I’ve introduced you to my steadfast matriarchs who continue, in spirit, to circle my wagon, but I’m not complete without you meeting my father. Peter M. Raptis II. He was Junior to his parents, Pete to my mother, and Papá to my siblings. He was bigger than life to me. There wasn’t a word to define or describe him. Think a swashbuckling Errol Flynn with a megawatt smile and infectious laugh.
And I wanted to grow up to be just like him. I don’t ever remember wanting to grow up to replicate my mother’s life, running a chaotic household and raising a rambunctious brood of demanding, and challenging kids, but I do remember approaching his office and wanting to be a part of that. I still do.
Chapter I – December 27, 1991
“In almost every family photograph from my tenth year on, I’m proudly holding a drooling baby boy. After a perfect son and three civilized daughters, my mother unleashed four sons in rapid succession into our neighborhood, where they terrorized prized rose bushes, cats, and mailmen. The bundles of steaming tamales and platters of homemade cookies my mother sent along with apologetic note cards and hefty checks helped keep the police and lawsuits away, but really it was the fact she was a widow, a young green-eyed beauty of a widow with too many children, that kept our neighbors from running us out of town.
My larger than life, successful, handsome, prankster of a father died in a car accident, two blocks from our home, when I was eleven and my mother was seven months pregnant. He was plucked out of our lives, just as we were beginning to get to know one another. Some things I’d preferred not knowing about him, but there were many more that made me feel grand and, most of all, feel safe. We’d lost our treasured, paternal Greek grandfather two years earlier, but when my father torpedoed to his death, it crippled us. As a family, we never recovered and have walked through life with a limp in our hearts.”