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.
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.
It was one year ago today that Joey passed. Another sad day to mark in our memories. Losing our loved ones through death seems to happen sooner and more frequently in this stage of my own life. I still miss the Joey I once knew and the memories of what Alzheimer’s did to him in the end are forever embedded in my mind. Unselfishly I know God was merciful to finally bring him home, but selfishly, I still think about how much he is still needed by so many. Joey will always be missed and we will forever remember him.
I am reposting this blog I wrote about him right before he passed and remembering how fortunate I was to have had him in my life for all those years. Rest in peace Joey.
Last time I wrote about my brother-in-law Joey was July 10, 2013. Today I am very sad because Joey is now at the very end of his life and I will miss him. His struggle with Alzheimer’s has been a long hard road, especially for his wife, daughter and grandchildren. Everyone else who has the privilege of knowing Joey will also feel the pain of his passing because he will no longer be here in any form, so it is for our own feelings of loss that we will share in this sorrow. You see Joey has touched so many people in his lifetime, some he may have known about, while others haven’t realized until now, just how much he gave to them.
Joey was never boisterous or even talkative, but I remember his smiles and his laughter. I can still hear his corny jokes in my head and even though I didn’t want to laugh, I couldn’t help myself. I can see him making faces when my sister would tell one of her “stories” as if we shared our own secret about them. I can remember my own children and some of my nieces and nephews telling me stories about Uncle Joe and the way he either taught them something or shared a trivia knowledge with them which made them appreciate him all the more. I remember him liking sports and family dinners and vacations. I remember how much he liked to laugh.
I know how he adored his daughter and grandchildren and would move mountains if he needed to in order to protect and care for them. I know how much he loved my sister, his wife and would spoil her without hesitation or remorse. I know how kind, generous and solid he was as a man and a person whom anyone would be proud to know and call a friend. I know how the world will miss a soul as good as his.
I have to be honest and tell you that I have prayed for God to take him away from his pain lately. To allow him to leave this earthly life of struggles, misery and anguish in a dignified and peaceful way. I know now that my prayer is being answered and this wonderful human being will go peacefully into the night free from fear and worry. When his spot in heaven is prepared and ready God will finally bring this loving man home. I hope my sister and niece will be able to rejoice in the knowledge that this great man was in their lives for so long and his life was full and all their lives were blessed despite this awful disease that afflicts so many. I know I feel blessed that Joey was in my life and a part of my family. I know I will love him always and never forget his goodness and kindness. I will miss you very much Joey, but I know, I truly know you are going to a better place. I know one day we will meet again and when we do it will be as if you never left.
Christmas time is one of my favorite times of year. My heart rejoices remembering that once a year a Man was born who influenced millions with His acts of kindness, His teachings of love and peace, the sacrifice He made of His life so that people would believe that His Words were true and that He worshiped God in every way. His birthday allows me, among many others to give gifts and to have hope that peace will spread by remembering this Man’s wondrous life.
It is also a time for joy and laughter. Family and friends who gather together to express their love for one another and to share in the happiness that this season brings. How can one not be joyful? One of my favorite activities is to decorate my home and try to make it welcoming and warm. Of course, I never have enough time or money to make it the way I would truly like it to be, but like so many others, I do the best I can with what I have.
Recently, the news has been filled with acts of violence and hatred, war and strife. It breaks my heart. I believe we have come so far along in our attitudes toward each other and our hope for peace and harmony, yet what I read in the paper or on the Internet or TV, frightens me. It dashes the hope that I had, especially in the year 2014, that people would end their historical biases and replace them with understanding, acceptance and goodwill. Extremists in every walk of life seem to be on the rise and their warped and hateful ideas are influencing people to harm one another. Those of us who believe as I do that the world is not such a bad place need to step up and overtake these extremists by acting with the example that the Man, Jesus Christ left us with. To truly honor His birth we need to spread peace, hope and charity. We need to believe in the goodness of all mankind and accept that people are different only on the outside. Inside we are all human beings who experience the same emotions, the same health issues, and the same inquisitiveness. Only we can change the course of the future. Only we can have the faith in humanity it takes to make that difference. One person at a time, one idea at a time, one act of kindness at a time is all it will take to begin the spread of peace. My remaining hope is that people wake up and realize the power they possess to change the way things are currently. Help yourselves and help the world by remembering that Christmas is a Merry time. Chanukah and Kwanza as well are Merry times. Let’s rejoice in the fact that we are all human beings and celebrate that very miracle. For it truly is a miracle that creates human beings and it bonds us together as nothing else could or would.
It truly doesn’t matter what color your skin is, or what job you hold, or how poor or rich you are those outside appearances are only superficial. What truly matters is how open your heart is, how curious your mind is and how willing you are to have peace and harmony rule your life. Christmas is the perfect time to set these ideas in motion. Spread this joy, this peace, this merriment. Keep the positive side of this humanity alive and I am certain you will find that you have squelched the extremists because of it. Believing in the power of humanity is the only “weapon” any of us will ever need to right the wrongs, gain the strength, and become joyous in every thing we say and do. There is always going to be suffering. People will get sick, people will be poor, people will have violence around them. It is all part of the human condition. There is always hope that a cure will be found, money will be earned, and the violence will end. There is hope because the birth of a Man on Christmas Day gave us that. Remembering the possibility of hope because we are all human is most times all we need. So have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, a Happy Kwanza and a wonderful, hopeful, peaceful New Year!