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Christine Menolascina – Baker City

“I’m a survivor of cancer three times now. I just don’t think that there’s going to be much that’s going to take me down. I’m here for a reason. I just haven’t figured it out yet.

I’ve lived in Oregon since I was six, and Baker City since 2006. We had a trucking business, and I got a waitress job – I’ve waitressed a couple places here in town. I’ve worked at Safeway, which I loved. I just love being around people, customer service, that kind of thing. And the last job I had was at the Geiser Grand Hotel. I felt so at home there, and I was able to learn the history of the hotel and tell all the tourists about my favorite little town in America, and send them out on my shopping trails, and it was quite fun there. But now I’m just taking myself back. This is the year of me, and it’s especially important since COVID. Hopefully they don’t shut things down again, but I want to experience a little bit of sunshine before we’re stuck inside again, and everybody is under masks.

My 33 year marriage ended and I’m still not sure why. It was an ugly mess and my mom and I ended up basically homeless. I’ve nursed my mom and my ex-husband’s parents here until they were no longer with us. I think when people get into relationships they accept a role or just take over a role, and mine was caregiver. And, you know, my husband made the money so I didn’t have to worry, he took care of me and mom. So that was good. Until it all soured. They diagnosed me with PTSD and I’ve been going to counseling since 2016 to deal with all of that. I’m getting the counseling I need now which is awesome. I’ve become such a different person. I can sit here and do this interview with you, where before, I couldn’t put words together, I couldn’t think clearly because my brain was so down on everything.

I had a bad PTSD episode last September with everything – the pandemic, and the riots and the news every day. I was living with an excellent caring, loving man who had the guts to do what it took to get me the help I needed. So I thank him from the bottom of my heart and he’s still taking care of my cat because I can’t have a cat where I’m living right now. With all the counseling and learning about PTSD and working through everything, I’m coming out on the other side. So, after 57 years of going from my mom to a boyfriend to a husband to a boyfriend, I’m on my own.

When my brother shot himself in February, I fell apart. I knew I had to get to New Directions, and I have never felt so much support and love in my entire life. They helped me sort things out. Then, in March my mom, who had been living with my brother in Pennsylvania, got COVID. The doctors said COVID on top of her congestive heart failure and COPD would likely do her in. All I could think about was getting to her. My friend Millie and Barbara, the owner of the Geiser Grand made it happen and I am forever grateful to them. I got to hug my mom and really be with her at the end. And I helped the doctors make the decision that this is not the way to go out of the world – with the machines. We decided to take off the big masks and stop all those breathing machines and the beeping and craziness. And we got to talk and spend time together and it was full of grace and peace.

I also lost my uncle in April, so now I am a complete orphan. And I’ve always told people, ‘This is Baker.’ This is a place to start over. To build a family, to go through terrible things. You know, it’s a small town, and people know you. They will get involved if you want them to. You can sit somewhere and cry and somebody is going to say something to you – they’re not just gonna wander by you. And I met new friends Brigid and Blake Musselman, and they’re awesome and I love how they relate to each other. Yeah, I’ve had a lot happen in the last year so I’m gonna pause a bit longer, and I am already doing much better than I was.”

Christine with her friend Brigid on Main Street at Chalk it Up to Art