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So long, Helen

Yes & Know By Aline Yamashita

Every Monday, I look forward to Helen Middlebrooke’s column, “That’s Life.” Last week, when I read this may be their last Guam Christmas, I closed my eyes. She was reminiscing about chapters of their life as she studied the ornaments that encircled the tree.

As she pondered why she was just now putting the tree away, she considered it was not only life’s fireworks filling her universe (my words) but, perhaps, it was also the notion that this may be the last time she puts away a Guam Christmas tree.

Another shift that makes me sad.

As Eric erupts with frustration to forced change, my tears trickle with helplessness. Eric’s OCD is harder to cope with than his autism. The past two years have magnified his obsessiveness as they have forced me to live with little to no options to change reality. His meltdowns are volatile. But I just know that in his heart, he does not want to be disruptive. He wants to be calm and happy. I just know it.

Helen’s writing has been an anchor in many ways. Every week, I look forward to reading how a mom survives, how a mom hopes, how a mom laughs, how a mom cries, how a mom moves forward. I join her journey as she remembers and as she dreams.

Guam has been blessed to have the Middlebrooke family. We wish them everything hopeful and wonderful.

My guess is the kids and the grandkids who have already relocated are happy to have mom just a bit closer. Certainly, her grandchildren will delight in more face-to-face time. And Helen will welcome less airport time to get to her extended life.

Another guess is her Three Amigos are excited at the idea of exploring new places. Their Three Amigos are foster children who seem to have firmly grown Middlebrooke family roots. Welcoming the boys is simply another sign of this family’s strength. Their work at extending family displays their belief in community being community – in neighbors being neighbors – in families helping especially those needing a hand, a hug, a roof and a “yes.”

At the same time, the Three Amigos may be a little anxious about new and different. Being stable and steady is comfort for the soul. But there is no doubt that Helen will buoy all of the changing emotions. She’ll be able to couch change into gifts of opportunity.

I wish Deborah much happiness and support. It’s tough being challenged— developmentally and medically— on Guam. It’s tough anywhere, but hopefully the systemic support is more pervasive and vibrant where they go. Hopefully, progress is more readily accessible to families. Hopefully, Deborah will react with calm happiness.

We get to a point where all we want for our kids is to be calm and happy.

We’ll miss her husband Mike. As chief meteorologist with the U.S. National Weather Service on Guam, Mike has guided us through decades of threatening weather. His knowledge and experience base has helped us understand the force of winds, rains and weather patterns. He has cautioned us about flooding and rough currents.

Mike has taught us about the moon and our skies. It was perfect that the heavens had him explaining to us about the Super Blue Blood Moon lunar eclipse – an occurrence that hasn’t happened in 152 years. He has been a calming, caring voice as he keeps us updated throughout long, dark nights. We’ve been in good hands and we’ll miss him.


Of course, Helen can continue writing for us. It would be really wonderful to hear how life goes on. It would be great to continue to learn about life’s sense of humor and its trust in people, too. And it would be very good to continue to be reminded that God has a plan.

Another Guam family becoming Guam ambassadors! Best of luck. Much love and laughter, Helen. Guam will always be home whenever you want.

Aline Yamashita is a mom, a teacher and former senator. She served in the 31st and 32nd Guam legislatures. Send feedback to


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