Sunday, September 30, 2018


My lifeline of hope, my board
So often I sit in the rehab rooms and hospital rooms and wonder what will be when I’m gone. Maybe I shouldn’t think that far ahead since what happens after I leave this Earth I wouldn’t affect. My daughter Ellen has a most uncertain future at the least and an unpredictable few moments ahead. One never knows from moment to moment, be it a seizure that last as few minutes or a fall that affects her physical stability, taking a little away from her ability to freely and independently move about.

Sometimes as she lies in her bed I look at her and wonder what she is thinking about. Where does her mind go, does she understand what has happened, is she frightened?

Being overwhelmed is not hard to do when you have a child most of your life who has the title of mental and physical disabled. It means as a parent you need to plan, look ahead not for yourself but for the child. And what does this mean to all your other children? You have to shelter them from the disability by trying hard to free them from any responsibility for their disabled sibling when we as parents pass on.

All too often I hear these words: “God only gives us what we can handle.” THAT is a crock of BS, concocted from relief that they themselves won’t face it themselves, so they try to shore you up and hope you can believe it. They mean well, but they just don’t  understand.

I joined an agency, AHRC to provide for Ellen’s future. I felt that was one avenue I could use to help her be a human being with humanity embracing her as it would any normal person who is not disabled in its own way.

When she was born, I was full of hope, dreaming dreams only a parent could dream. I imagined her coming to my home with news she was marrying, I would then dance at her wedding with her, that she is pregnant and then bringing those children to their grandfather to play with, love and cherish. My wife too had those dreams. Shopping with her daughter, pictures of her graduations from high school and some university, just like other mothers.

There is no wedding, no dance and no shopping, just the sadness of a future of uncertainty and despair to a great degree.

Saturday, September 22, 2018


She is amazing, akin to a wounded battleship, rudderless and circling slowly as the enemy peppers away at her, her guns firing and blazing away in defiance! ‘She’ is my daughter Ellen.

It takes a crew of people to try to convince her to do anything she feels she shouldn’t do, from taking her blood pressure to a medication. Try to move her and you will be carried out on a stretcher as she pummels you to the edge of eternity.

She does not tolerate anyone who gets in her space and will strike out. It is amazing that she can be like this and yet be one of the sweetest people in the world when she wants to be. Usually, she is happy in fact the only two words in her vocabulary are Mamma and Happy. If she knows you she will hug you, pat you on the back and say happy to you, a smile a mile long.

But it is this very spirit that makes her so strong, so resilient and tough, as she has to deal in a world of uncertain futures and destinations. She has weathered broken legs brain bleeds and recently a hip replacement.

All her life with her disability she has made life accommodate her, not the other way around. The people who know her best love her the most. However, she has left every hospital with people relieved to see her go and yet sorry she is going.

Thursday, September 20, 2018


Here I am sitting in my daughter’s hospital room for the third day. It starts very early in the morning and goes on into the early evening. You become numb from the hours that pass you by, watching people walking their Intravenous trees as they slowly pass the room. Some intravenous tubes trees need more walking than others.

I have learned when long periods of time consume your days you need a plan, mine is the daily newspaper, my laptop, and I-pad along with my phone and always and I mean ALWAYS, pack a lunch, the high point of your day. I was going to the cafeteria but gave that up when they charged me $8.00 for a bottle of water and a grilled cheese sandwich, which I swear someone sat on. No, it wasn’t the shape, it was the smell. The view from my daughter's room window is spectacular as you can see traffic and a parking lot along with the steady tweet of the IV and the hum of the AccuMax Complete, a contraption that allows the bed to be an air mattress to prevent skin sores.

What a view!
If you listen not too carefully, you can hear the distant sound of the arriving ambulances, as more Intravenous trees are ready for the arrivals of the new guests. The roaring urgency of the siren just casts you into a romantic mood of knowing more people will soon be walking around with their ass hanging out and those stupid socks they will be forced to wear pushing those trees, waiting for the next meal to avoid.

Some of the most mediocre cooks are not here serving up the wonderfully coordinated banquets of strained peas, chopped beef and thickened coffee, no they have a lottery system in maintenance, whoever shows up last gets to cook the meals. This includes first time workers.

The great thing about America is the hospital system. The doctors all come over and explain to me what they plan to do and when. The trouble is I have no idea what it is they are saying since their accents are so heavy. Four doctors enter the room and one is born here and the others from either Pakistan or India, all very pleasant and I’m sure professional, but when they leave I often wonder: “What did they say?”

 One must never forget the solitude of a hospital room, the smiling nurses who attack the bed for height and elevation while at the same time sticking you with a needle and giving a response to a question that was shouted out from the deep halls of the hospital, all while the patient tries to sleep.

Then the housecleaning shows up. It is important that they bring their metal scoop with a broom to bang and bounce, then take the mop and start to check the whole room for sound, seeking information under the bed, against the bed and even in the garbage pails.

As you sit there and now that the patient can’t get out of bed, you look longingly at the toilet that goes unoccupied and the thought that you have to go down three floors to find a toilet and watch as some old guy in a T-shirt and shorts, topped off with a baseball cap gets in before you can, and will take up to a half-hour to remember why he is even in the toilet!

The nursing staff if anything is a wonderful group of mostly women who are cheerful, happy, greeting you like an old friend, unless of course, they catch you coming out of the toilet in the patient’s room. I have developed a remedy for that, I reserve some applesauce that comes with every meal and a spoon that I carry with me into the toilet, if I am caught coming out, I show them the spoon and tell them I was washing it.

Tomorrow is the big day. Tomorrow is the operation for a hip replacement of the ball and maybe the socket. That along with the metal in my daughter’s right leg will make her eligible for Miss Magnetic, an honor she wasn’t seeking.

Pray for me.


Saturday, September 15, 2018


They say, “Opposites attract”. They mean a man is interested in a woman and they attract, they are both of the opposite sex.

They, whoever ‘They’ are say: “Love is a many splendor thing”

So far, so good, nobody got hurt yet and things move along smoothly.

Then they marry and it all hits the fan. Soon little cracks in the veneer of life and marital bliss start to form. The dash that was in one’s step leading to the altar suddenly becomes a limp as they leave the church.

Many years ago when I started out in the arena of married bliss, I discovered there were some things that were held back from me. Now, these things were not deal breakers, piddle little oddities that although make life interesting can have a long-term influence on whether you sleep with one eye opened. TLW (The Little Woman) likes things such as room temperature warm to hot, I like it cold.

It was a winter night in the wilds of Connecticut and we were guests at a home that provided us with a nice big comfortable bed, except for one thing, it had a two zone heating system.

As we started to sleep I started to feel very hot, so I lowered the temperature in the bed. It wasn’t long after that once again I had to lower the temperature. And yet still a third time I had to lower the temperature in the bed. Meanwhile, TLW was getting agitated, so I thought maybe she was too hot too!

Turns out, she had my control and I had hers!

Finding out saved my life.


Friday, September 14, 2018


My mother was a diplomat, God rest her soul. She could negotiate with her children in simple terms, imposing simple solutions for our dislike of whatever she needed from us.

I was her biggest difficulty when it came to negotiations, having to say it once and then look like she meant it.

Being a fan of history, I often recall Teddy Roosevelt and his policy of: “Speak softly and carry a big stick!” Mom’s was somewhat like Teddy’s: “Yell once and wave the wooden spoon.” She was a master of wooden spoon diplomacy, She could throw it at 10 yards, have it curve around a wall and out of the blue land upside my head. I suspect she had an implant of a honing device to my head and the bowl of the wooden spoon.

Once I learned an Italian curse word watching a neighborhood Bocce game. The user of such language (in Italian yet) had given the ball such body language as to resemble one Mikhail Baryshnikov as he displayed such poetic body language and follow through while uttering his thing of beauty.

Going home, I ran into the house and asked Dad as he lay semi-conscious watching the Dodgers play on the TV: “Dad! What does &%$#^&$$ mean?” Mom immediately came running in as Dad was trying to regain his grip on the couch and said:

“WHERE did you learn to say THAT?” laying the wooden spoon across my butt suddenly. “DON’T YOU EVER USE THAT LANGUAGE IN THIS HOUSE (Whack) you understand me? And if you do I’ll give you the rest!” (Whack)

There could be more!!!

The instigation of hi-jinks against a sister, the retribution for acts of ratting me out and all other acts considered high crimes and misdemeanors by me were all met swiftly with reprisals, sometimes the wooden spoon hurt more than usual since it was just used for stirring the pasta in the hot water!

Every morning before school she would hand me my lunch in a lunch box with Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans on it. (I was in love with Dale and wished the bad guys would finally get Roy so I could make my move.) As the lunch goods were transferred to my possession it came with a stern warning: “If I find out that the teacher had to discipline you, when you come home you will get the rest!”

There could be more!!!

Mom had a special place in her heart for me. Actually, she had two special places, one being her heart as her child (however unbearable that might have been) and one in the corner where I spent most of my time.

Her teaching tool was her wooden spoon and being Italian it was a utilitarian bonanza, ‘cook’ and ‘discipline’, how great was that?

I swear she had a strike counter each time it was applied to my head. After so many strikes she would replace it. We weren’t rich, Mom had no special jewelry until later years, but she did have that one prized possession, her wooden spoon. As I would walk into the house and announce: “MOM, IM HOME!” she would wave it as an acknowledgment of my greeting and subtle meaning: ‘don’t destroy my mood.

I, on the other hand, knew that I had to stay outside of her arm range. Often the times we would race around the dining room table, me running and waiting for the first whack and her with her ever menacing spoon looming mere inches from my cranial cavity, empty as it was. If I felt particularly robust that day and caught Mom off her game, I would take pity and we would stop, sit on the chairs and when she was catching her breath I would ask, ”You ready again, Mom?” Somehow I like to think I was being considerate. She reached the age or retirement once I married, where she gave me the spoon and I painted it gold and she named it: “GENTLE PERSUASION”

When Mom wanted to discipline, she used ‘Gentle Persuasion’. One would think kind, gentle prodding, perhaps with a firm attitude. No: that is what I named her wooden spoon. She used to get my cooperation or attention with the instrument. I named all her wooden spoons through the years. There was; “The MM Kind and Firm”, one of her favorites, “The MM Or Else”, the ever-present “MM De-aggravator” and the “MM Terminator” which lasted for a LONG time. You must be wondering what the MM designation means. It was my habit to name her spoons like the US Navy named their ships. “MM” stands for “Momma Mia’s.”

To the day she died, whenever she bought a new wooden spoon, she would come to my house to hit me with it, just to be sure she had quality and hadn’t lost her touch, and remind me that I was not too big or too old to get hit by her.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


I returned to the Enterprise Car Rental and traded in my toy for a big boy’s car. From driving around with shorts, suspenders and knee socks yesterday, I now put on pants once again with a belt. I surrendered or should I say gladly gave back my kiddy car, the Mini Cooper.

This time I am driving a Chevy Malibu, just like a native Californian. I might even strap on a surfboard and wear my sunglasses as I drive around the incorporated village of Holbrook. But if I do that I have to wear a bathing suit and sandals, too much to think about.

Don’t get me wrong, the Mini Cooper is a really fun car to drive, easy to parallel park, great backup camera and since you are so tight in the compactness of the front seat, you can turn on any button with just your nose, never having to make your hand leave the steering wheel! Trouble was when I looked to my left I kept turning on and off the radio!

My Chevy Malibu, made in the good ole US of A is my kind of car. Black and It has a sunroof that you regulate with the touch of a button and instantly your disposition changes from grey and dark to grey and sunny, as does my complexion.

Picking up old babes will be a cinch since I can now accommodate both a walker and cane. How neat is that, I will be able to stay out past 4:30 pm! And wait until I pull up for the early bird special, a lot of grey mammas will be turning their heads!

I am a sucker for compartments. If a car has a compartment it is a fine automobile. There is a place to put my drawing pad, Prell, extra napkins from Burger King and ketchup and salt, pepper packets and aspirin, all can be neatly stored as I peruse the streets of Holbrook with my radio playing loudly: ‘It’s Impossible’, by Perry Como!

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


You don't 'Park' it, you carry it in your pocket.
After my accident, I drove the busted car to an auto repair place to fix it and was told it will take two to three weeks. Fine, I am getting a rental car for thirty dollars a day, so, for a few weeks, I make do.

Arriving at Enterprise I meet the agent who will set up the car rental. They actually meet me there at the auto repair place and drive me to their office where the transaction takes place. The car is deemed drivable even though it looks like a tank smashed into it!

As the agent is on the phone setting up the billing with The Hartford, he says:

“The client is right here, would you like to speak with him?” and hands me the phone.

Handing me the phone is never good, always trouble and sure enough, it was. The Hartford person on the other end was a bit of a pain in the ass, to say the least. Here I am trying to take care of business in a quick and orderly manner and she wants to talk to me.

“Did you say your car is drivable?”

”Yes I did, but I didn’t say it is safe. I’m afraid the door will open on me as I am driving.”

She gives me some grief, telling me that the insurance will not pay until the car goes under repair, puts me on hold and I wait while she calls the repair shop. She calls back and says OK.

The Enterprise guy tells me that there is nothing available except a Mini Cooper, a rather nice looking silver and black convertible. You don't 'Park' it, you carry it in your pocket. They can lease it to me for $62 a day! Nothing doing, I’m only spending the allotment of $30 the insurance company is willing to pay. We compromise on $46 a day and I want to return it first thing in the morning for a cheaper car. It would make me look like a cool nerd, cramped into this small sardine can with the latest gadgetry and innovations that will take a 5-year old his lifetime to learn. Although it is filled with nice features, two things you cannot do: 1) exhaling and 2) last long listening to the loud TICK-TOCK of the directional. This sound is so loud it is madding. Driving it, it became so annoying I passed the turn to my house so I wouldn’t have to hear it.

That night the Little Woman remarked that it was a convertible, something I suspected.

“Yes, I know it is, that will help me pick up little old ladies, but only the ones without walkers, there is no trunk space for a walker or cane.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


“I know my people are the chosen ones, but could you choose someone else for a change?”

To paraphrase the main character in Fiddler on the Roof, I feel like those many poor Jews who have been prosecuted by evil all their lives and yet stay the path of belief in God. People have been telling me that my angels and God decided to spare my life, after all, I am needed by my family.

Through the course of my life, I have dealt with issues, I am about 90% deaf in both ears, have had to learn to survive as a young child by teaching myself how to lip-read. This all led to a very sad and unhappy childhood as I was reaching myself to solve these problems.

Then, of course, came all the other sadness, the death of my daughter-in-law, my child’s death and my daughter’s disability, all contribute to the larger bigger than life issues I face every day.

But let’s not dwell, let’s not feel sorry, we all have pain and issues, we all need to close a door and cry, alone, and without hesitation.

I just wish if God will choose someone else for a short while so I can rest a bit.

Monday, September 10, 2018


It isn’t enough that I lost a beautiful daughter-in-law and all that has made the lives of her husband my son and my grandchildren difficult and never the same, that my daughter fell and had a brain bleed this year I almost lost my life too!

Today as I was driving to meet my high school classmates for lunch, someone who should not be driving drove her car into mine, T-Boning me and causing me to sway through traffic in a driving rain, frantically trying to avoid a catastrophe.

The sense of swerving and circling on the rain-slickened road at oncoming traffic can scare the hell out of one.

When it all stopped, the skidding, swirling and trying to do my best to avoid killing myself and others and came to a rest on the side of the road, I wondered why I wasn’t dead yet. Yet like instant replay, it all ran through my mind once again. I got out of my car and looked at the damage. My driver side door and back door were smashed in, totally destroyed. I park miles away from the entrances of stores to avoid getting dings in my doors only to have it all wiped-out with one blow.

The other driver was not hurt and came running over to me and asked if I was hurt. She had her obligatory cell phone in her hand I wondered if she wanted to call an ambulance for me. At the moment I smelled a skunk. I think pot was in the mix.

Anyway, driving minding your business, doing the speed limit does not ensure you can go anywhere safely.

Sunday, September 09, 2018


Mom and Dad going shopping on a Saturday morning
I was on my way back from a lunch date with a business colleague when we suddenly had to stop in deference to a construction crew on the road. In front of me was an auto that must have been 20 years old! It took me back to my Dad, and the many clunkers that he took care of.

Dad didn’t have much money in the beginning and always bought used cars. Sometimes I wondered if they were third-hand used. But dear Dad had a way of preserving things and his cars were important to him.

Dad didn’t like to waste things if he could help it. So, on those damp nights, with the temperature hovering around 32, Dad would keep the heater and blower off.

“Dad! Shouldn’t you put the heater on, the frostbite is almost up to my tongue?”

“Nah: that would kill my battery! Besides, you should have planned ahead and taken a blanket with you!”

“But the windows are fogging over, I can hardly see and YOU are doing the driving!”

“You want to kill my battery? Here (reaching under the dashboard) take this towel and wipe the windows down while I drive.”

His windshield wipers would swing back and forth on rainy days ok, but they had the nasty habit of missing the windshield! To placate everyone’s concerns, he would announce how he would get new wipers. Of course, once the rain stopped, he would forget about it until the next rain, and repeat himself, to everyone’s satisfaction.

Dad had a spot for his car radio. It was where every car radio was, and he made sure he had one, too. Trouble was, the antennae were nowhere to be found! If you dared to reach for the knob to turn on the radio, he would react with: “What do you want to do, kill my battery with that crazy music?”

Dad’s idea of a car wash was a good old-fashioned downpour! The seats usually had a hole in them with a towel covering it up. The tires were the ‘Yule Brenner’ model and had as much rubber on them as a rock. Dad was poor, but he somehow managed to keep us all alive when he drove.

If you needed a ride somewhere, Dad never complained. It was cheaper than buying us a car. The gas sacrifice was a small price for what could be. Stopping at a gas station, he would order the unheard sum of “$2 worth regular” and NEVER and I mean NEVER said the words: “Fill her up!” unless of course, it was a glass of vino!

When he bought a new used car, he would proudly show it off to his old maid riders that he took to work every morning into the sweatshop where they all worked. They too were poor, and Dad felt sorry for them having to ride a bus every day and pay that fare. So Dad would charge them $2 a week and pick them up at their door, and deposit them at the door that same day. Proudly showing off, he would point out the latest features incorporated in the auto industry design field, 20 years past! The ladies loved the “Latest” invention to their riding experience and graciously say: “Wow! Good luck Tony!” Dad was proud of his latest signs of success.

Dad didn’t buy a new car until in his late 60’s or early 70’s, right before he died. He only owned two new cars in all his life! Didn’t live long enough to run down his second car, and Mom sold it as almost new after he passed!

But Dad did raise 5 children on very as little two of us went off to college, with the help of self-motivation, and they want not to ride in Dad’s car if we could help it! Mom never got her license, claiming Dad had no patience to teach her, and I always wanted to say: Ma, forget the patience, he doesn’t really have a car to learn on!”

Dad wasn't a very fancy man, didn't even finish high school. He didn't even live to see his 75th birthday, dying from lung cancer. He was humble, and I truly believe he didn't have a mean bone in his body.

Dad loved his grandchildren. When his first grandchild had her birthday on the 17th of this month, for the next 11 months, on the 17th, we had to gather to sing ‘Happy Birthday' and celebrate for the next 11 months as it was a ritual!

Every Saturday night I think of Dad to this day. He insisted on a steak dinner on Saturday nights, and on Sundays, pasta. A big bowl of soup on Monday nights, and on Sunday evenings, he would send us out to the deli for cold cuts on the corner of Somers Street and Rockaway Avenue in Brooklyn. Dad would then make the best sandwiches I ever had, with leftover salad and mayo. Dad was the master. But come those summer evenings, then his genius really took hold! He'd get a tall glass and fill it with cream soda, vanilla ice cream, and cantaloupe pieces. Sometimes he'd add a little milk and chocolate. God, I miss those days!

Mom was the religious person in the house, the reason I never got arrested, but unfortunately, Dad would get a hold of me and re-taught me a prayer or two. For example, the "Our Father" Dad rearranged the pray where we said: "Give us this day our daily bread" to: "Give us a steak and our daily bread." I prayed it that way almost into High School!

Darby Shea
He was a great storyteller, stories about my grandparents and his childhood, about people who had nicknames and why they had them and had a wonderful sense of humor. He had a remote control and would be delegated to the bedroom to watch TV. Mom would watch TV in the den. When she nodded off, he would sneak to the doorway and put on the ball game. She would wake up and wonder what that was doing on her TV. Dad would say something about Mom to get her riled up, or they would tease each other, and even a bit of playful ‘fisty’ cuffs would occur, with Dad running away for his life!

Every time I watch a ballgame, I think of Dad. He took me to Ebbets Field to watch the Brooklyn Dodgers play. We would watch the games on TV and he loved Jackie Robinson and the Italian boy, Carl Furillo, and all the other Dodgers. He taught me to love the game and tried to make a pitcher out of me once. One day, he got a rubber ball and squatted down in front of my Grandmother's house, and told me to pitch. I threw the first pitch, Dad missed catching it, and smack into his face it goes! "OK, that's enough for now!" said Dad.

Helping people was Dad's passion, and taking me along to assist him was part of his gift giving. As we both got older we did almost everything together including working together when I was in high school and college. He would help widows and people down on their luck who he thought needed some kind of help. He lent money and my time very freely. But he taught me that no matter how bad things were, they could be worse, just look at so and so.

Bobby Courtney
Like I said, he didn't have much, never owned a new car until late in life, his last car. He got his dream house, finally, and saw a couple of his kids get an education and was blessed with a lot of grandchildren. I named my first son after him because I wanted the name to last another generation, and somehow I knew it would make him happy, if only he lived to see his grandson's achievements, and his name roll by on the credits of the Big Bang Theory, there would have been no living with him. He would have adored my daughter-in-law Courtney and of course my beautiful grandchild, Darby Shea. He loved my daughter, Ellen, giving her attention and amusing her, and then when my last son Michael was born, I gave Dad a picture of Mike that he hung in his living room next to the front entrance, and every day going to work, he would pat it and say: "Hi Mike!"

I really hope he is up there, sitting in front of a TV with one of his favorite snacks, watching the Brooklyn Dodgers have a big inning, satisfied that his life was one of the good works and positive things that have occurred, that all his mistakes are understood and forgiven, that he was the only father I could have ever had and loved.

Happy Birthday, Pop!


Saturday, September 08, 2018


Many years ago when I was a 1st grader, at the end of the first day of school as I was leaving the classroom to go home, my kindergarten teacher was standing outside her classroom as I ran to her and gave her a hug, telling her I missed her.

My new first-grade teacher was an old lady in her nineties, wearing what they called sensible black shoes, with laces, a long dress, cameo and hair in a bun. She was a witch, mean, yelling and prone to use her ruler to keep little first-graders in line. And this was the first day of school! It was no wonder I did what I did as well as many of my classmates with our Kindergarten teacher.

Fast forward to yesterday and my TV. There stood former President of the U.S., Barack Obama, giving a speech at an Illinois function. As I listened to him speak, I longed for those days as I sit in the midst of the horrific news coming from all the talking heads. The coverage is biased on both MSNBC and FOX News.

Politics aside, as I did not always agree with Barack Obama but I did respect him. Obama was decent as politicians go, could have been a little more thorough in his health plan, but had the guts to do something. He had compassion and sometimes that got him in trouble.

Today’s administration has been nothing but a disaster, the lying, the poor conception of policy and dangerous foreign policies so misguided that I fear war in the future. The fan fair over North Korea only to find out they are still are building missiles. The separation of children from their parents who were caught crossing the border pains not only me but also most Americans. The cozying up to our arch enemy Vladimir Putin leading me to believe Putin and the Russians have something over him and are holding him hostage and of course the swamp he brought with him to Washington in Manafort, Cohen, Poppadopolis, and all the indictments and sentences of so many of his administration.


Friday, September 07, 2018


They settle around the small oak tree shielding themselves from the 90+degree heat and humidity of the hot Calverton sun. Program mates, housemates, and staff people all came to say a final goodbye and to view the unveiling of her stone. In the Jewish tradition when one is buried a rabbi on the gravestone performs a ceremony where the stone is uncovered after 1-year internment. The Kaddish is then said as all there who are gathered follow this tradition and law. This is the “unveiling”.

The Kaddish or Qaddish is a hymn of praises to God in this graveside service. The idea is that the magnification and sanctification of God’s name are celebrated.

She was a trusting soul, living under the canopy of state and voluntary largesse, supporting her with the benefits that others have contributed to give her life a meaning, since in the eyes of God, the Jewish and Christian as well as Muslim God, all lives are sacred, all life is sacred.

Legally I am her parent as her guardian. I helped her when and where I could through the committee and the wonderful people who dealt with her day-in and day-out. The two wonderful service coordinators who give so much of their time and effort, let alone comfort were there with her for her every need, attended to with the love of these wonderful people.

There were her housemates and program mates all gathered to say goodbye and it touched me as I listened to the Rabbi pray so beautifully and yet with reverence to God on her passing. As I looked around the vastness of the cemetery and then the small enclosed group of people, the ailing, the lame, the disabled and my Jewish brothers and sisters, I couldn’t help but wonder about the ugliness in this world. Of Jews hiding and protecting one another against the ugliness of the Nazis, huddling in fear for themselves and their children because they were born Jews, Persecution of the disabled because they were considered flawed and had to die, I think of the insanity that prevailed so many years ago, yet the lessons learned have not yet been read!

The cemetery itself was rather interesting in its vastness, where there are no stones but plaques that identify the dead as they press the earth. As you look at it you see only grass, unless you stand near a grave.

She is at rest now, I won’t mention her name though I fought hard that she be noticed, in death, she should have privacy and dignity, the dignity she was denied by many in her life. We are all imperfect, perfected by God’s hands and diminished by ourselves and this thing we call life. Her life was precious and now sanctified by her faith.

Thursday, September 06, 2018


The night before school starts was my haunting period. It was the period where I took on the warlock persona and teases anyone I could find. In particular where my children, who after a day of shopping for school clothes and supplies would come home for dinner and we would discuss the gloom in the air, mainly the coming of the next day and months ahead, school.

As we plowed through the dinner the glum reality that school was on once again seemed to dampen the evening until I offered we all go out for ice cream!

Yeah! Ice cream would wash away the tears, anxiety, and despair that pervaded the household. We would all eagerly pile into the car and off we went to Carvel for a treat.


First, we make our customary drive to the school parking lot where I drove around in the emptiness of the place singing my favorite ditty: “School Days”

I never looked into the back seat because I didn’t want to witness the agony or betray my ecstasy.

It was just like Mom did without the car, as I stood there and had to receive the full nelson!

Wednesday, September 05, 2018


Perhaps the saddest day of the year is the day after Labor Day. It marks the end of the endless days of summer that fill us with a casual spirit and relaxing mood. It is the time of bar-b-q chicken and steaks, corn on the cob, ribs, and clams on the half shell, beach, sand, and casual barefooted strolling along a beach. Bicycles and open top cars become the norm as does horseback riding.

As we close up the pool, clean and scrub the bar-b-q and put away the summertime outdoor furniture, we look forward to the visual splendor of autumn and envision the cold winter and the long dreary months of snow and sleet. The echoes of people at play and flashbacks of places visited, still echoing in our minds as we assume a more rigid countenance that is all routine and all business.

The air seems to have a crispness to it even on the hottest of days after Labor Day, the sun casts a shadow just a little different, and little less bright affording you some hope of relief from the heat and humidity of the summer.

Ice cream and beer are no longer the staples of the weekend as some of us become more formalized and return to wine and liquor.

And as we head off to work and join the millions of others who like yourself do not believe the summer has past and life continues as business as usual. The same traffic jams and stop and go traffic, the regular hours and the holiday spirit if summer will not return for a full year.

So sad.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018


If you are old enough you remember the TV hit ‘WELCOME BACK KOTTER’.  It was a show about a teacher and his sweat hog students, students that were brilliant in their philosophy of life and incapable of the schoolwork. But most of all, it was about Brooklyn, the streets, and sights, the lingo and accentuation of a place that is to this day special.

Is it the sacred soil of Brooklyn that makes it so unique? Is it the people that once infused with the air of the borough become tied forever to that heritage?

This weekend I went to Brooklyn, and as I stood on the corner of Classon and Myrtle Avenue I got the sense of home again. The three-story buildings, the sky always high since it framed these three-story apartment buildings that housed the living and the hardworking and the entrepreneurs that make up this great place.

As I walked down the street and watched the young up and coming Americans, the doctors, lawyers and Wall Street dealmakers walking hand-in-hand along the beautiful sun-lit boulevard and enjoyed their Labor Day celebration.

The restaurants and specialty shops that dot the lane, the new along with the old adorn the sights of this special place make one feel alive and happy to witness it all. The mix of cultures, the different flavors of people that make the populace so unique celebrate what America really is all about, a diverse society of doers and thinkers, making America great as it always has been and that has never left us.

My wife and son (a new Brooklynite) and I went into a small sandwich shop for a bite to eat, and there were all the inhabitants standing in line patiently as they must have 50 and 60 and 70 years ago, living their lives by the rules, searching for soups, salads and sandwiches, mostly young and exciting and as you look on, see the vitality that is Brooklyn.

Move over Manhattan Island, here comes Brooklyn, once again.

Sunday, September 02, 2018


Since June 18 or so, I have been fighting a bad back. The pain is cent34red under the shoulder blades and not the lower back. I have had a CT scan and an echocardiogram and nothing is found. My GP probed, my neurosurgeon took a look and threw up his hands. Nothing. So, the neurosurgeon asked my insurance company for permission to do an MRI to look closer.

That's me with my bad back!
Waiting a few days I get a phone call from Aetna telling me that the MRI was denied. It stated that a letter would arrive in the mail where I could appeal it.

It has been days since that call. In all the time waiting for the letter to come, my back pain persists, driving me to get up and ace the house a few hours each night until it felt better enough to get back into bed. I am tired and cranky with bouts of sudden pain, leaving me wobbly in the legs and almost passing out.

I would love to know when the hell Aetna will erupt and give me their reasons for the denial since all I want is a little relief.

Saturday, September 01, 2018



The rallying cry of Italian: mammas, and grandmothers.

Grandma: “Joe-joe. A why you so skinny, you gotta eat!”
Me: “I love you, grandma!”

Yes, it was a need to not disappear and be invisible that we were as children goaded to eat.

If grandma visited, she would bring with her a gallon of homemade wine made by grandpa, salami, cheeses of all kinds, meats such as pork and lamb chops and sausages, all kinds of sausages, skinny, cheese, pork, and beef along with hot and sweet types.

On my shelf in my refrigerator where I store the meats that I will cook soon I named: ‘Grandma’s place’. It is held in deep respect and I like to hold a very private memorial service in her honor as I praise the latest sausage and chops. She was an amazing woman, filled with wise recipes and delicious antidotes for my starving stature.

But why is it that Italian American boys like to cook, like to eat and respect the golden hands of grandma and mamma? BECAUSE THEY LIKE TO EAT, AND DON’T WANT TO MISS A MEAL! Of course!

Sometimes I make a meal that brings me back to the old days such as Pasta Fazioli. The making of the meal becomes a sacred ritual, filled with memories and tears, and a remembrance of love so strong and complete. I hear my dad asking for red-hot cherry peppers to put in the dish of pasta Fazioli. I think back as to how I tried the peppers, falling in love again all over. Yes, food is an emotional moment.

But why? Why the emotional attachment that links Italian American boys to food? Memories simply stated a dedication to the love of memories of their mammas and grandmamas.