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Chapter Twelve – My Bit of Hope
Coming back to the United States with a knee injury that nearly left me without a foot was a surreal experience. I was terrified of what lie ahead. Having secured a part-time, freelance job at an international business publication and Web site in Manhattan, I wondered how I would even be able to make the commute. Indeed, I never did make that commute. When I returned home, we learned that I had torn a piece of cartilage the size of a peach pit, and it moved from the front of my knee to the back, which is why it was cutting off my circulation. In the end, I had to have three surgeries and two years of physical therapy. The last surgery took over seven hours and included both a cartilage transplant and ligament repair. (I tore my ligament while walking on the beach at the Jersey Shore amid physical therapy.) I spent two six-week periods in bed, one of which had me hooked to a machine that bent my knee six hours per day.
But I’m a fighter, the daughter of fierce immigrants. I managed to keep my job with that business publication by working from home. I didn’t waste one minute in that bed. I hustled and picked up other freelance jobs, while earning a couple of promotions along the way.
Still, I was stuck in bed or on crutches most of the time. And I spent three mornings a week in physical therapy and the other days doing my exercises on my own. I walked with a limp the majority of the time and had lost all the muscle in the thigh above my injured knee. I fell into a depression. Even though my parents cared for me, I felt lonely and scared. And I wondered if this is what my future was going to look like. While overcoming such difficulties can build character, it can also break you.
There was a tiny bit of hope lifting inside me. Every once in a while during this period it came through. My hope was named Tony, my Italian pal with potential. Before I left Italy – knee injury and all – Tony asked Roberto if he could have my e-mail address. Before giving it to him, Roberto asked if I would mind. He held onto my e-mail address for a week despite Tony’s demands for it. The morning of my first surgery, I opened my e-mail to find a note from Tony. He wanted to know how I was doing, and if I’d like to keep in touch.
From then on, he started virtually wooing me. There were text messages, online chats, and even a couple of phone calls. My relatives in the United States were warning me to stay away from him. “Italian boys are married to their mamma or they cheat on you or both,” they would say. My American friends certainly agreed. But he was so sweet and served as a good friend when I needed one most.
While my sister was in Italy studying abroad, Tony begged to see her. And he gave her a gift to bring to me. Inside, there was a silver key-to-his-heart charm and letter expressing his developing feelings. I secretly wished he was closer physically to me. I had no interest in leaving Jersey – and after that horrific ordeal in Ischia, I wasn’t making any new travel plans either.
Some names and identifying characteristics of the real people involved have been changed.
Tune into this Web site, Two Worlds, every Monday for the latest installment in my blog about my experiences in Ischia, and every other Monday to ItaliansRus.com for the latest Our Paesani column about all things Italian. Di Meglio is also the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com.