Where did my life start becoming what it was? Hard to say exactly……
My brothers and sisters, all older, had it all. Nice house, pool, clothes, new cars. My father was a hard working man. He managed a large department store chain. Mom was a wonderful stay at home mom, cleaning and keeping a beautiful home and always having a wonderful dinner on our table every night. Typical 60’s blue collar home. My father was to me was the perfect dad. My mother was a great mom. LIfe was good. I don’t remember much of my younger years at all but do remember images of my dog, our yard, playing hockey on the frozen pool in our yard with my brothers, watering the beautiful lawn and flower gardens with my mom, helping her garden and learning the names of all the flowers I loved to look at with her at our large home in South Jersey.
I was too small to remember when things changed, I guess I was about 5/6 years old. My father developed a heart condition and after 2 heart attacks apparently lost his good job that kept us comfortable. I do remember having to sell our home and saying goodbye to all my best friends in my neighborhood. I remember the party they gave us going away and still today have the small scrapbook with all the kids pictures and signed names in it so I could never forget them. It was hard. I didnt know at this time but my life as I knew it was over. It was to be the start of a very unstable life filled with uncertainty and moving around.
Why we moved to Rhode Island I am not sure of. I believe it was a job opportunity. We purchased yet another home and me, my brothers and mother moved up North. My sister had married at age 19 and she remained in NJ with her husband and my new nephew. The home was nice and we settled in well. My brothers were in their late teens now and made friends and were not around much. I was very much younger than all my siblings and once they hit their late teens I guess we all lost our bond. I made friends and I guess was pretty happy. I remember playing barbies, playing with my dog, and exploring the nearby woods with my couple good friends. Im not sure but I think it was a couple years into living here that my father again had a small heart attack and apparently lost his job yet again. I remember him getting things cheap from flea markets and reselling them to try to make money. I would go with him every time he went anywhere. We were buddies. I spent alot of time with him when he wasnt working. I would enjoy going to the flea markets with him and spending Saturdays selling his items. He got into flea marketing trying to make ends meet. I remember being on food assistance and I remember money was tight. My brothers were doing their own thing and working. My oldest brother met his girlfriend in our neighborhood and was happy. Money or lack of, yet again forced us to lose our home and downgrade into an nearby apartment community in Massachusetts.
I had never lived in an apartment before. But I remember my room clearly. I decorated it in purple. My favorite color. It was a nice big room with bright lights and big windows. I was happy here in my room. This period when I was about 12/13 for me is the point I started feeling lonely and sad and keeping to myself alot. My father I know was struggling to put food on the table. I honestly don’t know what he did for work at this time but I do remember nights when he just never was home. Family dinners were few and far between. Times were hard. I heard my mom and dad argue sometimes which I never heard ever before. I started babysitting at 13 and cleaning some of the residents homes in the apartment community to make money. My dad was unable to buy me clothes and necessities so I worked hard to have my own money to help out. I kept to myself alot in my room listening to music and drawing. I didn’t mind being alone at all but now see that i was withdrawing from everyone. I had only made one good friend in this time, my friend Amy. Spent many a good time with her. We had fun at the pool, playing tennis, rollerskating and just hanging out. Then she and her family moved into a home not too far away, but far enough away I wouldn’t see her on a daily basis like I was used to except at school each day. I remember school, I hated it there. I was bullied by a couple girls but had some really good friends too. I spent time at Amys house and hung with her often after school. She was my best friend for sure.
I remember being at that point feeling lonely and confused, having questions about changes in my body and becoming very self conscious about my appearance. And although I had good parents, I see now all these years later I never had good communication from them. They never talked to me about feelings or getting older. I never once remember either of them sitting with me and giving me advice or asking how I felt. I know for a fact that lack of bond with my parents is now why it is so important for me as a parent to provide my daughters with that form of communication/openness.
One day when i was 15 my father said he got a job offer from my brother in law back in NJ. He had always hated living up North and wanted me to have a better community to live in and have a better school system to attend. My brothers had both married at this point and started families and of course remained in Mass/RI to live. I was sad to leave my baby niece and my new baby nephew. But again, we packed up for the 3rd time in 8 years and headed back to NJ. I was kind of excited mostly because of getting out of that school and the bullies that bothered me on a daily basis but was very sad for losing Amy, the one and only friend I had in my life. Moving so much makes it hard to have friends.
I was 15 when we moved into our new apartment home in South Jersey. It was a beautiful town and I was excited to start new. Happy my dad had work and seemed relieved and happy again. We settled in June 1983, my dad was working, Sometimes since it was summer break and school hadn’t started yet, I would go to work with him. He was working for my brother in law at his car dealership and was a car jockey between the dealerships and the auction. I loved spending time with him it didnt matter what we were doing we always had fun. And everyone he worked with was nice. I guess looking back now I always got along with adults better than I did other kid.
I was happy in school and my mom was happy at home. Barely a month later low and behold, my father suffered his 4th heart attack. A minor one, but he pushed ahead still working and just doing what he had to so he could support my mother and I. He was happy to see me enjoying school and making friends in our community.
My 16th birthday drew near that December 1983 and stress overcame my poor father once again. My father was working but still money was super tight. He was excited that his baby was turning 16 and wanted to buy me something for my birthday. We had planned to go me and him to the nearby mall after dinner on my birthday so he could buy me my present. As we ate dinner that night it was normal. After dinner mom was doing dishes and I was waiting in the living for my dad to get ready to go to the mall. I heard him mumbling something as he sat in the dining room, then I heard more mumbling as he came near me in the living room. My dad was a kidder, always joking around. I thought he was acting what seemed to be like a drunk person, but as he came near me and i saw his face, I knew something was terribly wrong. I remember laughing at first and saying dad I know your not drunk stop acting like you are….I watched him and his slurred delayed speech and knew he was having a stroke and screamed “mom somethings wrong with Dad!” She came out and said OMG hes having a stroke and as I helped him into a chair while she called 911 I stroked his head and told him I loved him and he was going to be ok. The ambulance got there very quick as the firehouse was right down the street. My head was spinning and my heart racing. I remember them putting him on the stretcher and as he was being wheeled out i held his hand, and all he tried to do was reach in his pocket to get his wallet trying to hand it to me and me saying” I have to take my baby to the mall its her birthday”. Those were the last words I ever heard my dad speak to me.
It was terribly ironic that this happen to my father at age 55. His father and his brother both died of heart attacks at the age of 54. My dad had always been afraid he too would have the same fate. But as his birthday passed that August of 1983 and he turned 55 he was relieved. Funny how things happen.
The day after my dads stroke my oldest brother came immediately the next day from RI to be here for my mom and I. At the hospital the night he had his stroke he was able to speak alittle and was they said doing somewhat better. We left late that night hopeful for recovery. I remember going to school the next day while my mom and brother went to see my dad, and coming home waiting for them to tell me how he was and to be able to go see him that night. I knew as soon as they walked in the door and both looked at me knew it was bad. Over night he had lost consciousness and his brain started to swell. He was placed on life support they told me. I went to visit him that night and held his hand and told him how much I loved him and what a good father he was. Over the course of the next 7 days he deteriorated in brain function and we were faced with a decision of taking him off life support to let the inevitable happen. My mother and brother and family decided it was in god hands and we removed it. I remember sitting all i n his room and hearing the heart monitor slowly stop. It was like time was stopping knowing my dad was dying. It all took about 2 minutes from the pull of the plug till he passed but it seemed to me a lifetime. My heart was heavy and my best friend and dad was gone.
Ill stop here for now. Because this part of the blog shows the life I had and things I went thru that formed me into the life I would lead thereafter my dads passing. In the next blog I will touch on who I became, how I struggled to know my mom and make a relationship with her and our struggles to just get by.