped wife of missionary-doctor Michael Caine in the 1979 movie Ashanti. In addition, Johnson has written a beauty book called Guide to a Life of Beauty, launched a line of skin care products tailored to the needs of black women, and introduced her own line of Beverly Johnson dolls.

Johnson is committed to various social issues and charitable causes, including Africare and the Atlanta Black Education Fund. She and her daughter, Anansa, have appeared in AIDS Awareness Campaign print advertisements. Johnson continues to model, and she shoots guest spots for Black Entertainment Television’s Video Soul.In the early 1990s she made television appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show and the Arsenio Hall Show.



  • Guide to a Life of Beauty, Times Books, 1981.

Further Reading


  • Glamour, April 1989.
  • Newsweek, September 11, 1978.
  • New York Times Magazine, August 17, 1975.
  • Stereo Review, May 1980.
  • Time, June 16, 1975.

— Heather Paterson Rhodes

Inspiration Of Motherhood

Single Mom Volunteers to Make a Difference in Veterans’ Lives

In a season of movies devoted to superheroes like Thor, Green Lantern, and the X-Men, we might all need to be reminded of what superhuman means in its true place: as an adjective usually found in front of a word like “effort.”  Consider, for example, Lisa Tkoch: full-time worker, full-time mom, and vital VAPAHCS volunteer. A visit to the Court Yard at the VAPAHCS Spinal Cord Injury Unit (SCI) would show you the difference a REAL superhero can make.

“It all started when my church, Twin Lakes of Aptos, was focused on ‘The Hope Series’. The question was posed – who could you send encouragement to?  My answer – Soldiers in Iraq. This answer snowballed to a project of 78 ‘Because We Care Packages’, each valued at approximately $75.00; shipping alone was $974.00.  It was a great way to involve my daughter, the church and community – it came together incredibly efficiently and effectively with support across the board.  Frankly, I consider it God’s idea; I just go where I feel led, regardless of perceived ability.”

When Lisa was laid off from her job and couldn’t find employment immediately, she decided to volunteer at the Palo Alto and Menlo Park VAs. “My initial intent was to create a bridge between my church and community; I started volunteering and found many opportunities to serve.  It’s really the simple things that make a big difference in our Veterans’ lives – a smile, a hug, and sincere thanks,” Lisa said.  “It’s been an incredible honor to be able to serve those that have given so much; I am absolutely compelled to continue, and seem to be getting pretty good at it!”

She has delivered multiple meals – donated from fine restaurants – and gift baskets to the Women’s Trauma Recovery Program at Menlo Park, donated clothing for homeless and indigent Veterans, given MP3 Players to the Blind Center and Hospice, and passed out over 600 cards and several appreciation posters – all designed by kids from Twin Lakes School and signed to capacity with well wishes, gratitude, love, and support.    

‘Operation Love Our Vets’ Courtyard project was conceived during a conversation with Dr. Graham Creasey, Chief of Spinal Cord Injury Unit, while serving at a BBQ. They had agreed the courtyard was in disrepair.

When spring rolled in, she approached her employer, EfficientNow, to get the Courtyard project started. Her company’s substantial donation covered the majority of SCI Courtyard project costs.  

“It was easy to find companies that would help and the people who could volunteer the man-hours needed. Everybody loves our Vets!  ELG Landscape did prep work and planted perennials and fruit trees for a reduced rate,” said Lisa.  “Home Depot donated some of the flowers and veggies, Travis Tree donated lumber for trellises that were planed and constructed to custom specification by Staingrade Construction, which were then delivered and set in concrete by SM Concrete Construction crew.  I had another crew of volunteers planting poppy seeds, annuals and perennials, and staining trellises as well.  It was truly a group effort.”  True enough, perhaps, but a story that never would have had such a happy ending without Tkoch’s leadership and effort.

“One of the unexpected personal benefits is the way service has healed my soul; I have a past that’s far from enviable.  Giving without expectation has truly healed the deepest scars I’ve carried for so many years — I feel lighter for lack of baggage.”

“I want my daughter to understand that it’s important to give back to those who have given so much,” said Lisa.  “She also volunteers and we’ve brought carloads of teens to help. It’s easy to get caught up in our own drama, helping Vets puts our privilege in perspective. Where else can you find history and a hero in the same baseball cap?”

Women In The News: Barbara Streisand

In an elegant white tent nestled among the barn-shaped houses that dot her oceanfront compound, Barbra Streisand sang and former President Bill Clinton spoke to a crowd gathered to raise funds for women’s heart health.

Comedian Martin Short was the master of ceremonies at the intimate fundraising dinner Thursday at the Malibu home Streisand shares with her husband, James Brolin.

Guests who paid as much as $100,000 per couple to support the Barbra Streisand Women’s Heart Center enjoyed sweeping ocean views and the singer’s blooming rose garden before sitting down to a “heart-healthy,” gluten-free dinner of tofu, fish or grilled vegetables.

“Don’t worry,” Streisand said. “If you’re still hungry, there’s a Jack in the Box on the way home.”

She donated $10 million to create the new research and treatment facility at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and solicited million-dollar donations from wealthy friends she called personally. Viacom Chairman Sumner Redstone, NBCUniversal chief Ron Meyer, designer Donna Karan and actors Josh Brolin (Streisand’s stepson) and Diane Lane were among the donors and guests at the event.

Streisand said she was motivated to contribute to women’s heart health because she “can’t stand inequality, whether it’s about civil rights, gay rights or gender discrimination.”

Heart disease kills more women each year than all cancers combined, but most of the research on the disease for the past five decades has been conducted on men.

“Even in scientific research, women are still treated as second-class citizens,” Streisand said, “and to me, that’s just unacceptable.”

So she raised her voice and opened her wallet and invited her friends to do the same.

“It’s kind of a selfish thing because it’s actually very fulfilling to do something like that that’s larger than me or my career,” she said, acknowledging that her fellow donors must feel the same way.

“Think about all the good that we’ll do, all the good that will come of it because of your extraordinary generosity,” she said.

Clinton, who was welcomed with a standing ovation, saluted Streisand for her commitment to women’s health.

“I never thought anybody could care a lot about more things than I care a lot about. She makes me look like a heartless dumb pike,” he said. “Unless your heart has been taken out of your body, you need to care about this.”

Clinton said the issue of heart health and equitable research goes beyond politics.

“Our country has always believed in being not only a laboratory of democracy but a laboratory of science and advancement, and you can’t do that with a straight face and leave women out,” he said.

Singer Josh Groban performed before Streisand took the stage. She sang four songs, including the Oscar- and Grammy-winning “Evergreen,” which she dedicated to Clinton. He told her in 1992 that it was his favorite song of hers, and she sang it at his inauguration.

She and Groban sang “Smile” as a duet, and Streisand closed the evening with a special rendition of “Here’s to Life” with new lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, who were also among the guests Thursday.

“A woman’s heart beats well tonight,” Streisand sang. “Because of you a woman’s future’s looking bright, and it gets brighter with each check you write, so thanks with all my heart.”

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