I know there are are some of you out there that read my blog, because I have a couple of hundred profile views, so I will give you young readers, if there are any out there, some advice: Please stay in school if at all possible.
I am not going to tell you a sob story, just the truth. When my dad died, when I was 13, my mother, a housewife, did not drive nor did she speak any English. After our dad died, my brother and I really struggled for many reasons, but mainly, coping with the death of our beloved father was extremely difficult. Our father was a lovely man, who dearly loved his children. Both my brother and I were in our early teens when our dad died, so it took a very long time for us to accept our father's passing. Neither one of us were ready to let go of our father. Struggle also came in the care and emotional support of our mother. She was devastated, lonely and so lost, and seeing my mother's sadness was sometimes too much to bear.
Within months of my dad dying, my mother took at job at a battery factory, which made batteries for the military or commercial use only. Her job was to clean batteries with an acid solution. By the time I was 15, my mom became disabled with lung problems due to her inhaling the fumes from the solution day in and day out. So, now, my brother and I had no father and a sick mother; we were 16 and 15, respectively. Needless to say, my brother and I had to find jobs to support the family, since we could not survive on my mom's widow's pension, and in Florida in the mid-70s, disability was not an option. My brother took a job working as a busboy at a local Italian restaurant after school and on weekends, and I babysat and cleaned office buildings at night.
By the time I was 17, we decided to sell our small house, and move to California, where all of my mom's relatives lived. We got very little from the sale of the house, since my dad purchased it in 1971, and we sold it 1976. When we arrived in California, we had about $1,000 in our pockets. Thankfully, jobs in California were easy to find. My brother got a job the same week we arrived at a Ford dealer washing cars, and I became a "flag girl" at Universal Studios (I stopped the tourist trams when filming was taking place). The flag girl job was shortlived, because I decided to go back to school, since I had dropped out of HS in the 10th grade, and only had my GED,so I signed up at a business school to learn legal secretarial skills, and at 19, I had my first legal secretarial job. I thought I was the cat's meow! My brother also found a good job at a lab assistaning scientists in metalurgical applications. We were both styling! But true to a man's sometimes selfish behavior, once my brother found a girlfriend, he moved out and left my mother and me to make it on our own. His income now was being consumed with rent and supporting his unemployed girlfriend.
I struggled to make ends meet, but I did it. To make a long story short, because of my many obligations to my mother, work, then marriage and motherhood, I gave up my dream of ever going to college, at least, at that time. However, I got the college bug again when my daughter was 10, and I would take a class here and there at a local community college. I did this for 6 years, and just when I was close enough to complete enough units for an AA degree, in 2001 my mother had a stroke and my house caught fire, all in the same month of February. The house fire was devastating enough, since I lost one of my dogs, but struggling with my mom's stroke almost killed me. I completely dropped out of school. It took two years to fix the house, and it took my mom two years to get to a point where she was able to get back to a somewhat normal life. I started taking classes again at the community college, and also began the process to attend CSUN. Within weeks of receiving my acceptance letter from CSUN, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. From the beginning, the oncologist told me that the cancer was treatable, but that she would not be deemed cancer free until 5 years. Her cancer diagnosis devastated me. I was just beginning to start to breath again, when it seemed like the life was smothered out of me again. I, again, gave up the dream of going to college. My mom's health came first.
Today, I am happy to say that my mom's 5-year cancer anniversary was early his year, and my family celebrated big time. I also went back to school to finish the last 3 units I needed for an AA degree. Yesterday, I received a letter from my college informing me that I had completed all requirements to receive my AA. As of today, I am proud to say that this 50-year old is finally a college graduate, and with honors! I now have an AA in Social and Behavioral Sciences. Yipee! I am so happy!! It has been a long road, and a lot of heartbreak and struggle, but I finally did it. Now, I am looking into Bachelor's programs. This time, nothing is going to stop me. Wish me luck! :)