Sunday, January 14, 2007

The Clouds Hang Heavy in the Sky

Sunny - Hi 60 Lo 41 for Baghdad, Iraq
Rain - Hi 51 Lo 46 for Northern KY, USA

Song of the week: Redwing, Hem


Somewhere I once read that January and February are the busiest months for funerals due to several factors such as the colder months are difficult on the elderly with influenza, upper respiratory infections and other bronchial afflictions, more accidents occur in the cold months. However, the reason that caught my eye... the person that is dying does not want to spoil the Christmas holiday for their loved ones so they literally will themselves to stay alive until after the holidays........

Last Friday, I traveled 12 hours with two of my coworkers from Northern Kentucky across six states to a small town 30 miles outside of New York City. We went, because someone we care for lost his mother after nearly a year of suffering with an inoperable cancer. To understand why me made the long trek you must first understand our affection for the son of this woman. Tony is a a colleague, a mentor, a protector, a friend. He at times is a caricature (intentionally) of what one would think of when you say American Italian New Yorker.... He is big in girth and even bigger in heart. He is generous with his heart and his time and although he doesn't discuss it, he is quietly generous with his wallet. He is active in his community which looks and feels like something straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting or Frank Capra movie. Everyone knows him. Everyone. Everyone adores him. I was told that if he ran for mayor in his hometown, he would win...."no problem." The love people have for this man speaks volumes to his character.

Tony is no saint. After all, he is the fellow that introduced me to Ketel One... smooth. He will say all the wrong things when I'm strung out due to the daily stress on the job... (for instance-- I am freaking over some deadline at work, then some ignoramus in management decides their freaking TPS report is more important than meeting a deadline on a 5 year government contract bid........) Tony in all his manly wisdom will tell me, "Relax........." OK--- now I know it's not just me... but the worst thing to tell a woman when she is frantic is "relax" or "calm down". He will yell scream and no doubt throw his arms all over when he is frustrated with me. However, if someone else upsets "his girls" he is all over them like a pit bull. No one messes with his girls... There is something to be said about loyalty... it has become a very rare thing...

Tony was raised in a loving home. His mother cooked and worried about everything and everyone. His father, who came from the old country, fought in WWII and then became a citizen. He was away from his family for four years fighting in the war before he could come home. Tony describes his father as the lover in the family- the one with the big heart and affection for everyone. He has one sister and she is identical in personality to Tony. Tony is married to a wonderful woman. Tony is approaching 60 and he has lived in the same town his whole life... He still maintains friendships with kids from his childhood...

One would think that Tony has led a charmed life and he has. However, he has had more than his fair share of tragedy. The biggest blow was when he lost his middle son to leukemia when he was only 20 years old. I had just started working with him. He has never gotten over the death of his son and I expect he never will. There are other sad, tragic tales that I could share about Tony, but I will tell you Tony gives Job a run for his money when it comes to tragedy. Despite all the awful events Tony has faced he has never given up. He has never lost hope. He has never lost his faith. He is the man that will quietly comfort someone else when they have lost a loved one. He's been there. He knows.

So, we decided to make the trip up to New York. I left my house at 5:30 in the morning and we were on our way by 6:30. I drove through Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania--- unbelievably long a$$ state, New Jersey and finally New York. It rained the whole way up and it was foggy for most of the trip... you know... from West by God Virginia to New Jersey. OK... now when someone has time, I'd very much like an explanation of the Pennsylvania Turnpike... what is that?? Good grief, I was ready to smack someone after driving that............... if you have never been... avoid it.... Anyway, we did not tell Tony we were coming up. He would have yelled and screamed at us and demanded we not go. I told a couple of my customers and got some help with finding accommodations. We pulled into the parking lot of the hotel at 6:30PM. Not bad time in crap weather with 4 potty breaks, and a late lunch at a McDonald's in Hellerton, PA.

Gino, another colleague of ours from Hartford, CT drove down to pay his respect and to also see to it that we were taken care of. We had a drink at the hotel bar and then Gino drove us to the funeral home a couple of miles away. Tony's mom was 81. Visitation had started the previous day, Thursday; we arrived on Friday evening about 8:00PM. The place was packed. In speaking to someone in line, she told me the line on Thursday went out the door and down the block. This, my friends, gives illustration to the love and respect this family has in their small community. As we stood in line to pray and pay respect, he spotted us. Big hugs for all of us, introductions, more hugs, Tony's Papa, more hugs, some ladies, more hugs, "Oh my Gawd, you drove!? You must be egsawwsted!" We were backing up the line. We went out on the porch of the funeral home to get some fresh air. It was so warm. Slowly folks started coming out on the porch asking for the whereabouts of the Angels from Cincinnati? More hugs, "I was told to not give any lip to the one called Cathy?" More hugs from strangers. We realized sitting there that we were starving. Gino wanted to take us out to dinner. One of the girls went inside to let Tony know we would see him tomorrow that we were going to grab something to eat. Tony tracked down his oldest son and instructed him to get us all over to Tony's house. There was apparently a ton of food there. When we got to Tony's home, we were greeted by more people, more hugs. They fed us... goooooooood yummy Italian food................ Ketel One on the rocks.......... perfection. Everyone was so touched by the fact that we drove up to be with Tony... They thought we were wonderful. HA! It's Tony- he's the one that is wonderful! Not us! We explained that we were his girls and we were very protective of him. That we could give him a hard time and yell and scream back at him, but anyone else, better run and hide... Tony simply makes that kind of impact on everyone. While eating, we heard tales of his childhood. We learned that this has been his modus operandi for his entire life-- Big tough guy exterior (visualize Good Fellas or the Sopranos) with a soft inside.

The funeral on Saturday morning was inspired and touched by God. I do believe that. I have never been to a Catholic funeral mass. It was beautiful. The pallbearers were Tony's childhood friends. The monsignor spoke about Tony's mother going to daily mass, how she was very particular about her routine. He spoke of her regular seat 5 pews back on the left end- that was her seat. When the monsignor looked, he stumbled over his words and commented to the congregation that her seat was empty. The church was standing room only.............but her spot was empty. Coincidence?

A woman sung Ave Maria and the clouds finally lifted and beams of sunlight came rushing through the stained glass rose window. The sun beams rested on Mrs. C's casket and sparkled in Tony's eyes as he gave the eulogy.

After the interment, everyone was invited to Tony's favorite restaurant. This scene was straight out of a gangster movie... I kid you not, one guy had on a knit jogging suit, with a sport jacket over top. We made our way to the bar where we were informed to order anything we wanted- diet coke... long drive ahead of us. Pictures of Tony and his family and his friends were all over the bar walls. We were then shuffled to a table. We met Tony's neighbors and 2 of his childhood friends. Strangers embraced us... thanked US for coming... More stories. More hugs. More laughs. More tears. More remembrances.

It's odd............ the three of us decided to go. It wasn't an option, we were compelled to go. We felt it was important to let Tony know how much we care for him. We wanted to be there for him because he is always there for us. What happened was what was most unexpected. In our attempt to reach out to Tony and his family and mourn the loss of his beloved mother, we were embraced by his wife and sons and Aunt Susie, Uncle Tony, Aunt Therese, Uncle Joe and the rest of his extended family and friends not to mention his entire town. I can not begin to put into words how wonderful it was to be part of that kind of love and support and to celebrate a life lived. We walked away with so much more. I'm richer for going. There is goodness in the world... it's in the fiber of this country... the family, the small towns, the hearts and minds of the people of this land-the Tony's in our lives...

Photo of Mt. Kisco courtesy of Jeffrey Hall


Did you notice I have been playing You Tube videos? Simple fix on IE... I downloaded the latest version of Adobe... if you can not see You Tube videos on blogs... go to You Tube and click on help... there you can get the latest version of Adobe to download... I still don't know why I can't see them using Firefox.........

I stole the Snap link pop ups from Basil's Blog. Pretty cool huh?

P.S. Now, being in New York you would think that we would have had a political conversation and my head would have exploded because of the liberal slant on everything. I'm here to report in this small town... flags were flying at half staff for President Ford... the conversations at the restaurant revolved around being taxed to death and "Gawd help us if Hillary should get elected president". By the way I was spitting distance from Chappaqua. We thought about stopping in and seeing Bill and Hill, but decided against it...


Hey, was that you floating past the tree-line?
Hey, was that a feather in your hand?
No I don't mean to ask these questions
No I don't mean to rush your heart
I swear I saw this accidentally
No I don't mean to start

Hey, the rain falls straight into the sidewalk
Hey, the clouds hang heavy in the sky
But I don't want to still believe in
The gravity of solid ground
The world below is not so big
That it can keep us down

We are standing on the rooftops
We are circling like sparrows
We are tiny, we are trembling,
Scared of everything
But the heart is still a red wing

Fly above the houses and the schoolyards
And fly until you cannot feel the Earth
No I don't mean that it's so easy
And I don't mean that it's so small
But the world below is not so mean
That it can make us fall

We are standing on the rooftops
We are circling like sparrows
We are tiny, we are trembling,
Scared of everything
But the heart is still a red wing

Have a great week everyone!


Jedi Master Rob said...

A wonderful post. The sentiment was conveyed flawlessly in due time. I'm glad you didn't rush it.

To Tony, the memory of his mother, and you - a toast of Ketel One on the rocks.

(Thanks for the Ketel One, by-the-way.)

Cathy said...

Ketel's smooooth.....