Today at the age of 54, when I look back at my life I feel an overwhelming sense of fulfillment and satisfaction. Life has come with its ups and downs, but it has never been a burden and that is precisely what made my 54 years translate into an exciting experience. I got married, had children and raised a family with the support and love of my husband and while all this was going on, I also held on to my own personal dreams. But life is never a smooth journey for anyone. It puts you in the path of danger and death only to test the limits of your strength, courage and will to live. I guess it was all these three factors combined that helped me come out of some traumatic phases with renewed sense of self and a more positive outlook on life.
I was born on Jan9, 1951. My childhood was a carefree happy time of my life like it usually is for most kids. We were a big family with eight children and two adults. My parents Aileen and Frederick Kenny were hardworking people who believed in family values and never neglected us for the sake of their own goals or ambitions. Mom believed in staying at home and in those days, it was more a tradition than option. But with mom at home, life was easier. For a child like myself who was weak and accident-prone, having my mother at home 24 hours a day was a blessing. Dad was a Teamster and made considerably good income. However that money was not enough to afford luxuries for the big family life ours but it did help my parents make both ends meet. I do not think money was much of a problem since when you are very young, financial problems rare make a dent in your happy world. For some divine reason, children are given no cognitive ability to understand such issues.
Mom and Dad were good people like you would expect in 1950s era. They were young and actively seeking to make our lives better in whatever way they possibly could. One of these was instilling good values. Mom and Dad were devout Catholics and we were raised with strict catholic beliefs. I attended a Catholic school till sixth grade after which parents could no longer afford such schooling and I was sent to a public school to graduate. My parents were not really well educated. They completed high school but college was simply out of question for them. But they understood the value of education. Apart from education, it was the family unit that held immense significance for my parents. Relatives were always welcome and formed an integral part of our lives. Vacation and family time was important. Dad would spend time with us playing board games while mom prepared us for the practical world. She taught us all that you needed to survive on your own.
Since I was sickly and often ran into accidents, I have some vivid memories of traumatic times spent in hospital, away from family and of bleeding to the point of death. It is definitely amazing that I survived all that and while they were certainly rough experiences, I gave me an early lesson in survival. Whatever I went through as a child with bad health, positive school experiences made up for it. I was not only a good student, but was also actively involved in extra curricular activities. Cheerleading, swimming, sports, reading, parties and proms were all part of my thoroughly fulfilling school life. Mom and Dad had their life philosophy all straightened out for us. Do well in school, stay out of trouble and get a good job. These values were so deeply embedded in my head that I stuck to them even as if my life depended on them. I stayed away from drugs or alcohol and graduated from school without any trouble to my credit in June 1969. During High school I had worked part-time in a telephone company and contributed $10 from my pay and this instilled in me a deep sense of responsibility. After High school, I found a job with State Department of Water Resources.
I got married fairly young. At the age of 20, I felt I was ready to take on marital responsibility and got married to Jack Pacheco. Jack is five years older than me and I had met him during high school. My wedding was a beautiful experience and to some extent lavish too. My parents paid for it with the funds they had been saving for this important occasion and to this day, people talk about what an exceptional affair my wedding was. Jack and I had bought a house in Somerville one year prior to our wedding and we would pay $10 from our pay towards the mortgage. The rest of it was paid by the tenants.
For our honeymoon, we went to Bermuda. I remember everything so vividly not only because it was a beautiful unique experience but also because of the costs involved. We had stayed at Princess Hotel that cost us $55 a night including three meals-Now that was something! We wanted our honeymoon to be memorable and just had to pay the price.
Jack and I loved entertaining family and friends. And we went camping a lot as we were essentially free of responsibilities that come with raising a family- until 1974. That was when my first child Jennifer was born. After getting married, I had left my State job while at the same time I took some secretarial courses at a junior college. Once my child came into the world, life changed to a great extent. We sold our 3-unit house and bought a single house in Waltham. Jennifer was followed by John in 1976 and I opted for a life at home to be there for my kids. Jack's job was such that he had to stay away from family often. I didn't want my children to feel neglected or lonely. In 1978, we moved into a bigger house. My twenties were basically spent looking after my kids and participating in many activities with them such as dancing, parties, boy scouts, girl scouts etc.
Thirties was a time for me to pay some close attention to my own goals. Children were settled in school routine by now and I decided to renew my commitment to career advancement. I started working part-time in Human Resource Department of Barney College. Along with part-time job, I also enrolled myself in night classes at the same college. I worked hard and moved up to become Benefits Assistant. I continued my education because it was the one way I could improve and excel at my job. Life on the whole was good. My husband and I had a very deep relationship that was based on mutual trust and love. We believed in commitment and communication. Even though we had been married for years, we never stopped appreciating each other. For this reason, we had dedicated Friday nights to the two of us. The tradition continues to this day. Apart from Friday dates, morning talking sessions also hold special significance. We have this routine fixed for morning when we just sit and talk about everything that's going on in our lives. The best thing about our relationship is that we love each other effortlessly. I hope others can understand what I mean by this because it is something to be understood and not explained.
At the age of 30, I had lost my mother to a lung disease-she was still young-only 57 years of age. Seven years later, as if my father could no longer bear the pain of my mother's death, he fell victim to lung cancer and died. He was 66. Even though I had moved on with my own family, losing both parents in relatively quick succession was too much to bear. Had it not been for my husband, kids and my own goals, life would have become very bleak and dreary without my parents' loving presence.
Along with my own goals, I also paid close attention to my children's lives. I tried my best to be there for them at all times and led a very active life. I joined a book club, traveled a lot, made new friends and just enjoyed every minute of my life while staying involved in my children's school and extra curricular activities.
Forties was a time for slowing down. It was as if God wanted to apply breaks on my life- I discovered much to my horror that I had breast cancer at 41. A year earlier, I had lost my sister-in-law to this disease and even without going to the doctor, I had a feeling I was suffering from the same disease. Loss of Rosemary was a very traumatic experience in itself -- and…