Tom DiCioccio: 'Through This Process You Find Yourself Reflecting Over Your Own Life'
After decades apart, Tom DiCioccio reunites with childhood friend, Marla Epstein, and shares how her acceptance made a difference in his life years later.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of the interviewee. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
PBS: Marla was especially difficult for you to track down as someone who is constantly on the move and who rarely has a permanent address. What was this search process like for you?
Tom DiCioccio: When I tried to find Marla on my own, I quite frankly wasn't even sure she was still alive. There is not much you can do today to search for someone if they are not tied into the internet. Being “homeless” and/or moving about does not leave much of a trail to find someone. It was very frustrating for me at first to even begin looking, and I was very happy when the production team agreed to assist me with my search.
PBS: What were you feeling in the days leading up to meeting Marla?
Tom: The days leading up to finding Marla were stressful. In fact, at times it was very emotionally draining and exhausting. As you go through this process you find yourself reflecting over your own life. For me “reviewing” my life I discovered many emotions resurfacing.
"For me 'reviewing' my life I discovered many emotions resurfacing."
I wanted to find Marla to let her know that after many years of adversity, the past 25 years of my life turned out to be incredibly happy and joyful.
I stopped working at age 46 so I could finally do with what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to help my (LGBT) community. I now had the time to get involved with many LGBT non-profits. I was able to donate my time back to my community. I was able to return to college and, in a way, kind of rediscover myself. I got to move to (arguably) the most beautiful part of California here in San Diego County close to the beach. It is truly my paradise and I wanted to let Marla know how incredibly happy my life has turned out.
"I wanted to let Marla know how incredibly happy my life has turned out."
PBS: The last time you saw Marla before this was in 1990. She had learned about the loss of your partner Jack through a mutual friend and made the drive from Northern California to see you. At that point in time you hadn’t seen her for 20 years. How did this most recent reunion feel different?
Tom: This reunion was much different than our brief reunion in 1990. In 1990 Marla came down because my partner Jack had died, and she was a wonderful comfort to me. This time was very different because it seems like a lifetime had passed between our visits. I wanted her to know how well things had turned out for me. I wanted to find out how she was, what had happened with her life.
PBS: What was it like for you to be able to hear that you had also made a difference in Marla’s life?
Tom: I was very surprised to hear that I had made a difference in her life. I would like to discuss that more with her when we meet again in June.
PBS: Now that you’ve reunited, what’s next for you and Marla?
Tom: I have written Marla several times with no response yet. I will write at least two more times. My travel plans are for a trip up to Northern California and on into Oregon this May and June. I'm hoping to contact her by then. I truly hope we can meet and talk for a longer period of time.
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