DelBloggolo

Monday, February 29, 2016

FINDING THE RIGHT WORDS…

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Or at least remembering how to say them.

She sits and waits everyday in hopes that her ‘date’ will show up. Lost in her world of days gone by, you can see in her eyes she had a past, one filled with meaning and purpose, that somehow was taken away from her in some kind of tragic event. I’ll never know what that was, nor will I ever ask, that would have to come from her without my asking. She is alone and needs something in her life to look forward to so there is some meaning in it. We need to be friends on an equal basis, not out of pity but out of respect for her being a human being in need of help.

Cora, my new reading audience of one, likes the sessions we spend together. She has a sharp memory short term as well as long, and yet cannot finish a sentence because she can’t form all her words correctly. I am going to try to find out if she is eligible for speech therapy and for her to get some. Maybe with that she will have a smoother way to communicate.

I did find out her birthday: January, and that she likes Chinese and Italian food, so on occasion she will get some from me as time allows for me to bring it. I have to look into the dentist who was supposed to visit her last week and find out what happened there.

I’m doing this because she is a kind individual with no life. If you count the wheel chair and rehab as a life, then it is like I said: no life. We all need something to look forward to, no matter how little it is, or we die while breathing. I’m not a church goer anymore, so I look to do good works where I can, it is time better spent than in a building surrounded by worshipers and rituals that become meaningless to me because they fail me the time I am not in church, and I fail myself thinking because I go, I’ll be on the fast track to Heaven.

But Cora has understood that there is nothing she needs to give, just receive, because she is truly in need with a legitimate cause. Today I will read to her another chapter of Harper Lee’s ‘GO SET A WATCHMAN’, we will converse before and after I read, she will get to know me better and I will continue to get to know her.

Meanwhile, Ellen my daughter is recovering just fine, eating everything and still ornery as ever. She has made friends and seems very contented where she is, and the agency God bless them all, still helps us and supports our daughter. My family right now is blessed, we have rid ourselves of the people we thought loved us and have found new life in strangers.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

THE VOICE OF A POET

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THE REAL DEAL

Imagine if you will, you are abandoned at the tender age of five to an institution, cerebral palsy commands your body, you are unable to speak, walk or care for yourself. If that is not enough, you are black.

His name is Bob, he is an American hero, one borne of abuse, abandonment and neglect, who would turn pity into a mighty swift sword of teaching courage, strength and a brave heart, all from his wheel chair. Powerless to protect himself, he depends on others for his care. Since he was five, he has never seen his family since they left him at the institute.

His full name is Bob Lee Smith, and yes, that IS his real name. When I first saw him, he was at a table at breakfast with his mom and an advocate. He was to be the guest speaker at a meeting for Executive Directors and presidents of some 49 chapters in New York State under the NYSARC organization that advocates for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Bob is a self advocate, Bob knows what he is saying and says it so well, he can transform your heart from cold to hot in seconds.

At the age of 22, Bob went into the Westchester ARC and began to receive love and attention along with the commitment to bring meaning to his life. A speech therapist discovered that Bob could read, and was in fact composing his own poetry!

A manual communication board was designed for Bob who using his thumb would type out the letters, which in turn were transcribed, producing emotional revelations that speak to the core of his life, his chains and how he breaks them, poetry simple and pure, no abstractions to cloud the mind, but do clarify a daily struggle.

Like I said, Bob is a teacher, and with an electronic synthesizer, he is able to convert text into speech, allowing one to hear what he has to say. He had a book published called: “Reflections of My Life” about his strengths and passions, aimed at students and audiences of people with disabilities, he is a hero to them, he is one of mine.


WHAT IS STRENGTH?

Am I strong if I can lift
A car in one hand,
But cannot wipe a tear
from a friend’s eye?

Does my strength
begin with muscle,
Or does it start
With my soul?

Only when I begin
To overcome my
Weakness instead
Of other people,
Will I truly be strong.

- Bob Smith

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

LET’S DO AN MRA


What?

Never heard of an MRA? It’s just like an MRI, except it is at the head of the torture list that begins in ‘M’. Actually Definition. MRA is a study of the blood vessels using magnetic resonance imaging.

Having a carotid artery that is about blocked as my dining with the President would be, my surgeon, Dr. Cutabove: sent me to a radiologist to get a read about just how blocked it is. I would rather have a heart operation in the middle of a trash room than have another MRA. Not knowing any better, yesterday I headed to the radiologist to have it done. It was a beautiful morning and besides the house needing my attention, as did my daughter in the rehab facility and preparing for another Board of Directors meeting this evening, I had nothing else to do.

Entering the place you see a sea of people that are all milling around their clipboards, filling out front and back. I go to the front desk and the lady behind the counter says: “I need your prescription, insurance card and form of I.D. So the prescription is tucked in my appointment book, the insurance card is tucked in my wallet, which takes about 3 minutes for me to find, which is shocking since it is usually in my way when I don’t need it and I took out my driver’s license. She will hold these documents hostage until I fill out the 20 pages of forms, both sides that she says I need to fill. With a clipboard, she hands me a pen and tells me to go fill it out, and don’t come back until I do. “The first half is already filled out on the first page, just check that it is correct.”

I return the forms while sticking the pen in my pocket and she then gives me more forms, the first batch being warmup forms for the big ones to follow. “Now take these forms with you when the technician calls you in. The technician calls me in!

Into this small room I go, and there sitting with me is a gentleman about my age, and like me, totally confused. The Teckie asks him what he is here for today. “I don’t know!” She says: “What do you mean you don’t know???” He shrugs his shoulders. I pipe in: He has what I have…” She looks at me and asks the obvious: “What’s that?” Me: “I don’t know!”

Because I was such a smart ass, they took me next. I walk into this large room with a bed like device, and this rather large tunnel that is sitting connected to the bed. I DON’T REALIZE IT. I am eager to lie down on the bed and get some rest while they did what they would do. Then it struck me, THIS IS LIKE AN MRI! I HATE MRI’S!

Being a big boy, and knowing if I cry they will make fun of me, I lay down, they stick me with an IV and I think: “What the Hell, why not?” Then they put ear phones on me, then rest my head in this cranial cradle, then slap down a cage over it and hand me this squeezer in case I want to panic. They think of everything.

Then slowly the bed recedes into the tunnel and you can just about breath, there is no way you can escape, the ceiling inches from your nose. (In my case maybe a little closer) Then the fun begins, as the machine begins to do its work, with loud banging and noises that sound like you are being observed by aliens. (I can make that observation based of some clients I had). This process takes forever, my mind thinking things it shouldn’t as a little bit of panic is trying to break through. I won’t give in, I WILL NOT CRY! No, and asking for my mommy is too late.

AS you go through this procedure, the temperature rises to add to your sense of being smothered to death, just squeeze the damned rubber squeegee and let’s get the Hell out of here. I will never see the light of day anymore I think. No more bright sunny days and fresh air. They will find me dead in the tube, with a bird cage on. Good bye world, my eyes squeezed tight, so long everyone.

I feel the bed as it moves forward or backward or where the Hell it was going, and finally at one point open my eyes, I am being transported back to the real world, alive!

That wasn’t so bad!

Monday, February 22, 2016

COMING ACROSS

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As I returned for another visit with my daughter, I looked down the hall and at her usual spot sat Cora, (not her real name) the lady I had agreed to read to. Her back was turned to me and she stared straight ahead, not moving, except to take in a breath or two, her wheel chair locked into place.

Settling down with Ellen and leaving her with my wife, I grabbed the book I had decided on to read to Cora, Harper Lee’s: ‘GO SET A WATCHMAN’.

Quietly I moved to her chair and stood next to her, book in my hands as she stared out, like a sentinel on a lonely outpost. I wondered if she thought that like the rest of her life, the hope and empty promises of life would once more prevail. After a few moments of staring, and my not saying anything, I waited for her to acknowledge my presence, so as not to overcome her all at once. She may have thought I was a staff member just standing there or maybe a visitor looking for a family member in rehab.

Finally: I inched a little further up toward her line of sight and she suddenly snapped her head in my direction, like someone being awakened from a deep sleep. Suddenly a smile ripped across her face and she raised her arm like one of those hockey players who scores a goal in celebration.

“Are you ready for a little word music, Cora?”

“YESSSSS!!!!”

She was genuinely happy to see me, and her reaction gave me a genuine relief. I had promised myself that if this session did not go well, I would try to asses my part of it and re-think how to deal with it.

Cora has as I previously stated, a kind face, sweet almost to the point that it masks her inner feeling somewhat. A gentle soul who is forgotten in the scheme of things. The only attention she seems to get is her meals and health, and a place to sleep. There is little she can do, no one seems to interact with her, so my challenge was really to see how much she might get in this reading of mine.

We picked out a small cozy nook of a corner, with a couch nestled into the corner for me to sit and read to her, and as she led the way, you could tell her enthusiasm was sparked by this new event for her. I had come through with a promise, but the promise was not complete, she had to enjoy the time for it to be of any use to her.

I explained to her that the book was written by the author who had just died, Harper Lee, but as I looked up to her eyes she was already in acknowledgment that that was so. She was aware. Then I mentioned to her that the author had also written: ‘TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD’ and she was nodding her head in agreement before I could finish my sentence. I was getting the idea that once upon a time she could read and had read maybe the classics. Perhaps here is where we should start.

As I started to read, as I would look up from time to time, she stared intently into my face, and when a funny sequence of events occurred, she laughed, without my prompting. This was very encouraging, and then I hit upon: “an opportunity for free egress…” Cora suddenly became animated, “What was that word?” she seemed to convey to me.

“Egress?”

Shaking her head vigorously I explained it to her in my own fashion.

“It means to leave or exit” I was almost ready to side track a bit and tell the old P.T. Barnum story of: THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS.

I had reached her, she was enjoying my read and my acting as Atticus Finch and his Rheumatoid arthritis. I was a happy man.

In the course of a read like that, one’s mouth becomes dry, especially in places like the rehab home and its forced heat system that dries out your eyes as well as your mouth. So we ended at Chapter 1, and with it a promise for Chapter 2 when I returned. Life is good.


Sunday, February 21, 2016

A NEW CHALLENGE

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As you ride up the elevator and then enter the long hall on the 2nd floor of the The Hamptons Center in Southampton, as you walk along the corridor, all you see are people, elderly people sitting in wheel chairs mostly clustered together around the nurse’s stations. Some will look up at you in anticipation of a smile, some emit a cold stare and some just stare ahead into nothing. Many are moaning and sadly asking God for help, help that will never come. They will sit with their despair and anguish, a dark hole filled with no hope.

As you walk down the hall to my daughter’s room, there at the nurse’s station sits a woman, whose age I could not tell you nor is it important enough. She usually positions herself at the edge of both the hallway and the station by herself. Whenever I pass her with Ellen in her wheel chair, this woman focuses on my daughter and gives off the kindest of smiles as she follows her. The woman’s eyes lock into Ellen and without moving her head move along with my daughter, as a kindness permeates from her.

Yesterday I decided to stop and say: Hello. I know it is a risk that she is someone who may not want to talk to me or anyone else for that matter, but she seems so lonely it tugs at me.

“Hi, my name is Joe.” I said.

She looks up at me from under her blanket that covers her lap and says something I don’t quite catch, her face now easing into a graceful mode of smile and acceptance to a stranger.

“How long will you be here?” Once again asking.

Pausing for a moment, she shrugs her shoulders.

“You have family?” I look in her eyes.

She now catches herself to stop a cry. I have hit on a nerve, something is terribly wrong. She says softly: “No”

“Oh, I’m sorry, do you have friends here?” She smiles a little and says she does.

“Could you use another friend?” I ask.

Again she smiles and heartily nods ‘yes’.

I stick out my hand and say I’m Joe.

She takes my hand and smiles warmly at me.

“Where do you come from, do you have a home?”

“No.”

“When will you be able to walk again so you can get out of here?”

Looking up at me, she slowly removes her blanket, first from the left side and then the right. She is missing both her legs from above the knees and one arm!

“OOHH!! I’m so sorry!” I fumble.

“Tell me, do you get any visitors?”

“No.”

“Do you like to read?”

She begins to speak, but I can’t seem to understand much, as she searches for words to say and pronounce, frustrated in her attempt.

I try one more question: “Would you mind if I came by tomorrow and read to you?”

A smile crosses her face, suddenly she is alive. “Oh YES!” she says.

WE agree to meet today to read the beginning of a book. I hope I don’t screw this up.

As I pass the nurse operating from one of the med carts with the computer on it, I stop and ask her about the lady and am told she understand but can’t communicate well. Maybe the power of a written word once more in her ears may help her heal the loss of what she once had and actually never lost. Unfortunately; it will be me trying to help, but until someone better comes along, I’ll have to do.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

WE WIN THE ’86 WORLD SERIES

--> To this day, I swear that me and my son double-handedly won the 1986 World Series for the NY Mets. Strange things have occurred in this world, but no stranger than what occurred in my den one fall night during a World Series thirty years ago.

The stage was set for the best team in baseball that year to fall to an inferior team from Boston in less than the 7 game limit.

Let me set the positions up for the major players that evening. On left couch sat a scrappy second baseman for a local funeral parlor baseball team: Anthony, hugging the line to keep anything from getting by him, and pacing the floor, awaiting the inevitable once again stood Joe Joe Del, ready to fall to his knees to gather up grounders or plop in utter defeat once again.

Pitch by pitch the night grew darker, with each pitch to doom, Anthony started fighting tears, realizing all that time spent watching such notables as Darrell Strawberry, Keith Hernandez and
Dwight Gooden would NOT end up in a championship. Gosh, even the scoreboard at Shea was making the obvious concessions to the reality: “CONGRATULATIONS TO THE BOSTON RED SOX, 1986 WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS!”

THE PLAY or MISPLAY!!!

Being I was still standing, over on my right stood my bar, which happened to be directly under the TV mounted into the wall. On the bar surface sat a 1986 NY Mets schedule, a small fold out type of 4-fold piece of paper. Why I reached for it I still to this day don’t know why, since the regular season was over. The cover was a dark royal blue. But something happened when I picked it up and started to rub it, a magic so to speak, maybe an incantation I employed, the karma in the room suddenly took on a new light. 

Somewhere in life we all have to do something for our children, some act of defiance against the odds, some act of camaraderie with the kid, all in desperation. That little piece of paper somehow was it. As I rubbed it, the Mets bats came alive, one by one things changed and the gods of Baseball were determining that the Boston Red Sox would not use logic that night, since there was so much arrogance already steaming in their hearts.

Then when Mookie Wilson hit the ball that was guided by the hand of error under Bill Buckner’s glove at first base and the Mets won, giving them another day of life, we knew we had the World Series in hand, and we won it the next day in seven. But without that piece of paper… who knows?

Friday, February 19, 2016

ROPES AND CHAINS

--> Often in our lives we can stoop to self-pity and bemoan the fact that life is not what we want. We come into this world, are raised by good people and do what is expected, yet something happens and we wonder why, what did we do to deserve it?

My daughter was brought into this world with that certain something that has dominated her life, all 44 years of it. She knows nothing of logic, speech or reasoning, she only knows fear, anxiety and crippling disabilities that constantly attack her being. She has what we think is ‘Angleman’s Syndrome’ or also know as ‘Happy Puppet Syndrome’, it robs her every moment of her waking life; of her life.

Ellen’s life is governed by ropes and chains. They keep her from joining society, of being accepted as an equal, of denying her a sense of joy from accomplishment, yet she lives from moment to moment, unaware of her plight, unable to speak. But she is quick to cry from fear, until she becomes so enraged she flails outs and fights for herself. When ever I hear of someone who complains about their child, I think of Ellen, how hard she has it. Whenever I hear of someone’s child dying, I think of Ellen and how we mourn her everyday. I too lost a child, but for some reason, this is getting harder for me than the loss. Maybe because the loss has a finality, yet Ellen’s is a continuous death.

When Mom passed away in June of 2014, she was 96-years of age, maybe it is time to die at that age as all her functionality was gone. She lay in her bed on those last days, unable to lift her arms or use her ands, she was immobilized and stared out a window. I would come and talk to her, get her to remember and talk about things she recalled about events and people, yet I knew my daughter was in worst shape, she has no memories and God forbid she ever is in that kind of situation, will only add to the final cruelty of life. My daughter has died at birth in a way, has never found a meaning to her life.

The irony is she has great meaning to her family, my wife and sons and myself. We hover over her in presence, and thought, concern and advocacy, we are her family and love her.

To add to all her problems, Ellen recently tripped and fell, breaking her lower right leg. We don’t know how or why, but the staff where she lives found her on the floor. She had a compound fracture, and is in a cast. Her leg will probably heal, but what we fear is she may not be able to re-acquire the skill of walking again. How cruel will that be? How unfair will she be treated once again? Even Hitler walked on his last day!

I ask you, only out of love for my daughter and family, that you pray to your God, that she walk again. Just once, put her in your thoughts for a moment and pray she will have the joy once more to walk.

Thank you.

IT SEEMS LIKE YESTERDAY!


Every year there are events that occur that are scheduled, and when I go to them, it seems like I just did them recently. My life is filled with dreaded events, usually involving doctors, or tests that doctors order, or in this case today, my Toyota dealership and repair center in Smithtown.

The dealership is good, they operate under the assumption that they will take my money, will make me wait and will annoy me to no end. But the car does get fixed.

There is the issue of arriving, I come in 2 minutes early, at 6:58am: they open at 7:00 am. I bid them ‘Good morning’ they tell me to go take a seat, they don’t open until 7:00 am. This makes a lot of sense since this prolongs my having to come back for another check up of the car for at least 2 minutes more when it is due again!

In my left ear is a TV, which is so loud that I just knew what was on when I pulled up and was still in the parking lot. This noise will gnaw at me until I leave, and I will be happy when I am finally gone.

There is the wait. The kiss of death is when the service guy says it will be a 45-minute job, but I know it will be closer to 12 noon. They are so good at what they do they find hidden things that need fixing that aren’t even in cars yet!

A happy dealership is a rich dealership, and they feel the same way, just ask me. Most of my visits the estimated cost is $85, with add on such as hidden problems, a few “Maybe you should take care of this one before it gets worst” and the usual “found such and such so we took care of it” and the bill comes out to $1,100!

But Toyota is not the only re-occurrence that takes me for a joy ride, there is always my Cardiologist, the effervescent Dr. Havaheart, young and handsome who has an affinity for testing me with all kinds of the latest equipment there is. Even if he has to send me to China for a test. These tests usually require my not eating for at least 6 hours prior to the test, no medications so when they take my blood pressure they can say: “Your blood pressure is a little high!” I wonder why???

Of course there is the interminable wait to be taken next with the worst pronunciation on my last name possible in front of a room full of strangers, all wondering if the last name is German, Italian or a disease.

I love my eye doctor: Dr. Seymore, a man for all occasions and only one suit, the one he wears all day long. It is a dusty blue two-piece number, and with his dour face matches perfectly. His assistant will put drops in my eyes; ask some questions and leave, after recording my responses. Then Doctor Guilt comes in. Doctor Guilt looks unctuous, self-important and detached.
Dr. Seemore
 He is an expert with people who have diabetes, and thinks he is treating my diabetes, not checking my eyes. A long time ago he asked me what my A1C number was, and I didn’t even know what the Hell he was talking about. This led to a long lecture about knowing my A1C number, and how I have to keep it low. Six months later I went back to him and he asked me the same question. This time I was ready for him, and said 6.0. Well, he was so happy, and said what a wonderful job I was doing and I should keep it up; “You should be PROUD of yourself! So every time I go to see him now, I lie, he’s happy and I’m happy. I vary the number each time to ‘keep it honest’ so to speak. My Primary Care Physician Dr. Strangeglove keeps track of those things and doesn’t want me to get crazy about anything, he will tell me when I need to know something. But I love to hear the praise.

Speaking of which: Dr. Strangeglove loves to see me every three months for a blood tests. This is preventive health care. So I go to visit him, he like the IRS is good at it. We sit in his office after having gone through the ritual, and I nudge him into a discussion of health care cost and the rising insurance rates, and he threatens me with the idea he should retire and get out of the business. This is fun because it takes him away from finding something to yell about.

So you see the ins and outs of my life, the way I must plod ahead, managing the scenarios in my mind and then executing them properly.

Monday, February 15, 2016

A PENNY FOR HER THOUGHTS


The hardest thing about coming to America for the poor peasants who emigrated here was of course the lack of money and the language barrier.

Grandma Frances was a port of haven for cousins and relatives as well as paisanos who came from her hometown in Italy to America to start a new life.

One such individual was Carmelina. Carmelina was now in America about 6 months becoming acclimated to everything but the language. Suddenly a job opportunity opened up! Carmelina would work for a friend of Grandmas, an Italian business man dealing with imports, and he needed someone to talk to customers who spoke Italian. Carmelona was trilled, she was getting an ideal job, Grandma was thrilled she got Carmelina out of the house! Everything was fine, Carmelina would work in Manhattan, in a fancy building and would commute everyday on the subway.

One problem.

Carmelina could not speak English, and this problem posed the problem. How would she know when to get off and find the stop? The subway station was across the street from the building she would work, and she could recognize the Italian name on the outside. What to do? Then lightening struck Grandma.

Giving Carmelina 16 pennies, one for each stop: when she put the last of the pennies in her pocket after each stop, she would be at her final stop! The reverse would occur when she came home. Carmelina excitedly put on her coat for her interview, and Grandma counted out 16 pennies, one for each stop, to Manhattan.

Carmelina went to the subway station during the rush hour, onto the crowded platform she went, among her fellow riders. The train pulls into the station, Carmelina holding her 16 pennies in her hand, gets carried into the car as the crowd jostles and squeezes for position, the doors close and Carmelina gets all 16 cents knocked out of her hand!

Carmelina would miss her appointed time, she would not return home at the expected time, Carmelina was lost in the vast subway system of New York City.

Somewhere there is a guardian angel for each of us. Sometimes I think there were more for Italian Americans who could not speak English. Carmelina went to a policeman and stated to cry while she explained her predicament. Perplexed, the cop could not make heads or tales of her story or the language she was using. Fortunately for Carmelina, standing nearby was an Italian speaking woman who overheard the one-sided conversation. She explained to the cop the problem and somehow, and I don’t remember how, got her in the right direction to get home.

Yes, she did get the job, grandma personally took her to her destination the next morning.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

A GENTLE SOUL


The 37-year old son of Italian immigrants, he would lean in the doorway, which overlooked the three step grey stoop. He would stare out into nowhere, not noticing the people going by. He could hear the cadence of a little girl as she bounced her rubber ball, and every once in while swing her leg over the ball as it descended, then abruptly ascended back into her palm, only to begin the process allover again.
In the street, a game of stickball would be in progress. Once again a rubber ball, this one hardened by weather. As the ball came in on one bounce, and the batter, with a sawed off broomstick, handle taped would viciously swiped at it. Soaring high into the Brooklyn sky, two sewers or more the ball went in flight, excitedly the boys racing around the street like it was a Chinese fire drill!
But still he would not move from his place. Watching everything, yet watching nothing. He never interacted with people. He had a simple manner that required no maintenance from day-to-day conversations. He never read a book or a newspaper, and he never went to school. He was that person who usually ended up in Willow Brook in those days of the mid-fifties.
His name was Henry: and his mother would keep a steady eye on him. From her bottom floor bedroom window, Lena would bark at him in Italian. Being an immigrant, she knew only enough to survive in a world that brought both hope and despair. She had another son, perhaps a few years younger, attending college, and kind of a mentor to me. His time was spent away from the house, and the stoop, using it only in passing. That other son taught me to catch a ball! Coming home from college classes one evening, Manfredo saw me with a ball and glove, and no one to play with. He laid his books down on the stoop, and gently gave me instructions on the art of catching a ball!
But Henry stood and watched. Not moving, not saying anything to his brother or me, Henry was the silent sentinel at the gateway to my home.
There was a sister, many years younger, a late in life baby as they used to say. Her name was Marianne. Marianne was cheerful girl and full of song. She played with all the little girls in the area, and was the apple of her mother’s eye. The kids in the neighborhood looked out for Marianne, she was there with her smile, and that was all that mattered. That is to everyone but her older brother, Henry. Marianne went on to become a nun.
But Henry watched and he listened, and he never spoke, unless you spoke to him. He once saved me from a terrible injury, when I fell into a gear shaft moving up a cellar elevator. When it was about to clamp down on my leg, the pants being ripped in the process, he pulled me away, just in time!
Henry stayed with me all my life. I often think of Henry, and the fact that I now deal with people with mental disabilities, and I am trying to help them. Having a child of my own with mental disabilities, I know first hand now, their pain. I see that man, leaning in the doorframe of the apartment building, my apartment building. I wonder if he is still standing there, watching me, posted there to teach me, that life has many sides, and it is not simple or fair. I sometimes wonder if Henry was put there, just for me, to teach me that we are all one, no matter to what degree, we will all be born, live and die. And as we live, we will hold no title, own no principality, or be truly superior than the man next to me. That man always was, and always will be Henry.
But this immigrant family, these simple, wonderful people, who were building their lives had one thing in common. They had each other, loved each other, and were not ashamed of what and who was in their family! They were my first true lesson in life, and it all centered on a gentle soul: Henry.
“Only a life lived for others is worth living.” -Albert Einstein

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

THE NEW AMERICAN CUISIEN



Actually, it is not so new as it is old. What am I talking about? The fact that there seems to be a gradual surge of mixing Italian food with American foods, as to become indistinguishable between Italian an American food. This I think is great. But that cultural renaissance does not stop there, no with the trend of Asian fusion, it now ties into Italian/Asian fusion, a wonderful blend of ideas that is making strides.

Italian foods like Asian, is so full of options, and wonderful flavors like no other cultural foods on Earth. That is why they are all so popular in this country, and why you see many Italian restaurants overseas, outside of the Italian border.

Mexican also has a trend heading in this direction of fusion blends, and can easily be adopted with Italian or Asian foods. You must admit, taking the best culinary traditions and marrying them is just what America is all about. I married an Irishman, am happy to this very day, I’m sure many of you have married other ethnicities and thrive in your lives. We as the younger Americanized generation realize they are all good people and that we are now more educated and mixed in with other nationalities, and what a great gift we are giving our children.

The French claim to cooking is that they learned from the Italians, mostly the northern Italians. When the French occupied Italy way back in the 1700 and 1800’s they learned the local ways of cooking, and since there is no ‘real’ Italian cooking per se, it is regional and adapts to what ingredients are on hand. This is Italian style cooking, taking what you have in your pantry and “Throwing something together”.

But being Italian I love to eat, I love the old dishes as well as the new, I want to experience everything, that is the artist, writer and Italian in me.




Tuesday, February 09, 2016

IT COULD BE ANY NATIONALITY


LA FAMILIA

The crucible of Italian/American families was how dedicated you were to the clan. Italian people are clannish, not only for family, but for Paesanos and anyone Italian in American. They hung together and fought for ech other, when joy came they surrounded themselves with good food and music, and when pain, suffering and death visited, they rallied as one.

When the great boxer Primo Canara fought, when Rocky Marciano and Rocky Graziano fought, all the Italian Americans came out in support, he was ‘one of us’, uno di noi.  The importance that Italian immigrants and their children succeeded beyond the everyday jobs of street sweeping, household help and hard labor meant they were being assimilated into the main stream of American life, which meant acceptance by ‘Il Medican’!

They patronized their own, the new and young doctors, lawyers and businesses that had an Italian name were where they went. Pride in the fact these children of American immigrants were defying the norm, saying to America: we can be just as American as you can! Art, design and writing suddenly had a new level to measure itself, Italian/Americans were making a statement, in English! To this day, when I see a doctor or lawyer, a politician, jurist or professor, I remember those days of discrimination and a rush of pride takes over.

My dad loved baseball and the Brooklyn Dodgers, Carl Furillo was his favorite Dodger but, so was Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and Phil Rizzuto. This was pride in our nationality.

We as an immigrant population were suspected, feared and discriminated against. One of the biggest discriminators or racists was Teddy Roosevelt, the President of the United States of America, yet we respected his office! Our problem was we were not all fair skinned, all blond, we didn’t have the ‘Made in America’ signature. And of course worst of all: we didn’t speak English, we were still foreigners.

My relatives were fugitives in the Fascist state of Italy, hiding in the hills and fighting the government. When grandma and grandpa came to America, they came with a purpose, to make a better life, and to raise a family in pure freedom, with no needing to resort to arms.

But if you broke down the Italian/American, and looked into his/her daily life, what you would see is America, being reborn. Teachers, doctors and airline pilots, mathematicians, professors and clergy, politics and the media were slowly being assimilated into the mainstream of American culture. Children taught their parents to speak and read English, to write and to express their opinions without fear. That so many of the Italian speaking parents demanding that their children speak to them only in English to learn the language.

Grandma loved Caruso, Valentino and La Guardia, because they were Making a statement to America, that they were successful and could be as good as the Irish, German and Pole, as intelligent as the All-American that prided himself in being born on these shores.

Today we have come a long way, Grandpa and Grandma laid the foundation for the generations to come to be part of the American experience. They could look back with pride that their sacrifice and the ignorance of others made their children and grandchildren stronger, perhaps so strong that we became part of the very fiber that America has always taken pride in.

When I think back now, of how they came to a place that didn’t speak their language, didn’t appreciate their talents, didn’t know what quality to family and national pride they instilled, and their courage: I want to cry over the fact.

I am proud of America, I am proud because it afforded my forefathers the opportunity to prove themselves and their heritage, that today has been adopted in so many ways into the American fabric.

Thank you: grandma and grandpa, and thank you all the grandmas and grandpas who came to America, you were perhaps the real “Greatest Generation!”

Monday, February 08, 2016

I’M IN A DEPRESSION AND LOVING IT!


Growing up in the 1950’s with an Italian grandmother who taught my Italian/American mother how to cook, was the greatest thing to happen to me before I had my own family.

If your parents grew up in the depression of the 1930’s, then you know what it meant to be innovative and darn right clever with not much. The same was true with food. Many dishes I grew up with did not necessarily come straight from Italy but were the outcome of very little money and few ingredients.

Today, as I write this, it is dreary with snow falling, icy winds and biting cold. This can only mean one thing: PASTA E’ FAGIOL!! Or for those f you less talented in Alto Italia: pasta fazool/fazoola.

Eh, either way I’m gonna cry, I so happy!

“When the stars make you drool just like Pasta Fazool, that’s amore’!”

When I thought of making the dish today, the thought alone warmed me up and set me to thinking of other dishes mom and grandma made. Comfort foods they were and stay with me in my old age.

Pasta e’ Fazool, Egg drop soup, potatoes and eggs, peppers and eggs, a Manesta, beans and macaroni, steak pizziola, escarole and beans, and on and on they go, filled with memories as warm as the soup.

But foolish me, as a young child, I would complain to my mother sometimes if she made something I didn’t think I’d care for, and mom had two things on every menu for such occasions: Take It, or Leave It. I always opted for the first item!

Both Grandma and my mom cooked out of pocket kind of. By that I mean neither one looked at a recipe, instead cooking was an instinct, no pre-measuring, no chopping garlic on a chopping board, just going to the stove, breaking off parsley and letting her rip, or cutting garlic at the pan or pot with a little paring knife and tossing everything in.

When I can home from school or play, I was immediately arrested by the aroma of mom starting a pot of anything, it didn’t matter, I was ready to eat!

Have you tried to order a dish of Pasta e’ Fagioli today? I ask them to wear a mask when they give me the price, then I can claim it on my taxes maybe.

Does anyone remember the little chicken meatballs with the escarole in chicken soup? How about pig feet and knuckles in a great broth?

How sad those days are gone, today I have to pay a hefty price for a simple meal, because it is Italian, and I am a nostalgic creature in love with my heritage and sometimes too lazy to cook it. But not tonight! La vita e’ bella!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

WHAT CAN I SAY?


For the first time in my life, I can’t seem to write anything. The whole overwhelming experience is getting a little hard to bear. Where to begin?

Being a parent of a child with disabilities is hard enough. When the child grows into adulthood, and you still bear the burden of the child, it magnifies the conditions and make them more extreme. To watch them suffer is insufferable, unfair and leads down the path of tears sometimes. It is hard. But I can’t cry until everything is in place and I can rest that there is time to cry.

Life is hard when you realize that you are not the person you were 20 years ago, and where did that time go? You can not longer withstand the rigors of dealing with situations that dictate what you do and how you do them, and fear takes over. What will happen to my daughter when we are gone, mamma has the fear and so do I. Will someone care for her, will someone advocate for her safety, well being and will some one give her respect and love?

I am sitting next to her in the hospital, it is 7:01 AM and it is quiet, except for the music that continuously slides out into the air where I can capture it, soft low key piano and flute notes that plays a symphony to my sadness and lonely state of being, an almost funereal cloud cast across my vision.

 Today I am hopeful that the hospital can find Ellen a rehab facility that is acceptable, one that is not neglectful, dirty and lacking in fulfillment to promises made. Where she was prior to her last operation and where she is going with my insistence are two different places. I had a struggle with the surgeon who admitted her under ambulatory surgery. It is a long story and when I have the stomach to reiterate what I said to you, I will, since the events so far are working out in my favor, but let me say this, the staff at St. Charles and AHRC Suffolk are trying their best, they are beautiful people and my daughter’s biggest allies, advocating for her a strongly as possible, and have helped Ellen and her parents immeasurably. Thank God!