Tuesday, January 31, 2017


Being married to the same woman for over 45 years you begin to develop a love relationship which borders on the need for diplomacy and a good reason to sleep with your eyes opened.

Let's face it, all relationships, if they are healthy, have that arrangement. Diplomacy is to deal with disagreements in a calm and settling way, sleeping with your eyes opened ensures he/she doesn't get all the blankets at night!

Discussion centered one morning while doing my apportioning of pills for the week to save myself from sudden death, of our new health insurer or pill pusher as I like to think of them.
The old pill pushers would renew online and deliver to me my pills from the doctor to me in my mailbox. However, some days my prescriptions would arrive a day late, which would account for the fact that my mailman was driving rather erratically the day before and I was short a few pills! The new pushers need me to go to the pharmacy and get aggravated with pill counts, the time promised and the renewal effort over the phone. Our disagreement centered over how the renewal process occurs, and the deliverance of said pills, a 90-day prescription vs. a 30-day one with two renewals. I hate when she is right!

The trouble is we both have memories like steel traps. Her steel trap is able to release sparks of memory, mine stay within the trap and just bounce around, never released. These phenomena are due to listening to her and not being able to get out any timely retort to counter what she says until of course, it is too late.

So, to all married men, be defiant and sit down! WE ARE TIRED OF STANDING CORRECTED!

Monday, January 30, 2017


Mike Connors
Barbara Hale
Mary Tyler Moore
Roberta Peters
Eugene Cernan
Buddy Greco
Andy Marte
Charles Shackleford

All these people are people who I knew of while I grew up. They all have something in common, they have passed in 2017. This I am finding shocking and unacceptable.

What happened to my youth? What has been going on that my comfort zone, that is my parents, famous people I knew from the worlds of entertainment and sports have gone beyond the great divide? Is there a way I can reclaim that time? Are all the places I visited still there in their original state, or did that die too?

Once there were members of my family that I enjoyed seeing or calling, gone to their eternal rest, another part of life faded in the process, never more to be seen. Suddenly I am the last generation, the generation that remembers all, that will relay the family history and the times that were to the younger generations, the middle-aged.

And those entertainers, the actors and musicians, comedians and sports figures, that are still alive, the people from my youth that may not have appeared publicly in 30 or 40 years are still alive, do you see what they look like today? 

I remember the days past where I wondered what I would be when I grew up, of dreams that were only vague and times that seemed settled and secure in the cocoon of my parent's home. I recall I couldn't wait for tomorrow, and my parent's telling me that tomorrow will come soon enough. I can remember the enthusiasm of each beautiful spring morning and summer day as the feeling of joy consumed me as I ran out of my house to find my friends and play. The freedom of the grass under my feet and the waters of Bellport Bay or Dunton Avenue Lake, where I learned to swim and dive off the wooden dam that separated the lake from the Great South Bay. Where are those days?

There were the rich days of growing up on the streets of Brooklyn, the fights I got into and the games I played until sunset, an ice cream pop still lingering in my mouth as Mom sounded the announcement that times was up, time to come home and go to bed.

And along the way, as a young man in high school, college, and beginning to work, the first time I met my wife, the joy of my children being born, where did that go?

I recall friends that I started out working with, men and women older than me who took a liking to me, all seem to have passed on, gone sometimes unannounced, and with their demise, they took another page away from my book of life, the mental notes I inscribed into the margins, the echo of past conversation, gone forever, how do I replace all that?

Someday when I'm gone, hopefully resting in God's kingdom, I will meet them all once again, and maybe that is what Heaven is all about.

Sunday, January 29, 2017


I totally understand that there is a lot of anger coming from the political left because of the results of the 2016 Presidential Election. The anger stems from the majority of voters in that the majority rule lost out. It is a basic tenet in the concept of democracy that the will of the people always dictates the course our country takes.

Within the structure is the checks and balances of our particular government in regards to our imperfect democracy, the Electoral College, the fly in the electoral process or ointment.

Good friends are becoming nasty to one another, demeaning choices and one's intelligence.

If I may, I would expand on the issue of dissatisfaction by reminding everyone that this past election, the choices presented to us were not overwhelming or even exciting. I am sorry to say that I did not vote this time around because I abhorred both candidates from years ago. Although it is indeed time for a woman to become President of the United States, Hilary Clinton in my heart and soul represented the same old thing we've had before with men running. She was lifeless, uninspiring and I feel she is a liar.

Mr. Trump, I have loathed from the first time I heard his voice. He is a man of self-centered concerns, egotistical and also a liar. He lacks experience and I feel he is not thinking things out as President. Penalizing Mexico will lead Mexico into the arms of China or Russia as a major trading partner, giving them better traction in this already over-competitive world marketplace.

The one thing that Trump did to win over 49% of the populace was to get to the prejudices of voters, the ones that were not openly evident, but simmer under the surface he took them and by legitimizing them with an argument that could sound valid without exploring fully the consequences.

But I don't feel the Electoral College is at fault, but rather the voters who for years supported policies under their brand, never thinking to change their brand to fit with the times. We have embraced unconditionally, the concepts of the Republican and Democratic party year after year, leaving us with no choice but to vote a straight ticket because we feel we are ………'s, thus embedding us into the mire and the slush of outdated thinking.

Today's state of affairs is your and my doing, it is the left and the right, it is the different interest groups who follow blindly, without pause, labeling our political opponents and making them instead, our enemies.

Instead of arguing, let's pray for our country.

Saturday, January 28, 2017


But the joy is greater!

Yesterday morning as I sat with my coffee and the Little Woman, I went on Facebook and found my granddaughter as she played with her daddy under this toy tent that looks like a little bus.

This is how I pass my time. I mean how many times can I watch the same news story over and over again on TV? Instead of watching the weather report on the early morning news, I watch Darby Shea teach her daddy how to play. I watch it more times than I watch the same old on the Early Morning News!

Many people have said that if they retire they don't know what they would do. They should do what I do, watch their grandchildren on little movies, or Facebook pictures. My picture collection has to be over 1,000 poses about a hundred movies and boy I love it!

It is amazing how one little munchkin can turn a cranky old man into melted butter, how a sweet little voice demands more attention that the greatest masterpieces played at a symphony, grandparenting is a blessing, a loving event, and joyous occasion.

Every night when grandma comes home, the first question she asks is: "You're still here?" Then she asks: "Are there any pictures of Darby today?"

Pardon me, I need to go watch that clip again.

Friday, January 27, 2017


Italian-American life in the 30’s 40’s and 50’s was hard. Speaking broken English, or having a need for someone to translate English into Italian or vise verse, could often lead to embarrassment as it made one stand out in the daily flow of life. It could make one feel less than whole somehow, it could affect not only the person who needed the translations but the translator too if he/she was Italian and anyone else connected.

I can remember first hand as young as five standing by helplessly as someone would have to speak to Dad or Mom to convey an insurance policy or a phone call from some official office, a pharmacist or doctor for my grandparents. Most times to take the edge off things, many Italian-Americans went to Italian-American doctors, stayed in much of their community as possible. These men were held in great esteem, high regard and almost to the point of sainthood. “È un Ragazzo Italiano!” if he went to college or was a man in a respected position.

 Most Italian-American’s had hard blue collar jobs, working with their hands, their backs permanently bent from the labor and all they owned was their family and a song on their lips they whistled as they walked to work. Working was the highest profession, feeding your family so your children could have the tomorrow you wouldn’t.

 Growing up and realizing these conditions I developed an admiration for two people who were not my parents, but they were ‘role models’. One was a man who lived downstairs from me, we called him ‘Manduche’. He was of college age and was the son of the janitor who ran our apartment building. Manduche was attending college, he was studying to become an engineer!

“Heza smarta boy, he go to uh collegia! This was told to me as some admiring adult of Italian-Americans who was becoming proud about someone Italian-American. I would look up at him when he returned home from school each night and think: “Wow! He is smart. He goes to college!” Both his parents were immigrants, working hard and giving their children every opportunity they could afford.

 Then there was my Uncle Frank. Uncle Frank was a war hero, returning home from the European theater under General Patton, a corporal. He would tell me horrific stories about his days in the foxholes and the things he learned to do automatically, like entering a building for the first time and looking for all the back doors and windows as a precaution. Not only was he this war hero, he was also holding don a white-collar job, and working for the Brooklyn Navy Yard as a clerk, and here is the big part, going to night school to get a better education that advanced him up the ladder in his government grading! This was impressed upon me by my parents and drilled into me that the only way to lessen misery in life was to better yourself with n education. Mind you I was so young, I had no concept of high school, let alone this college thing that was so mystical, but would need to be achieved.

 The sports world was alive with Italian-American players. Joe Di Maggio, Prima Cannera, Rocky Marciano and the like. As Italian-Americans would gather at a table speaking in Italian and uttering along the line of conversation the hero: “È un Ragazzo Italiano!”

 Today, that feeling still stays with me. My cardiologist, surgeon, and even my eye doctor are Italian last names, kind of gives me a sense of deep pride and I think: “È un Ragazzo Italiano!”

 I cannot be grateful enough the uncertain journey my ancestors took to come to this wonderful country, fighting to earn a place in the fabric of their adopted country, the sacrifices they all made for me, their children who went on to better things because their parents made those sacrifices, paving the road to happiness because of their example, and so I am an American, but remember this: È un Ragazzo Italiano-Americano!

Thursday, January 26, 2017


My wife and I are conditioned to wait for the; (not) proverbial another shoe to drop, but the next shoe to drop. As parents of a child with disabilities, we are conditioned for the unbelievable, the improbable and mostly the unexpected.

When times are quiet and my daughter Ellen is doing fine, we put up our guard, hold our breath and wait for the disappointment to spread across our landscape!

 Recently I enrolled my daughter in a new health plan, outside Obama Care but a great plan. It creates a network of providers that all hook up into a mainframe of sorts and maintains all her medical records. This allows a doctor who is treating her for an illness to immediately find her medical records online and make more instantaneous decisions and prescribe the right medications based on what he sees. This system is only found in New York State under the auspices of her agency, and it is supported by Medicare/Medicaid!

 There is one problem, however. You need to use only the participating doctors and clinics, and whatever other medical services needed who belong to the plan as it is slowly growing and gaining momentum.

Recently we went to a neurologist who at one point asked to do a complete medical workup for his records. My wife and I objected to this idea since my daughter is very sensitive and does not tolerate being poked by anyone. After voicing our objections to this plan things became quiet. The medical staff at my daughter’s agency agreed with our decision based on their knowledge of Ellen and what she will tolerate. Everything was well and my daughter was very happy after the trauma she went through for five months after her broken leg, two hospitals, and two different rehab facilities. She slowly adjusted to her old life once again and we were happy.

After a few months, it became apparent that we needed to visit the new neurologist for an evaluation that is mandated, and so my wife and I went. Meeting the new neurologist was a tension-filled meeting on the part of the neurologist. I guess he felt that we would be hostile to him, which we were not and so he made the statement that did rise the tension very high in the room. He said he needed to do tests to determine if she was susceptible to instant death because she is epileptic and her medication, Lithium, could cause death. This was coming from a doctor who did not know my daughter and had no idea how she behaves.

My daughter has been living with her situation all her life, 44 years and never showed us signs of epileptic fits and her seizures were all Petite-mals, not grand-mals. His request was funneled through the idea that if we didn’t do these things or tests to her, it would be on our conscience, in other words, she could drop dead!

 It is interesting how much my wife and I think about our daughter and what is best for her. We have spent countless days and hours at clinics, hospital and what not to help her fight off the agony of her condition. We know how frightened she gets when strangers force her to do things she does not want to do. All too many tests and analysis was only wasted time because of her uncooperative nature. I told the doctor that her past would lead anyone that testing her is never easy, or a complete test, often being aborted in mid-test because they were getting absolutely nothing. He looked at me like I needed help.

 The final suggestion was that if all else failed, they would operate on her brain!

 No damned way that happens unless they lock me up first. They will not experiment on my daughter for the sake of their records, let alone open her skull and perhaps ruined what little she does have. All this in a whim!

 My wife and I agree we would rather let her die by taking the chance that she won’t than subject her to frightening operation on her brain that may make her more dysfunctional than she is already.

 It is very hard to be a parent of a child who does not speak or interact even a little. We have always given her whatever she ant, and I have been on the vanguard of protecting her and advocating for her, as well as my wife has. We will leave her alone. If the time comes where we need to make that kind of decision, we will be there to deal with it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Joseph 1979-1981
"Our dead are never dead to us until we have forgotten them."
George Eliot

It was a long week, the trips to the hospital out in Nassau County and the all-day stays by both my wife and I. The weather for January was the usual, cold, blustery and often snow falling and rain pouring down.

Every morning we entered the hospital, often first searching for a parking space and then fighting the elements to reach our son's room, the wind biting through our clothing we would enter apprehensively the ICU and ask our questions. Often the answers were not the best and we needed to put those answers under the surface as we greeted our child, hooked up to an IV, sometimes placed at various points in his black and blue body to keep him alive.

Tomorrow is his anniversary, since 1981 when he passed from this world to the next, he has been in our hearts every day. He, along with his older sister, are the reason I serve on the Board of Director's for AHRC Suffolk, it is my way of doing for the rest of my life all I can for them both. But something more important happened, they, my two children gave me a real reason to live, not just for them but for all those who fight for their happiness and survival that suffer from developmental disabilities. I have grown to expand my agenda and grown to love them all.

Each wheelchair tells a story; every crutch or aid illustrates another of their fight. Some of these wonderful and innocent people become attached to me on a personal level, some I have cried for when they passed or became a sadder physical state than when I saw them last. I've asked God so many times, why? Why is this all necessary, why must they suffer and their families too? How lonely is the frustration, how debilitating is the pain, and how forgotten is the public awareness?

That faith-filled January day so long ago will be etched in my brain, inscribed in my heart and will always weight me down, as we tried to the last hour to save his life.

The day he died started with my wife and I leaving the hospital at about 5:30 that morning and heading home to get some rest. We had sat up with him all night and decided we needed a shower and some rest, some nourishing food to sustain us and went home. We sat with relatives and friends all day, talking about other things than the agony of the coming of a defeat we knew we would not be able to fully understand. His doctors couldn't understand it, from the day he entered the hospital the Friday after Thanksgiving Day.

When everyone went home, my wife was in the shower and I was watching a thing called M TV when the hospital called and asked if we wanted to pull the plug, and we said no, we wanted to see him first. When we arrived at the hospital, a priest raced past us on the stairwell and I began to wonder. As we entered the ICU, we looked down the long corridor and saw his room, and as we got closer, the nurse was sobbing and covering him like he was cold, his little hands were freed of all the IV's, just a gentle look of relief carved into his round little face. We were too late!

Somewhere he sits now up in a Paradise, probably mourning us who he left behind, as we are dealing with earthly pain and remembrances, free from his own. I go to his grave every chance I get and I have the conversations that continue to keep him close to my heart and soul. People say that God only gives you what you can handle; keep on dreaming people it just isn't true. What God gives us is free will, the ability to do and think for ourselves, there are no such things as intercessions on the behalf of those of us on Earth. I have trouble with the cloud of mysticism that offers band-aids for deep wounds, pointless sayings that really don't hold any meaning after the fact. I know people are being kind and offering solace, but yet I know it means nothing in the end.

When I go to the cemetery, I visit his grave then start my rounds. Visiting both my folks and in-laws graves, my wife's parents and some children that also passed too soon. Those are the parents I feel for: will never tell them it is what God gave them because they can handle it. They can't either, don't let exterior looks fool you, going to bed with a shattered heart is not what God wants for you, losing your grip every-once-in-a-while over lost days you realize, such as when someone marries or graduates who is the same age as your child would have been, was not in God's plan for the child or yourself. It is but what life is all about, in the end.

My son Joseph was my third child. Joseph looked like me when I was his ages, an aunt said he looked like someone had cut my head off and put it on his body.

"In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on".
Robert Frost

Tuesday, January 24, 2017


It was the end of a long boat trip to Italy and then back again to her adopted home, and Grandma Frances had a trunk filled with luggage, or so it seemed. She had just returned from a dedication of an orphanage in her name and a visit to her hometown near Naples. It got me to thinking and remembering an incident when I was very young.

If I could journey beyond my time, I would be willing to be brave enough to take the voyage from my ancestor's hometowns and venture to America. Why? Just a peek to feel the idea of coming to America, to see for the first time the Statue of Liberty, to feel what it was like to see the shores of America for the first time. After all, this was the land of opportunity, the streets were paved in gold, while in Italy the war-ravaged land was being rebuilt, families were reuniting for the first time in the recovery of post-war Italy.

It seems so contradictory to travel to a land called; ‘America' knowing that Amerigo Vespucci was the explorer, a fellow Italian who they named two continents after, yet the arrivals from Italy faced prejudice and hatred, suspicion and humiliation from those who came here first, but I'm not talking about the Native Americans!

I guess it is something akin to penicillin, it grows as a mold but then is turned into something beautiful and helpful. In America, just about every city, town, and hamlet own an Italian restaurant, and it shares with Chinese restaurants, bagel shops, and sushi bars!

I often wondered what went through the mind of my grandparents on the first sighting of the cities, rolling mountains and glorious harbors, all harbors of hope, adventure and of course: uncertainty. There were the language barrier, the local customs and the fear of not being accepted into the fabric of daily life. It reminds of a story of my grandmother once so long ago. She traveled back to Italy, and on her return voyage on a ship, she had purchased a trunk load of salami, cheese, and pork products, all locally in Naples. This was illegal and customs was beginning to crack down on the undeclared imports.

The inspectors were checking luggage and with a sniffing dog, Grandma's large trunk became under suspicion. They asked her to open the trunk, and grandma asked why. To no satisfaction on her part, they refused to answer her. They asked what she had in the trunk and now she kept silent. Then the trunk was opened by customs, under a hail of Italian curse words, that nearly sunk the ship, and caused permanent ear damage to the agents, as the salami and cheeses flew overboard miles before the entry into port. To the day she died, grandma regretted the loss of such precious cargo from "Da sonnamabitches". My dad loved to tell this story whenever we would discuss how feisty grandma, the redhead was.

Monday, January 23, 2017


It was the fall of 1950, and a new school year was beginning at Our Lady of Lourdes elementary school. Mom had an infant at home and me entering first grade. My older sister would accompany me to school every morning while my parents tried to either change the locks or move to a different apartment by 3:00 pm when the school had enough and sent me home.

One of the things that were needed before they would allow a child into their world of religious education and military discipline was an upfront payment of both tuition and books, each was to be paid separately. Mom gave my older sister the money for the books in an envelope and her, in turn, handed it to my cranky first-grade teacher, Miss Langon.

Miss Lagon was a cranky skinny old lay-teacher who wore old-fashioned laced shoes and long floral dresses, who also had a need to give me a hard time. The around the third or fourth day of school Old Miss Langon called my sister over and gave her ‘What for’ for not paying for my books! I remembered that my sister gave her the money in a white envelope my mother gave her with the money in it.

From under her gray bun, severe attitude and squeaky voice my sister got reprimanded for not turning it in. Going home in tears that day she related to Mom her encounter with the Leona Helmsley wanna-be (Queen of Mean) Old Miss Langon. Grandma Frances who happened to be visiting that day listened as Mom translated the sobbing encounter to Grandma into Italian. Grandma said nothing.

The next morning, there stood Grandma, waiting for us to go to school, she wanted to meet the wicked witch of Catholic Schools, the original Our Lady of Sorrows. Off we went to school, my older sister, and Grandma tugging me along by the hand. She was getting to the bottom of this and would set Miss Langon straight about yelling at her grandkids.

We reached my first-grade classroom Grandma stood with her hands on her hips and motioned the old girl over, what she said I don’t remember, but I do remember the witch retreating backward as grandma raised Hell, fingers flashing from all the rings she wore, and hands waving in her nice Italian accent, fingers!  We were never bothered by Miss Langon again. It was later ascertained that she did get the envelope.

Sunday, January 22, 2017


As I sit here in pain, swallowing hard, coughing and feeling the swelling that grips my neck. I feel GREAT! All the wonderful wishes that came from all of you who sent them made me realize that the pain doesn't matter for long, but your friendship does.

I was lucky that I did the operation when I did, I was told originally that the blockage of my carotid artery was 90%, but it was 99%! I was ready to die and didn't know it. The blockage was as the surgeon said: "Like a hard ball of mass!" Again, I was lucky.

God works in ways I don't understand, but makes me a believer, twice I have had close calls in my life, then he added another, this time I realize that there are things I still have left to do, not for me but for others. He reminded me of that by the outpouring and love you sent me, I am truly honored, shocked and yet proud.

I could say Thank You to my family and those of you who gave me your encouragement and prayers, instead I say: I love you all. For you innate kindness, devotion to God and sense of family I get from all of you.

Thank you!

Saturday, January 21, 2017


Everyone called her: Zia Francesca, I called her Grandma.

If grandma had taken better care of herself, she would have been 120 years old this January! But no, she ate whatever she wanted, drank anything she wanted, and worked long hard hours. She passed at 97, much too young to go. Her idea of a vacation was a pilgrimage to Italy, to support an orphanage she created for children who lost their parents during the war and the Church named it after her. Grandma organized bus rides to upstate New York for those very same kinds of needy orphan children.

She, like all the Italian grandmas in Brooklyn: wore black. This was very unsettling for grandpa, and he always avoided naps when she was home.

Grandma ran the house, the family and my grandpa like a prized stallion, he was always doing something because Grandma wanted it done. Every little creak was attended to: the house was in tip-top shape and it was almost a religious experience for grandpa.

On Sunday, he would sneak out to the Republican Club next door for a good card game, di Napoli cigar and a demitasse while holding his own in a pinochle game and some rest or respite from grandma. This, of course, irritated grandma who wanted him attending Mass on Sunday. The Sunday ritual was after Mass at Our Lady of Loreto grandma would cook her sauce for the dinner or should I say feast that would follow about one or two o'clock that afternoon. On her gas stove stood a pot that could hide a fat man over 6 feet tall. Her kitchen was the size of Texas and everything was done in it. Cooking, sewing, yelling and eating, plus laundry and paying the bills. She ran a self-sustaining farm with every kind of vegetable and spice she could fit in it, the ground lovingly nurtured by grandpa, down to the marbles he had scattered for some reason. With all those marbles, he never lost one!

In the garden stood a fig tree wrapped in the winter in linoleum carpets, and grapevines that overhung the cement patio and started to bloom in Spring. Figs were a big part of the diet, you ate them with a glass of wine, and they were sweet and delicious, juicy and succulent and inviting when I looked at them. The grapes were sour white grapes, that would eventually turn red and sweet, for his homemade wine. In his cellar, he pressed them and then after a while everything was bottled.

Grandma did have one habit that stuck with the whole family. On Saturday night, she would cook up a steak. As I grew up in Brooklyn, a steak was the meal for Saturday nights, as it is in my house every Saturday night. But grandma's steaks were special, nothing fancy but they were cooked over an open flame on an old gas stove in her basement. The smell was just so tempting, so delicious and so darn good. When mom sent me off to the confessional on Saturday afternoon to lie to the priest, I would be getting hungry knowing that a steak was in my future in an hour or so, cooked on an open flame, just like grandmas.

Grandma never smoked and had her daughters and nieces hiding from her so they could puff away, but in the end, she didn't care if you smoked, after all, it was another nail in your coffin.

It was hard to say goodbye. Grandma would see to it that everyone had a private audience. Saying goodbye meant that you would receive special attention as you tried your darnedest to get out of the house. There was a long whispered conversation, filled with expressions that told stories you couldn't understand, hand gestures that punctuated the thoughts and little children, standing next to their mothers fighting off sleep. Husbands would be yelling at their wives to get going they had to work in the morning. Gossip was saved for the end.

In grandma's cupboard in her kitchen was a collection of wedding favors, all wrapped with sugar coated almonds in a lace material, that was distributed on Easter Sunday for a small snack before the nuts and pastries. Life was good and so were the pastries. Grandma must have attended at least one wedding a week because she knew so many people, people she sponsored or financially helped, people who needed favors and she went out and got it done for them, people who needed her and she needed to have them need her.

Grandma was a big deal in the church. She made the pilgrimages for orphans but also for the special needs of the church, building funds, repair funds, dances and whatever Jesus called her to do. She also enlisted my Dad, a non-church goer who was a bit if an artist, painting a banner for a procession she was organizing for the streets of East New York and surrounding neighborhoods.

To coincide with the special church events, she organized, we had to go to her all Italian speaking church for the kick-off Mass. My dad not being a regular church attendee, would sit next to me to avoid my getting into trouble, Mom made him wear a suit and tie, a tie that hung on Dad loosely knotted, his top button of his shirt opened, sitting with his legs wide open in the seat, as he waited for the final bell so he could get home. I would watch the little old Italian ladies chirping away with each other as the priest gave his sermon, he would then pause and yell out: "SILENZIO"! The little old ladies would fall silent for a short while and right back at it they went. Then the consecration came, and I couldn't wait for it anticipating the sound of the fireworks that were set off on the roof! Bells ringing from the altar and BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! overhead kind of led to my excitement.

And so, her grandson writes about her, thinks of her bravery as a 15-year-old girl who couldn't speak English and yet owned a fruit and vegetable store, a restaurant and apartment houses, and wonders: was that the American dream? I love you Grandma: you make me proud.

Friday, January 20, 2017


Uncle Tony is the two men on your right!
Every kid of Italian heritage has or should have an Uncle Tony or an Uncle Joe! All my cousins did, and so did I. My Uncle Tony was actually my Dad's sister's husband. Uncle Tony was a mild meek gentleman who spoke broken English and really loved his booze. Married to my Aunt Angie made him that way. She was a take-charge woman, and a take charge attitude, just your average wife. (Only kidding)

Uncle Tony loved his booze so much that my aunt would hide the booze on him. Meek as Uncle Tony was, he wasn't stupid. He would arrange to play hide and seek with his kids, and would find the booze where it was hidden!

One of his favorite past times was barbecuing at any time of the year, including during a blizzard. Old Uncle Tony would announce around supper time "I make a nice a fire!" Out he would go and make the fire and cook for my aunt.

One year it was graduation time and my aunt lived in a duplex with my father's brother Joe. Uncle Tony and Uncle Joe never got along and on the rare occasion that they did, something would always happen. Both Uncle Joe who had a son graduating high school and my aunt had a daughter who was also graduating this one day. My Aunt Angie was visiting with my Uncle Joe's wife, (who happened to be my Mother's sister, two brothers married two sisters) and Uncle Tony came home from work, and goes over to my Uncle Joe's house looking for Aunt Angie who says to him "Tony, go upstairs and get dressed for the graduation tonight" Of course she meant upstairs next door. So off goes Uncle Tony. Uncle Joe comes home and is told his clothes are all laid out for him on the bed upstairs. Just as he is ready to go up, who comes down but Uncle Tony, all dressed up, and ready to go, in Uncle Joe's suit, shirt, tie, socks, and shoes!

Once, Uncle Joe and Uncle Tony went fishing in a local lake. They were sitting in a rented rowboat when all of a sudden Uncle Joe asked Uncle Tony to give him more bait, Uncle Tony decides to stand up and as he does, falls out of the boat! "Helpa, hime gonna drrrown, I can'ta swim!" thrashing about in the water. He was sitting in the water, the water up to his chest. Uncle Joe looks at him and says: You &$%@$(&! %^@$*&&^, STAND UP, AND GET BACK IN THE DAMNED BOAT! ITS ONLY UP TO YOUR KNEES!

When my Dad was dying, Uncle Tony was living in Florida and was suffering from Alzheimer's disease and somehow found out about my father who was dying here in New York. He loved my father who sponsored him in a late confirmation, goes to my Aunt while shaving: "Shine a my shoes I'm a gonna visit, Tony."

Not too much later Uncle Tony passed on from a heart attack, and when he did, I thought: "I wonder if he's playing hide and seek up there?" I missed both uncles, they help build my life of happy memories!

Thursday, January 19, 2017


Today I go into the Good Samaritan Hospital and my surgeon gets to do what many people wish they could do: slit my throat and clear out a carotid artery! The lucky winner is Dr. Charles LaRosa, a noted surgeon who won the contest. Congratulations, Dr. LaRosa, get a good night's sleep, please.

Recently the media reported that a newborn kidnapped from a hospital 18 years ago was reunited with her biological mother for the first time, after all, these years! One TV personality mentioned that with all the safeguards in place today, it is virtually impossible to do this again, with protections for both the baby and the mother. I guess the kidnappers will now turn their attention to the fathers?

As you know, with the results of the National Election, Donald Trump is becoming President of the United States tomorrow. This means that our health care insurance will be changing once again. The Republicans first said they would repeal the whole thing for two good reasons. One is that it is an Obama idea, and if it is good, Obama can't get any credit for it, and secondly and more importantly, it is the only government sponsored program with two names, which confuses them! Obama Care is what most of us refer to it by, and of course ‘The Affordable Care Act' which is its correct legal name. Since most people and Republican Congressmen didn't know there is no difference between the two, the Republican controlled congress will change only parts of it, calling it Trauma Care.

Tomorrow we install a new President of the United States. People will stand in the freezing cold to watch hundreds of soldiers, marines and sailors march past the Capitol building in Washington, DC. Now millions of Americans will have to change their habits. Learning to write 2017 on their checks rather than 2016, or turning their disgust from: "That bastard Obama!" to: "That bastard Trump!", both are traditional American customs.

After 148 years, the animal rights groups have achieved something, closing down Ringling Brothers Barnum and Baily Circus. These are protestors that have never had a childhood and never experienced the thrill of going to a circus, smelling the popcorn or elephant poop. This is also a big help to the Handsome cabs that run along the New York Avenues, they won't have to wait for the circus to go by.

Birds took the blame for bringing down the jetliner that "Sully" Sullenberger landed on the Hudson River eight years ago this weekend. They have been paying for it with their lives ever since. An Associated Press analysis of bird-killing programs at the New York City area's three major airports found that nearly 70,000 gulls, starling, geese, and other birds have been slaughtered, mostly by shooting and trapping, since the 2009 accident, and it is not clear whether those killings have made the skies safer. However, the National Association of Car-Washers has noted a 56% decrease in business!

Maj. Gen. Errol R. Schwartz has been ordered to step down at exactly 12:01 PM on inauguration day. This perplexes the general of all the troops on the streets and across the country, after all, says the general, he wouldn't leave a mission in the middle of a battle, so he doesn't understand why he is being asked to step down in the middle of Donald Trump's inauguration. My big concern is replacing an experienced general like Schwartz will place DC in deep jeopardy on January 21st, when the Women's March on Washington begins! There could b around 500,000 women marching! NO country has the manpower to handle that many angry women all at once!

Singer Jennifer Holliday has backed out as a performer at next week's presidential inaugural, saying she did not realize that her participation would be interpreted as a statement of support for President-elect Donald Trump. I guess she doesn't realize that Michele Obama, along with her husband WILL be there at the inaugural!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017


When I was just married, and living in an apartment in East Patchogue I happened to watch a news magazine program one Sunday afternoon, between football games while I uncontrollably anticipated dinner. The subject of the show was surrogate parents and adoptive children. My young and beautiful wife (she's still beautiful) was pregnant with my daughter, and being how we didn't have children yet, it was a little difficult to fully appreciate all the issues raised in the program.

I was sitting in the living room while the little woman was rattling those pots and pans, when the host of the show asked the question: What would you do if there was a knock on your door and a child was standing there and said: "Hi, I am your spouses' child?" Well, I couldn't wait to open my BIGGGGG MOUTH, and jumped up from the couch and yelled out to the Mrs. "Hey Ellen, what would you do if there was a knock on our door, and a child was standing there and said, "Hi, I am your spouses' child?" Well she came into the living room and repeated the question to confirm it, and answered: "I would tell the child, excuse me for a moment, leave, come back to the child and say: I'm sorry, your father is deceased."

I can assure you one and all, there are NO unclaimed children in MY past.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017


--> Growing up in Brooklyn, in the grimy streets, I always looked forward to visiting Patchogue on my summer vacation, and where my cousins lived. Patchogue was the country, the place to roam and run and enjoy the green, green, grass of freedom and joy.

Patchogue held a special spell over me, I loved to visit both my aunt and uncle's homes on Norton Street, a duplex home fueled by coal deliveries, pebbled driveways, and porches as I went about shoeless and wearing light summer clothing, it was heaven for the kid from Brooklyn.

There was a certain excitement to visiting Patchogue, it was a special vacation place for me. Carvel ice cream, eating outside and visiting fireworks or special events like air plane shows, made me feel happy that this place called Patchogue existed.

Somehow being in Patchogue created a comparison for me of the sidewalks, buses and Catholic school discipline of Brooklyn to the happy casual feeling of careless life that Patchogue offered. I was free and carefree. My cousins seemed so relaxed and willing to share their joy.

Often, in the early morning, when the dew was prevalent, I could hear the distant sound of the Long island Railroad train engine, tooting my awake in the morning sunrise, sounding so special and making me want to arise from my bed and go out in the joy of Patchogue and enjoy the day.

I would give anything to relive those memories once again, to feel the sense of fireworks exploding through the air on a dark summer's night on July 4th, having a Carvel ice cream or visiting the dock to scoop out a crab, Patchogue you will always be my first love!

Monday, January 16, 2017


Take my imaginary hand, and let me take you into my past to one of the fascinating places I ever went to.

My grandparents had a cellar, an interesting place as any I’ve known in my life. Down in this cellar was a treasure of antiquity and mystery, history, and tradition, as ever there was in any such a place. The cellar ran the length and width of the house, and it was broken into three main sections. There was the majority of the cellar, and two small separate rooms, one housing a wine press and one for canning.

It had just 2 low Watt overhead exposed light bulbs with a string hanging from them to pull on and off the light. The floors, cast in cement offered no comfort or welcome, as did the surrounding atmosphere of darkness and mystery. It wasn't until you opened the lights did things come into view.

As you entered the cellar from the long hallway that had this almost visible portrait of a devil from the harsh paint strokes that dried on the outer door, (It was my imagination) telling you to tread cautiously and don’t wake up the demons you descended the steps and immediately things started to happen. You came to an old Victrola, with the dog looking into the sound system: “His Masters Voice.” label on the grammar phone or speaker with the big knob-like needle holder that you manually placed on a record. On the sides, it had moveable slats that looked like large vents to direct the music.

After inspecting this relic from the 20's, you moved past the Victrola, there was a free-standing room with doors making up the walls of this room, and I wondered if my grandfather kept a monster in the room, as I gently pressed my ears against one of the doors. I would hear these noises coming out of it and would back away, my knees shaking and the urge was to run. (It was the furnace!)

There were used oxygen tanks from before the war and after when Dad made glass novelties and other things that had an interest to me, but the thing I always went to look at was, my grandfather Joseph, fresh off the boat when the picture was taken. He is in a black pressed suit, black bow-tie, a stiffly starched shirt and black shiny shoes, topped off with a boutonnière on his lapel. This picture amazed me as it had him standing in front of this grayish background from an almost Draconian set, next to a table that stood on three legs, as it was a small table. The picture must have been about 30’ x 40”, and although I was named after him, I never met him. His sharp black mustache trimmed to a pencil thickness dominated his face, and his eyes seemed to tell so many mystic stories. Here was the cradle of American life born from the “other side, an immigrant”!

There were two long factory tables, wooden tops with metal adjustable legs probably where all the glass novelties were placed and sorted before being shipped to customers. Flags, American in kind stood in one corner of the room and pictures of haunting poses of saints occupied the other walls, and as you walked the length of the cellar you could almost hear the echo of days past, each object with its own tale to tell.

Then there was Grandmas gas stove and the wonderful steaks she would make on it. She had what best can be described as an iron wired contraption with a long handle that you lifted to place a steak in, you closed the handle and placed the steak on one of the burners and there you roasted or bar-b-q the steak, leaving a mouth-watering smell that drove you crazy if you were in the least bit hungry!

Then there was a canning room that had shelves lining it, with jar after jar of tomatoes, eggplant and other canned delights that once extracted from the darkness of its home and placed on the plate created all the sunlight you needed in your life.

When Grandma cooked, she reduced things down to the simplest of terms, she cut her garlic over the pan, she tossed her spices by the pinches and stirred her magic to perfection and completion, leaving the diner totally satisfied. When the canning room came alive, while processing the tomatoes, in particular, there were flies everywhere, but grandpa rigged a big fan that kept them out of the room.

Oh, I would give anything to once again see my grandparents, to feel the special love that came from them, in their zest for life, their kindness, and generosity, their love of food and family, because it was family and love that fueled the engine they drove.

I cannot cry that I miss them, but laugh at the memories and take comfort in their lives touching mine.

So what lurked in that cellar?


Sunday, January 15, 2017


We arrived at Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip and checked in for the "procedure". The "procedure" is something I had done years ago before I had a triple bypass. I was very apprehensive since I had the experience and it wasn't very pleasant.

Remembering the room and the fact that it was very cold, a small monitor overlooked the table and the cardiologist inserted a probe through the arm, causing a painful reaction. I started to sweat under the lead blanket they placed over me and I wanted to heave. The cardiologist asked me if I ever lifted weights since he could penetrate the muscle in my arm!
My life flashed before my very eyes!

I sat in the pre-op room for a few hours, in a hospital gown and no underwear! I missed my underwear. When I pulled back the curtain after getting into the gown, standing there was a nurse who seemed to appear out of nowhere. The round of questions began, and a second nurse arrived with a nurse's assistant, young and sweet.

The first nurse started to ask me questions about myself, what I had for breakfast, when and the time, what medications I took and what they were for. As she is asking, the other nurse is sticking me with a needle, that hurt so bad I stood up almost. Here I am getting stuck and in severe pain and the other one is asking questions. Well, the sticking nurse blew it, causing a big black and blue swelling and she had to switch to the other arm.

Now they have me laying down under a sheet that comes up to my chest. While they are re-sticking me, I ask the sticker to guarantee me that when I leave this place the sheet is no higher than my chin.

The first nurse continues her questions: "Did you come here with clothes?" I look at myself, a hospital gown and little sickies on and reply: "I sure hope so, I know I didn't come like this!" This causes the sticker to start laughing out loud, while the inquisitor makes an annoyed face.

After just a few hours, my ticket is picked for a command performance that I am there for. They roll me out and into this room that has a few nurses and a technician named Joe. It happens he comes from my neighborhood, and we get along famously, talking about the neighborhood. The nurses are all working behind a glass enclosure of some sort, and one is complaining there is no blood pressure! I think: from high blood pressure to no pressure at all, is that sheet going over my head???

The nurse comes out and looks at me and starts to shake her head sideways. "This is not good: your toes have no pressure. This is really not good! She drags the blood pressure thing from my foot and wraps it around my arm!

Then the surgeon comes in, takes a few moments and declares; He's good to go, no need for a stent, medication will take care of the blockage. He was through, I was expecting the worst to come and it didn't happen! What remarkable strides science and medicine have made!

Saturday, January 14, 2017


If you were to ask me what were my greatest, fondest or sweetest memories, you might think I'd say my childhood, where I have written extensively, for various Facebook pages and that would not be so! My greatest memories are of my children, my sweetest ones of my wife and my fondest of them both.

I have written about growing up in the Italian-American experience, and it was both educational and historical, as I watched a transgression of lifestyle and assimilation into the fabric of American culture by Italian immigrants. But if I look back, there is a certain air that pervades my thoughts, an air of nostalgic warmth, a certain sweetness that will never be forgotten. The family I helped raised.

There is always a feeling of home when I think of my mom and dad, a certain love and warmth that goes through my veins, yet it is the past, what was, not is anymore. Now when I see my wife or a child of mine, I still see that little kid, the one I would seek to entertain, worry about and most importantly, love.

I look at old pictures and see them once again the way I feel about them now, as a small child, innocent of all wrong-doing and playful, filled with joy and innocence, and no worries in the world, the good of it all!

I see a younger woman, the one I married and yet she is still here, with me, sharing my tears, my pains and mostly my joys! How much more could I want? Where would I go with it anyway? She has made the days and years special, she looks out for me, gives me presents of love and affection not with a material, but with her thoughts and kindness toward me. Anyone who has doubts about me, she ignores knowing I am who I promised I'd be to her so many years ago. She, in turn, has kept her promise too, but enhancing it many times over.
I can remember all the years we spent together, quietly side by side in our den, reading or watching TV, knowing I was happy because she sat there, sometimes talking, sometimes not, just there made me happy.

I can recall the despair of losing a child, the strength came from love holding me up for the other children I had, the pain of losing a daughter to a disability that would ruin her life, and greatly sadden us, as we mourn her every day of our lives. The anxiety of depression that invaded our lives, how hard it was for me to adjust to this attack on my children, how I needed to comfort both the child and mother.
I recall the baseball, basketball, and sports my sons played, how we rooted and gave support, how proud an accomplishment was to me! I remember the potty-training, the ‘advice' rendered by a three-year-old, the joy of bringing them to work with me for the first time and their meeting my bosses and co-workers and crew, all giving me rave reviews.

I see this all in the memories of the photo box, all four playing once again, smiling, speaking and bringing joy to me as I sit here getting a little older.  Do I wish I was there again? No. Because it would deny me their successes as adults, I'll keep the pictures and take new ones, maybe a get to know the next generation and look back with my wife and think: Look what we did!

Friday, January 13, 2017


After the Cardiologist looked at my records for the OK I need from him for surgery, he shook his head in despair. He was being cautious for my sake, yet I hate him. It seems I needed a few tests, one being a ‘Nuclear stress test’ and the other an ‘Echocardiogram’.

As you might know, the nuclear stress test feels like they placed a hydrogen bomb somewhere in your body and it just exploded!

So, we decide to have the test for a final clearance before the operation for the carotid artery operation on my right side. “We’ll have the results Tuesday, call then,” said the technician. This was Friday, but on Saturday I get a call from the cardiologist’s nurse stating I needed to see the doctor on Monday at 8:30 AM! This ruined my whole weekend.

Come Monday I see the doctor and he tells me something had changed since last year I now have a new blockage and will need a Cardio catheterization.  He suggests we do it before the surgery on Thursday, and he will notify the surgeon to see if we can still do the surgery after the procedure that will occur either Tuesday or Wednesday.

The next day the surgeon calls with the news that the operation for the carotid artery will be postponed a week later. And so I go instead for a Cardio catheterization and wonder if providence is telling me not to have the operation at all. With the issues of insurance, pre-surgery testing and what have you, I wonder? I might just outlive this operation from old age, yes, die from other causes before they actually cut my throat.

Thursday, January 12, 2017


Have you ever gone into your box of old photos and rediscovered your life? Do you see the people in them staring back at you, just like they did so many years ago, speaking to you through their eyes?

Does the black and whiteness of the pictures, with the faded paper and torn edges remind you that it was long ago and that like the paper, your memories were fading?  Does Grandpa in his gray fedora or grandma in her rose-covered dress and ever present apron still call you back home, and when they do, do you respond in your heart and soul? I do.

Do you see the family in front of the large dining room table, all looking back at you, Aunt Angie standing in the background, Aunt rose sitting next to Uncle Joe, Aunt Mary holding cousin Vinny and Uncle Frank next to Grandpa? All with their eyes reminding you of laughs, great food and the love that seemed awash in the spirit just as the photo captured it.

Are there dishes filled with food, maybe a large platter of pasta sitting on the table, a pitcher of home-made wine nearby? Or is it pastry and nuts, empty wine glasses that measured the time in refills, demitasse cups with anisette, and maybe the aroma of a cigar? Pictures hold us to the moment, sweet and lasting.

The sound of Italian, punctuated by the wave of the hands that supplement the passion of the people in the photo, do you miss that too? I do. The men in their ties and the women in their dresses, proudly holding their future, you, somewhere in the picture, remind me that they are the past now and we hold our future, our grandchildren.

How many of us made our First Holy Communion, and stood for the ‘official' portrait outside our home, maybe with a parked car or even piece of a fender sticking out? And how many of us were recipients of money, quietly folded into our little hands by a favorite aunt or uncle, with their index finger guarding their lips to remind us not to say anything. I do, too.

How many of us were squeezed until we couldn't breathe, our cheeks pinched until they hurt, but all loving, even if the fingers smelled of garlic or parsley or even basil? Italian love was all it was, and like a scar, it stays in the heart, forever.

And when you arrived at your grandparent's home, maybe an aunt or uncle, the rainiest day became sunny, the smell of cooking and the question: "Why are you so skinny? EAT! MANGIA! Still, lingers in your heart to this day?

When you gathered with cousins for the first time in a while, you noticed something different; they were bigger or combed their hair different, all showing you the march of time, the march you didn't recognize until you started to get older. Do you see that in an old photo, too?

How many of us were teased about a girlfriend or how we looked or even how we reacted to those stogie old gentlemen we called uncles. And our aunts, makeup and hair combs, all dolled up for a holiday saying: "MY, how you've grown!" In the pictures, they still say those things.

Pictures are a wonderful thing, they are important because they become historical documentation for future generations to trace their blood line, and funny thing, their looks. But beyond that, they reinforce our love for those who passed, we will miss their kindness, their talents, their morals and the lessons of family, love of life and God and country. God bless them all. I know I would.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017


Growing up in my house, hearing my parents speak was always paid attention to, whether I did what they told me or not. Many times, they spoke to each other in Italian, and it wasn't until I got older did I learn that I needed to know what they were saying.

Both Mom and Dad were born here, and Dad's family spoke Italian exclusively, while Mom's family spoke in English. Her Dad was from Taranto and her mom from Bari, although Grandma herself was born here. Dads' family was from Naples and Rome, and both his parents emigrated to this country during the great influx of Italians during the early part of the twentieth century.

Mom and Dad spoke fluent Italian however they spoke different dialects which led to discussions about the different regions and why one was better than the other. Sarcasm and bickering were the fun parts of their conversations, making me laugh at them until the day they died, and implanted in my brain the never-ending reality that this is what Italians do!

Dad: "My people were of a higher status!"
Mom: "Oh pullleese Anthony, all your people do is shout at one another, now mine are quiet and reserved!"
Dad: "Then how come I can hear you?"
Mom: "My family were craftsmen and teachers (A long list of professions and crafts follow) while yours were peasants!"
Dad: "What are you talking about, my grandfather was an Admiral in the Italian Navy, and on my mother's side we owned an olive grove!"
Mom: "How could he be an admiral, your people lived in the mountains?"
Dad: "That's right, and when we were done eating and drinking, we threw our leftovers down the mountain where your people could place their cups and dishes to catch it all."

When discussions centered around the children, my parents resorted to an alternate language to deceive us, talk about things they felt we should not know about, including gossip and where the presents for Christmas were hidden. It was here that I trod in fear of the unknown, where they had the upper hand.

Mom: "Conoscete che cosa il vostro figlio ha fatto in chiesa?"
You know what your son did in church?
Dad: "Che cosa, ora?"
What, now?
Mom: "Ha messo i tasti d'argento nel cestino di accumulazione anziché soldi!
He put silver buttons in the collection plate instead of money!
At that point Dad spits out his coffee.

I was not sure who I belonged to. It seems depending on my lack of accomplishments and who noticed first, I was dubbed: "YOUR SON!" It was used by both and although nice to know I belonged to one of them, I didn't know which one.
When it came to raising me, they seemed to be on the same page. Dad never hit, but Mom sure knew how! Not only did she hit, but she developed an arm that could throw out Willie Mays from a deep center field with her ability and accuracy to hit you with a thrown shoe and the scariest part of it, you could be in another room a few rooms away and around the corner!

But all the things that happened were in fun, as a family, we constantly laughed at each other, our heads never got big because someone was always around to deflate it.

Me: "Boy, He/she is ugly!
Mom: "And you're so beautiful?"

Me: "I got an ‘A' today in school."
Mom: "So what do you want, a cigar? Go throw out the garbage."

Me: "I got a triple today, Dad!"
Dad: "Yeah, how come no home run?"

Were they proud of me? YES! They just refused to show me any kind of settling for the mediocrity of life.