Her smile is infectious, beaming and beautiful. Maybe you’ve seen her at the Rochester Area Family YMCA where she works part-time, or maybe at the Olmsted County Planning and Zoning Department where she works full-time as a clerk specialist, or maybe at a JAFRA party where she serves a consultant. No matter where you see her, she will always give you a smile and loads of positivity. Linda is part of what makes Rochester a great place to live.
[S]: When did you first move to Rochester?
[L]: In 2007.
[S]: Where did you move from?
[L]: I came from the east coast. Virginia. I moved here after I met this gentleman online.
[L]: That’s what I thought. We stayed together for two years but it didn’t work out.
[S]: Did you move to Minnesota to be with him?
[L]: Yes. He was in Rochester, but I have roots in Minnesota. My family actually moved to Minneapolis when I was about 10 years old, but I’ve lived all over the place. I moved to Virginia because my father was sick and needed help, so I went there to care for him. He passed away from complications of diabetes.
That’s really what got me on my health kick since I decided I didn’t want to get diabetes or high blood pressure or any of that stuff that runs in our family. In 2011, I started working out like crazy.
[S]: You look marvelous, by the way.
[L]: Thank you. I don’t have diabetes or high blood pressure and I'm all about being as healthy as I can. I’m not perfect, of course.
[S]: So, what made you stay in Rochester?
[L]: I like Rochester. I feel safe here and it’s a friendly town. I like that the people speak to each other. It’s not like the East Coast where people usually have attitudes for no apparent reason. Rochester has that small town, but not too small feel; just the right type of city for me.
[S]: How many kids do you have?
[L]: Three kids and seven grandkids.
[S]: Wow! You do not look like a grandma; which, I think, is evidence of your good health and lifestyle.
[L]: I was young, though. I was a mother at 17 and a single mother at 19.
[S]: What was it like to be a single mom at such a young age?
[L]: It was hard. It was really tough, but I was determined to be a working mother and not a welfare mother. I was really, really, really bent on that, so I worked and took the kids to daycare. My mom helped a lot. Thank God for her because if I hadn't had her help I don’t know what I would’ve done. She is still in Minneapolis.
[S]: Speaking of family, imagine your family is gathered around the table…what food is on the table?
[L]: Oh, wow! Well, it’s very diverse. If my son is at the table with his wife and their family – his wife is from the islands – there would be different kinds of Caribbean food. We’d also have the regular stuff like macaroni and cheese, green beans, and salads. I’ve been digging the cabbage salads lately. My mom is a vegan and I try to eat as healthy as possible, so we'd have some soul food, too, but mainly healthy dishes.
[S]: What is something about yourself that you are most proud of?
[L]: I guess my positive attitude even though things are not perfect in my life or great all the time. Something my mom instilled in me when I was young was that I should present this positive outlook to the world since the world does not need to know your problems. Even though things aren’t great, put a smile on your face and handle your business. I think I’ve carried that with me all my life.
[S]: I definitely see that in you.
[L]: I’ve had tragedies in my life. My son’s father used to abuse me – physically beat me- but I don’t want to walk around with an attitude ‘cause it's not gonna do me any good. Something else my momma taught me was forgiveness. You have to forgive and move on with your life.
[S]: Think about your childhood…what is the first thing that comes to mind?
[L]: It wasn’t the greatest childhood. It was dysfunctional – that’s definitely the word for it - not totally, but my mother was a drug addict at the time and we were shipped around between grandparents. I’ve even been in foster care at some point growing up. I do remember some of the good things like my mom teaching me to be positive.
[S]: You mentioned your mom was an addict at the time, is she living in recovery now?
[L]: Yes, she’s changed dramatically and now she's a person I admire. At some point, she decided to change and she did.
[S]: What gives you energy?
[L]: Definitely working out. I get so down about myself when I don’t work out like I should especially since I’ve been trying to loose weight. Working out helps me deal with stress and gives me that energy. Besides that, I’m also always looking, or hoping, for the best to happen even if it doesn’t.
[S]: Are you ever home?
[L]: Nope; though I did have a Saturday recently where I didn’t do anything.
[S]: One day?
[L]: [laughs] Yep. One day. I didn’t do anything. I stayed in bed and ate good food and watched movies.
[S]: What advice would you give your younger self?
[L]: To set goals. I would tell my younger self to set high goals. For sure, at least, I would do that.
[S]: What goals might you tell yourself to set?
[L]: Like saving money, and investing; which was something I didn’t even think about then. Maybe buy a home, get more education. In my 40’s I went back to school and got an associates degree, but I would have maybe pursued a masters degree or something like that. When I was young I didn’t set any goals at all, so doing that would have made a big difference. No one said, “Linda, you should set goals.” I guess I wasn’t around people that were doing that.
[S]: It sounds like you’ve worked really hard regardless.
[L]: Yeah. It’s all I know. I got married in my 30’s the first time, and then, the second time, oh gosh, a huge mistake.
[S]: Was he the one that was abusive?
[L]: Yes; however, my first abusive relationship was with my youngest son’s father. I was 21, or something like that, really young. My second husband was abusive, but nowhere near like the first time, but, abuse is abuse.
[S]: Do you still carry some of those scars with you?
[L]: Well, physical scars. Yeah, for sure.
[she points out a scar on her forehead extending midline near her hairline downward diagonally to above left eye]
People don’t see it, I think, and sometimes I don’t see it, but it’s there. It’s there.
[S]: What happened? Are you willing to talk about that?
[L]: Yeah. I mean, um, there was actually an article about it back in the 80’s when it happened.
[S]: Where were you?
[L]: In Minneapolis.
[S]: With your three children?
[L]: Actually I had four children at the time. I lost a daughter to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, so I had four at the time.
I’d left him and I was staying with friends who were actually friends of his, but they were angry with him because of his mistreatment of me.
I was sick and tired of him. I’d left him lots of times and when I’d leave him the abuse seemed to get worse because he would stalk me. He’d always find me. That was before we had stalker laws.
That night he broke into the house. I don’t know how he got in. He caught me by surprise. I was in the basement and heard the commotion upstairs. I guess the kids, her kids and my kids, young kids like four and five years old, knew the history and they didn’t want him to get to me. They were trying to fight him; trying to get him to get out.
He came downstairs where I was and took me upstairs. I remember going to the kitchen to grab something to defend myself with; which is always a big mistake. I had grabbed a frying pan, an iron skillet and he took it from me and started beating me with it in the head.
I wanted to get out of the house to get away from him. This was in December in Minneapolis and I didn’t have on any shoes - just pants and a shirt. I ran out of the house to get away from him, but he followed me; beating me with the frying pan all the way. I left a trail of blood which kind of helped people find me. My mom, she got involved - I found this out later - and she contacted the Guardian Angels who began looking for me.
We ended up in an alley somewhere and a car was coming. I saw the headlights and jumped in front of the car so they could see me. I must have been a bloody mess. The driver of the car must have called the police after seeing me because that's the only way I can figure they were able to find me.
They found me in the park. I was unconscious when they found me, but I came to at some point. I remember I didn’t have any clothes on and the police officer put his jacket on me and I went to the hospital.
That was a horrible night, but that was the last time that he abused me. He went to prison for that, but when he got out he murdered another woman and is now serving life in prison.
So, that’s how I got this scar though I always tell people I got in a car accident. I don’t tell people what really happened.
I’m a survivor, though. I’m definitely a survivor.
[S]: Yeah, you are. Other women need to hear your story because abuse still happens. You are lucky to be alive. Linda, thank you for sharing your story.
Most people would never suspect Linda has survived such an ordeal. Her positive outlook is not simply a way to cover up her past or disguise her true self, rather she wholeheartedly believes that life has good things to offer. Linda has not allowed her abuser to victimize her though she struggles with the repercussions of abuse.
Did you catch the beautiful picture of tenderness and mercy in Linda's story? That police office who covered her with his jacket brings me to tears as I'm reminded of what it means to love one another. Let's lift one another up and extend a hand of friendship and compassion.
If you are in an abusive relationship there are resources available in our community. Here is a list of organizations. Reach out to them! Abuse is never your fault.
If you are in immediate danger, please call 911 or your local precinct.