Maybe I am just one of those unexplained mysteries in life. Maybe because I always wondered about my biological father. Maybe that is why I have been so lucky in my life having two “fathers”.
My sons’ father is the best father and grandfather I have ever seen. His unconditional love, his self-sacrificing dedication and his ability to keep giving and giving can not be denied. I believe that the word, “no” is just not a word to him. He has always said “yes” to the needs of his children, and for that matter to me as well. Fathers like Rocco are rare, but I know there are a few out there. For instance, my son, Rocky is a dad like his father. He has the same inner ability to love his daughter so completely and unconditionally. As she grows, I hope she realizes more and more how very wonderful he is and how dedicated he is to her.
My “dad”and my “brother” raised me to be a person who is true to herself, kind to others, and to care about the world around me. My “dad” passed when I was sixteen years old. My brother is still the one I look to for answers. Whether or not he reaizes it, he is still the one I depend on.
Today I want to tell you about my brother, Tommy.
If one could picture the life of a person when they were a child and to realize that what they have been through is no life for any child, then they would know that the man I know as Tommy, who came out of that life better and stronger, is in itself miraculous. They would know that this wonderful man is the most selfless, loving, hard-working man that was ever born.
It was a tough life when my brother was a small child. His father was an alcholic and the venom from this sickness took its ugly poison out on my brother and his siblings. Without going into too much detail, let me suffice to say Tommy took the brunt of that venom. It became so bad that for a time his mom sent him to live for awhile to her sister so he could escape the onslaught. When I was born Tommy was ten years old.
I turned seven when I first started to notice who it was that was nurturing me and making sure I had everything I needed, like food, clothing and shelter. Tommy was now seventeen and graduated High School. He was also the protector for my “mom” and me. Ever since he was able to work he made sure our mom and me were taken care of.
Life wasn’t all bad. He was also a prankster and a loyal friend. Some of the funniest episodes I ever heard were about the pranks my brother would pull on his family, friends and co-workers. When our sister, Joanie passed away at the age of twenty-nine from complications after brain surgery to remove a tumor, she left two small babies behind. One was two years old and the other was six months. While their dad had to keep working, my mom took them in to live with us in our six room tenement apartment in Park Slope. They spent Monday through Friday with us and their dad took them on the weekends. Tommy immediately took on the role of dad to them during those days and had always taken that role on for me. Yes, our siblings helped as well. There was after all, eight of us altogether. I was the youngest. I recall Tommy taking us to the World’s Fair in Flushing, Delancy Street in Manhattan for clothes, and to the local theatre for movies, etc. If we had any treats or toys it was Tommy who bought them. When the boys turned seven and five, their dad remarried a wonderful woman named Eileen. Together they brought the boys to live with them, of course, leaving us left us with heavy hearts because they were more like brothers and sons to us. Years later we now know that it was best for them to leave and have a life with their own dad and stepmom. However, I was still there and Tommy became more like a dad to me than ever and when “daddy” died, it was Tommy who pulled me through just as he did when we lost “mommy” and then did the same when we lost two more of our sisters and our niece. He pulled me out of so many childhood and young adulthood mistakes. He helped me when sickness befell my baby boy, he helped me when I thought I would sink from financial disaster. I cannot recall one time in life good or bad when Tommy wasn’t right there, or just a phone call away. He is the one constant in my life. The person to whom I owe everything.
By now you must have surmised why I chose to write this Father’s Day tribute to my wonderful brother Tommy. There just isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him or even talk to him. He has always been my confidant, my advisor, my father in every sense of the word. Even though I am a grown woman, wife, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin, friend..none of those titles would have been possible without Tommy in my life. He is officially “my brother” but everything he has ever done for me is something a great dad would do. So I want to tell him Happy Father’s Day and that even though he chose not to have children of his own, he has helped raise and has given to all his sisters, nieces and nephews so very much that the title Father belongs to him.
He never truly gets the recognition and appreciation for everything he has always done from his heart, so this small tribute is my way of saying thank you with all my heart for being the best real Dad I never really had.
Awaking on Sunday morning June 12, 2016 I turned on the television as a I normally do to watch Charles Osgood, Early Morning Sunday News on CBS Channel 2 in NYC. Instead there was a special report about a mass shooting that took place in Orlando FL during the hours of my sleep. By the time the day was done I learned that 50 people were dead and 54 were seriously injured by an unbalanced individual who held a rapid repeating gun and shot innocent human beings who had gathered to celebrate in a nightclub called PULSE. Most of the patrons were of the LGBT community. All the gunman’s insane thoughts were to kill as many gay people as he could in the name of his chosen ideology of radical Islam. He lost his own life this day as well, being shot by the brave people of law enforcement, who responded to the call of help from all those who managed to escape the onslaught.
There are thousands of opinions flowing out there over this horrific event, personal, political, religious, et al and we can’t ignore them all, but we can perhaps learn something from each of them. Hopefully, there will be an idea out there that will enact a change in all of us. I feel as if I have been sitting by complacently since the horrific attack on America on September 11, 2001. Just watching my beloved country defending itself against those who wished to harm her and her people. It seems there have been horrific attacks worldwide for many different reasons since that horrible day, but this horrible day has woken me up.
We don’t want this to be a war of religions because that would mean its World War 3 and that is something none of us want to happen nor even fathom. The thought brings with it a meaning that it’s the end of civilization as we have come to know it. Personally, I don’t want there to be war anywhere. I am a peaceful human being who loves all human beings who are not evil. Oh yes, I said that. Evil is out there although I am not a fanatic about it –I know it exists. It exists in everyone who puts their own will above everyone else’s and in order to achieve their own self satisfaction they need to harm or kill others to express that evil of hate and/or violence. Those acts of violence are the epitome of evil to me.
I have heard and listened to the thoughts of well known people such as: celebrities, Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert; Internet personality, Tomi Lauren; Muslim leaders, Imam Anjem Choudhry, and CAIR Executive Director, Mihad Awad; world leader, President Obama; political leaders, Hilary Clinton, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders; recognized and respected Professor and Author, Dr. George Rodman. I have even listened to one of the Christian leadership ‘s most bigoted personalities (also a Reverend and author) , Pastor Robert Jeffress and the attorney, Eliot Spitzer. I have listened to my family and friends.
All their messages were different, but all told me the same thing. It is time for change in America. It is time that we get out of the problems in the Middle East once and for all. Is it a time when we wake up to realize that money is the reason behind all the arguments. Progress for future generations should be the only motive. It is those who control the events around the world whose only thought is to make a profit off the hardships of others, it is time for that to stop.
We have been trying since the 1960s to make peace the theme of the world. After the postwar of September 11th we are far overdue for this to become a reality. No arguments over guns, politics, religion or greed will ever be solved. Those things are only battles in this current climate. We need to be victorious in bringing about a peaceful and tolerable world and the only way to do that is to live in each country as we did in the past and no longer be involved in trying to bring democracy to any other nation. We have to live by example there is no other solution to end these awful violent acts worldwide. We start here in America with our flag flying high. We start here in America where we all assimilate. We start here in America where the world knows just by our united stance that we will defend our country with all our might just as the other countries will do the same for their own. We will welcome new people to our shores legally all those who wish to come here because they are willing to become Americans and practice their individual languages, cultures and religion in their own homes, mosques, temples, and churches , just as our ancestors have done. Only as a united America renewed in her peaceful meaning and tolerant nature will we accomplish the theme of peace worldwide.
No, I don’t mean that we need to tolerate the acts of the imbalanced individual whose disturbed persona allows the integrated ideology of extremists to penetrate their psyche, no, those who do this, naturally must be punished either through death or incarceration or perhaps reached in time to be helped. Yes, we have to enact new laws that include controlling what guns are permitted to be owned by our citizens. Not banish the 2nd Amendment just tweak it so it truly means what it was supposed to mean before the age of the automatic rifles, grenades, etc. A handgun for personal defense of home and family, a hunting rifle for those who wish to practice this barbaric sport, that should be enough to cover the rights in the 2nd amendment. The NRA only seeks to make a profit, so allow their profits to be made through the military and law enforcement for those are the only avenues that I see a need for automatic weapons. Of course, I don’t believe I need a gun and that is also my right under the Constitution and Declaration of Independence or what I know of them. Help the mentally ill wherever and whenever you encounter these individuals. I believe that intervention for the sole purpose of protecting the mentally disturbed individual so that they do not harm themselves or others has to be a center of study in America today. You cannot get a handle on one without the other.
Take a good hard look at America today and realize that we need to stop, think, and listen. We need to put a serious movement forward which promotes all of the things I mentioned today, but most of all we must see our flag and know the meaning of her is to defend our very own country because we all made her exist. No matter what creed, no matter what race, no matter what color, all of us as human beings seeking to practice our faiths and our beliefs (whatever they may be) in one land have created the America I know and love to this day. To stand strong, proud and tolerant under one flag is the greatest example for anyone who is oppressed and in need to see. We can always be the hope of the world if we want to be, we can always find a way to do exactly what our founding fathers intended us to know and to do, we can change ourselves around by looking back, looking straight ahead and looking forward. Accepting that this is every single American’s responsibility, purpose and belief will lead that theme of peace and it will spread, as surely as I am typing this blog today, it will. It doesn’t much matter who leads the country in today’s world. What matters is its’ people and their desire to change and show their leader how they want their country lead and that the intolerance that has labeled us since September 11th will stop because the event of June 12th was the wake up call that resounded around the globe reminding us all who are privileged to live in this country that peace and tolerance is the only weapon anyone will ever need.
Special is defined in the English dictionary in this way: unusual or better; held in esteem; reserved; made for specific purpose; arranged for specific purpose, etc. In accordance with that definition, my dad was a very “special” person. Today May 4, 2016 is the 47th Anniversary of his death. I was sixteen years old.
Complex; complicated; misunderstood; unstable; loving; self-educated. My dad had a disease known as alcoholism. As mean as he could be when he drank he could be just as kind and nurturing when he didn’t. I often thought of him as two people in one. His need for alcohol was always present, although it lessened in his later years. I came into his life when he was forty-three years old. I like to believe that I made a difference in his life at that point. Members of my family have told me that he was crazy about me at the instant of my birth. My memories begin when I was a small child. Naturally, some of those memories are not good. I would rather focus today on the memories of Dad that have stayed with me my entire life.
The most poignant memories begin with Dad and me watching television in our tenement living room. I would sit on the floor, he in his favorite chair. On the screen before me was always a movie starring either John Wayne, James Cagney, Busby Berkley Musicals or Fred Astaire with Ginger Rogers. My Dad would tell me all about the stars in those movies and we would often sing along if it was a musical. When we weren’t watching television, he would work with me on my homework assignments and every day he would “assign” me the jumble puzzle printed in the Daily News. I was always praised and rewarded if I got the jumble words correct. In those days, many students went home at lunchtime. I was one of them and for lunch my dad would prepare grilled cheese sandwiches cooked in the waffle iron, or heat up Franco American spaghetti for me. On Fridays he would add a fish cake or fist sticks with the Franco American spaghetti as the side. He always tried to make lunchtime fun for me. After school, I would often sit at his feet as he told me stories about his adventures in the military or advised me about the importance of education and the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. I always thought he was truly a smart man. Even when he wasn’t sober, there were things that he said that remain with me. When I first heard the words he said, my thought was that he was a very selfish person, but as I got older I realized the words he used were quite filled with real wisdom. He would always say whether drunk or sober, “Me, Myself and I , first comes me then comes you, capital R capital O capital N.” Today I realize that he was saying a person needs to care first for themselves before they can take care of others. It wasn’t a selfish statement at all, instead it was the most sage advice I ever received.
My Dad as complicated as he was, was truly a special man and if he were here today, I would thank him for all those times he was there for me and for all the times that he made me feel like the “special” one. My hope is that after all this time his spirit is at peace now.
Yes, I know it has been awhile since I have been here. By now I should be filled with words, ideas, opinions. Thoughts that will somehow change a life if not the world. It isn’t as if I don’t have lots to say. There is enough material around to keep me writing for months. 2016 is a busy year. Lots of weddings, parties, doctor visits. It’s an election year as well, and boy is America reeling with opinions and competition!
I should tell you that it has been a slow go since my surgery last November. So many tests to follow up with and new docs to see. For awhile I had thought my back problem improved and my life was gonna change delightedly for the better, but nope right back to square one with no hope in view that I will ever boogie as I once did. There are other productive things though as long as they don’t take standing more than 10 minutes at a time.
My youngest son got engaged last November and life continues once again. Unfortunately, being the mother of the groom there isn’t much to do in terms of planning and such. I love my sons totally, but it’s kinda sad that I’ll never know the joy of having a daughter as well. The mothers of girls seem to have most of the fun sharing, planning, spending time with their daughters more often than the boys do with their mothers. I truly am very grateful for all my sons do for me and with me, guess it’s like they say, “You always want what you can’t have.” It should be a great December wedding though! Christmas in the air and all!
Day to day life for me is truly blasé now that I am retired and without true mobility. Even my wondrous friend, writing, is suffering from the doldrums. Bare with me as I am trying to revive this tired old friend, hoping to bring a fresh new outlook to its soul while keeping its heart beating stronger than ever.
So we are living in an election year. Attempting to elect a new POTUS. The playing field is astounding. We have Bernie Sanders (not the Colonel) and Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side and Ted Cruz and Donald Trump (yea the Millionnaire) on the Republican side. Not a day goes by where I am not either astounded or hysterically laughing. How this isn’t the biggest political fiasco of all time is beyond me. I love America and believe always that it is the greatest country on earth…..but with this election my head is hiding in my elbow 90% of the time!
Hopefully, my thoughts will stop gathering moss and I’ll share my own insights into this year’s election shenanigans very soon.
Today September 11, 2014 a day to remember our fallen, our injured, our heartbreak seems to be the most poignant day for me to write this blog post. On that beautiful September morning with the sun shining brightly our country was attacked by an enemy. Their purpose was to hurt our financial and military centers and in doing so they killed, hurt and forever injured people and destroyed buildings. They will never succeed though, not as long as we remember that September morning.
Most of us were preparing to begin our day when the phones started ringing and the radios and televisions were turned on. The shock of what was occurring sent daggers of pain through our bodies into our hearts. Here we sat a country at peace being attacked by an enemy filled with hate for what we stand for and how we live. Many of us worried about our friends and family who might be in the vicinity of that attack. Then that day, the days and weeks that followed turned into more pain and more resolve to unite and make our country whole again. That is the feeling that remains with most of us to this day. No one wants war, no one wants to live more in peace that the American people. We strife for that every single day. Most of us choose to love instead of to hate.
If, through life experiences, I have learned anything it is to stop expecting others to feel as I do. I have finally arrived at a place in life where I can love without expecting anything in return. I would like nothing more than to know the people who hate us and to show them that we are all the same…humans. However, the reality is that those who hate us will continue to hate us and I am fine with that as long as their hate stays within the boundaries of their own territories. If they would allow me to love them and trust them and accept their viewpoints, I could do that without hesitation. As an individual, I can do my part on a daily basis, being one with my fellow-man, but on a grand scale will this really work? The political climate as of late has me questioning that possibility. I am consistently getting emails from organizations such as MoveOn, Change.org, etc. that rejoice at the deal currently being offered to the Iranians. Everyday I read in the newspaper or online how another political representative has decided to vote in favor of this deal. The reasoning it appears is to avoid a war. Avoid a war? Only our President can declare war with the backing of our Senators and Congressmen, so if it isn’t declared by them, than there is no war to worry about. This deal, from what I have read of it, offers many concessions to those who call themselves “our enemy”. I can accept that if only the exposed truth is that we are laying flowers of peace at their feet in order that they leave us alone and at peace within our own country. However, the realist in me doesn’t see that. The constant reports through Media is that the terrorists groups within the country of Iran never stop hating us, no matter how many concessions, gifts and or investments we make in their country. Their religious beliefs seem to dictate their actions. No matter how much our instincts are to help the abused, to rescue the weak and poor, those that choose to hate instead of love will continue to do so. Nothing convinced me more than the video I saw portraying an interview with a leader of Iran. That recent video, taped in 2015 was undeniable. The hate for America and Americans is stronger than ever before, yet we are at peace here. We are attempting to offer this country a choice to stop hating and to accept. Do you truly trust people who continue to terrorize others as a people who are willing to abide by that offer? After September 11, 2001, I have lost trust in that belief. No matter how hard I try, the reality of their actions and words cause me continued pain. They have convinced me, a common American citizen, that I can never trust them no matter how much I want to. I cannot expect them to feel as I do just because I care about them unconditionally.
To convince me this deal is a good one and will bring everlasting peace to all nations, I would need to see that our own political representatives are free from financial gains from this deal. I would need to see that the trust we are giving to the Iranian militants and religious factions is truly accepted by them as an olive branch. I, for one, have a hard time believing that I will not be hurt again by the actions of those who choose to hate us no matter how much love I have for my fellow human beings. Why don’t most of you have that same distrust? What proof do you need other than the daily actions of the terrorists within that country? As an American, I have too much pride probably in my country, but I won’t excuse that. I love America and what it stands for. I still believe with all my heart that we are the best chance of refuge for the tired, the poor, the sick and the persecuted. I face the reality that we are imperfect and have made many mistakes as we grow from a teenage country into a full-fledged adult country, after all we are pretty young in comparison to the countries around the world and their histories. Just like I made allowances for my own, and just as I have learned from my mistakes, so do I have faith that my country will as well. So I guess what I am asking you as my representatives is to take a long hard look at this deal and make sure it is not another mistake we may make because we are trying to make “our enemy our friend”, instead of accepting that our enemy may not want to be our friend nor expecting them to want to be our friend. And if you find that this deal isn’t truly the one that will be fair to both America and Iran, if you have the slightest doubt at all, please don’t force us into it. To do that would be no better than when a war was forced upon us because of the actions of those who hate us and the proof of that can be found in the memory of September 11, 2001 when America was at peace and the sun was shining.
I am so excited today! My eldest son, Rocky (Rocco) Napoli has published his first short story today on Amazon.com!
It feels like eons since he first told me about his dream of being a published author. To know Rocky is to love him. He is intelligent, charismatic and possesses a way with words that can transcend your imagination. Sure, people are going to proclaim I say these things cause I am his mother, but that just isn’t the case. As he can tell you himself, I am his biggest critic. Not that I mean to be or that I have malicious intent, no, no far from it! I have always been so very proud of him and feel that I know him well. He has never been ordinary, he has always been extraordinary and has shown his father and I a deep and compassionate soul. His understanding of whatever subject matter was before him consistently astounds us from his unique perspective and profound understanding. He often spoke about publishing a novel and pursuing a career as a writer and now he has set down his foot on that path. While this is just the very beginning with the publication of his first short story, I have no doubt that he has begun a journey of discovery and self-appreciation, which he so aptly deserves.
You can PURCHASE and read his first short story at the following:
(search for The Paper Boat on Amazon.com in books)
I hope you will enjoy this intriguing and mesmerizing short read into the fascinating psyche of a promising author. The Paper Boat is a story that anyone with a good imagination and a wish for acceptance will thoroughly enjoy! Happy reading!
This blog today may turn out to be the length of a book, but there are things about Barbara that I am remembering and some of them need to be told at length. Her personality was so complicated and awesome that to generalize entirely about her now would seem unfitting to her memory. She wasn’t a saint, making her full share of mistakes. She was human just like the rest of us. What sets her apart is what she possessed that few people have or even know about. Her beauty was in her heart and in her inner determination and strength to help others and to love so deeply and so fiercely there was no way to avoid it nor once experienced would you want to. Barbara was and always will be one of a kind.
Twenty-six years ago today, May 8th, my sister, Barbara passed away. Her death was far from “easy”. Her suffering was great. The lung cancer that affected her had been spreading throughout her fragile body and overtook the woman we all knew and loved much too soon. As a mother of five children Barbara was a “force of nature”. Her protectiveness for her “babies” was instinctively inborn in her very persona. It is only fitting that I write about her today for she is missed by all who knew her.
Barbara was born a middle child of eight. She had four older siblings and three younger siblings. We were all born into “poverty” and our parents had their own set of problems. Barbara was a sickly child and had battled and survived pneumonia on five separate occasions. I don’t think she ever weighed more than one hundred pounds even when pregnant on her five foot seven frame. Yet she held a beauty all her own. She was fierce and stubborn, loving and funny all at the same time. Her sense of loyalty was undeniable. She adored her mother and had a closeness with her that most daughters rarely experience. Barbara was on the surface someone we would call “tough” back then. She took no guff from anyone and would defend her family and all those she cared about with every ounce of courage she could muster. It wasn’t till the very end of her life, when I had the privilege along with some of my siblings and her children of caring for her during her illness, that I finally got a glimpse of her true vulnerabilities, fears and passionate heart. I have to be honest and tell you that it was an eye opener for me since she and I practically fought about everything. I am the youngest of those eight siblings and she and I would butt heads about almost everything in life. Barbara was also a religious person and her devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary was unmistakable. To this day, I cannot think about the Blessed Mother without thinking of Barbara as well.
The first inkling I had that my sister, who was eleven years my elder, had more guts than anyone I knew at the time, was when she “borrowed” a friend’s car and took off to elope with her than boyfriend, who shortly after became her husband. I recall waking up in the tenement bed I shared with her and my other sister and hearing my parents frantically making phone calls and having the police come to our door. From the gist of the conversations, I had understood that Barbara ran away and the search was on. They found her though and brought her back home before they actually went through with the elopement. She was almost charged with stealing a car, but thankfully her friend didn’t press charges. Another time I recall her coming to let our mother know that our brother was hanging off the fence in the schoolyard down the street from our tenement and that was why he was late getting home for supper. She had tried to lift him off herself, but I cannot recall whether or not she succeeded. Did I mention how strong she was in spite of her thinness? Well that she was. Strong as an ox and was never afraid to use physical force whenever she deemed it necessary. I was afraid of her for most of our lives together. When I turned eighteen, it was Barbara who took me to the my first bar and bought me my first drink. I recall her telling me that she was doing it herself to warn me and steer me against the pitfalls of alcohol. As it turns out, I was never much of a drinker or even enjoyed liquor until much, much later in life.
Barbara had few very close friends during her life, most of them since she was a young girl. Her loyalty and faithfulness to their closeness remains unparalleled. She loved her close friends almost as much as she loved her family. That love she possessed was strongly felt by all. She often did so much for others, quietly without any of us truly aware of how thin she spread herself and how helpful a person she truly was. It was not until her death that this all came to light for most of us.
Earlier I mentioned about Barbara’s closeness to our mother. She took it upon herself to be my mother’s guardian in every sense of the word. She stuck by her and defended her when our dad would be on a drunken binge and take all his hard luck out on our poor mother’s body. Barbara would fight him every time. I recall many a time, when she would come home and I could hear them arguing in our railroad apartment while I lay two rooms down in bed. It would get quiet and after a while I would sneak a peek from my bed to see Barbara hitting our drunken father over the head with one of his beer bottles. Not hard enough to do any real harm, but hard enough to make him leave our mother alone for a while. Our dad died during my sixteenth year, and Barbara had been married for seven years by then. After his death, Barbara once again became our mother’s caretaker (by appointing herself) and during all our mother’s illnesses it was Barbara who took her to the hospital, knew all her medications, and every illness our mother had ever had. She was our mother’s self-appointed spokesperson. There was a time during Barbara’s marriage that she and her husband and eldest daughter, Barbara moved to Oklahoma for her husband’s job. She gave birth to her second daughter, Chrissy there. It wasn’t long however, until she missed our mother so much that she won over her husband and they moved back to good old Brooklyn. When they moved back here, they moved into an apartment on the second floor of the first house we ever lived in. I believe it was the best time and the worst time for her. She was glad to be so close to our mother again, but she now had a growing family to worry about as well and a husband, who was not quite so happy to live in the same house as his in-laws. Our father had died during this period and after a time, Barbara and her family moved to their own apartment and Barbara now had three girls with her middle one, Kelly having been born.
Overall, it wasn’t easy during those years. Barbara was a full-time mom and her husband provided the only source of income for them. She did the best she could with whatever resources she had. Needless to say she was extremely stressed. There is so much more that I could write about her life and my interactions with her, but it truly will be a book if I do. So instead, I will shorten this somewhat and just tell you a few more memories I have of Barbara.
By the time her sister, Doris, who was seven years her senior, became ill while living in California, Barbara had five children of her own. Four girls and a boy. Karen being her youngest girl and John, Jr. being her only son. I had my son, Rocky by then and we had lost our mother the year before. Barbara and I flew to California together to try to help Doris who by this time was on life support after developing cirrhosis of the liver. The plane ride it self was interesting to me as it was only the second time I had ever been on a plane. Unfortunately, I am one of those people who have a built-in fear of riding in planes or for that matter, anything that takes away my sense of gravity. Barbara on the other hand, hid any fears she had and was a true social butterfly. She would talk with anyone and would wander the plane while I sat petrified and glued to my seat. On this flight to California, Barbara had been off socializing and came back to get me to move to the middle row and watch a movie that was being provided by the airline. She convinced me to go and so there we were sitting in the middle aisle of the plane waiting for the movie to start. Barbara, was talking to some people she had met earlier, who happened to be seated behind us, so her back was partially turned away from the screen. A stewardess was coming toward where we were seated carrying a tray of drinks. She tapped Barbara on the shoulder and as Barbara turned quickly to see who it was, she jumped up, knocking the tray out of the stewardess’ hands, and with drinks flying all over, proceeded to yell, “Oh my God, we’re going to crash!”. Although, I was still afraid and now in complete shock as to what happened, I managed to calm her down and tell her it was just the stewardess with drinks for everyone. I quickly learned that she was so afraid herself that when she saw the stewardess as quickly as she did, she thought it was oxygen and not cups. We laughed about that for years afterward.
When we finally arrived in California, jet lagged and worried, we were met by Doris’ boyfriend and son. They took us to see Doris and together Barbara and I went into shock. Beautiful auburned hair Doris, was now this frail woman with a head of gray hair, lying in this hospital bed hooked up to a respirator and all sorts of machines. She saw us and woke up briefly to whisper something to each of us and then fell back into her coma. It was the strangest and most emotional moment in both of our lives. We stayed in California for five days, and we knew from the doctors that Doris was gone and only being kept alive by a machine. It was a devastating time for us, and for reasons I won’t discuss now, I had the agonizing decision to turn off that machine because Doris was brain-dead. It took me five days to decide what to do and it was Barbara who was my rock. It was Barbara who listened to my agonizing and if it were not for her, I do not honestly know if I would have come through that time completely intact. After that time, Barbara had developed a new-found trust in me and I felt it. She always credited me with being a rock and the strength, when in reality it was her strength that I drew from.
During this period of our lives, my eldest son was going through a horrible disease known as nephrosis, and here again it was Barbara who gave me her quiet shoulder to lean on. It was Barbara who had faith in our decisions about our son and it was Barbara who gave me the inner strength I needed to get through that awful time as well.
If I am to be openly honest, I have to say here that I owed so much to Barbara the sister whose inner strength, abundance of love and true mercy was my silent rock. So when she needed help after developing metastasized cancer, I tried to be there for her. It broke my heart to see her struggling through that illness, how it slowly devour every part of her physical being, but it never destroyed her inner strength, it never touched an ounce of her love for her husband and five children. She fought hard to stay alive for them and for us, but it was not to be. She asked each of her siblings, me included, to watch out for her family. She spoke to me in those last days about each and every one of them and how very well she knew each of them. Her main and only concern was their welfare. There was no one who was with her during that time who could deny the love she carried inside for each of them and the hopes and dreams she so worried would not be fulfilled if she was no longer around to carry through her part in those hopes. I made her a number of promises then, and God only knows if I have fulfilled them all, but I have sincerely tried to live up to the faith she had in me. Miss her? So much more than these words or any words could tell you. Wish she was here during the trying times that have followed since her death? Part of me does and then part of me is grateful she was not alive to see the passing of her eldest daughter, Barbara at the age of forty-five leaving three children and a grandson behind. I miss her strength and her knowing ways, but I am glad that her legacy includes eight grandchildren and a great-grandson, all of which may yet carry through all the hopes and dreams she always had for each of her children.
I have never met another person like my sister Barbara and I reckon to wager I never will. She was the rarest of the rare with a pure and honest inner heart, that perhaps didn’t always have the knowledge or wherewithal to be ideal, but nevertheless, gave it every ounce of strength, love and faith she did possess. She is the person, who will never be forgotten by anyone who has known her. She is the person, who twenty-six years after her death, I still reminisce about and care about as much as ever. She is the person, whose love for her family I still feel this very day. I hope in my idealistic way of thinking sometimes, that she is in a spiritual place with our mother, our two sisters and her daughter and they are laughing their asses off at all the foolish things we still do everyday. I hope, also, that she can feel the love we all still feel for her and that she comforts her spirit like a warm blanket on a cold wintry day with that love. Reminiscing Barbara fills me with strength and hope and a sense of pride that perhaps, after all, we were the closest of sisters that could ever be. Rest in peace, my sister, I love you still.