I’ve always been the one behind the camera. On the Edge. Arrogant. Confident. With a Devil May Care Bad Attitude. National Award-Winning Photojournalist. #2 in my news sequence Graduating Class at Kent State University. Top Photojournalist in the school… The resume sounds good and I have all the stories and adventures to boot but there was always an enormous cost to my achievements.
I wasn’t there for my brother, Robert, to save him from suicide. I was so focused on keeping my grades up and on my own survival that I missed the desperation in his voice that night. When others were out partying I was studying. Hoping for that golden future promised. I interned at top newspapers and got a full-time job right away. I put out 5 resumes and got 5 interviews while others put out hundreds. I picked a gritty local paper to work for and felt I could take on anyone. I had to work harder and be better so that the awards I won would cover the isolation I felt as the only women on the photo staff. I had to be tough enough to see past the hazing and survive in the ultra competitive take no prisoners abusive news environment where you were only as good as your last picture.
But this lifestyle took a toll. I saw too many horrific things. Some days were so bad I would cry in my car all the way home. In 1995 on the way to cover a plane crash for a local newspaper I was a victim injured in a three car hit and run crash involving a Drunk Driver. It took me more than a year to get off disability, another three years to get off most of the meds and another ten years to get out of debt. More crashes and more injuries over the years took a toll but I always bounced back. It got to a point where it just wasn’t worth it any more. I decided to walk away. I did freelance magazine work for awhile but the contracts were only worth the lawyers I could pay to enforce them. My clients would take a one time use payment and make it a forever we own this use. I tried being a nanny and teaching preschool, VPK, Kindergarten. Rewarding and loved the kid’s but car crash injuries always took their toll.
In 2014 a glass van whipped out into the path of my car. It was like a bomb went off. I remember lying in the middle of the street with a doctor and nurse working on me and firefighters cutting off my clothes and I just knew no matter what happened I was not going to let this destroy my life. I was left with a choice: I was told that I would need five more surgeries to help repair the damage to my body. This was after already having an aircast on my foot for months, enduring countless painful therapies along with numerous shots and invasive procedures.
Five more years of pain and recovering from surgeries that no one could guarantee would fix me. This was more than I was willing to do. Instead I chose to have a stem cell procedure in hopes that that cutting edge technology can help. The effectiveness still remains to be seen. I still deal on a daily basis with varying levels of chronic pain. Now I own a vintage toy store. The kid’s call it T’s Toy Heaven. It’s lots of fun but as always the car crash injuries are sometimes unsurmountable.
Chronic pain and the financial cost of dealing with it does something to me that I don’t like. It takes away the laughter side of me. This past year I made a decision. I would make the most of moments that matter. My New Years resolution was Fun and Hope. That change of attitude which I still struggle to keep positive has already made so much difference. I started doing things I never would have done before. Supporting causes of those who like me have also had cancer scares. I found a group that combines fundraising with the most amazing celebrity events I have ever attended. Sandyovarian.org
This leads me back to the part about getting kissed by Tristan Rogers a.k.a. Robert Scorpio, the fictional former Police Commissioner of Port Charles, a character on the TV show, General Hospital. My first cop crush. Role Model. Back then when I was a kid rushing home from school and then work to watch the show, I didn’t even realize it. That this larger than life character chock full of charm, adventure, romance and integrity would have such a drastic lifelong influence on me.
How Robert Scorpio treated people on screen set an example for me that didn’t take root right away as I dealt with my own demons and the anger surrounding my brother of the same first name’s death. The tenderness of his affection with onscreen daughter, Robin, and wife, Holly, as well as the stand up way he took care of his friends and then later his ex, Anna, helped to make him such a beloved character that he almost seemed real. He also upheld the law in a way that made sense. The dramatic way in which he and his tv cop wife were honored as killed in the line of duty WSB agents I didn’t see until many years later. I saw it years after I had begun my own journey to honor those real police officers who did make that ultimate sacrifice.
Those who lived their real life the way Robert Scorpio did on TV. My journey to document those family tragedies took many years and encompassed so much emotion. But everything came full circle when I had the unique opportunity to meet Tristan Rogers in person at the fundraiser last week. Thirty-four years after I first remembered him on my TV screen.
I got to observe this iconic man’s kindness to a fan in a wheelchair when he called her grandmother on the phone personally. I saw him patiently sign autograph after autograph for hours. His demeanor with fans. His humor when he laughingly told the audience how he was able to cry on cue by thinking about the salary he made performing. What truly revealed the kind and compassionate man that he is was the lengthy discussion we had as he fortuitously for me was seated next to me at dinner. After asking everybody at the table their names and a little bit about what they did we got to interact just like normal people would. Well as normal as you can be speaking to an icon of your childhood.
“Oh My God,” I said. “Do you have any idea what this feels like sitting next to my childhood hero?”
Tristan just smiled and took it in stride just as he probably has done his entire career.
We talked about everything from Barbies to his early start in acting. He likes to say he was not that good in the beginning but Gloria Monty must have seen then what we all know now. That this character she created was not that far off from the man who walked in to play him.
But I think the thing that touched me the most this day was what he said in response to when I told him how nice that was-the phone call he made to that fan.
I didn’t write it down so I will just paraphrase as much as I can. He looked me in the eyes inches from my face and said this… When you have the opportunity to do something that really makes a difference in someone’s life you should do it. I just felt that it was the right thing to do.
We continued talking about what had happened to me with my injuries and someone asked me if I ever got married. I said no I was engaged once but he left because he couldn’t deal with my medical problems. Tristan’s face looked surprised and sad. He lightened things up by saying something like you know what you need is a man to take you away for a great weekend. We all laughed and then talked more about Barbies. Turns out he owns a collection and I offered to help him figure out the value of it. He asked me for my business card which I gave him. I don’t know if you will call but it felt nice to be appreciated for what I do.
As we lined up to get pictures with Tristan before he left to go to the next table one girl asked if he would kiss her on the cheek for the photo which he obliged. I kind of laughed and said wow you’ll have to start kissing everybody now. I really didn’t think he heard me and I don’t know if you did or not. I certainly didn’t expect anything. I was just really happy to be there and meet you. I posed for a picture with you and I thought that would be it.
“Look at me,” Tristan said.
I turned to look up at him and he kissed me on the lips. And held it for probably about 10 seconds so that The Kiss could be in the photograph. Robin (Cohen) told me later that this unnerved her so much that she was shaking and almost didn’t get the picture. I mean who would not want to be kissed by Robert Scorpio? And now I learned what it’s like. Magic. I felt like Cinderella at the ball getting kissed by the handsome Prince Charming. But what impressed me the most was that this kind man knew full well what it would mean to me and wanted to do exactly what he had said earlier. It just felt like the right thing to do. Perhaps that is why to this day he is one of -if not the- Most Loved Character and real person who graces the screen on daytime television.
I felt like I could have listened to you speak for hours about the stories only you could tell. Maybe someday I will get another opportunity to speak with you. But most importantly maybe we should all take a life lesson from you Tristan Rogers.
Make a difference. Do what matters. Touch someone’s life in a positive way whenever you have the opportunity. And remember that no matter how dark you may be feeling in one moment there is always the possibility of a light at the end of the rainbow. Thanks Tristan for being that light for me.
— Terri Cavoli (@TCavoli) May 6, 2018
— Terri Cavoli (@TCavoli) May 6, 2018