Throughout the first two posts of this series, I shared some of my past hindrances, as well as my present successes. Now that we are a little more acquainted, I think it is time to get into something deeper. I was saving this post for a rainy day, if ever I was to write it. Plot twist: It may, very well, be the sunniest day yet, here in Florence. On top of that, my trip to explore and skydive over the Swiss Alps, specifically, Interlaken, the extreme sports capital of the entire continent, departs in a few hours. So yeah, maybe I am just feeling a little extra ballsy today by writing this post now. One of the reasons I decided to write for
Project MyStory, in the first place, was to force myself out of my comfort zone. Now, I am writing about the worst day of my life, while I am getting ready to fling my body out of an aircraft from 14,000+ feet. I am doing this for a blog that is (haha – nervous laugh), showcased on the front page of UAlbany’s website. In the endeavor to self-progress, “backing out” is no longer an option. Accountability is everything. Believe me, you, sweet reader, are helping me as much as I hope I am helping you, whoever you are. So screw it, open book, people!Seven months ago, today actually, my family suffered the greatest tragedy that I can only beg the universe, we will ever have to endure.
In the days and weeks after, I told this story so often it started to feel scripted… pretty fitting considering that these, real life, events could have easily been yanked right from the big screen. Now, forgive me; it has been a very long time since I have had to recall, in detail, much less reiterate, the moment that changed everything. It is even more difficult not to share this in the “went-to-London-and-came-back-a-new-soul”perspective, rather than the , “where-do-we-go-from-here-is-it-even-possible?” state of mind that I was in when tragedy happened.
It all started when my mom, after two of her three children had been studying out of state for the majority of the year, booked a quality, family vacation to Washington, D.C this past summer. We were halfway through our stay when the five of us had just finished touring the Holocaust Museum. Coincidentally, the city was in a massive heat wave; it was oppressively hot, even for people in good health. Unfortunately, my father, Steve Bertucio, was not one of those people. Let’s just say, the man lived his life the way he wanted to. Please make no mistake, he was a good man at heart… but moderation, of anything really, was all but foreign to him.
As the sun beat down on us, we decided to make our way to our evening bus tour, practically dragging ourselves to any hope of air conditioning. Simply put, my father’s pride matched his size. So when we questioned him when he kept stopping — at one point, even kneeling beside a tree, He adamantly pushed us along. Eventually, we did make it. The five of us stood in line among dozens of other families, each holding separate conversations with each other, or so I thought. All I know is that my mom, Kim, and I were chatting with these girls ahead of us about, God knows what, and then BAM!
More like a thud, truly. That thud being the forefront of the only life we knew, my father, good ole’ Steve.
Out of nowhere, he collapsed. Well, according to the medications he was supposed to be taking to compensate for decades of neglected health — the ones he failed to mention, much less abide by, it was not as “out of nowhere” as it seemed. In blur that I am thankful this atrocity was (for my mom and brothers’ sake mainly), the feeling of true fear, as uncontrollable tears rolled over my lips, as I screamed to the 911 dispatchers, was the most ingrained. You just cannot un-feel something like that. And let me tell you, not one experience or piece of advice in this world can prepare you or your loved ones when you have every confidence it is okay, and then a nurse guides you into a suffocatingly, small room, filled with nothing but tissues and a pastor.
It has been many months since this incident, and I am a thousand times grateful to say that the four of us have,somehow, rebuilt the very foundation that was so abruptly destroyed right beneath our feet. I am even more grateful to be able to say that this was largely in part because of, well, me and the incessant action I took to ensure higher ground for my family. I can 100% assure you that I would NEVER have had the strength to do this before my transformation a year ago, so yeah, I embrace this recognition/truth fully.
Thankfully, we have been able to find a few silver linings throughout this all. My personal favorite surfaced at the reception, just after I had spoken at his funeral. A woman, a stranger to me, but apparently acquainted with him, approached me with a string of words I value deeply to this day. Without even formally introducing herself, she repeated a conversation she had had with my dad not too long, before he passed. She told me something I know his pride would never have let him do himself. He said that I was an entirely different person after coming back from London. That he did not know what it was, but I was just different. That he was both surprised and incredibly proud at the young woman I had become, just like that. For a life that has been cut, far too short, to give him all the experiences Dads are, by definition, entitled to — a little peace of mind and a daughter to be proud of, I will gladly take.