DelBloggolo

Sunday, May 29, 2016

A HOLY DAY OF OBLIGATIONS

In the center of my world in the 1950’s stood two institutions: the church and grandma. Both demanded unswerving devotion. One institution used God as a threat and one institution used good old fashion love.Every Sunday we were duty bound to meet our obligations, the priests, nuns and brothers patrolled the aisles of the Sunday morning 9:00 Children’s Mass to keep us in line, with a twitch they surveyed the sea pews populated by the children who sat in them. It was not enough to attend Mass, it was not enough that your hands had better be clasped together in prayer, but your butt had better not be resting on the edge of your seat while kneeling!
Being somewhat of a rebel in my soul, I would wait for the authorities to pass, check behind me and rest my butt, just to get away with it. But the constant ‘Thwak’ of the switch reminded me to be very vigilant and quick in my acts of protest less I am on the receiving end of one!
The homily along with the Latin prayers, all said so I couldn’t understand why I was there or what it really meant just confused me to no end. But like everything else in life, there was an end. “Saint Michael the Arch Angel defend us in battle” said the priest, with his long priestly garb adorned on his and his back to the congregation meant we were coming to the home stretch, soon I would have a bun with milk, starving since I awoke, following the rules and regulations of the Universal and Apostolic Roman Catholic Church that no eating before communion and no meat of Fridays’.
Then to fill out the day’s obligations, we would after breakfast, trek over to Grandma’s house, who lived a few short blocks away. Somehow, this visit made up for the confusion and boredom of the morning ritual, grandma would be the core of the rest of the day, the reason for being, the center of the universe.
There are smells and there are smells, but nothing beat entering the kitchen of Grandma Frances and the salutation of a brewing gravy on the stove, and the aroma overwhelming you to great delight! It was not the first time in the morning this would happen as we would stop at Aiello's Italian Bakery for desserts to bring to the dinner. The aroma can’t be explained, and shouldn’t, because it might be even better than sex! Fresh baked bread and pastries, supplemented with all kinds of cookies, it was the gastronomical equivalent of heaven
You found yourself in two dominating worlds, one of piety and strict devotion whether or not you understood it, and one of anticipated excitement and realization that the world was just fine, after all, Jesus loved me, he made me Italian, and as a bonus, here I am in grandma’s house ready to eat!
There was, of course, the joyful and soul filled sound of the Italian dialect, that rolled through the day like a tidal wave, the sounds, and furies of stories, conversations, and laughter, coupled with an argument on politics was always fun to watch. The beauty of ‘watching’ the Italian language being used was that it was two languages in one, the words and hands, a must follow to fully understand anything in Italian. You didn’t need to understand the words so much as long as you followed the hand gestures! So the stoicism of Latin was replaced by the rhythm and beat of Italian!
Where marble columns and religious icons stood out and greeted you as you entered the sea of people and pews church, the long table, laid out in white linen, and held down by plates and glasses, and tons of food with happy faces looking everywhere is what brought you back to life as it should be.
And if indeed St Michael was defending us in battle over the sneers and evils of the Devil, signifying the end of the Mass, the wine stained table cloth and the shells of broken nuts littering the tabletop after a cannoli or cookies with an empty demitasse signified that the sleepiness that was filling your eyes was signaling the end of the holiest of obligations, dinner with grandma!
Amen!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

THE POPPY FIELDS HAVE GROWN

With all the rhetoric of the primaries, it seems to me more and more each day we seem to forget our moral and patriotic duty that stands out the most in my mind yet it gets so little attention. The plight of returning veterans from the past and current war that mar our conscience and weigh down our hearts.We were merciless back in the 1970’s in our treatment of returning vets from Viet Nam, and from the comforts of our homes played into the anti-war movement that ostracized and somewhat criminalized returning vets, both the fully limbed and those who were not. Instead, we choose to associate them as warmongers, and steal their rights for the respect, gratitude and appreciation thy all so well deserved, we betrayed them.
Today it continues on a more formal level, we seem to think to watch a veteran sit on a street corner or in some psych ward, away from the public view that we owe them nothing, the government will handle it. Their mental scars, their physical pains, and their hearts ripped out from them, as we live our daily lives like they don’t exist.
So many lives have been tragically lost since WWII, lives that may have found a cure for cancer or even the common cold, so many lives prevented from realizing the growth of a child or the joy of marriage, all in the name of our flag. Today, the poppy fields have grown, the sense is that the government will take care of it, when they are the biggest reason the returning heroes are forgotten, unassisted and left jobless, homeless and forgotten.
But the government does not stand alone in this tragedy, we too must take the blame. Come this election, we should all take the time to select candidates we feel will be responsive to this terrible injustice to our heroes, partition your candidates and call their offices and representatives, demand to know where not only they stand, but what they will do about it if elected to office in November of 2016!
Thanking a vet is not enough. They are like nurses, who handle all the grunt work and get no glory, very little appreciation from the general public. To be on a field of battle, knowing someone out there is seeking to kill you, to shelter yourself from incoming dangers of bombs, missiles, and artillery shells must be so frightening, so troubling and so taxing on one’s mental well-being for so little pay and solely for the sake of duty, should be rewarded first and foremost, their lives and those of their families. Taking priority before anymore pusillanimous politicians vote themselves a raise, or are given the chance to comfortably forget the men and women who deserve our attention and be given our highest priority.
Let the fields of poppies blossom never more, let our hearts begin fertile the fields of help and support, help and thank those that have made it home.
I am sorry for writing on something so troubling in this forum, maybe tomorrow we can all smile once again.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OyEL3NJSHIk



In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

UNCLE FELIX OR “ZIO FELICE”

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He stood at 4’ 4” tall, weighted about 120 pounds, and sported a long handle bar moustache and went by the name of Zio Felice or in English, Uncle Felix.

During the Great Depression as well as World War II or “Il Seconda Guerra Mondiale” as he called it,  Zio Felice worked as a gang foreman on a construction crew, building large multi-storied complexes out of brick and concrete.
Garibaldi

My Father’s brother Joe went to work under Zio Felice after he finished school, and was told to haul wheel barrels of concrete up a plank, and dump it, go down and do it again and again, at times climbing many stories. My uncle Joe’s hands were bleeding and raw from the hard work. This was before lunch. He goes to Zio Felice and says, “Look at my hands!” Zio Felice looks at the hands and says, “Go behind the building, and urinate on them.” This hardened the hands and after a while he never had problems with bleeding again!

Uncle Felix fathered 16 children; each and every one of them feared the little Caesar, as he commanded the respect that went beyond the call of duty for any child.

There is a story that went around the family that when he came to America, in his brown suit and black shoes, while on the boat as it sailed across the great Atlantic Ocean; that there was no macaroni in America. This made him highly agitated, and he wanted to go back to Italy, to the point of jumping ship! Probably an exaggeration.

When he landed in America and fathered all those children he insisted that they have macaroni every day! All his children had to be at the dinner table waiting for him, standing at their plates until he came home and sat down. Once Zio Felice sat down, everyone else could.

One of his sons wanted to become a priest and Zio Felice would not hear of it, and forbade him from doing so. His son then joined the U.S. Army and was killed in action at Anzio Beach, very near the birthplace of Zio Felice!

Zio Felice was also the older brother of my Grandmother Francesca. Zio Felice was the father figure to my Dad since his real Dad had died during the Great World War while in the U.S. Army, where he contracted the Spanish Influenza and died in a hospital during the cold of winter, where he tried to jump out a window to go home to visit his children.

Many years later on a Saturday morning when I was about 12 years old, my Dad said to me: “I have to take your Mother somewhere. I expect Zio Felice to come with Grandma and your Aunt to see our house for the first time. If he comes while I’m away, show him around.” Sure enough, the entourage arrives with a flourish, as the little giant steps from the car and I greet him. I immediately escort him and those that follow to the house, through all the rooms, and finally, take him back outside to the front of the house at his request. “Tella me, awhata you doer over here?” “What do you mean?” say I. He points to a spot off center of the lawn, about halfway toward the street, and says to me: Wella over here a you puta the bricks ina a nicea big circle an in the middle a here you puta the flaga pole.” “Ona the bottom ofa the flaga pole you puta the flowersa, a nicer colors. “Then I put a nicea picture ova Garibaldi” I whispered under my breath.
He died in the early 1970’s, at the tender age of 93, it might have been the DiNapoli Cigars that did it!

THERE IS NO GREATER GIFT UNTIL WE MISS IT


I know I take for granted too much in my life. My wife and kids, my health and my talents no matter how limited they are. But God forbid I should lose one of these and I will become lop-sided and lost. Stopping to smell the roses is always a great idea, taking time off from everything that dominates your life or dictates what you must do, refreshes your outlook as you stop to look around.

Years ago when I met my wife, I found her so special I wanted to be with her every day, seven days a week. Once we married things had to change, the want was there but there was no practicality to it, life took over. I got up, went to work and came home dog-tired from the day of commuting and working, of competing and trying to advance to provide for her. She was and still remains the center of my life, but there are ties I don’t think about her as often when life takes over.

In January, my daughter Ellen with multiple disabilities fell and broke her leg. Not only was it upsetting, and distressing for all of us, after a while I missed her being able to walk. As the months passed, she slowly came around and is now walking again. In my heart was broken all that time because she owns a tremendous spirit and will, she is stubborn as her father and more determined than anyone I ever met. With her disabilities, she has taught me that in life you take what they give you and use it to the best of your abilities. She can’t talk, she has the verbal and mental capacity of an 8-month old. But she finds ways for me to understand her and I try to anticipate her every need so as to not have her get frustrated.

A few days ago her agency came to the rehab house she recovering in to evaluate her progress and see if she could go home after all these months. The staff and I went up to her room and waited while the PT staff from the rehab center went to get her.

Well when she entered the room, I almost lost it. She walked into the room, and an explosion of joy rippled throughout the room, the five people from the agency not expecting her to walk in. She has made the most difficult journey since she was born, she won!

I missed her walking because her not walking depressed me. She so very little in life as it is, but to take her freedom away from her, her ability to walk just killed me

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

FOLKSY NEIGHBORS


Back in the 1960’s, there was a family of close-knit Italian Americans who lived all on one street. Three sisters who loved each other raised their families under the eyes of their parents who also lived on the same street.

Carmela and ‘Pop’ lived with their widowed daughter who raised two kids with their help. Having lost her husband in World War II in North Africa, Josephine let nothing get her down that I could tell, a wonderfully spirited woman. She was a hard working mother of my friend Ernie and his older sister Carol. Across the street lived a daughter Anna and her husband Tony with a few kids and next door to me lived ‘Aunt’ Nettie and her husband Mike, an auto mechanic and great father with about 5 children.

But it was Carmela who seemed to tie the family together, and her wonderful husband Pop who supported her.

Carmelo and Pops home.
When I saw these people back in the 1960’s, the impression was that I would want my life to end like theirs was, two people who loved each other, their family and the wealth of grandchildren they had.

Pop was great at raising grapes, and his vineyard was sophisticated, crossing one kind of grape with another to develop a hybrid. He had a great garden that could rival a farmer’s anytime. Ripe red tomatoes and zucchini, and anything else he wanted. Many a morning he would leave a bag filled with his produce on our front steps, and we were grateful. He always had a big bottle of beer opened to carry him through the day, especially those hot humid ones. He was a wonderful man who resembled Popeye.

Carmela was the queen of the road, a sweet and gentle woman sitting in her little kingdom or visiting the principalities of her children, as she would stoop over and pull a weed on one of her daughter’s property, stop and chat and it didn’t matter how old you were, she was interested. A simple woman that anyone would give their all for if they could. I would pal around with her grandson and when I went over, she would offer me food!

Her children were just the best and they were the street I lived on itself, Maple Avenue, they were folksy neighbors with an attitude that said: “Welcome.” When we moved onto the street, that was what they did, welcomed us.

These were Italian/Americans, transported to America from Italy (Pop and Carmela) and created a wonderful memory for me and my family. Steeped in the history of the street, they built the first house on the street, they knew everyone and everyone loved them.

It saddens me that they are no longer in their habitat, that Pop and Carmela are gone as are their children, but at least I see or hear from the grandchildren on occasion and it all comes back in a flood!


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

THE PIZZA CRITIC


It was a very hot and humid day in Washington D.C., many years ago. Mom, Dad and my wife and two kids along with myself had just visited Williamsburg, Virginia and we were very tired, thirsty and hungry. The heat and humidity dried out our throats, and consumed our energy, we weren’t sure if we were hungry or thirsty.

We drove around Washington for a while looking for a place to eat after our day at the historic village and came to this modern mall in Washington and found a pizzeria, very slick looking and void of any customers. This should have been a clue not to go in there.

The first thing we ordered was a pitcher of coke and then decided on our dinners.

We all ordered something different and some of the plates had tomato sauce on them. Dad’s happen to be one of them. Uh oh!

Sitting through his meal he became very grumpy, complaining that the sauce was absolutely terrible. Having been raised in an Italian restaurant cooking in a small hotel many years before, he knew how to cook and this sauce was not to his liking!

He complains to the waiter, a teenager who could care less and the kid shrugs his shoulder, telling us he only serves it. The fury was building: this could not stand. We get the check and pay, all at once getting up to leave, while dad is still mad and complaining. As we reach the exit, there is no dad! Where’s Dad? Suddenly we hear yelling in the kitchen, as he has the poor cook up against a wall and he is tongue-lashing the guy, as the poor bastard admitted he pour the sauce straight from the can!

Dad walked out smug, “I told you so,” he said.


Monday, May 23, 2016

WHAT TO DO???


This is the first election year that I see no clear choice on who to vote for. Wrestling with making a choice should be a good thing, but this year it is not. In baseball, they say you can never have too much pitching, and making a choice is a dream-like event for the manager of the team. But the political system has let us down!

Let's look at some of them.

After the disaster of the GOP primaries, the choice came down to one candidate, a multi-millionaire at the least who represents the system as it exists today. It is a system of big business that is corrupt and doing daily damage to the middle and lower classes. It strives of promises that are deceiving, misrepresenting themselves and after the Enron scandal, ruining the system.

Donald Trump has no experience in running any form of elected office, plain and simple. He says things 10 years ago and flip-flopped for the benefit of being elected. He knows nothing about foreign policy which is crucial to the future of the US, as China and Russia become more assertive. His lack of experience is covered up with vague promises that are covered for his lack of knowledge in that field. He is big business with a lousy haircut. He will get votes because the other front runner is a bigger liar.

Hillary is nothing but a carpet-bagger power hungry anti-man who seeks to get the power for power's sake, an unsettling thing for many voters. She has been involved in one scandal after another since her involvement in Whitewater, way back when. It seems everything she touches has tell-tale smoke coming from it. She can't even follow the rules as an appointed cabinet member of the Obama Administration. She is currently under more than one investigation into what could be a criminal activity with her personal server, Benghazi and whatever else they will find. Somehow I think there are other scandals to be uncovered as the FBI continues its investigation. I'm sorry, as a candidate, she must be avoided. She has made a fortune from the treasuries of big business repeatedly!

The least offensive of the group is Bernie Sanders. He is a socialist, and that is a bad word to Americans. Why, because the advent of communism until the fall of it in the Soviet Union has always conjured impressions of underlining socialism. But socialism doesn't have to be a dirty word, it can be a panacea for the middle and lower classes in America. If applied right, it could be beneficial so that the rich stop getting richer and more privileged at the expense of the poor and middle class.

Bernie needs to explain his plan in economic terms to the public, so in general, it will understand the benefits of it.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

THE GLORY OF TECHNOLOGY


I have been deaf or near deaf for most of my 70 years. From the time I was 5 when I caught a severe case of the mumps, which destroyed my hearing and set my life to a lot of misery.

Getting through school, especially an elementary school that considered nothing but excellence, having a hearing loss was a major obstacle. Many a day it led to humiliation and a deep sadness that prevailed all my life. No one knows the feeling of frustration from not hearing, missing a key word or feeling the wrath of an uneducated teacher who only knows that you must answer correctly.

Being a child of misfortune my parents had no idea what was wrong. They were disappointed and I was told I would never amount to anything. My mother was quick to discipline my misfortune with a slap or sometimes a beating. I was made to feel stupid, foolish and insignificant, I was an embarrassment. I even tried to hang myself once for the shame I was bringing down on myself.

Then one day I was fortunate to move to Long Island and a school nurse discovered my problem. For the first time in my life, I took a hearing test and discovered I had a major problem, I couldn’t hear well. This ‘Bad’ news was a catalyst to a new self-conscious awareness of self-worth. Maybe I wasn’t so dumb, maybe I could do something to make my life better.

Mom started to realize I had a problem, that I would need some help, sit up front in class, work harder. Dad was a little less understanding, thought it was an affront to him, he once called me a deaf mute because I accidentally hit the table he was working on. The words sunk into the pit of my stomach and I had to retreat to the confines of my room where I sobbed and hated myself, I was 11-years old.

And so the journey through high school and college became a struggle, one of working late into the night to review the day’s lessons and make sense out of it.

Then one day the miracle of miracles occurred, I graduated college, I was on my way. I got a job in NYC, as a graphic designer and soon I was an art director, then moved to creative director, I had arrived. The struggle was eased by my talent, no one wanted to lose my talent!

So after all this, I come to today.

Recently I went to get new hearing aids. They are the latest technological innovations ever: it has given me great joy! These aids allow me to listen to music like an I-pod, to answer my I-phone without needing to hold the phone next to my ear and speaking into it, to listen in a restaurant without background noises. Suddenly, these simple things I have, and I’m loving it!


Saturday, May 21, 2016

WHEN THE RED, RED ROBIN COMES CRASH, CRASH CRASHING.


It is now about 12 weeks, and the bird keeps crashing into my window! This bird is the epitome of the usage: “Bird Brain.”

On the side of my house, where my dining room sits there is a trellis, which is the entry to a side garden. On the trellis birds will on occasion land and rest for a while. After resting they will fly off and return to their nest or perhaps continue their flight to somewhere I know not. But they came, they sat, they left, and all was well.

Then one morning as I was getting up at 5:30 AM, I heard this constant knock coming from downstairs. I wondered why my wife was mopping the floors at such an ungodly hour! It sounded like the mop was hitting a wall or some object, but thought nothing more of it.

Arriving downstairs I got my customary cup of coffee and sat in the den with TLW (The Little Woman). I hear the noise again, and ask what it was. She shrugs her shoulder and says it sounds like it is coming from the kitchen between the den and dining room. I go to investigate, hear it again, but not in the kitchen! I investigate further and go into the dining room and hear it one more time. A robin is flying into the window! He would fly into the window, crash onto the ground and fly up to the trellis again and do it all over again! When I got close to the window it flew away, leaving me thinking: “Crazy bird!”

Not five minutes have gone by when I hear the noise again, I get up to see and the damned bird is at it once more! I run to the window this time and shoo it away, thinking I scared it and it will not return. And so for the rest of the day, this went on, the stupid bird flying into my window.

I start to think that maybe I should put some up so it doesn’t hurt or kill itself, and TLW puts some newspapers on the inside of the window, hoping that will do the trick. Nope, back it comes again! After a few days of this, I go out to the trellis and spray some vinegar on the trellis, hoping the smell might discourage it, it lands on the vinegar (maybe looking for a salad) and the process still continues.

We go on the internet and look up ways to discourage the bird from attacking my window. TLW says it might be in love with me or some smart aleck remark like that. But on one website it is suggested that marking up the window with soap will do the trick! GREAT!

I grab a bar of Ivory hand soap and march outside and smear the window, taking my frustrations out on the bird by writing him/her a note: “GO AWAY YOU STUPID DAMNED BIRD!”

It was immediately after reading what I wrote that I realized that the bird was not the only one who was a bird brain in this affair, I had succumbed to its trickery! However, the frustration was alleviated at least, and so I left it there. In fact, my neighbor posted a picture of it on her Facebook page!

And so March turned to April and April to May, and here we are, with no resolution in sight on how to rid this bird of its illusions. Some theories are they bird sees itself in the reflection and wants to mate, it sees one of my paintings on the wall and is confused, and so on and so forth.

If it is any consolation, the bird has cut down on its frequency of visits, stays away on rainy days and only comes once or twice a day for a little while.

It has got me wondering if it is one and the same bird or maybe more than one.

Friday, May 20, 2016

OLD HABITS DIE OLD

The dance was flowing smoothly, and it was one number after another. TLW (The Little Woman) decided to purchase some 50/50 raffle tickets near the entrance to the church hall. Behind the table selling the tickets was a young woman who was pleasantly endowed. She was doing a brisk business with unusually happy husbands and spewing, hateful, and unusually silent wives with long faces.

“Did you see how that woman was dressed?” inquired TLW after the purchase.

“Gee, No!” (A lie)

“You mean you didn’t notice her cleavage?”

“Gosh, I’m sorry! I’ll go take another look. You know I only have eyes for you!” (OK another lie)

“She really was dressed inappropriately for a church dance!”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk!” (One more lie, actually a three-parter)

A few days later, my good buddy from one of my fundraising committees tells me he found someone to help out on the Golf Committee I was heading.

“She sold 50/50 raffle tickets at the dance. Did you see her?”

“Yeah I saw her!”

“Well she dressed that way to sell tickets, we sold a lot of tickets.”

“You mean I bought a lot of tickets!”

“Well she is willing to help you out”

“Of what?”

“On the golf thing there!”

“Oh!”

“She runs a restaurant and works there after 8:00 pm every evening. I told her you are coming to meet her.”

“Gee thanks!”

Now I had to figure out how to tell TLW. I decide to tell her straight out, get the lecture and/or disdainful look out of the way, and suck it up like a man and visit the woman.

“Toots, I’m going to meet the lady who sold us the 50/50 raffle tickets at the dance.”

“Why?”

“She wants to help out on the golf committee thing.”

“Did you see how she was dressed that night?”

“Gee, No!” (still lying!)

“You mean you didn’t notice her cleavage?”

“Gosh, I’m sorry! I wish I had now. You know I only have eyes for you!” (yup, still lying!)

“She really was dressed inappropriately for a church dance!”

“Tsk, tsk, tsk!” (Once more before I hit the road to Hell for lying!)

Unfortunately, like the raffle tickets, she has something I want. (To speak with her. Get your minds out of the gutter!)

But, alas, (A little Shakespearian I learn) she is running late. I decide to wait. Having dinner, I felt it safe to go into this establishment. Waiting I see signs for food, nice signs. I see a sign for ice cream. Two big mounds of vanilla ice cream. I love ice cream! That reminds me I’m there to see the lady. I lose, I order a hot dog, eat it and wait some more.

Finally, she arrives, we speak, she is very modestly dressed and very pleasant, exchanging information, I leave.

Arriving home, there sits TLW, in her chair, waiting.

“How did your meeting go?”

“Fine.”

“Did you get something to eat for free?”

“No” (Half a lie, I paid for it.)

“Hmmm, I’m surprised?”

“It would be wrong!”

Old habits never die!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

THE LITTLE FOOLER


Dad loved to play puzzles, that is, if the puzzle had a monetary reward. I think he was an interesting man in that he had very little education, worked hard and looked for ways to make our lives better. If you asked him what he would do if he won the Irish Sweepstakes; he would tell you he would give it to his kids. He never had any pleasures for himself, a humble man who lived for his children. Yes, money was important, but for good reasons.

Every Sunday in the NY Daily News back in the 50’s there was a puzzle that offered a cash prize, called the Little Fooler.

Every Sunday dad would get the Daily News, read the sports page and then go to the Little Fooler and spend the day trying to figure out the puzzle. Then on Sunday night, dad would take a stamp and fill out the puzzle with his answers and mail it out to the Daily News. I believe these puzzles were complicated reasoning that required reading each of the different clues properly to get the correct word as the answer. There were many answers in the puzzle so it was difficult. When he finished he called someone who he considered well-educated who also played the game.

Sonny was a college graduate from Adelphi University, a wonderful father, and a great husband. He was the Lutheran my cousin married who had my grandmother’s sanction.

So there was dad comparing his answers with Sonny who was on the other end of the phone. They agree on everything but the last clue. Dad is arguing his point of view and so is Sonny arguing his. Sonny convinces my dad that he is right, and dad defers to Sonny and his college degree and changes his answer.

They publish the answers a few days later, and dad had everything right! Everything that is except the last answer the one that he was convinced to change!

For years after, dad remembered how he missed out once again, thinking about how Sonny convinced him to change his answer. I’m surprised dad never requested to be buried in the shade! “Oh, that Sonny, I had it!”

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

OLD HABITS AND OLD CARS


Dad was a frugal man, stemming from the fact that he didn’t make a whole lot of money. His money was spent on his rent, wife and children and their feed bags. He had only one vice, and at the time it was cheap: he smoked.

There were two smells that started my day as a kid. One was the smell of coffee perking, and the other was the smell of my Dad’s lit cigarette that lingered in the toilet long after he left. That smell and the New York Daily News would greet me as I entered. To this day whenever I smell coffee perking or open a can of coffee, I see Dad!

There was only one Dad!
Being how Dad’s income didn’t even rival mine and I was a kid, his cars were not luxurious. No, they were clunkers that had to survive longer than he did. This meant driving only if he had to.

If you rode with Dad in the dead of winter, the trip was an adventure in survival. The car did not have heat because he didn’t want to wear out the battery. His defroster was an old towel that he used to wipe the windshield from the inside. “Dad, this car has a defroster!” “Don’t touch it, it will kill my battery!” Okay, no defroster and no heat, how about a little music? “What! You’ll kill the battery!”

In those days, you paid for each phone call, and like the car, it MUST have had a battery. Why? Because Dad put a lock on the dial so we couldn’t dial out. Yes, we couldn’t dial out because it cost, and after all, who did we need to call anyway. The phone was used for incoming calls from Grandma, Grandpa and aunts and uncles only.

Mom had her rules too. You were allowed scant amounts of butter on your bread. If Mom saw you putting on more butter than she thought necessary, she said: “WHAT AM I MADE OUT OF BUTTER?” At one time she made me a sandwich, which consisted of one piece of ham and one piece of cheese and a passing of mayo from a very high altitude between two pieces of white bread. Dad, of course, seeing this decided to counter balance everything and have us eat in the dark. Leave on a light and he would say: “WHAT AM I RELATED TO THE LIGHT COMPANY?” Off went the lights!

Being we lived in the city near relatives, they would drop by on occasion for a Sunday afternoon or evening visit. All visitors carried the same thing: a small round plain cheesecake. The bakery would display the cheesecakes such as; raspberry, chocolate swirl, almond coated, or cakes like red velvet cake, chocolate cakes, chocolate layer cake and of course the one they took to my house: morguey cheesecake.

Those were the days, you had to go to Grandma if you wanted to live. We were poor, we just didn't know it!

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

GRANDMA AND UNWRITTEN RULES

UNWRITTEN RULES

I don’t know about you, but growing up there were certain unwritten rules, almost law if you will, that centered around grandma. Being she was the matriarch of the whole family, respect came her way in many ways.

Some of these rules were assumptions that never held any reality. Some were hardcore truths all were followed to the letter.

One of the rules was you never married out of your faith. Doing so was punishable by cold silence in your presence and chatter behind your back as harsh as this sounds, this rule was not a real one! One day an older cousin of mine announced her engagement to a wonderful man who happened to be Lutheran. The alarms went off: DON’T TELL GRANDMA! WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO???

Another rule was you married Italian, and like the first rule mentioned, the same cousin was marrying a German. The disaster would be overwhelming!!! Non-Catholic AND German:! What was the younger generation coming to?

But grandma was wise and could gather information by deduction of what was said and by whom and figured it all out. The marriage would be conducted in an Italian church on a Saturday morning but not on the altar! Being religious Grandma knew what that meant! She confronted my aunt, the mother of the bride doing the deceptions and announced: “What difference does it make how he sees God, he sees him. I came to America to be an American, my children should be American and think like Americans!” In one long sentence: she summed up the whole of her philosophy from when she came to America as a 15-year old girl.

Another unwritten rule was a woman didn’t smoke. One of my aunts was a smoker, and when she came to grandma’s house, she would slip off into one of the bedrooms and hide while she smoked. Grandma would never know since the men all smoked. Then one Sunday Grandma, suspicious followed my aunt and caught her in the act! What did she say? If she was a younger woman, she would have taken up smoking too! All those years of hiding under a false assumption!

THE STREET WHERE SHE LIVED
Grandma lived until she was 97, a pretty good age. Had she lived by today’s norms, she would have only lived to maybe 87. Every Saturday night, grandma had a big steak, complete with bitter broccoli in Garlic and oil and sprayed with lemon juice, along with Italian bread. She ate red meat, of all kinds and drank red wine, home-made by grandpa. Eggs were a part of her diet and cooking, as was sweets. Pasta and carbs? What are you kidding me, sissy? She would have lived longer if she took better care of herself?

Grandma lived by her own rules, not like her sissy generation that followed. No gym did she belong to, no diet did she adhere to, just a lady who worked hard, fed the Earth and ate well herself.

Monday, May 16, 2016

GETTING TO KNOW YOU!


As you enter the grounds of The Hamptons Rehabilitation Center, you can’t help but be overpowered by the expanse of the two storied building. It stretches from one end of your peripheral vision to the other, you need to move your head from a distance to view it all. The building, resembling more a resort than a rehab center was just that once upon a time when the owners couldn’t finish building it since they ran out of money. So there was this magnificent building without a roof! If you enter the place, and you stroll through the corridors you will see things that only a resort would offer, like plug-ins for cell phones or laptop computers. It is a very pleasant interior that is indeed inviting, the perfect setting to rehab from what ails you for a period of extended time.

As you may know, my daughter Ellen does not speak and currently is residing in this rehab facility way out in Southampton, NY. She has been living there since February and has gotten adjusted to life there. She is happy so I am happy, too.

There is a problem, though. She is making too many friends, and I have to deal with this. For instance, when we arrived at the facility that night in February, she knew someone right off the bat! A lovely woman who happened to work at her home in Shoreham as a nurse and now is a nurse in the rehab.

A  coincidence, a happenstance so to speak! But as the days wore on, staff were now getting to know her. She was ‘Ellie’ they would come in and say: “Hi Ellie!” Ellen, of course, would just smile, clap her hands and say: “Mumma?” or “Appy” and clap her hands some more.

Okay, so the staff knows her, so what? Well, she then got to become friends with the residents! Yes, old and young, they started shouting out: “Hi Ellie!” Once again she would say: “Mumma?” or “Appy” and clap her hands.

But now things are getting serious, as I decided to take her from her second floor room down to the lobby area where there are nice comfortable rest areas to sit and relax, people coming off the streets are calling out: “Hi Ellie” or “How’s my girl Ellie Belly?” Once again Ellen would say: “Mumma?” or “Appy” and clap her hands.

But now it is getting critical, all the residents are now, along with the staff, shouting out Mumma and Appy? and clapping their hands!

This is a girl or lady who does not speak! She has no idea who these people are but makes friends in spite of it! Is this a testament to a great rehab place? I think so.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

NO PROBLEM!


As you may know, every Sunday morning TLW (The Little Woman) and I go out for breakfast at this diner nearby. The time is the same and the breakfast usually the same, but not the waitress. No, every Sunday there seems to be another waitress we haven’t seen before, so it is hard to say: “The usual, please.”

Today we had a problem solver.

It started off with the request for coffee and when I made the request her answer was: “NO PROBLEM!” When she returned with the coffee I thanked her and she said: “NO PROBLEM!”

Five minutes later she asked for our food order, which was given in detail in a precise manner, and her response was of course: “NO PROBLEM!”

This got me thinking, am I a problem with this order, is the order too difficult to fulfill and the waitress will defy the odds and fill it anyway, opening the way for a rather large sum of money in the form of a gratuity?

I’ve noticed and you may have too, it is a standard reaction to a food order many times, especially with the younger generation of waiters and waitresses! Go into a TGIF or Chipolte’s or even a small restaurant with young servers, and the standard answer to requests, is: she said: “NO PROBLEM!”

So it has become apparent that the simplest things requested in a restaurant are: “NO PROBLEM!” Thank goodness, however, go into a MacDonald’s for a simple cup of coffee to go and you get this:

Me: Small coffee with cream, no sugar.”
Her: (gal behind the counter) “You want milk or cream?”
Me: Cream
Her: You want sugar on the side or in the cup?”
Me: No sugar
Her: You want the small, medium or large size?”
Me: “Small”
Her: Is that to go or to stay?”
Me: “To go”
Her: “Will you want a bag or a tray?”
Me: “Wait a minute, what did I just order???”

So to you Dear Reader: take solace in the fact that no order you give is too, big or small, or that you have put out the waitress/waiter in any way, just remember there will be questions!

P.S. I’m going to go back to posting every day.








Wednesday, May 11, 2016

MIRACLES


There was a time this year in late January that left me in despair. It seems my daughter Ellen, a 44-year old gal with developmental disabilities somehow fell and broke her leg! She was in her home, in a large day room and headed back down a long corridor to her bedroom.

External fixator
Soon the bus came to take her to her day program so staff went to get her to assist her onto the bus, and when they entered her room, they found her on the floor!

Both tibia and fibia bones were broken in her right leg between the ankle and the knee, and we didn’t know how it happened!

After an exhausting day at the ER, she was fixed temporarily with an external fixator, to get the bones set or she would lose her leg. This gave the surgeon a little time to plan his next move and to allow the healing process to begin. She suffered from fracture blisters and so no immediate operation was possible because of the state of her skin on the area.

Working with a person who is disabled is very difficult if their mental capacity is that of 8- months old, and that is what the doctors were working with. It took 5 nurses and the hefty doctor to hold her down while the fixator was applied, when it was over, they were all exhausted. She was frightened, we were sick at heart.

The next two weeks were spent in a rehab facility that was not able to care for her, it was just not equipped, too many things were wrong. My daughter’s population needs constant supervision and aggressive planning. This was not happening and we noticed, made constant requests and still it didn’t work out.

After two weeks, the surgeon said it was time to operate and that she needed to go back to the hospital. The surgeons would implant a steel rod to her leg.

Tomorrow: THE BIG FIGHT

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

AHEAVENLY BIRTHDAY


DAD’S DRIVING SCHOOL OF AGITA

Today is Mom’s birthday, she would have been 98. As I think of her, one of my favorite memories was of her spunk, for instance:


Mom and Dad got along pretty well on the whole. Sometimes there were spats, but on the whole, they did get along, well, maybe not always.

In our driveway lay the point of contention, the major obstacle to Mom and Dad’s perfect wedded bliss.

Mom wanted to learn how to drive.

Dad wanted to watch TV.

There could only be one outcome – WAR!

Mom had enough Learners Permits to stack up to five feet.

Dad was not the best of teachers. He was impatient, put a lot of importance into giving you the basic to the point you really wanted to walk the rest of your life. He would give Mom an order, rather than suggest, Mom would fume, and soon they were debating the proper etiquette

One Sunday Mom had enough, and as Dad laid there in bed, Mom calling him to get up to take her church, she started to fume, not an ordinary fume, but something nuclear. She decided to take things into her own hands.

Suddenly I found myself in the car, where Mom usually sat, and Mom: well she was where Dad usually sat. Off to church we went, Mom determined to get there and back, the heck with Dad.

On the way home, Mom was feeling very triumphant and even decided to take a shortcut home. I guess Jesus made her strong. Mom was defying the odds, putting it to Dad, taking care of business. If there was one thing that was faulty in Mom’s triumph, she didn’t scout the terrain.

Into the woods, she heads and on this dirt road that led to another block. Mom navigated the ruts and I loved her spunk. Suddenly, the car swayed without music! We were swaying but we weren’t moving forward. Mom was stuck. This was a no cha cha ride.

Along comes this hobo who must have lived in the woods, who pushed us out of the rut and gained him $2 hard cash. In those days, that was a lot.

“Now when we get home, I don’t want to hear about this in front of your father!" Dad never knew what happened to the day he died.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM, say ‘Hello’ to everyone for me.

Monday, May 09, 2016

PEN THIS


Recently, my wife, TLW (The Little Woman) helped a bunch of 2nd graders receive the First Holy Communion during a ceremony to complete the occasion. It occurred in the local church she attends and seemed like her 20 years of memories were about complete in this regard. She was retiring from teaching second graders, and this was her last official act as a teacher. She had met children, parents and even strangers in this devotion, and thought that there was nothing else to see.

But like life itself, there is always room for one more shock, and if it is in a church: more shocking!

It seems that parents have to sign in when they come to the ritual and there are a pen and book for their signature. The pen is left out for people to pick up, sign with and put down for the next person to use. This IS a church after all, and if you can’t be trusting here, where?

So what happens?

Some parent signs in looks at the pen and says: “Its only a pen” and pockets it! Yes, steals a pen from the church! You wonder if the poor box is safe?

Now that child has a role model, this thief! The child can now begin a career as a petty thief, anywhere he wants, no church is off-limits!

NOW my wife can retire, she’s seen EVERYTHING!

Sunday, May 08, 2016

IS THERE A MORE BEAUTIFUL WORD?


MAMMA

“Mothers hold their children’s hands for a short while, but their hearts forever!”

Heard from a mother of teenaged children: “I think I'll tell my kids that the Titanic sunk because Jack and Rose had sex before marriage.”


To all the mothers out there today, have the best day ever, if you have children nearby, hug and kiss them, for tomorrow brings a new day and uncertainty. If God forbid you have outlived a child, keep it close to your heart, it was conceived out of love and born to the greatest love: yours.

Although my wife, Ellen, the mother of my children is not Italian, but Irish, I would like to dedicate this post to her. I could write about Mom, but she is gone and her birthday which at times falls on Mother’s Day falls this year on this coming Tuesday, will be honored then.

Motherhood is if nothing a challenge from the conception and discomfort of childbirth to the final days of her life. Most of your time is spent worrying, not about herself, but of her children. The countless times she gave up her own personal joy so that her child could have their joy, is never really known, she just did it, after all, she is a mom.

We as a family have had our days, and Ellen has had to deal with sadness, disappointment, fear and has always shown courage. She has stepped up so many times that it makes me wonder how she is still sane.

Four children will do a lot to a woman, from the birthing to the marriage and beyond. We have lived the life, but she has made it bearable in so many loving ways. She is always a mother, just like the mothers who are reading this. She had a wonderful mother who taught her all there is to know about mothering and love.

Motherhood is depriving oneself,
Motherhood is constant care,
Motherhood is praising
Motherhood supporting,
Motherhood is blind to our ugliness at times
Motherhood is being there no matter how sick she is, how tired and under any conditions,
But above all, Motherhood is love.

Ellen will spend her day visiting her daughter who has developmental disabilities and is rehabbing from a broken leg, way out in Southampton, Long Island. Her two living sons will call her and we will spend a nice quiet meal at a restaurant called Joseph’s in Manorville, and all this time she will be what she always is: a mother first and foremost. Turns out Joseph’s Restaurant is an appropriate place since she lost a child named Joseph when he was only 20 months.

To my beautiful wife Ellen, my beautiful daughter-in-law Courtney, all my friends on Facebook, to my Mom and Mother-in-law Helen who have since passed on, thank you for making this rotten world beautiful, civil and loving, where would any of us be without you and all moms?