Hope for Love

The surprising realization that made award-winning actress Andie MacDowell feel complete.

By Andie MacDowell

As appeared in

It was a gorgeous summer day in the North Carolina mountain town I call home, perfect for wandering around the All Souls Church craft fair with my dog Leila.

My 100-pound Anatolian shepherd was my companion on my walks, and she didn’t seem to mind that I was meandering from booth to booth, looking at handmade jewelry here, braided rugs there.

Not that what I was truly seeking could be found at a craft fair.

What I yearned for was a happy family, the kind of family I never had growing up, with a deeply-in-love couple and their children. For a while I thought I’d found my dream-come-true with my husband Paul and the three beautiful children we had together. Then our marriage fell apart, and I fell apart too.

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I was devastated by our divorce. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even pray. I was so des­perate to recapture my romantic ideal of a family that I rushed into a second marriage to a childhood friend without taking the time to really get to know the man he had become. That marriage didn’t work out either.

Here I was at 48, alone again, not any closer to my dream of a family than I had been when my parents divorced. I was six years old then, and back in the day people didn’t think to get kids coun­seling to help them deal with those kinds of family issues. You were just supposed to deal with it. I remember my mom and dad signed some papers and then my dad packed up and left. I never cried over my parents’ divorce. I was trying to be brave and strong.

That was in part because even at such a young age, I knew my mom was fragile. She adored me and I adored her, but she was an alcoholic and wasn’t really able to take care of me or my sister, Beverly, who was 18 months older.

My dad remarried when I was in fourth grade, and Beverly and I went to live with him and his new wife. I thought everything was going fine until one day a year and a half later when my dad picked us up from school. Our suitcases were in the back. “I’m taking you back to your mother,” he said. “This isn’t working out.”

He didn’t give us any further explanations and I didn’t dare ask for one. Now as a parent myself, I see that he must have had his reasons, reasons that had a lot more to do with him than with us—he’d just had a baby with my stepmom and maybe he couldn’t handle raising us girls along with an infant. I understand that no family is perfect and I love my father.

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But as a child, I felt utterly rejected. I was emotionally shattered. All I could think was, What had I done wrong? Why wasn’t I good enough to stay with my dad and his new family? Why wasn’t I good enough to be loved?

Someday I’m going to have a real family, I promised myself. And I’ll love them and they’ll love me…no matter what. The way my mom loved me, except without the drinking to get in the way.

We grew even closer after I went to live with her again, but her alcoholism meant that the mother-daughter roles were often reversed. I took care of her. I watched her struggle to hold on to jobs. If she was having a bad day, I’d stand there and rub her shoulders and try to make her feel better, thinking that the better I made her feel the less she would drink.

As soon as I was old enough to work, I got a part-time job at McDonald’s. I was able to help out with the expenses, but more than anything, it gave me a sense of structure that was lacking in my home.

Was it any wonder that when Paul and I married and started our family, I tried my best to give our children the stable, loving home life I never had? My career as a model and actress took me to New York and Los Angeles, but Paul and I raised our son and two daughters in small towns, first in Montana, then here in North Carolina, where my sister lives with her kids, who are the same age as mine, and not everybody is involved in (or even talks about) the entertainment business.

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I wanted our children to have a mom and dad who showed up at parent/teacher conferences, who went to their church pageants and school plays and ballgames. Most of all, I wanted them to have a mom and dad who really loved each other.

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Your Comments (6)

The Story Is Really Heart Touching and Inspirational Too, And Thank You Very Much For Reminding Me Of The Love Which God Showed For Us By Giving His Only Son Jesus Christ For Our Sins, And Giving Us The Chance To Follow His Guidelines So That We Can Save Our Lives And Others Too.

This is a farce. Rosalie McDowell once stayed at a hotel that I was employed. She was rude not only to me but those who were my subordinates as well. She is not a nice person. Her treatment of the average people is less than desirable. She and her daughter due to their irresponsible behavior lost her Hermes scarf. It was not stolen from her as she reported; in the process she accused falsely the housekeeping staff. Then she proceeded to give me a lecture as to what a "Hermes Scarf" was in a manner that was less befitting a lady. I learned something that day and have harbored dislike for you for many years. Guess what. My educational background is far more greater than yours. People like you because of "who you are" (an actress) and not the person you are. That is sad. My dislike for you had turned to indifference. But recently, I forgave you for the treatment you "inflicted" on other people. I said my peace and can go on not watching you being a "false" human being.

Andie your story inspies me as mine is almost the same except I was a foster child in and out of homes. i had hope through my mom always coming to see me on weekends. We visited in the car, but that was ok then. She was married 9 times and passed away with the lord at a young 56 yrs old.
I am from Asheville and being writtin short story that are just in my drawers to have. hope to write a book or get started to file them as short stories. Maybe even be a speaker. My husband and I have been married 35 years this year I was 14 when we married and have two children and grandchildren that are precious. I have a painting of Marcus thomas and looked it up and found these stories. #limited edition 750S/. My husband found it in a rubble of things. I do not have it framed but one day soon. Thank you and god bless. Glenda Smathers smathersready@charter.net

I met this painter Marcus Thomas a few years ago after I was in a very bad car accident that partially blinded me and banged me up a bit. Like the writer I was at an art event and was wandering along feeling sorry for myself when I came across his booth. After being attracted by the beauty of the images I as well looked around and discovered that the artist was paralyzed.

Immediately I felt a bit ashamed of my feeling sorry for myself and then I felt so uplifted because this wonderful man had overcome an injury much more severe than mine and had mastered painting better than someone with the use of all their body.

Since then I have become friends with Marcus, I see him several times a year. The one thing that has struck me since meeting him and his wife Anne is that everyone always says how gifted he is and he truly is, but he is also the recipient of a great gift. His wife Anne is an amazing person, she is just as amazing and marvelous as Marcus is talented. The writer of this article got it quite right when she mentions that they have found true love.

Great reminder on the importance of focusing on what we do have rather than lamenting about what we lack. Although we aren't financially wealthy, I often remind my husband of what a rich man he is in terms of LOVE. His children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, friends fill his life (and mine) with joy and love.

I knew as soon as Andi started talking about the painter at the church fair, who she was talking about. I have loved his work for years, and have several pieces. In case anyone is interested, he is Marcus C Thomas, you can read his story and view his art on his website http://www.marcusthomasartist.com/