As I think back on my life, I often wonder if things were different when I was a child, perhaps I would’ve turned out different – less hard, more gentle. I can say that I was a relatively happy child and my childhood was pretty normal. Although I knew my family loved me, it wasn’t an easy household. Honestly, I still laugh at just how stereotypical it was.
Myself and my family hail from Brooklyn, New York, but I was raised in the small, Southern Arizona town of Tucson. Both of my parents are Italian, my mother is also half Irish. My father was first generation American, a World War II veteran, and 17 years older than my mom, but they were each other’s first marriage. He was 51 when I was born, and although he was loyal and protective, I still attest that, by the time I reached my teens, he was just too old to raise a teenage girl.
As far back as I can remember, there was the constant looming threat of his death. He was a severe asthmatic, and had a slew of life-threatening health issues from which he always recovered. Some of my earliest memories are of the fear I had of losing the man I adored. Thoughts of losing him were with me constantly. Fortunately, he had a strong constitution in all aspects of his life, coming from the Depression Era, I suppose that’s only natural, and he lived to be 91 years old.
As I mentioned, my parents were strong people…and my mother certainly knew how to yell. Actually, she still does, but I don’t want to go any further without saying, I love my parents more than anything. They loved us and showed my brother, sister, and me their love through their actions. We had our issues, and perhaps our household lacked affection, but we always knew that they loved us.
In my pre-teen years, I began to fall victim to anxiety. I don’t know why I started having panic attacks around 12 years old, but they never ceased. I missed school and am pretty sure I was suffering from depression due to my lack of understanding. My parents were older and in their time, people didn’t goto psychologists or seek mental help, which is why I suffered for so long. By the time I reached 8th grade, I had a handle on my anxiety and I began to flourish.
I was becoming a young woman in the early 1990’s, a very different age from when my father grew up in the 1940’s, and I began to rebel. Although I never drank or did drugs, my sister, who was 7 years older than me and married to a dip-shit, know-it-all, told my mother I did. She suffered from “middle child syndrome,” and it was fierce. Anyway, like most people, I would later discover that my parents were right, about everything…but kids will be kids, and girls will be girls. At the age of 15, I found myself a boyfriend, and kept it a secret, for fear of being forbidden to see him…since I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16. During the year we spent together, I lost my virginity and had a pregnancy scare. My cousin, whom is more dear to me than my own sister, offered her help. She knew my parents, and she knew that something like this could drive a rift between them and their youngest. So, I was going to spend the summer with her and have an abortion. Fortunately, it never came to that. It was a false positive and I promptly got on the pill. Life was back on track. My boyfriend and I broke up, and like many “first-loves,” I look back and wonder what I ever saw in him.
I graduated high school early, when I was only 16, and after only a 2 week break, went to college. In theory, I should’ve graduated by the time I was 20, but I had found a sense of freedom I so desperately needed. Just two short years after graduation is when it all went awry.
In many ways, I was still a child, and my parents did the right thing by keeping me grounded, but it hindered me because I felt trapped. I felt as though I wasn’t allowed to spread my wings…which led me straight into the arms of a monster.
Fortunately, I escaped with my life and although my dignity was in shreds, I had enough of it left to pull myself back together. Only a couple of months later, I met a man. I was still only 19, newly divorced, and only beginning to figure out who I truly was. He was 31 or so when we met and the physical attraction between us was palpable.
He was the man at work that every woman admired, and many desired. He was olive skinned, quiet, handsome, and quick to laugh. He was olive skinned, quiet, handsome, and quick to laugh. The scar just beside his right eye, remanants of a bar fight from his younger years, only added to the character of the crushing gaze he would give me through the giant school bus driver’s mirror. Everything about him was exactly what I needed. And I can’t deny that holding the attention of the most eligible bachelor did wonders for my nearly non-existent self-esteem.
He had a silent strength about him, he was safe. It was only weeks before we launched into a full love affair. We came together on Fridays, sometimes sneaking an interlude on the school bus he drove to the high school football game. It was risky, but the desert seemed to always border the school parking lot. He would park the bus near the dank green shrubby and cactus, and I would park my camaro in its shadow. It was sexy, he would unbotton my stylish flannel shirt and it would drape around my waist, which made us feel as though I was hidden, in case we got caught. Silly, I know, but he was considerate of me in every way.
Most of the time it was someplace neutral and inconspicuous, since I lived with my parents, and he took care of his mother. Over the next two years we both dated other people, but when those brief moments ended, we always seemed to find our way back to one another. To this day, he still holds a very special place in my heart. In many ways, he brought me back to life – body and soul – and for that I am eternally grateful.
I met the man I call “husband” shortly after I turned 21, and our love affair came to an abrupt end, although, I can’t deny, I thought of him often over the years. I set back off to college and amidst major anxiety, panic, and a terrible case of Post Traumatic Stress, I completed my Bachelor’s in Psychology when I was 23.
The horrors were a few short years behind me and soon to be a thousand miles, as well. Now, after two years of a long-distance relationship, my fiancée and I were finally going to be able to be together and start our lives in a new place – Colorado. His career was developing, he was a police officer turned Federal police officer and I was accepting an entry level administrative position. We were off and running. I thought it would be onward and upward forever. I was wrong.