I’ve never made any secret of the fact that I’ve always considered September 11, 1971 quite a major watershed moment in my lifetime. I was on the verge of turning twelve years old and had virtually always, for as long as I could remember, lived in Jackson Heights in Queens until then. On that date my parents, Mary Anne and I moved to Lindenhurst, two counties away in Suffolk County, in the middle of Long Island, on the south shore. To this very day I can still remember having made up my mind, in quite a determined manner, to make it quite clear that I may have been in Lindenhurst but I would always consider myself from Jackson Heights. Some people, upon being bombarded with such a seemingly infinite supply of cold turkey irrevocable changes, seem to thrive on such an adventure. I found it all entirely too nerve racking. Upon my having said good-bye to St. Gabriel’s in East Elmhurst, I went to Copiague Junior High School for two weeks. From then on I went to Our Lady of Perpetual Help Elementary School, in Lindenhurst, until the end of the eighth grade. Perhaps I would always have been an excessively shy neurotic with all sorts of lopsided ways anyway, even if I would never have moved at the beginning of my adolescence. That much change, in that short a time, didn’t help though. Eventually by the time I started high school, I no longer minded all the new circumstances. The best thing about someone’s being a high school freshman is that he’s only one among many other freshmen. During my first two years in Lindenhurst, though, I was practically the only new kid there. There was a girl named Cindy in my class at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, who started the same day I did, but everyone else was already an established member of the old guard. The other most memorable moments in my life were when my parents both died, at eighty years old, within forty five days of each other, last autumn. In November 2012 my mother started getting very violently ill with cancer. She was forced to spend the next ten months constantly going back and forth to Medical Oncology Associates in Kingston, the Geisinger Hospital and General Hospital in Wilkes Barre, and John Heinz Institute of Rehab in Kingston. She died on September 23. My father died around a month and a half later, at the Veteran’s Hospital, on November 7, of a heart attack. Everyone knows this brings about quite a significant change in an individual’s life. I was forced into making quite a lot of significant decisions and changes that would have been otherwise entirely unnecessary.
Because of their having lived until I was fifty four years old, their having always been around had most certainly been quite a significant part of my identity. Their good and bad qualities, character strengths and defects are now all in the past tense. One of the properties this had in common with the move to Lindenhurst from Jackson Heights was its irrevocable, cold turkey nature. Surprisingly, although I’ve never dealt very well with stress, I got through all the hospital trips and both funerals fairly well. Whatever I was supposed to do, I must have done in an acceptable manner. What still boggles my mind is that things go on and neither of them is available anymore. All the things that transpired between November 2012 and November 2013 are now permanently embedded into my memory. Like a change of address this milestone marks the beginning of a new era of my life and even a new identity for me.
A while after my mother’s death my father and I got things ready to put a marker upon her grave. We only got a few chances to visit her grave together and to take care of a few official details. He died on November 7, 2014, forty five days after her death, after having been suddenly taken ill. He was rushed to the Veteran’s Hospital in Wilkes Barre and died there. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to see him on his last day because he told me on the phone, at about 7:30 a.m. , not to bother to drive to the hospital in the bad weather. It was raining and very foggy that day. I went to the hospital after his death to sign some paperwork and to make official arrangements to get certain things done. Uncle Frankie, Fran, and Mary Anne and her family all showed up a very short time after his death to help with the funeral arrangements. His funeral, as well as my mother’s was at Our Lady of Sorrows Church at St. Monica’s Parish on Eighth Street in West Wyoming, and Gubbiotti’s Funeral Home in Exeter. Father Leo McKernan celebrated the Mass. Many of the same people at his wake and funeral had also attended hers. Because he was a veteran of the Korean Conflict, there was a very impressive military honors ceremony, with some men from AMVETS, at the gravesite. The aftermath of each death was a busy time because of all the people calling and visiting and all the extra responsibilities that accompany that kind of change. I spent my first Thanksgiving since my parents’ deaths at cousin Michelle’s house in Dallas. All of Aunt Lauren’s family were there. I spent Christmas with Mary Anne and her family in Long Beach and have been here ever since then. Life without either of my parents has brought with it many very drastic changes.
The weirdest thing happened last week. One day, during the middle of the week, my father & I went on one of his usual jaunts to the Veteran’s Hospital in Wilkes Barre for his check up. I always have to drive him there. As I pulled into the parking space I wanted, the guy directly opposite me said we needed a new right rear brake light. That wasn’t the highlight of the trip. On the way down River Road in Plains we always have to pass over a railroad track that doesn’t have a gate that comes down when the train is on its way. There’s one like that on Eighth Street in West Wyoming too. As we passed by the track he made a comment about how there was an accident between a train & a car. The next morning, in the Citizen’s Voice, I read an article about the accident. There’s a couple, Rocco & Liz, in their seventies, who attend St. Monica’s Church on a regular basis. Liz was the driver of the car. She’s seventy~eight years old. Amazingly, although her car was totalled, Rocco said she went away from the accident, after only a brief time in the Geisinger Hospital, with minor bruises on her nose & wrist. That’s most certainly the luckiest break I’ve ever heard of. The meetings at St. Barbara’s Parish, St. Anthony’s Church in Exeter, have been going really well so far on Tuesday nights. Oblates Brother Patrick McLaughlin hasn’t been available for the past few weeks because he’s visiting his family in Albany, N.Y. Fr. Phil Massetti has been covering for him. We have a big crowd each week. That girl Mallory is the only one we’ve lost so far. Last night was her last night. She is moving to North Carolina. Today is cousin Jamie’s birthday. Jerry Garcia, of the Grateful Dead, would have turned seventy years old if he could have lived until today. Tomorrow’s birthday girls are cousins Fran & Elaine.