DelBloggolo

Monday, July 31, 2017

THE STOOP

If you lived in Brooklyn during the 50's you know the importance of the ‘Stoop' as it was called. It was the platform that led to the portal called home, it was an observation deck for the happenings of the block you lived on.

The stoop was one of the many that lined the street on both sides, you looked out and saw who was playing and where they were playing. It was a final checkpoint for what you needed to bring to the table, a jump rope, a handball, maybe your roller skates.

It served as your ‘office' so to speak, where you met friends and discussed baseball cards, or plans to do mischief. It was often the site of information: "Mommy said to get upstairs for dinner---NOW!" was often the message delivered.

You could pick a slow afternoon and just sit there as the world went by, and wondered what this man or that woman was visiting for.

But the stoop could be converted into a play area, for stoop ball, a game that required no more than 1 person and as many as 5 or 6. Slamming the ball into the steps: 100 points for on a fly and 5 points on a bounce, the universal rule of the block. You aimed for the very edge where the vertical met the horizontal of the step for the Spaldeen to fly for the 100 pointers.

On summer nights, the stoop became a meeting place for residents who had no air conditioning to discuss the current events of the day and get some relief. As the sunset melded into the night-time sky, the ice cream truck would come by and you set about eating your Bungalow Ice Cream Pop, vanilla ice cream with a chocolate skin, a skin that melted away like a glacier becoming undone in the Arctic.

But the stoop was the beginning of the day and the end of the day, it was home.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

REACHING INTO THE PAST

Every now and then I get hungry. This is a habit I've had for years, ever since I retired in particular. Old high school and college mates and former colleagues all are considered in the fight against hunger. I am a dedicated fighter for my cause.

What can be more pleasant than to relive over broken bread the past? What happened to this one and that one, where is he or she living now, who is still alive? All these questions make for a great session while chowing down.

Recently I had the pleasure of reacquainting myself to an old schoolmate from high school by the name of Joe Conley. Joe was one of those kids that everyone liked. Although I never hung around with him, I knew him and always said "Hello" when we passed during our day. Then one day I went on Facebook to find classmates for our 45th High School Reunion and found Joe. We became friends and saw each other's posts daily.

After over 50 years Joe remains a gentleman, just as nice as he was back in the day.

We met at the Cheesecake Factory in Westbury, a half-way point for both of us, and let me tell you, it was a really fast 2-hours of visitation and eats, as we discussed the old days. It's funny how someone you haven't seen in a while can still be recognizable, the same person, same personality so to speak and the same sense of the person you know so long ago

After a lot of talk and laughs, we decided to meet again over sushi, a passion we both share.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

THE GREATEST GIFT IN LIFE

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Being how I reached my seventies I look back at my life and try to think of all the wonderful things that have happened to me. From the wonderful day in June, way back in 1971, the rewards have been many.

From: “I do” to the latest: “good morning’ or ‘good night’ kiss things have occurred not always good, but on the whole things are good and dare I say “Beautiful” from the past.

I have the gift of a loving wife, children that I love, a career that was good to me, my own talents and a wonderful set of parents that taught me many things about life that keep on being useful as I age.

Watching my children grow, overcoming adversity and their personal triumphs, get me excited and make me feel good about the future of their lives.

But when you look back you wonder what is the best? What memory or event bests reward a life of both joy and tears? It came one day in a phone call about 3 ½ years ago, one that made my wife and I immediately get on a jet plane and fly to California.

We were too late in our arrival, yet were rewarded so handsomely as we met for the first time our brand-new grandchild, a beautiful little bundle called Darby Shea! For so many years I had to listen to people talk about their grandchildren and the joys of grand parenting, then there she was, the most beautiful child I have ever seen. Her sweet little voice calls me “grandpa” and suddenly I feel so important, so blessed and so happy.

The funny thing is that when my own children were born, there was pressure as a father to plan for their future, and there was the issue of our parenting philosophy, and an everyday awareness of the importance of being there for them, in other words; pressure.

Little Darby Shea gives us no pressure, just plain old joy, laughter and the gift of renewed life. Life is beautiful!

Friday, July 28, 2017

BASIC BLACK OR …


Mangi Tutto!

Italy is noted for many things. Her food is copied and appreciated worldwide, as is her opera, her music sings to the world in color as well as lyrics, making love to the ears, eyes, and other senses. Her architectural prowess knows no bounds as does her marble monuments, historical sights and Italian cars and engineering and can equal anyones on Earth. Her medical and scientific gifts to the world are legendary, she is Italia, she is world class, she is something else, too!

She is the birthplace of the Italian Grandmother, or Nona as she says.
Nona had an off day-everything black was at the cleaners!

Where else can you readily identify an Italian grandmother without her telling you? She wears black! She was almost born wearing black and when she married grandpa, she wore black the day after her first grandchild. Grandpa always slept with his eyes open. Watching his bride dressed like a widow made him nervous.

With the Italian grandma came something else Italy gave to the world, the greatest of cooks, cooks whose recipe file was in Italian and all in her head. Her measurements for cooking were precise, a little of this a pinch of that and some of those. Stray from it and she would disapprove.

Even God had no say when it came to Italian grandmothers. Every Sunday at Our Lady of Loretto, the Italian grandmothers would sit together in the front pews while the sermon was given in Italian. While the lady's chit chatted during the sermon, one of damned fired Hell and brimstone, arms flailing and hands synchronized to the cadence of the speech, a sudden: "SILENZIO!" would resonate throughout the church from an angry Italian priest at the chit-chat Italiano, Grazie Nona!

If Mass was not enough, you had to withstand the glitter of little medals pinned on ample bosoms reflecting on black dresses, medals of Saints Joseph, Anthony, Theresa, Francis and the Madonna, and that was the first square inch. Come to the consecration, out came the handkerchiefs as the tears flowed, followed by another conversational chit-chat and the obligatory: "SILENZIO!"

It was not enough to visit Grandma, you had to withstand her index and middle finger pinch of the cheek, twenty kisses and if she felt the slightest bit of wooziness, she did both cheeks with both hands while hanging on!

Votive candles, holy pictures, and rosaries may have been scattered throughout the apartment, but by far the single most holy rite was eating. There are no "snacks" in Italy, no, just full course meals, where on Sunday it changed to multi-full course meals, with an abundance of food and wine, and the ‘Holy Orders" was "Eat Everything!"

Thursday, July 27, 2017

WHERE HAS ALL THE MAGIC GONE?

Years ago, when I was growing up, it seemed to me that one had a good clear idea about what was going on. You went to a doctor, he had a nurse who stuck a thermometer under your tongue and it told him your temperature. You had to wait a few minutes as the thing took its time, but it did the job.

If you went to a mechanic to have your car fixed, the guy made you leave it and said: "Tuesday"
When you asked on Wednesday when it would be done. You filled the jalopy up with gas and you gave the attendant cash.

You got on line at the grocery store and put your items down and the clerk took out a brown paper bag, and fat black or red crayon and tallied up all the items, and that was what you paid. There was the butcher, baker and green grocer, all employed and at your disposal as you choose which one made you happiest.

You wanted information, you went to the library, looked it up and spent more time perusing the shelves and magazine racks for things of interest.

Going to school you had books, notebooks, and pencils as your toolbox. Nothing else.

Dating someone, you had to wait for the next day to see him/her again, or you called on the phone.

NOTHING WAS INSTANT, NOTHING WAS EASY!

Today so much has come from the use of electronics, once we got the TV and radio. The use of new tools such as recorders, calculators, and instant cameras started to make inroads into the future, yet we could not imagine how much more life would get better.

Now you can text someone instantly, call someone by a phone that sits in your pocket, use the phone to research, take a picture and store personal information, life is good!

You can drive a car that tells you when you are too close to someone, you have strayed out of your lane and is a moving phone booth, all making life better. In that little piece of equipment, you have the power of those old-time computers, with more memory, more applications, and far more sophistication. Now when I want to know how the Mets did, I just take out my phone and ask Siri, instead of having to go on the radio or TV or buy a newspaper, all this on a cell phone.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

WHO’S GETTING CRANKY???

There is a common theme out there, I’m getting cranky as I get older. This is the constant refrain I am hearing from The Little Woman (TLW) as I get older, I have the Cranky Old Man Syndrome!

The cure for such an insidious disease is for TLW to point out my crankiness and point out where. Now I like to have a nice quiet and orderly world, one that has no intrusions from the younger generation and their children who ruin my karma.

I go to a restaurant and they play overhead music so loud you can’t hear your dining mate. Those same restaurants have acoustics that is so bad you can’t hear anything but those around you. There is always some moron who makes a spectacle of him/herself by being loud and boisterous. Children are set free to run around, bump into you and whine or maybe even scream, enough so that you wish to choke them.

If I drive on the roads either local or major, there is always an idiot or two that doesn’t pay attention, can’t stay on the road properly, endlessly drifting from one lane to the other, sometimes riding two lanes at the same time. Try to enter a lane with a signal and the moron closes up space so you can’t get in. Does anyone use a turn signal when changing lanes? No, instead they just jump in front of you as you have to jam on your breaks, stupid, inconsiderate people. Total morons.

Why in Hell’s name do people stop for a light three car spaces behind the car in front of them? The light changes to green and the space maker takes his/her time moving, causing you to catch the next light too while they brainlessly wander off.

Go into a supermarket and deal with people in another world. Oblivious to their surroundings, they stroll like they want to take pictures, and need both sides of the aisle to do it, preventing anyone else from getting by. Then they stop, their cart in the middle as they take up the shelf area just standing there staring into the space between their ears. I need something and they are standing there, they don’t move, no, that is their newly conquered territory and they will occupy it just so you have to wait, when all they need to do is move a little so someone can get on with their life without having the petty nuisance of the occupiers petty and pathetic life to deal with.

The news media has totally lost it. Between the President’s tweets and broken promises and the spite and disturbing reporting that is going on, there is no “FAKE” news, because the press is obsessed with trying to impeach Trump instead of reporting any real news. I hate politicians, wanna-be-politicians, and the media equally.

And don’t get me started on cell phones and Facebook.

So, where is my crankiness coming from? Or is it crankiness at all, but hard facts?


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

UNCLE MIMI


Looks like Uncle Mimi
He was an extremely handsome man, born and bred in Italy and took his Italian traditions to America when he became a citizen. When he first came to America on a visa, he was young, single, handsome, and had a charming accent. He was my dad’s cousin and had that stereotypical look of a smoothly groomed Italian heartthrob.

close to Conchetta
I can’t recall what his real first name was but he made an impression as someone who had it all and could turn a disadvantage into a plus.

I recall his dress, a turtle neck shirt, black and silky, black slacks tailored to fit and black leather shoes, a cigarette in his thin long fingers that went with his thin long body and hands and a voice that sounded like he was softly interrogating woman on their choices of how to make love. We all looked at him in amazement when suddenly he was no longer around. He had come to visit his aunt, my grandmother and stayed for a short while and disappeared, just like that. I asked of him and was told he went back to Italy.

Then the news circulated, Mimi was coming back, and this time he was not alone, he had a wife! I pictured the woman to look like Gina Lollobrigida, beautiful, sexy and curves where God designed them to be.

Walking into my grandmother’s house one afternoon with my mom, there sat this lady at the table. She was no Gina, but she was striking! A beautiful round face that smiled from behind her beautiful blue eyes and honey hair, taking away my breath, I was in love.
Ollie on a good day

Conchetta was a natural beauty, not Hollywood made, and she could put all the makeup men and women to shame, just by not wearing makeup. A simple down-to-Earth natural beauty who spoke only in melodies that made birds sing and men weep, and she couldn’t speak or understand a damned word of English. My kind of gal.

Talking to her in English was a trial, as she smiled and laughed nervously when I spoke to her. Being only 8 years old, I imagined killing Uncle Mimi and together we would live a life of love and pasta, the way it should be. I started to get brave, telling her in English to get rid of Mimi and let’s run away. But little by little she began to speak English, words like “No”, “get the Hell out of here” or “I’ll tell your mamma”. Little things like that discouraged my further advances, and just as well, I didn’t have enough allowance money to court a 20 something-year-old woman anyway, and besides, her stomach was getting larger each time I saw her.

Then one day there she was, at my Uncle Mimi’s side, holding a baby! Where did that come from? I wondered. The kid looked like his old man, black hair, olive skin and almond eyes, he was prettier than a girl. His name was Ollie, a strange name if ever I heard one.

As if one surprise wasn’t enough, there was my beloved Conchetta, once again blooming and sure enough, wherever Ollie came from, his sister Josephina popped out from, and thus began the reign of terror!
Josephina had her father's eye.

From that beautiful woman of simplicity, culture and couth, and from the loins of the suave and gallant Italian man came two freaking monsters! Ollie, packed with caffeine in his shorts was so bad he was tied to a chair to watch TV quietly, while Josephina, a round little meatball, tough and ready to roll dominated the house, climbing walls and ceilings, furniture and even people, yelling in Italian and causing serious nervous breakdowns for both Grandma Frances and Grandpa Ralph!

Grandma decided that since she owned the building, she would sweep out the tenants upstairs in one of her apartments who were consistently behind in their rent and replace them with the family that created monsters!  There was only one problem with the solution, once they moved, my grandparents could not sleep anymore, there was no peace in their lives, and guilt was not the reason, the pitter patter of little monster feet, directly overhead was!

Monday, July 24, 2017

PERUSING OLD PHOTOS


I'm in the process of throwing out stuff that no longer is needed or wanted. In that process, I found boxes of old photos dating back to before I was married. I decided to take a walk down memory lane through these old photos and reconnect with my past and my little family as we grew up together.

There are photos of long ago visits places in Europe and around the country that I have forgotten about, and some I wonder why I ever took the picture, not knowing where it is anymore. I suspect some out of the way place in the swamps of Florida or maybe tucked in between some farm in Amish country in Pennsylvania or a country side in Ireland.

There are photos of Washington, D. C. and San Diego, all preserved on photo paper and tucked away in these boxes. I tried to commit them all to digital formats but haven't finished it yet. There are tons of slides of my honeymoon to Europe with my beautiful bride and sweet memories that remind me we were young once. She, of course, looks younger than I do as we age. All beautiful, sweet moments!

But the fascinating photos are of my children, all four of them, growing up, clowning around, doing chores and partying. Happy moments at birthday parties, graduations, and religious rites and celebrations. I see them and I realize how happy I was back then and lucky to have had them along with their mom, life is beautiful.

As I look at them, I feel like a voyeur that has been thrown back in time, feeling the moments as they occurred and thinking: "Of course, how could I have forgotten that!" To touch upon those simple days when I struggled to build a life for them, How I always wanted to be home with them, making sure that I got home at night in time to see them at dinner, or at least before they went to bed.

Long train rides and afterward long car rides to and from work, played on me but never deterred me from fulfilling my dream of providing for them, no matter how uncomfortable it was, it was my duty and honor and I was duty bound and honor bound to do it.

Photos tell a story not only of the moment but of the hour and day and yes, even the year. It tells how I felt about things at a given moment and yet speaks about the lifestyles I lived. It reminds me of how hard my wife worked raising our children and how much I truly owe her for her dedication to them and her love that made them who they are.

The pictures of my daughter remind me of the struggle we faced as a family with a handicapped child, the ostracizing of an ignorant society, family that didn't understand and moments when we wanted to just lay down on the floor and cry, and yet we see her in a costume, or with cake on her face and we smile and laugh and want to squeeze her.

And now in a new era, all my photos or a majority of them come from my cell phone. The majority are of my granddaughter, Darby Shea. As I look at all the photos, I realize in her three short years of life, I have more photos of her than of her Father, Uncle, and Aunt, more than of my wife or me and all together they couldn't match the number of my sweet little grandkid.


I am a lucky man.





Sunday, July 23, 2017

SOMETHING FISHY WITH THE WINE!


Dad was a softy, he never liked to see people unhappy or struggle. When it came to his own family, he was particularly diligent and aware of everyone's aches and pains. In the early 1950's, Dad decided to book a little fishing trip, with me and Grandpa.
Captain of the ship

Getting grandpa out of the house on Fulton Street in Brooklyn was a major effort, Grandpa didn't like to go anywhere that required his traveling for more than 15 minutes, and that had to be round trip.

Being how we were living on Long Island, Dad decided one summer to get grandpa out of the house in Brooklyn and take him fishing; "We have to get Grandpa out of the house!" We went to Mastic Beach on a Saturday and rented a row boat, got a few rods and reels and bait, and set out to fish. Oh, Captain, my Captain!

Fisherman and thinker
My thinking was that that was all the equipment we would need since we were fishing we would eat what we caught. Build a fire on the beach and cook our catch. Dad and Grandpa both seemed perplexed by my plan, and since I was only 11-years old, what the Hell did I know. The problem with the plan was there was a huge package coming on board the ride to the beach, it consisted of three Italian heroes, packed with peppers and eggs, and a chunk of provolone cheese and a Genoa salami, along with a gallon of Grandpa's homemade wine, courtesy of grandfather's bride, Grandma Francesca.

Being the ‘city type', both Dad and Grandpa dressed for the occasion. Dad wore his shorts, sandals and black dress socks, while Grandpa never changed. Grandpa wore his work pants, brown unpolished shoes, and white shirt, along with his fedora, which he camped under come rain or shine, baptism or wake.

Dad became the grand admiral, directing me, the only crew member that showed up that day to man the oar, bait the hooks and full steam ahead.

As we set ‘sail', we each had our position on the boat, Dad sat up front with his rod, tossing it in into the drink (literally), and I trying to get the hook that caught me in the neck was sitting mid-ship so to speak, while Grandpa sat in the back, legs crossed serenely holding his rod, eyes closed, dreaming of home.

Suddenly Grandpa caught a fish, then another, then still another! Dad was still fishing with his rod, and I was almost done getting the hook out of my neck and ready to fish.

After a while with Grandpa's success, I asked him how he was able to catch so many fish.

Grandpa looks at me, squinting in the sun and says: "SSSHHH".

I looked at him and he says, "SSSHHH, thatsa how you catcha da fish!!"

As we floated along the Great South Bay, Dad and Grandpa had their wine, and it seemed fine until we reached the shore to unload the boat. When Dad stepped off the boat, he suddenly looked like he saw a ghost, stopping in mid-tracks to catch himself. Sitting at the edge of the dock he just sat there with his head in his hands. Dad had too much wine! Grandpa, however, stepped from the boat onto the dock and fish in hand looked at Dad and said: "Tony, prendi il tuo tempo." (Tony, take your time.)


As we floated along the Great South Bay, Dad and Grandpa had their wine, and it seemed fine until we reached the shore to unload the boat. When Dad stepped off the boat, he suddenly looked like he saw a ghost, stopping in mid-tracks to catch himself. Sitting at the edge of the dock he just sat there with his head in his hands. Dad had too much wine! Grandpa, however, stepped from the boat onto the dock and fish in hand looked at Dad and said: "Tony, prendi il tuo tempo." (Tony, take your time.)

Apparently drinking on the water didn’t make you drunk because of the movement of the rowboat, but step on land and goodbye.




Saturday, July 22, 2017

WHEN IT COMES TO A RECOMMENDATION…

I never like to give one. My opinion is what I like and my experiences are what they are that lead me to conclusions. I don't like to recommend movies or even books. I have made exceptions to my rule on occasions especially here on this blog. Shoot me.

But (I love that word) I also don't like to not recommend things either.

However, recent experience with a certain company leads me to suggest that if you do order from this mail-order company that has existed for many years, you may be disappointed based on its reputation. I am talking about Omaha Steaks, a great advertiser, package, and disappointment.

Recently TLW (The Little Woman) and I ordered from their catalog they sent to my mailbox. As we skimmed through the catalog we decided to order 4 steaks and 4 pork chops. We figured, how bad could it be for the price. What we got was a disappointment.

The steaks were so skinny and lean that they were tasteless, as were the pork chops, thin and tasteless. Pork chops should be tasty, with a little bit of fat for flavor as should a steak.

Buy at your own risk, things might be very lean in Omaha.

Friday, July 21, 2017

MAKING ADJUSTMENTS THROUGH LIFE


Stephen the birthday stealer
It seems I lost my identity long ago, one July morning when someone called me to tell me her new born grandson was sharing my birthday! Once that happened my individualism ceased and I was no longer known as Joe, Uncle Joe or even Hey you.

Sharing a birthday wasn’t so bad until one day my son was hired by my company, and impressed them so much that I became Anthony’s father. To add to the downgrading of my identity, I am now referred to as: Darby Shea’s grandpa.
Anthony's father's son, Anthony

I was given a T-shirt for a present three years ago with a picture of Darby on the front, she got instant recognition, I got: “Hey, Mister! Way to goooo! Love da shirt!”

I’ve put so many posts up of Ms. Darby that people think she has her own account, and wonder whatever happened to you know, what’s is name - me. I wonder myself.

Darby Shea, looking for What's his name
It would be so easy to do something illegal in front of a room filled with people and Darby present, no one would remember it or even see it with that little sunshine present.

So, I ordered an inscription for my headstone that reads: “Here lies Darby Shea’s grandpa, what’s his name.”


Thursday, July 20, 2017

CHARACTERS FROM THE PAST

In my career in NYC where I worked as a young and up and coming designer, I had the opportunity of meeting many interesting people. These people came from all kinds of ethnic backgrounds that made life so much more interesting than the drabness of my hometown of Bellport. Bellport was a kind of purification or sifting if you will of what I grew up with in Brooklyn and there wasn't a whole lot of people that I met that even matched the color and flavors of Brooklyn.

When I graduated from college I took on the task of fulfilling my ambition of becoming a designer and creating things as a job to make a living from. Entering the field in the early 70's introduced me to many interesting people and opinions, all coming out of the Great Depression, expressing their points of view from their life experiences, this was a treasure trove for me.

Once such individual was a gentleman named Saul. Saul was the Executive Vice President of the ad agency I started with. He laid the groundwork for what I thought to this day the advertising world was all about.

Saul was a very fine artist, a painter who could also draw with his eyes closed and one-handed. Working during the Great Depression for the government painting murals for large public buildings like the one in Rockefeller Center. He received what is called a government commission. Having painted a mural or two I know how physically difficult that can be.

Saul married the boss's sister and was very influential in the decision making on a creative level. Saul spoke in short and to the point sentences, always cheerful and well-spoken. He carried a patrician air about him, with a white shock of hair, starched shirts and tailor made suits as well as a well-trimmed mustache. Saul was a very handsome man.

Saul would arrive every morning at 10:30 a.m. punctually. By 11:00 a.m. Saul had a full cocktail glass of vodka on his desk, as he would scan through or read a magazine on art, both fine and commercial. By 12:30 Saul was out the door visiting his mistress who had a lovely apartment around the corner from the office that he paid for. She was a beautiful girl, and lived in a very expensive place, well-furnished and stocked with all kinds of booze, particularly vodka. They would lunch together, and Saul would return to the office about 3:30 p.m. He would sleep off the booze at his desk until 5:00 p.m. Some days, before he went off to lunch as early as 11:30 a.m., Saul would pull out some reference material in the art department, take an empty drawing table and would draw sketches for cowboy novel dust jackets. The sketches would later be published as the cover art for the book jackets. The amazing thing about Saul was he was one-handed. His other arm and hand were badly deformed from birth.

Saul was a guy who broke all conventional rules, then rewrote them, and everyone loved him. I feel guilty because I should have been prissy and despised his lifestyle, especially his cheating on his wife, but I couldn't help myself but like him. Maybe I felt that I didn't live in his shoes, so what did I know, and what business was it to me.

Here was a man who could quote the best writers, discuss the movie industry from its inception and make a great recommendation for a restaurant.

When I left the agency for another job, I got a phone call from Saul, asking to meet me for lunch. We went to this little restaurant on one of the side streets along Second Avenue and he asked for a chance to do some artwork for me, which I gave him in a New York heartbeat. Pulling out a cigarette and holder, he had a European Dandy-like air that made me feel like I was in old Vienna or Paris as we discussed details and money. Here was a man who knew the likes of Picasso, Hemingway and other such luminaries, talking to me, a country boy from Bellport!

He is beyond a doubt, one of the most interesting characters I ever met. He made my life interesting, and I will always remember the great Saul.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A PENNY FOR YOUR STOP

Way back in the 20’s and 30’ there was a huge influx of Italians who came to America to start a new life. Life was hard in Italy, but if you had a family member or friend who would sponsor you here in America, you got on the boat and came.

There is a true story that happened in the ‘30s when there was an influx of Italian immigrants that came to this country. My grandmother Francesca was a sponsor of a few people from her hometown in Naples, and they came to live with her. One day one of them, her name was Italia,  decided to apply for citizenship and needed to know how to get to the government courthouse to apply. This meant going into Manhattan on the subway. Not being able to read English, my grandmother had an idea. She took Italia to the subway station and gave her 14 pennies to hold in her hand. The14 pennies were for going and then the 14 pennies again for coming back. Each penny would represent a station. She was told by grandma to put a penny in her pocket after each stop. When she ran out of pennies, that would be the stop, go upstairs and you will see the courthouse. On the way home, the same process should begin, where the last penny is her home station.

Off goes Italia with 14 pennies in her hand, when suddenly about half way into the ride; she gets shoved by someone and drops the pennies from the excitement of the crowd boarding at that station! The pennies scatter all over the car and she loses some of the pennies. It was very late the evening when she finally showed up with a policeman at my grandmother’s door. To this day, we wonder if she ever got her citizenship papers?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

THE SAINTS AND DODGERS BE PRAISED


And other collectibles.

As a youngster, like all my friends my age, collecting baseball cards was a big part of growing up. You bought the Topps chewing gum packets, a slab of gum and 5 baseball players featured separately on a card. You usually threw out the gum as you eagerly searched through the cards for your favorite player. You traded away those players you hated on the other team, in my case the Yankees and Giants of New York and treasured the Brooklyn Dodger players.
It was like we were miniature General Managers.

But when it came to collections, Grandma Frances had me beat, but her collection was more of a religious experience than mine could ever be.

When you visited Grandma, the one thing you would notice was her hookup with the saints and Jesus, which was displayed like a Coke sign at a ballpark, big frequent and sometimes even flashy. Going into her bedroom, dark and mysterious as it was, was an experience with the holy, supernatural and mysterious. The bedroom has little light, and the numerous votive candles would make the walls flicker and dance, drawing attention to the sacred heart picture of Jesus looking carefully to the side as if watching some interruption that was presently occurring.
 Jesus wasn’t the only holy picture to be mounted on the walls of the semi-Vatican, there was of course Mary, standing on a small globe with clouds at her feet as she wore a crown on her head.

Grandma’s collection consisted of medals, pictures and small altars on bureau venerations to various saints. There were pictures of the old world, and in them a spire or two of the ever-present churches that populate and dominate the landscapes and Italian country sides of Italia.

But the single most thing that caught my attention was of one of her brothers who had died in Italy and someone sent a picture of him in his shiny new coffin being assisted sitting up and facing the camera. Add that to the shimmering walls and solemnity of the room, fueled by my imagination and you had a major moment of creepiness.

Grandma wore her religion on her chest, in the guise of medals with little ribbons, rosaries that rested in her hands and an occasional movement from one finger to the other. What was she praying for? Maybe one of her children, maybe a friend or family member from the other side of the pond.

Even her music was religious, with a small 45 rpm she gave my father, ‘Santa Maria dell Arco.’
The cover had a picture of a sunny day and a church with a steeple and somewhere was Saint Mary overlaid on everything.

I’ll trade you two Saint Anthony 2”x 3” for a 4”x 6” Saint Joseph and I’ll throw in a tiny St. Christopher medal.

Monday, July 17, 2017

FREDERICK OF UTRECHT


St. Ellen and one of her projects.
If you are wondering who Freddy is, he is the patron saint of the deaf. His saint day is July 18, and he died in 838. He is starting to gather ear wax and needs to be removed. Not for anything, but no one listens to him!

But who do we replace him with? How about a woman? And I know just the woman, St. Ellen of Holbrook, the new patron saint of the deaf. Yes, it has a nice ring to it and I think it might fly, I mean we do have a progressive Pope, don't we?

Now you are wondering why I make this recommendation, and it is because she has extensive experience with the deaf and audio challenged since she is married to me for 46 years!

But it doesn't end there! At the Wanna-Be-Bank and Trust Co., people come from miles around to seek out her advice and listen to her scream at them. Often deaf members of the bank ask for St. Ellen specifically, knowing she will communicate with them to the best of her ability.

She goes out of her way to soothe people and make them feel good knowing she is patient and caring.

But the Wanna-Be-Bank and trust company wonder has not only taken members under her wing but friends, friends that she finds through her good heart, mainly one lady who was so deaf she screamed at herself so she could hear herself think!

So, when you think you didn't hear it right, don't be afraid of whipping out a prayer to St. Ellen of Holbrook.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

BURYING UGLINESS

Years ago, growing up in elementary and high school, racial prejudice ran through the core of everyday life, we took on the values that were taught to us and we set about believing everything we read or heard, including the teaching of our parents. But we grow, we learn to reason and question everything, and with social media and the Internet, we have large opportunities to be better human beings.

Recently I had a conversation with an old schoolmate from high school that left me extremely disappointed in him. He feels he needs to speak out about politics and his beliefs, is a Fox News junkie and is still living in the past. He has a habit of saying things that he hears, reads of thinks are accurate because he read it somewhere on the Internet. He was intent on telling me that for a fact, 80% of black families are missing the father. I suppose he feels this is a fact but when I asked him where he got that information, he stated: It's a fact!" Again, I questioned him and still, he persisted. His fact is not a fact. There may be a high rate of missing black father, and I know it is a social issue from way back, but there is no point in discussing history with the idea that it is still the truth.

He asked me to listen to a 12-minute presentation about how the Democratic party was racist in the past and the Republican was the hope of blacks in the past. That is true, but not the case anymore. He failed to mention that part. Conveniently he forgot about Lyndon Johnson and the Civil Rights act that went into effect in the 1960's.

It makes me sick that we need to single out race or religion and portray it as inferior to what we believe, regardless of how false it all is. I recall 9-11 and the reactions of the people fleeing the scene of the disaster, I saw American citizens running for their lives, not black and white, I saw people, everyday Americans, not Christians, Jews and Muslims, they are all my people.

My ex-friend is a good person, he was fun and we laughed at each other and ourselves, but I can't condone that kind of talk, that kind of observation about blacks or anyone.

Long ago my grandparents, just like his, came to this country not speaking the language. They became loyal Americans, paid taxes and worked hard. Yet, they were hated because they were different, they were a threat to others in a mindless fear, how could I ever betray their pain and the discrimination held toward them by being prejudice?

I have given up religion, politics and have taken a secular attitude toward both, I need to be more accepting of all in terms of their politics, their religion, but not their hate.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

IN THE ROOM WITH THE LIGHTS OUT

She lies still under the soft sheet-like blanket that the hospital provides, all the world shut off and isolation is evident. I guess dying is the signal that one no longer counts among the living. The loneliness is pronounced, like the clarion of a hunt, loud and clear and final.

The room offers nothing but a reminder of a life spent, that it is or may be the final resting place for someone's child. Often when I visit someone who is on the threshold of crossing to the other side, the air, the sounding silence and the gravity of it all takes me to the thoughts of the parents, mostly mothers who have passed on and now wait for the reunification of their child.

I often wonder how a mother who is alive worries about her child no matter how old that child is. It takes me to another place, a place filled with mystery and wonder, what does the mother that is deceased see when her living child in under duress or danger? If she is alive in thought or knowledge that in spite of her existence, does she feel the worry she had as a living person for her child? Is she happy when the final day approaches for a sick child that it is all over, the hurt and meanness of this World we call home?

As I looked down into the tubes and connectors to this poor child in her early 50's, a restlessness comes over me like a wave that sweeps one to the shore, or maybe a rip-tide that pulls you away from the safety of the shore and crashes into you with pictures of your own child, a suffocating sense of desperation. It makes you want to hold your own child, squeeze her tight and never let her go.

In life, we have three entities: yesterday, today, and tomorrow when it comes to our children. When they die on us it leaves us with only yesterday, the reality that the book of life is finished and there is no more to write, only to read, over and over again.

When I visit someone without family that is on that threshold of eternity, someone without loved ones, it reminds me of a situation that happened to me a few years ago. It doesn't matter how old, it is someone's child. It could be 90 or 9 or 9 months, it is someone's child. It could be you, or me, or your own child. We are all: someone's child.

One morning, I went out to get a coffee and buttered roll, and as I entered the Handy Pantry, there stood at the counter an elderly woman. The small counter was loaded with groceries, cans, boxes and loose vegetables. Except for it being such a large order, I didn't think much about it and went to the coffee pots. I poured a cup, placed a lid on it and went to pay for it. There still stood the older woman. She was small, somewhat delicate and overburdened by her purchases. She was struggling to put her change in her purse, and gather her many bags. She looked up at me and seemed embarrassed and apologetic for still being there and taking so long. I reassured her that she need not hurry on my part, that she should take her time.

Without sounding elitist or obnoxious, she seemed somewhat simple in her manner. Her focus was trying to explain herself to me through her eyes! Her shoddy coat, her head covered with a tied-on scarf, she dragged herself out of the store. She made me feel sad. Funny thing is I felt sad not so much for her, as for her parents! Yes, she was much older than me, and I felt sad for her parents, parents who are long ago dead! Why? Because I wondered if they looked down on her at that moment and realized she was so vulnerable.

I often wonder if those that passed on look down on us, and view our lives from the other side. Do they see when we are in danger, do they see when we struggle and fall? Do they cry when that happens? Do they worry?

As a father of three children that live in my world, I worry about them. I might get angry with them from time to time, but rest assured, they are someone's children. Mine. I think about how we hurt each other, and cripple and maim. I see pictures of orphans, tears in their eyes as they struggle to survive from wars and natural disasters, maybe hiding from some predator, and I think, that is someone's child!

I often wonder if my in-laws, my father, and mother-in-law look down on their daughter. Do they think I take good enough care of their daughter? Do they worry about her because of me? I do try, but is it good enough?

So when you start to lose your cool, become impatient and maybe want to smack someone, remember, it is someone's child.

Friday, July 14, 2017

END OF LIFE DECISION MAKING

Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment

MOLST is an acronym for Medical Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment. The NYS MOLST Program is an initiative to facilitate end-of-life medical decision-making in New York State. That is the cold and impersonal name for it, MOLST. It is really putting someone's life in your hands to decide if they should live or die, and how to succeed at it.

As a member of the Guardianship Committee, I have had to deal with the MOLST form over the years. On three separate occasions, people with mental disabilities who had no loved ones, who were Guardianees to the chapter have been in the end of life situations. Two of these people passed on peacefully as could be done and humanely as possible, one cheated death, so far.

The MOLST form is a checklist that the State and hospital along with Medicaid Law Services must approve for guardians to ask for ‘no intubation' or ‘no incubation' or any extreme measures to keep someone alive who is terminal and cannot process body functions properly.

As a member of the committee, one has to determine what is humane and makes the most sense in the interest of the individual dying. It is something that can be done through the coldness of reports, meetings and other paperwork that comes to a committee member, you don't have to view the patient, necessarily, as long as a couple of members visit the hospital.
How cold and impersonal!


Thursday, July 13, 2017

A BIRTHDAY TRIP






One of the things we as a married couple, and even before our marriage, was to leisurely drive out east toward Montauk or Orient Point. Take a nice summer day, blue skies and a gentle breeze with no humidity were a clarion call to nature at its finest.

July 9th, a Sunday was one of those days, resplendent with all the qualities I mentioned. On our way, we stopped for a great breakfast that fueled the anticipation of the day ahead, like an unopened present for a child and continued on to the ferry in Greenport to shuttle us over the small gap of water to Shelter Island.

It is very little in life more appreciated than a perfect day, and with my sweetheart, it is a bonus beyond imagination! To sit among the trees and plants, beside a lakeside view, to hear the sweet harmony of a bird's concertina or witness the greeting of little white fluttering butterflies gives me great joy and elation, it is indeed a great gift from God.

There was a 12-noon tour of the Sylvester Manor that occupies the grounds, which in itself was great, but it was the grounds that held my attention.

There are trees that date back to before the Revolutionary War, plants that propagated from a shoot in England to completely surround a multi-acre estate. Butterflies fly right up and bump into you, then fly on to their business. Some trees branches grew into the ground and emerge as another fully-grown tree.

It was late morning when we sat under a shade tree that overlooked the beautiful lake, the water calm as a marble floor and just as reflective in the image. Gentle wiping of the surface by the wind led to patterns from the gentle breeze, that caressed one's body and stilled the soul to feel the joy of being alive! The sun, tamed by the temperatures of the day gave light to the sanity of quietness.

It is a million miles away from civilization so it seems, but only minutes by car, yet the stillness and calm of the grounds makes for a sense of hallowed grounds, the burial grounds of former slaves and indentured servants that find their final resting place among the trees and wildlife, with the calling of nature's inhabitants to sing out and calm a restless soul.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

THE FAMILY PICNIC

Every summer around this time a picnic is held for the families of the agency, Suffolk AHRC. The agency is dedicated to the betterment of life for those less fortunate than we are who suffer from developmental disabilities. Using a large tract of land under the shadow of a baseball diamond owned by the Suffolk County PBA, there are two large tents covering hundreds of chairs and tables. There is a set up for food and drinks and a place for various amusements. It costs nothing and is devoted to the families who have children in the various programs both in the agency and other agencies on Long Island.

In buses, RV's, small shuttle buses and even cars, a large parking lot is filled to capacity, and as they unload the passengers there is a parade of wheelchairs, walkers, and canes, people who can walk, but not well and on occasion aids and drivers as they enter the area. The smoke from the grilling of the hamburgers casts a cloud over the grills and slowly dissipates into the sometimes, windy air, which casts itself as a cool breeze cooling the humidity down to bearable.

As I sit under the tent that protects me and fellow board members as we eat and chat with the participants from the many homes that attend, I watch the parade f arrivals and try to recognize each group that comes, while also looking for my daughter. I wonder: where are the families? Where are the parents, brothers, and sisters of the program participants?

Then it occurred to me that perhaps I misunderstood the meaning of family in this case. Where were the families? They were all around me, sitting together having hot dogs, hamburgers, and sodas, eating popcorn and ice-cream, they are all housemates.

And here is the fun thing, they don't necessarily need mothers and fathers who don't show up, they have each other, and sometimes they greet people from other homes like long lost friends, hugging and kissing one another. Could there be a better family than that?

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

HOW LUCKY I AM


The other day was my birthday, it is usually a day that I don’t like to think about. I am another year older and therefore who needs that? I awoke and felt saddened about all that was and is no more, I didn’t want to shower or go downstairs. My wonderful wife helped start the day with a beautiful card and a gift that I appreciated. But the day seemed dark.

I opened her present and then I opened a gift that my granddaughter Darby Shea sent me, two of her wonderful artworks, that I will eventually hang in my office. They are on loan to the refrigerator before finding a home on my office walls. But even that left me slightly depressed.

Then I got a lesson in life. I had a meeting at a local hospital. Being chair of the Guardianship Committee for people with disabilities, one who was in deep trouble and I had to meet with the members of the hospital palliative care, and doctor and nurse who deal in this specialty. We were discussing along with another Board member and agency staff about this individual's end of life and the decisions needed to be made eventually.

Since I had never met this person I decided to arrive a half hour earlier than the meeting and visit with her. She is a sweet woman in her mid-fifties hooked up to IV and G-tubes and under great physical distress. I needed to personalize this experience and understand as much as I could about her life. Believe me, this is very difficult as you gaze on someone who is unresponsive and suffering.

As I looked at her it occurred to me that there is nothing in my life to despair about. Getting older is something to celebrate, having as many birthdays as I do was indeed a gift. In spite of the pains and tribulations, the disappointments and sorrow of life, I was doing better than the poor soul who was on her way out, I am ashamed of myself, and all I could do was to pray that I make good decisions on her behalf, that she be eased and free of all her pain and that her death be a relief when it comes.

So when you have a birthday, please be happy, lift your spirits as high as they can go, that you have these wonderful events and be very happy and most of all, thankful.