Starting at age 10, I had a fear of losing my father. So you ask, what did your father think of you? Did he call you “princess” or “beautiful” or “darling”? The answer is, emphatically, no. I was always just “Nique”, short for Monique. He wasn’t warm and fuzzy but I knew he loved me. His bark was much worse than his bite. By the way, he never “bit” us. His bark would send the most excruciating chills down my spine, so much that I can still feel them to this day. He was an old school man – he worked, his wife worked at home and took care of our home. He lived through the depression. He was a man – body and soul.
I remember at age 10 years old, I had a traumatic experience that affected me so deeply. My father had a heart attack on a plane ride home from Portugal. My aunt was babysitting us and told my siblings and me “your father had a heart attack.” So from that point until about age 16, I developed this fear of my father dying before me. He wasn’t physically capable of keeping up with a lot of my activities – baseball, big wheels, climbing trees, kid’s stuff. It was an omnipresent feeling, mainly due to the age he was and the fact that my father was in and out of the doctor’s office. The age difference between my father and I was 46 years. I thought on some level that if my father was to die before me that I could never handle it emotionally. So, I contemplated suicide at that age as an escape mechanism for the hand I had been given.
My social life as a teenager was troublesome enough without adding the paranoia of my father dying before me. I could read music and I could play instruments. In fact I played the organ, piano and clarinet. I was in band my freshman year and jazz into my junior year. I was also a flag twirler on the honor guard as a sophomore. My junior year, I felt it was time to branch out and try some other extracurricular activities. I did like most girls did who wanted to get some attention – I tried out for cheerleading. I didn’t make the cheerleading team. It was devastating. Instead, I was offered the head honor guard position which was designated for sophomores because they didn’t know what else to do with me. After some time I quit the honor guard position, devastating my mother. I never told her that I got the position by default. To this day, she says I gave up the “white uniform”. I contributed my not making the cheerleading squad to not being pretty enough, not desirable enough. And I couldn’t even begin to handle those facts at age 16. I believe this is where I began to say “I can’t stand the sight of me.”
Reminiscing about my teenage years reminded me that I was a Tom Boy. I liked doing activities my brothers did, the kind of juvenile activities my brother’s friends did. This is why 90% of my friends were guys. I was in constant conflict with my mother over how I presented myself. My mother wanted Grace Kelly, she wanted a beautiful doll for a daughter who like dressing up and makeup and being a submissive female to a male dominated society. Not a daughter who liked “big wheels”, changing the oil in the lawnmower, spitting, wearing blue jeans as opposed to a skirt. Truth was my father was my driving force, not my mother. My father was larger than life to me, I kissed the ground he walked on. In my eyes, his persona, his mannerisms, his lifestyle was what I patterned my life around. Not that I viewed my mother as weak or inadequate in any way, I just felt a deeper connection to my father’s ways.
My passion for impressing my father didn’t waver once I was out of high school. My father owned a very successful construction company in MA. My brothers were his employees and I was determined to be one of his employees. Needless to say, my father did not agree and he refused to hire me. So, I went to work for a rival construction company in the same town. I was desperate for his mind to change and for him to hire me to work with he and my brothers. I was a hard worker, smart, organized. I was up and ready to work early in the morning and I would stay late if needed. These facts never made it to my father’s desk and certainly not to any of his personnel to hire me. It was just not an acceptable option in his mind, no matter how hard I worked or tried to convince him. So, after a brief stint in the construction world, I decided to enlist. My father was a World War II veteran. He was in the Air Force. I have the utmost respect for all military organizations, including the United States Air Force. But my thought process was that I needed to do something completely extreme and attention seeking to really get noticed. So, without a second of hesitation, I enlisted in the United States Marine Corp. I figured that I would join the most male dominated military organization to try to impress my father, to get his acceptance.