Friday, December 9, 2011

Reminsicing on my Beautiful and MonStrous Life.....

I was listening to Mat Kearney's Closer to Love and the part that says "and don't apologize for all the tears you've cried, you've been way too strong now for all your life" really hit home today.  Made me remember not just what I've dealt with in the past few years with my health, but mostly my life before the MonSter.  I remembered growing up as a child in Lima, Peru and how hard it was to be around all the crime and violence, all the family feuds and how hard it was to leave everything and everyone we loved to try for a brand new life in America....it's a story worth telling.

I grew up in Peru in the 80's, when the terrorist group Shining Path was running rampant.  It was a scary and dizzying time, from losing electricity all the time from the terrorists blowing up electric towers among many other bombings, to the constant threat to our lives.  See my family in Peru is what you would call "well off", my Grandfather built a bread business that later became a bread empire, so the Reyes family was high profile.   That meant that we were targets for kidnapping attempts to the family.  There were 2 real kidnapping attempts on 2 of my uncles, that were luckily unsuccessful (2 very interesting stories in their own right, but I'm not writing a book here! lol), which prompted my Grandpa to get bodyguards for the whole family, including us kids. We were taken out of school for 3 months until the real threat passed and when we were finally able to go back, we had to get driven to school in a van with armed bodyguards, then had to get walked in to school with bodyguards flashing their big guns, as to thwart any attempts.  Again scary, but having bodyguards became the norm.  If we even wanted to go out to eat somewhere we'd get followed by our bodyguards to be safe.  As if all these threats and precautions wouldn't have been reason enough to make me wildly aware of my mortality at a young age, I had the misfortune of witnessing a man get shot to death in front of my grandfather's bakery during a robbery.  I was 6.  I couldn't speak for a few hours from the shock, and although I was young, I will NEVER be able to get that image out of my mind.  I was also unlucky enough to witness my Mom getting pistol whipped and beaten as 2 men tried to steal our car, as well as them shooting at my brother and I before they got away with our car.  It was truly one of those Arnold movie moments (you know like the parts where he screams "get down" with his bad Austrian accent), as our teacher threw us down to keep us from being shot.  These were a few of the horrible things I had to live through in my short life in Peru, but even as I write this it seems like I'm talking about someone else's life.

Of course, as in the wise words of P-Diddy "Mo' Money Mo' Problems", there were plenty a family feud to be had, and along with the threats to our lives, it lead us to make the difficult decision of having to leave everyone and everything we loved to go out on our own to America. It was a conscious, keep your money it's not worth all this crap, sort of decision so we moved to middle America (Fairfield, Iowa to be exact) to tough it out as common folk.  Living in Iowa was a culture shock for sure, we have many cultural differences so the language barrier wasn't the only thing that had me spinning my first year here!  Also the fact that we had barely any $ to our name was something that we needed to get used to.  My parents always made sure that we weren't raised like spoiled brats by any means, but we always had enough in Peru. So going from "enough" to copping a squat at my uncle's house, then moving to low income apartments, then a trailer, from getting toys at Christmas in Peru to getting socks or 1 small gift for my brother and I to share, were interesting life changes.  I remember our first Christmas in Iowa, we had just moved in to our low income apartment and didn't have enough money to buy a Christmas tree, much less presents, so the sweet teachers at our school took up a collection and they got us a half dead tree, lol, but hey it was our first real Christmas tree ever! :)  They also got us some gifts so we wouldn't go completely without, which is what would have surely happened had it not been for their kindess.  The people of Fairfield are another reason we were so lucky to be there, what a blessed tiny town we picked! :)  The one thing we took away from our experience back then was that money had caused us nothing but problems, and that even though life is hard without it that we were happier as poor people in America than as Reyes' in Peru. :)  I don't want you to think that my immediate family was always wealthy though, my Dad was a cop, and we all know how little cops make, and my Mom was a stay at home Mom so we had plenty of monetary limitations during my first years of life.  It wasn't until we MADE my Dad quit his job as a cop that he started working for my Grandpa and we finally had some money.  But even then my parents always kept us humble, thank you, thank you thank you! :)

Life wasn't done throwing me curve balls, however, I stupidly fell in love at 16, ended up marrying way too young at 18.  Neither one of us was ready for such a commitment so after 2 very rocky years we threw in the towel.  And the end was straight out of a Jerry Springfield episode.  He cheated on me with my then sister-in-law!! Yup, my sister-in-law! LOL  Gotta laugh about it 'cause it's too absurd to do anything else.  Goes without saying that both my brother and I are happily remarried now of course, but that's a part of my past I would rather erase.  And this chapter certainly falls under the "many tears cried" category and, therefore, needed mentioning in this post.

So as you can see, many tears were shed in this crazy life of mine but it's all made me who I am today which is a resilient tough chick.  I could have done without having to witness death and violence but it seems that I needed that toughness to deal with the many seasons of my life.

5 comments:

Christine said...

Gisselle, I wondered about your path from Peru to Iowa, and the story is even more interesting and difficult than I could have imagined. What a culture shock--to go from urban Lima with the violence of the 80s to Fairfield, Iowa! Do you think some of the hard and horrific experiences you had, like witnessing the murder when you were six, had an impact on your MS? Especially after my mom got cancer in 1995, I read a lot about the mind-body connection. I've read recently that MS is "multi-focal," i.e. that it develops from multiple causes--not just one. I do wonder how much the stress of our early and adult lives plays into developing MS. I am so glad that you have preserved and have the shining spirit that you do. And yes, regarding your former sister-in-law, truth is often stranger than fiction! Take care, chica!

Christine said...

Darn MS! I meant "persevered" not "preserved." Nuts!

Gisselle said...

Thanks for your comment Christine :) I do wonder now that you're mentioning if any or all of the many horrific things I witnessed as a child took part in the orchestrating of this weirdness I'm dealing with now. Living in Peru wasn't ALL bad, I have some wonderful childhood memories too, I just concentrated on the topic of how monstrous it also was! And LOL I totally got what you meant about persevered. :) Hope you're doing great amiga!! :)

andrE. said...

Los 80's y principios de los 90's fueron difíciles para todos. Tienes razón prima, pero de verdad, que después de que todo eso paso... Yo no cambiaría vivir aquí por nada del mundo!!! Los peruanos tenemos eso de que somos todos muy orgullosos del Perú a pesar de todo porque es increíble y tiene cosas maravillosas! Me alegro que lo lleves dentro tu también! Mira:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8joXlwKMkrk
Lindo no? El sólo hecho de pensar que me voy a tener que alejar tanto tiempo para poder hacer mi especialidad me para los pelos!! Donde se puede comer más rico? jaja Lima está linda, caótica como siempre pero linda! Deberías venir a vernos, la familia crece cada día más y más!! Un beso!

Gisselle said...

Primis q lindo video! Habia escuchado de Peru, Nebraska y hasta habia visto un video sobre el, pero nunca del punto de vista de los Peruanos! :) Hubiera sido muy similar si hubieran ido a Fairfield los Peruanos a compartir nuestra cultura y comida. Tienes razon nuestra comida es la mas deliciosa que existe y tengo muchas memorias lindas de mi Pais. Extraño casi todo del Peru con ecepcion al crimen y los problemas familiares que sucederion en los ochentas, extraño a la familia, la cultura, la comida. Te quiero mucho Andrea, besotes a ti y a toda la familia! :)