The Anonymous Maria Shriver



“Powerful women only cry in private.” flashed through her lightening sharp mind. “Especially about something as silly as Maria Shriver walking out on Arnold Schwarzenegger.” Outside her floor to ceiling window blankets of grey rain clouds settled over the roiling waves of Lake Michigan as if the clouds themselves were somehow trying to ease the water’s raw and bleeding pain.

A moment ago, Grace had thanked her assistant for the hot cup of tea, signed the ½ dozen documents, smiled and said, “Give me a minute.” And when she heard the steel tumblers click on her heavy oak door, she finally allowed herself the quiet tears.

“A Powerful woman.” She smiled through the tears. A friend had called her that recently. Her response? She rolled her eyes. Raised her middle finger. And said, “Shut up.”

But he went on. As all her friends tended to do. “Listen, I’m not talking Oprah power.”

“That’s good. Because I’m not buying you a car.”

“I already have a car. What I’m talking about is power in making a difference. That’s what this place does. People’s lives change here.”

“Not if the state keeps ducking out on paying its bills,” she answered.

“You need any help being cynical, just let me know,” he replied.

Remembering, she smiled and conceded that he did have a point. She was smart. She had the years, the ideals that she started with were in there somewhere, she had three brilliant, world changing sons, granddaughters, and friends. She did have a life. She ran one of Chicago’s preeminent social service non-profits. Maybe she wasn’t totally sold on the power part. But her life was good.

Yet here she was tearing up in the middle of a jam packed Tuesday afternoon because 30 years ago, when she didn’t have this big carpeted office overlooking the Lake and when she was just starting out, her husband had fathered a child with her best friend.

The kind of thing that only happened in TV movies. Not to real people. Maybe to famous people like Maria Shriver where that shame could be played out on the world stage like a circus side show.

But it also happened to her.

What did she do wrong? Where had she failed? She could see all the successes of her life looking no further than her granddaughter’s eyes. But then there was this. Like something had just died.

She took a sip of her hot tea, looking out at the grey horizon over the water and mused. What is it? The power some men have to persuade and deceive. And how otherwise strong, smart women get taken in by it. Or tolerate it. Or built elaborate gingerbread castles of self deception.

Maria Shriver has to leave her shame and her grief out there for the world to see. That’s worse, right?

Or is it worse to be silent. To never be able to shout to the world. Standing right here. At the top of a Chicago skyscraper, “My husband fathered a child by one of my best friends, a child born midway through my own first pregnancy!”

What would it be like to shout that story to the world?

Shout it and then say, in the calm measured tones of one who really did have her life together, “Oh. And here’s the rest of it. They kept the secret for 30 years. He took the secret to his grave.”

Only to be discovered by our sons as they went through his personal effects after he died.

Maria Shriver’s grief played out in public today.

Grace’s grief was unstuck in time. Floating through the years.

Grace’s grief was now. Now, when it was surfaced by Shriver’s story.

Grace’s grief was also back when her ex had died and her boys discovered their father’s secret.

Grace’s grief was even in the beginning. When life was all new.

Floating up into her mind as she watched the grey mist settle in over the rumbling city, a song she didn’t really remember all that well grabbed hold.

A young Emmy Lou Harris, singing out strong to the fiery canyon walls of grief for another kind of death. The death of her tender love, the groundbreaking musician Gram Parsons. A song called “Boulder To Birmingham.”

She remembered how the song, like a weary prayer to an unseen God, began with the line,

“I don’t want to hear another love song

I got on this airplane just to fly

And I know there’s life below me

But all that you can show me

Is the prairie and the sky.”

She remembered the eternal steel in the strong woman’s song. She remembered the line she liked the most. It came to her as she walked back from the window, sending out a prayer for Maria Shriver and all the other strong women who shared the larger story here.

Grace opened the door to her office to let the world in again just as she remembered Emmy Lou Harris’s best lyric ever. Reflecting on how Maria Shriver’s grief had once again brought back her own, Grace could hear Emmy Lou Harris singing,

“And the hardest part

Is knowing I’ll survive.”

3 Responses to “The Anonymous Maria Shriver”

  1. Paul Haider Says:

    Grace is a survivor and so is Maria Shriver. The good news is that Grace and Maria will never get involved with these men ever again. But as the old saying goes, “A good man is hard to find.” Who knew that Arnold’s movie, Raw Deal, would one day apply to his wife’s current predicament? The other good news to come from this is that although President Obama was never born in Kenya, Arnold was always born in Austria and will never be President of the United States…except in The Simpsons movie from 2007. As far as a return to politics, Arnold will not be back.
    Paul Haider, Chicago

  2. Ted Schneider Says:

    Roger,

    Two things come to mind when I think about this story, first why do some people, usually powerful people, think they can “help themselves to the hired help” from politicials, lawyers and IMF big shots? Secondly, you have to wonder if these same people have any feelings for those they end up hurting including their children and spouses and the victims. It is almost like we need to post consequences, fines and sentences for a variety of crimes all around like in hotels, subways etc. – similar to what the highways have signs posted about the monetary fine and years in jail for killing a highway worker.

  3. Paul Haider Says:

    Arnold was big fan of St. Ronald Raygun, and they now have three things in common: 1) they were both B-movie actors who later entered politics, 2) they were both two term governors of California, and 3) they both have messy divorces (Jane Wyman, Maria Shriver) under their belts. Although neither Ronnie nor Arnold were ever nominated for an Oscar, Arnold deserves one for keeping his “love child” a secret from Maria for so long; it was quite an acting performance of deceit.

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