DelBloggolo

Saturday, August 27, 2016

LET’S LOBSTER ROLL


The other day my wife said she was out to lunch and decided to go to Panera’s for a sandwich. As she approached the counter she saw a sign for a lobster roll and decided she wanted one. Then she looked at the price and decided she would have a sandwich and a bowl of soup instead. She denied herself as the adult came out of her.


 So many times in our lives we all do such a thing as want something then turn it down for reasons such as price, calories, or distance. We deny ourselves as the adult comes out of us. I had just relayed to her how I had this hankering for Nathan’s hot dog and went out and had two, with fries. I ran through the checklist of why I shouldn’t have it, and discovered my checklist for having it was better in terms of acceptable reasoning!

As she was telling me her Panera story, I reminded her of the fact that the days we spend on this Earth are passed, and in the end what do we have to remember them by? We personally have spent so many days in the past with sadness, things we wish had never happened. To think I would pass up a chance at a Nathan’s because that is what I think I should do is silly. I reminded her that the lobster roll is only a just reward for her days gone by, days that gave us sadness and despair: a child dying on us and one living in a home because of the way she was born. We weathered the storms of our other two sons and found out along the way that life is not fair. I saw my family shrivel from discord and a whole history is wiped away, except for the memories.

So why would anyone deny themselves a pleasure once-in-a-while? Yesterday is gone, there is no replaying it, but at least remember it in some kind of pleasure filled way.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

LET ME SHOW YOU, DADDY.

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My oldest child is developmentally disabled. For 44 years of her life, I tried to find meaning to it and the unfortunate events that led to this sad conviction. She is a loving person, simple in her ways and doesn’t ask for much. Her family loves her, protects her and only hopes and works for her life to be filled with happiness. She doesn’t speak or have the ability for much reason, even though the reasoning in this world needs some explanation. But Ellen is special, and when I first heard that phrase, I didn’t believe, after all, what is special about a person who can’t talk, reason or even toilet? So many days I sat and wondered what would be the point of a life like hers? Who would ever need her, who would ever care? I joined an organization over 25 years ago, to support it to help me give to my daughter because I could never do for her what she needed in her life, and someday my wife and I would no longer be here for her.

When I am down and oh my soul so weary,
When troubles come and my heart burdened be.
Then I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.

Then the unexplainable occurred, for no apparent reason, I got a call from Ellen’s home, telling me that Ellen had broken her leg, accidentally, and without any real reason that anyone knew! Would I come down to the emergency room at the local hospital? She was admitted and an exterior fixator was applied to her right leg, from the knee to her ankle, and in all that time she never complained or whimpered, just took the events in a resigned stride! She was put in a rehab center that was awful, then back to the hospital for a rod that was inserted into her leg. The surgeon wanted to release her back to the same nursing home and I wouldn’t have it, instead along with help from the agency, AHRC Suffolk, we managed to get her admitted into one of the finest there is, which led to the strangest of events, so little I knew.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains,
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong when I am on your shoulders,
You raise me up, to more than I can be.

In the process of Ellen’s rehab was a woman, maybe in her 50’s who sat in a wheelchair all day without moving. Stephanie was a sweet woman who had no family, or friends and became attached to Ellen. I asked her if she had anyone who came to visit her and she said: No, no one comes.” As I was leaving one day I asked her if she would like to have me read to her when I visit my daughter, and her face lit up, suddenly there was more than just a gentle smile on her face. She was excited and eager. I asked if she got out much, into the courtyard and she then pulled the blanket away from her lap and revealed that she had no legs.

As Ellen progressed, it was time to leave the rehab center for home and told Stephanie.

One arm sits at Stephanie’s side, a mere appendage with no function left, and the other arm her only source of control of her body and the punitive world around her. I told Stephanie that although I would not see her every day, I would come by at least once a week and continue to read to her. Her eyes started to water and she reached out her hand and said: “YOU would do that for me?!” I said that I would see her soon. I wondered if she believed me. I did.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains,
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong when I am on your shoulders,
You raise me up, to more than I can be.

Every Wednesday for the next few weeks, I visited her to read, and then we would put the book down and just talk. I asked her what happened to her that she was in the rehab center. In a very soft voice, she related how one Sunday she and her husband were driving to church when they were involved in a horrific crash. Over the course of 5 days, she lost each one of her legs and her husband, she had nothing else in this world. Her long-term memory was gone she didn’t even remember her parent’s names or her husbands. But as we spoke, I continued to try to ply her memory of those items locked away. Slowly she was beginning to remember things, names, and places, even jobs people held. She seemed a little happier with each visit. Then one day she told me of a wish she had, to have a prayer book from the Russian Orthodox Church. I said I would try to find one, went home and told my wife who immediately went online, and ordered one.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains,
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong when I am on your shoulders,
You raise me up, to more than I can be.

The following week I couldn’t find her anywhere that day when I went to visit and was directed to her bedroom, where I found her asleep in her bed, so I left the prayer book on her serving tray and as I was leaving a nurse came in and woke her, so I returned to her bedside. She was pale, hardly able to open her eyes and her voice was weak and very low. It pained her to see me and so I said I had her prayer book and would leave it for her, as the nurse inserted some kind of reader contraption onto the point of her index finger.
I left very apprehensive and felt that maybe the end was near.

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains,
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas.
I am strong when I am on your shoulders,
You raise me up, to more than I can be.

The next week I decided to return, thinking I would call first to get a heads up on her condition. I called the rehab facility and after repeated attempts by the operator, and receptionist I could not get through. So I decided to just go and see for myself how she was. Getting off the elevator at the rehab center and said hello to one nurse I knew, and then turned the corner and started toward her room, down a long corridor, which houses the nurse's station at the end of it. As I approached, I notice the nurses who knew me were watching me as I came toward them, conferring like something was going on. As I passed my friends room, her name was no longer there and though maybe they moved her. But the nurses gathered together and came up to me, it was then I knew my friend had passed, just as I feared. I truly hope that she got a chance to read her prayer book, that it gave her some solace in her final hours, maybe it was what she needed and this was God’s way to give someone who has suffered greatly in her past, without friends or family a chance to find comfort. Maybe my daughter’s broken leg was for a reason, without my daughter in that rehab to recover, my friend would not have met me, and I would not have gotten her a prayer book she wished she had, something she requested prior to her last days and my last reading.

Somewhere up in Heaven she sits, not without legs or use of her arms, but with a spirit that rests from the turmoil and tragedy of her past. She is now an equal to all who have past. Small in stature: never diminutive in heart, but with her soul and spirit now who she is, like all of us will someday be!

From that day onward, I understood, what was happening was Ellen was teaching me, to understand that life is not centered around me, or even her, but by a higher authority than I realized! Because of Ellen, I got to meet and help people, to make wonderful friends and to appreciate my own life better, that no matter how bad it gets for me, I’m still needed and so I can’t quit on myself, or most importantly, them!

You raise me up, to more than I can be.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

WHAT WAS IT LIKE?


Over the years I have read about the Italian-American experience, and particularly the coming to American by our forbearers. I have read and seen movies heard eye-witness accounts of the process of immigration and the heroic accounts of crossing the ocean and entering through Ellis Island, where most of our ancestor’s footprints marked the soil for those of us who followed.

But in spite of the reading, comments, and movies, there is still something missing for me, WHAT WAS IT LIKE, WHAT FEELINGS WERE CONJURED UP in the people who entered our shores, and gave us the right to say: “Our shores”?

Crossing that ocean, with its wide expanse, the countless hours of the horizon, that offered a new world, faceless as one waited to see the Statue of Liberty appear for the first time, could only satisfy my imagination through what I feel, not what I know.

What was in the heart when the horizon yielded the lonely profile of Lady Liberty? Was it curiosity or excitement, was it the feeling of dread to face the unknown, or resolve to make a new life? What were the sense of anticipation as the ship docked and the landscape behind the water’s edge, promised a large city, so grand, so bursting with energy it set the tone and pattern for the rest of one’s life?

And the process itself? Being on a line to have your body examined, your passport scrutinized and your being certified? And when it was done, all the questions asked, the paperwork in order, and the physicals over, and the immigration officials tell you to step forward through the doors of freedom for the first time, what was that like?

Ellis Island is sacred soil, it is the story and truth of America, it is the living testament that America with all that is right and wrong with it, is still the greatest country in the world, be it said in English, Italian, Spanish or through the eyes of the Christian and Muslim worlds that survive and thrive because we guarantee their existence. The proudest reason of why I am an American is because my grandparents, who taught us the right things to say and do, the respect for and love of the country they adopted also; choose this wonderful land.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

LA FAMIGLIA

We as Americans have seen these words, ‘La Famiglia' and when we do we conjure up a dark world of gangsters and crime, racketeering and extortion, and yes, even murder. The words are associated with the Mafia, a very ugly time for the pride of Italian-Americans.

But if you are an Italian-American living in Brooklyn in the 1950's, it has an all-together different meaning when you thought ‘La Familia'.

As I sat one night with Dad, watching our small screen black and white TV, an Olympic, the Brooklyn Dodgers were playing a game, and at bat was Carl Furillo, a wonderful outfielder for ‘Dem Bums" with a rifle arm who no one dared run on. Dad leaned over and said: "That's Carl Furillo, an Italian boy!" There was a stated pride in Dad's words, he was demonstrating pride to be Italian and was letting me know about.

Dad's pride awakened in me the awareness that Italian-Americans were just claiming their place in America, working the blue-collar jobs and menial tasks that needed to be done before America could step forward in the post-war world. Their struggle of overcoming language barriers, class distinction and the prejudice caused by ignorance was the very struggle to escape the cocoon of isolation every ethnic group faces. If you remember another great Brooklyn Dodger:  Jackie Robinson and the pride of Black People as they filled the stadiums to watch one of their own play, breaking down barriers, then you can understand the Italian pride. There was Joe DiMaggio who made our emergence completely recognized as an entity with his wonderful heroics on the field, and the many Italian crooners that grace the world of popular music of the time. We were making a name for ourselves in our own country! There was Primo Carnera and Rocky Marciano, as well as many others that helped build the acceptance needed to be recognized as one of America's own!

But getting back to the Mafia, the Cosa Nostra was just a dark and evil extension of the Italian mindset of ‘Family', being of our own or from the same family. If you were Italian in an American world, you were family, it didn't matter if you were Neapolitan, Sicilian or Romano, you were a brother or sister, and if you had a business, a profession or not, you almost automatically got support from your "Own kind." It was the very thing that kept immigrants together in the same neighborhoods, and who reluctantly sent their children off to fight wars, go to college or just leave the hood to find their own way as second generation Americans first.

There lived on the bottom floor in my apartment, a family that had three children. The second oldest, a boy went off to college to study, and as he would return home from his studies in NYC as an engineer, left me in awe! He was going to college, that far-away place where the highest esteem was bestowed upon one for his attendance. To the Italian-American, his status as a student filled one's heart and made it swell, he was educating himself, he would go far, just the many other "Medicanos" that filled this country.

Grandma had many visitors to her house, non-family members who knew her from her church or charitable work she performed, as well as neighbors. When they came to her kitchen, they were greeted like family, gushing out in Italian, both verbally and manually, they emoted their joy in seeing one another. They sat down without being asked, ate acceptingly, and drank coffee or a little wine, to finish off the visit, just like any family member. Are you Italian? You are family too!

Inter-marriage was an event to be adjusted to No, not for Italians, for those who were not Italian but daring enough to marry one! You were assimilated immediately, like a treasured sister or brother, you were regarded as untouchable, you had married one of us, that was our honor and we loved you for it, you were family!





Monday, August 08, 2016

GYM RAT


Most mornings I get up I go to the gym to work out a little. At 71, I have lost my vigor for doing anything but sitting or lying down. I once went to my cardiologist and he asked me if I exercised. My response was measured carefully: “Yes, I go up and down the stairs in my house a few times a day!” I figured you have to count moving, climbing and going down steps as exercise. My cardiologist, a young whipper-snapper replied: “I’ll take that as a no.”

Looking at the clock in the darkness of morning, and thinking about getting up, getting my gym gear on and driving to the gym to torture myself is not something I do with relish. I’m a peaceful man, I don’t hurt anyone, so why do I hurt myself? This torture and self-abuse will take its toll, once I stop, because who the Hell wants to exercise on the day they die, the time could be better spent napping, segueing into a peaceful death without changing positions!

Approaching the gym in the early hours of the morning, there is no one on the roads, yet I can’t find a parking space at the gym, but someone is either leaving on their own or being carried away so spaces do open up.

Entering the gym is another story since I must use a scanning device to scan my I-phone for entrance and credit. The problem is the scanner. Like the lady who lives in the supermarket self-checkout, doesn’t get along with me, I pass the damned phone, once, twice and three times, think it is scanned and start to walk off, but the young woman behind the counter gets my attention and shakes her head: No! I try one more time and finally get a nod to go on.

Oh Lord, why can’t my scanning be like everyone else’s? Why do you torture me before I even torture myself?

I do have ‘Gym gear’ as they say. It consists of a black bag that carried my towel, I sweat a lot, a bottle of water, I drink a lot and a place to hold: car keys, wallet, I-phone, workout gloves, and lock for a locker. There is one other item I carry, a small zip case for my hearing aids. Before I start my routine I put my hearing aids in the small zip case so I don’t sweat into the aids causing water on the hearing aids, and rather an expensive disease to cure. There is no pain in the ear from the disease but the wallet needs life support once it occurs!

Now the locker has to be #33, it is a perfect locker for position to the toilet or showers, the overhead TV and like Dr. Sheldon Cooper’s spot, the perfect combination of crosswinds and drafts. I am a creature of habit. If someone is occupying the locker ahead of me, I wish the worst possible scenario on the sob, loss of his scanning ability and technique.

The gym floor is another issue. Past the gym floor is a room that you step down into and there you will find an array of treadmills, step, and full-body workout equipment, under a large movie screen, where you work out and view the daily movie. The movie helps me pass the time away, as I tread on the mill for too long a time. But of the four treadmills there, I like number three, and if it is occupied by some sob before me, I wish the worst possible scenario on the sob, loss of his scanning ability and technique.

Done milling about, I head up into the gym floor, where there is one piece of equipment I particularly need to complete my mission. There is a abs cruncher that you sit and with the arms you force down and hold for a second then raise up, doing this 15 times each, in three sets. If it is occupied by some sob before me, I wish the worst possible scenario on the sob, loss of his scanning ability and technique.

There are others on the floor, people who look like they stuffed their arms to look menacing, strutting around after a set of the dumb bells or resistance hardware, women who are past their prime and still want to look attractive (some are and I appreciate it at that hour) and of course, the old coots like me. Most old coots come to the gym in shorts and sneakers, with black socks, it’s a trend I just can’t seem to adopt just yet!

As I leave the gym, there is a flight of stairs ahead of me, 21 steps that I challenge myself to by not holding the handrail, climbing. With the lack of oxygen to my brain and breath in my lungs from the workout, I meet the challenge, swaying at the top of the landing, watching the parking lot outside shimmy in the early sunrise.



Sunday, August 07, 2016

THE FUNERAL

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Never let it fade away
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day

It was 1956, and the hit song was ‘Catch A Falling Star’ by Perry Como, and the world was about to change for me. As I was getting adjusted to my new home away from Brooklyn, we got the news that Grandpa Ralph had died.

For love may come and tap you on the shoulder
Some starless night
Just in case you feel you wanna hold her
You'll have a pocket full of starlight

It seemed like the end of an era, how would we ever go on without Grandpa? He never said much but he was always there, for Grandma and for us, a quiet old world man who made his own wine and vinegar, had a phenomenal garden and loved his Francesca. My thoughts went to my grandmother and how sad she must be right now. Dad had a solemn face and I could see him looking back over the years as a child and young man, remembering his dad, and he was doing it through his eyes.

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Never let it fade away
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day

It was a cold January morning, and Dad decided he must go out to see grandma immediately, so left us to ourselves with instructions to be ready when he got back, so we could all gather together to go to Brooklyn. When it was time for us to leave, I remember becoming a little nervous, apprehensive and even reluctant to want to go to see Grandpa dead in a coffin. My experience was somewhat limited when it came to the dead. As a second grader, I went to the funeral of my 1st-grade teacher, a very cranky mean old lady, and with my sister, on our way home from school, stopped at the local funeral parlor to view her remains and make sure she was dead. I remember being overtaken by the odor of flowers, as I entered the room and seeing a sea of people and then the open casket. It stopped me short, almost paralyzing me as I looked on. Whenever I smell cut flowers, I think of funerals to this day.

For love may come and tap you on the shoulder
Some starless night
And just in case you feel you wanna hold her
You'll have a pocket full of starlight (pocket full of starlight)

When we arrived at Grandma’s house, I noticed something was different in the storefront, the windows were closed off, so you couldn’t view anything from the street. When we got inside I found out why. Grandpa was in the store, the place where he spent all his time working, he now was working even in death.

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Never let it fade away
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day

Laid out at the front door was the coffin, and grandpa was in it! Instead of a funeral parlor, Grandpa, who always wanted to die at home, did, and stayed there! But instead of bins of gifts and shelves lined with items, all that was removed and instead, I see sconces on the wall, a drape covering the front of the storefront and is the backdrop for the coffin. There’s a cross hanging from the curtain over Grandpa and rows of chairs facing the coffin. I asked Dad why the chairs are there and he says to me that the chairs were for people to view Grandpa. Being a stupid kid, I asked: “What’s he gonna do???”

For when your troubles start multiplyin'
They just might
It's easy to forget them without tryin'
With just a pocket full of starlight

Then the sadness sunk in, people, relatives and friends of Grandpa and Grandma came by, mostly old blue collar Italians from the hood. Some came and looked in the coffin with quiet curiosity and respect, some holding their hats in hand, some even placing a hand on the coffin edge for a moment before crossing themselves and turning away.

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Never let it fade away
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket
Save it for a rainy day

And so the beginning of the rest of my life began, with the realization that we will all end up the same way, not any better or worse, just the same… dead. The time to catch a fallen star is when you are alive and can, and save it for a rainy day, hopefully not the last one.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

LORD OF THE FLIES OR SUPERFLY!


If you recall back in the spring, my war with the bird, how utterly defeated I was until the damned bird moved on. For three months the damned bird kept flying into my window, and no matter what I did, it would come the next day and do it all over again. Sitting on a perch outside my dining room window, it would constantly fly into the same spot, from dawn to dusk, nothing would prevent this occurrence. My wife and I both looked on the Internet for guidance, and I followed suggestions, one of which was to scribble with soap on the window, I was so drastic as to write a note in soap telling it to go away!

If the bird wasn’t picking on me, a rabbit was or maybe it was a bunny, every day taunting me to the point that I was chasing it off my lawn, and every day it came back, stared me down and watched as I tried to sneak up and strangle it. As I got close enough to reach it, it somehow evaded my grasp, mocking my attempts.

Now it is the flies that bother me. Just one fly, one so smart that it is intentionally getting my attention and annoying me. He shows up, starting in the heat wave when the humidity is at its peak, buzzing my head and glancing my arm or hand or face and managing to fly out of reach. When I think I have it cornered, it takes off and I lose it in the backdrop. This fly is no ordinary fly, no sir. After repeated attempts on its life with a bug spray to kill flies, it just flies away through the mist. I even started to plan how far I should be from the fly before spraying! But near or far, the fly just flies through the blast, making me frustrated and angry. To add insult to injury, it once landed on top of the bug spray that was next to my recliner, rendering me helpless and frustrated to do anything about it!

I guess I have to throw out all conventional ways of killing it and try some kind of trap, and once it does leave or die, what’s next?