Life moves really quickly doesn’t it? One minute you’re a kid. Next minute (or so it seems) you’re having kids. Then your parents are the kids. And those 50 or 60 year olds that looked SO old to you when YOU were a kid, are now staring back at you in the mirror.
When the HECK did that happen?
Last weekend we held an estate sale at my parent’s home in Rome, where they had lived for over 50 years. My Dad built this house with his own hands. I vividly remember walking through the boards and debris when I was just 3. Lots of memories in that house.
For the last 7 years, since the death of my Dad, and my Mom years earlier, their good friends — the former Police Chief in Rome, Ed Cretaro and his wife Elvira (yes that REALLY was her name!) — were living in our family’s home. Ed passed away suddenly this past February, after his wife had passed a few months before.
Now it’s time for us to move on, clear out the belongings remaining from my Mom and Dad, and place the house for sale.
As we sort through the boxes and drawers, everyone is on the lookout for an old, green autograph book of mine that actually contains Robert Kennedy’s signature. My Dad, a Rome Patrolman for 30 years, escorted Bobby Kennedy when he was campaigning for his Senate seat way back when. My Dad threw the book to him in an open convertible as they were moving, while my Dad was on his motorcycle. It was freezing cold. Bobby Kennedy signed it and threw it back to my Dad, who actually caught it. The book has been missing for years, but I hoped that it might just turn up somewhere. I remember to this day what Bobby Kennedy wrote: “Wish you were one of my friends too. Are you?”
So many memories come flooding back. All the good times, family get-togethers, pool parties in the back yard, and of course, great home-cooked Italian food. My Dad had installed an in-ground pool in the back yard the day the astronauts landed on the moon in the 60s. We all watched it on a black and white TV. That pool became the focal point of family parties at our home for years to come. It was where we always gathered. My father wanted everyone there. It was when he was the happiest. He was a good guy, loved by many.
My Dad used to bring home “wayward” kids to eat with us and swim in the pool, during some of our family parties. Perfect strangers. Kids in trouble that he may have run into while on duty. He hoped to make some small difference in their lives. It was who he was.
And the holidays. How my Mom ever fit 26 people in that small dining room, fed everyone, and did all those dishes on Christmas without a dishwasher, is beyond me. I was the one who cleaned the shrimp we always had on Christmas Eve. It would have been a project I would have gladly handed off, but you don’t argue with an Italian woman in an apron.
When you get a bunch of full-blooded Italians in one place, there is always lots of laughing, circles of fruit, cigars, card playing and strong espresso. We all dressed up in our holiday clothes, because, well, that’s what you did.
And the cookies. My Mom loved to bake. I found her old cookbook with the recipes for her favorite cookies in her own handwriting, in the basement. Report cards from when we were all small. My brother’s old stuffed animal, now devoid of any fur coating at all. Bank statements that dated back to the stagecoach days. Well, maybe not that far back, but it seemed like it.
Relatives have come by and were welcome to take memories of their own: the swing glider my Dad used to sit on in the front yard was claimed by cousin Mick, the patriarch of our family once my Dad died. The grandfather clock went to one of my twin brothers. Mom’s piano came home with me.
And the pictures … old black and white ones with no markings. Some that are really, really old. Wish they were labeled. Some people we recognize. Others, no idea. And that’s sad.
What’s the message here? Take advantage of every day. Because time moves quicker than you think.
And, as you, my faithful readers expect, here are pictures from the card I created for Ed, Jr. of both my Mom and Dad (he’s the Italian looking guy in the black sweater, with his famous Dutch Master Panatela cigar — his favorite) and Ed and Elvira visiting them in Florida, capturing how I will always remember them.
And in the card, this is what was written:
“It’s so hard to believe they are gone from our lives. Such good times they shared together. And now, they are all together once again.”
If your parents are still with you, take a minute and give them a call, or even stop by for an unexpected visit if you can … just because.
And, if you are so inclined, send an unexpected card to them … on me.