Updated: Jul 10, 2020
| This is the 77th story of Our Life Logs |
It’s hard to close the doors to the past. Though sometimes, it is necessary to move on, because that closed door often opens another.
My life started in the late 1950’s on the west side of Cincinnati, Ohio. I had a wonderful childhood growing up with my older sister. My father was born in the United States, and my mother in Italy. She was only 19 when she came to the US. We grew up with a lot of Italian traditions, especially around the holidays. My mother would make authentic Italian food that I adored. Life was simple and happy.
I was a free-spirited child. My father often encouraged me to be my own person. I knew I wanted to have a career, so during high school I took classes like typing and sewing to get myself into the working world. Upon graduation in 1974, I got a job in the payroll department at the same company where my father worked.
I transferred out of payroll in the next few years and began doing secretarial work in the company. Over time, I became good friends with a married lady that shared a cubicle with me. She started inviting me to hang out with other coworkers and her husband’s friends. One time, a man named Tom came who had been in the Navy. He wasn’t my type, and I was dismayed when my friend’s husband told me that Tom wanted to take me out. Nevertheless, they convinced me to give him a chance, so we went out in January of 1979. To my surprise, I had the best time out with him! We connected easily. By October of the same year, we were married.
Tom had dropped out of high school, so after we got married, he went back to school to get his GED (General Educational Development). After that, he started taking classes to get a college degree. During this time, he got a third-shift elevator job while I was working first shift as a secretary at a university. We had difficulty finding time to spend together, but we were hopeful. We planned our future together as we began to buy a house big enough to start a family.
Disaster struck in August of 1981.
I received a phone call one evening around midnight from my mother-in-law. She told me Tom’s company had called her and said that Tom had gotten hurt while on the job. She picked me up, and we rushed to the emergency room. As we arrived, our names were instantly called to follow the doctors into another room. A young doctor sat next to me with a somber expression. He said, “Tom was injured on the job this evening…” He paused, and I waited for him to continue. I wanted to know how long he would be in their care and if any surgeries were needed. The next words out of his mouth were, “it killed him.”
The doctor sat patiently next to me as I repeated “no” over and over as he nodded “yes,” his eyes closed in sadness. I was in shock. I didn’t want to believe that he was gone. We were just starting our lives together. Why did this happen?
I asked to see him, so they brought me to his room. His body was wrapped like a mummy, and I remember lunging for him, but the doctors held me back. All I could do was stare at him, pleading, “breathe, please breathe.”
The accident happened because Tom was using a new machine that night. The one he usually used wasn’t working, so his boss assigned him to a Lathe machine that he was unfamiliar with. It had large pistons that rotated. His boss asked him to wait, and said he would show him how to use it properly when he returned. Tom didn’t wait, and one of the pieces came loose and struck him in the chest. The impact threw him 10 feet into the air, and all his organs were crushed. There was nothing they could do for him.
After his funeral, the devastation followed me for years. Age 24 and I was already a widow. At first, I was in shock, then I was grieving, and over time I grew enraged. Why couldn’t he have just waited? Knowing the dangers, why couldn’t he wait? He had people that loved and needed him! For years, I angrily called him an idiot to myself, but the anger was just another way of coping with the fact that I’d never see him again.
Tom and I had been living in an apartment while we were getting the house details settled, but I had to cancel them after his death. Living in the apartment after everything was hard. I couldn’t bear to look around and see his stuff. I had to get rid of most of it. One day, I found his cologne and dumped it down the drain. How dumb! I had made the whole apartment smell like him! It was overwhelming, and I had to get out. I bought a new place and tried to move on as best I could. It was hard to close the door to the place we made a home, but I knew I needed to just shut it.
I was compensated for Tom’s death since he had been killed on the job. I decided to quit my job for a while and let my mind settle. However, over time, I knew I had to get out of my new place and work again. When I was home, I would just sit in a chair and say nothing. It was like I was going numb. I tried to stay out as much as I could. I would sometimes go out with my single friends and try to move on. I tried dating a few guys but without much success. Either my heart was not ready, or the learning that I was a widow scared them off.
It was not until four years later that I felt I had finally moved on from Tom. One night, I had gone out to a bar with some friends after a wedding we had attended. I was chatting with my friends when a guy approached me, asking me to dance. I felt like it time to close the door to the past. He had been engaged once before me, so we both had history. I liked that we understood each other. We moved in together in 1985 and by May 1988, we got married.
Over the years, we had two beautiful girls. I had a lot of difficulty conceiving both of them. I was almost 37 when I had our first daughter. When we tried for my second one, we were told I would have a slim chance of getting pregnant again. But we didn’t give up. I successfully conceived and the day she was born was the same day Tom died 15 years ago. A day that was sad for so many years became a day of joy and celebration.
From the loss of my first husband, I learned to not take life for granted. Things can change in a blink of an eye, so cherish what you have while you still have it. I cherish my life and the wonderful family I’ve created. The best advice I can give to someone that has lost a spouse is to hang in there. Time will heal your wounds. The pain may never go away, but it does decrease. Though time will make you forget a lot, hang onto the memories you can of the person. I can still hear Tom’s laugh sometimes. Losing him was tragic, but it led me to my husband today. I know that Tom would have wanted my happiness, and I am grateful for the life I have.
This is the story of Gerry
Gerry resides in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband. After the loss of her first husband, Gerry was forced to start over, but she found that his death brought her to her husband today. Today, she spends her time making tee shirt blankets and hemming prom dresses. She also plans to help her eldest daughter plan her wedding. She has found that with age comes wisdom, and she has gained a lot of it through her experiences. Gerry believes that no one should take life for granted.
This story first touched our hearts on May 6, 2018.
| Writer: Kristen Petronio | Editors: Colleen Walker; Manqing Jin |