Sunday, September 19, 2010


I like things in my life to be somewhat ordered. They should be somewhat predictable, within reason and on occasion, exciting.

Many years ago, about 45 this past January, I entered a design class at the New York Institute of Technology one day, and walked out with a best friend for life! I was a young college student with aspirations, and dreams, which were filled with some uncertainty. I was focused, determined to get a college education, to graduate with a degree, and be the first male in my family to do so. That dream expanded into a job on Madison Avenue as a “Commercial artists”, and maybe someday marrying someone and settling down with a house and family.

The odds were great that I would not make it, and the sense of doom followed my determination. I Had no car, and very little money. Dad could not pay for my education, he could barely feed us, and there was the persistent problem of a hearing loss, which was always under consideration. I would get up at 4:00 every morning, jump on a train and go to Massapequa, where I grabbed a bus to take me to Syosset and a long trek to the college which was located in an old medical arts building, while my school was being renovated in Old Westbury. Everyday was a living nightmare! “How long would I do this?” I thought.
Then that faith filled day I met my best friend, one that stayed with me the rest of my life, one who became my brother. He gave me rides at first, as we paled around, and soon my seriousness was disappearing, I was laughing more, enjoying my life, and making it more pleasant for those around me to enjoy their lives, too.

My buddy, Phil, became a part of my family, and cog in the workings of my personal life, and a positive no matter what happened. He and I shared much, many long roads, some happy times, and some bad ones, too. His Mom died while he was in college, and I learned about the Jewish faith, and understood more about honoring the dead. When my son died, he learned my side of the equations, as a Catholic. When he married, I was his best man, when I married, he was mine, naturally. When I stood on the altar for communion, Phil a Jew stood with me, and when the priest came over to Phil, his mouth dropped in shock, and the Priest, forgetting he was Jewish, slipped him a host!

Over the years we stayed in touch, when he moved to Florida for a while, and when he returned to live again in NY. He remarried and had three additional children, and one from his first marriage. Then tragedy struck and his daughter from his first marriage, my godchild, was stricken with cancer, and he called me one night as he sat at her bedside while she was dying. I jumped on a plane and flew down to Tampa, rented a car and stayed with him through the ordeal. I had to be with him.

He was not only: my best man, best friend, but also my daughter’s god father. We are very close. There is nothing he could want if I have it.

Recently he paid me a visit with his lovely wife Linda. She is a wonderful wife and mother, and has helped Phil live a good life, behind him every inch of his way. As we visited, he got up at one point, and walked into another room, and as he did, I watched him. He was like a stranger, walking slowly, with little jabs of old age pain striking him as he walked, the grey hair prominent on his head. My good buddy is getting old! Soon we will part whether we want to or not, we can’t control that. I hope I go first, I don’t think I could live with losing my good buddy.

How sad it is to see people from your youth, from days that were filled with hope and joy, dreams and the giddiness of youth, and know they were all spent. I guess it is like a billionaire waking one morning, and realizing his fortune is spent down to nothing!


Anonymous said...

We are all part of this circle of life.

Jim Pantaleno said...

Sounds like Phil is a soulmate, the kind of person Walt Whitman had in mind when he said:

"I no doubt deserved my enemies, but I don't believe I deserved my friends."

Our friendship may be new, but I value it none the less.