What's in a Name?
"What's in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet." This is the question asked by Juliet in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (II,ii,1-2.) But for Kathy Deringer, legally changing her family name-Deringer was a random name she found in a phone book-was her declaration that she was no longer the child of brutally abusive parents. She was her own person.
Kathy is now several decades beyond her difficult youth and her name change. Although she could pass as a 20-something, she is the enthralled mother of an eight-year-old son, who was conceived eight days before her fortieth birthday. She refers to him as "Blake the Boy Wonder." Blake is waiting quietly upstairs for us to finish this interruption to his Saturday morning. But soon an elfin little boy is sliding along the floor, impatient to see what's taking so long. We are introduced. Mother and son connect as if laced with invisible twine. Blake literally hops away like the Run Away Bunny and Kathy says, "Look at that boy; that is my heart."
Blake is Kathy's reason and redemption, but there were a lot of years between the age of 16, when Kathy's mother committed suicide and Kathy left home, and the birth of her son. As a teenager, Kathy looked older than she was. She typified one of life's contradictions: sometimes the most scarred and bruised interiors are concealed beneath the most beautiful and unblemished exteriors. To the world she was tall, dark and gorgeous. She became a model, a Miami Dolphin's cheerleader and a flight attendant for Pan Am. She dated rich men, famous men, abusive men. She got caught up in the high life of Miami and Palm Beach, fueled by alcohol and drugs. She says, "I kept striving for things to fill my empty soul, but some part of me identified with Elton John's 'Candle in the Wind.'"
In her mid-twenties, Kathy realized her life wasn't working. She was drawn to people and situations that were destructive, because she says, "For me anything that was too normal felt abnormal." For three years she turned her TV off, studied the bible, and read literature-Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning are favorites. She earned her college degree after receiving a voice scholarship, and graduated from Florida Atlantic University. Singing is an important part of her life.
Kathy discusses her past openly and has been a motivational speaker in Florida and South Carolina sharing her story with other women. She wants to be someone who is "willing to stand up in front of others and be transparent." As a child, her concept of faith was unformed; but during the hours she was forced to kneel in the darkness, after nearly being beaten to death by her alcoholic mother, who was ironically a nurse, she says, "God held my hand, and I knew this wasn't my reality. I was going to make it." She quotes the biblical verse from Joel 2:25: "The Lord says, 'I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten.'"
What's hard to convey is Kathy's blend of calm strength peppered with emphatic aphorisms and humor. She talks about coming to Bluffton seven-and-a-half years ago, and opening Kathy's Closet, a re-sale/consignment boutique to benefit women. It didn't work out; she is now working as the territory manager for Bluffton's home health service THA (The Healthcare Alternative.) She briskly concludes with a smile, "I'd rather have a life of oh wells than what ifs." In talking about learning to listen to her intuition she says, "The quieter I become, the more I hear." She calls herself the "dateless wonder" but insists, "I will always bloom where I'm planted." Her conclusion about romantic relationships is: "Women recover; men replace." About listening to the news she says, "I've turned it off. I don't need to hear about evil. I already know evil." Her wisdom is finding its way into a book she hopes to have published by the end of the year.
Part of her strength is visible in the home she has created for Blake and herself. She has no family support (she is estranged from her two brothers and changed her name partly so her father couldn't trace her) and she hasn't spoken to Blake's father since her second week of pregnancy. The small house is light-filled, creative and beautifully furnished. She smiles and tells me, "I can stretch a dollar more than anyone I know." She's stretched it enough to now be building her true dream house, which she calls "The House That Love Built."
I ask her what she wants to tell women by sharing her story. Thoughtfully, she says, "I want to tell them that we are capable of being self-sufficient, of doing things ourselves; but we don't believe it. I want to teach them not to become indebted to anyone. I want to teach every woman to create an arsenal for herself that will make her feel strong: a list of friends; eating healthy foods, exercising; taking a class; getting out of the house; getting dressed up just to feel pretty; focusing on others; volunteering."
What's in a name? Kathy's choice of name seems no accident to me. This woman is by every account a real pistol-sharp and true and no one to mess with; with a love for her only son as holy as Christmas.
TV Exception: Kathy admits she LOVES the "Gilmore Girls".
TV Disappointment: When she discovered Stars Hollow, the setting for "Gilmore Girls," wasn't real she was devastated because that's where she was going to live.
Quote to Live by: "I no longer wish to date men who wear a label on their forehead that says 'Assembly Required!'"