Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Day 2011

I never thought that I would, in my life time, be making a grave blanket for my son.  He helped me make the ones for my mom - picking out decorations, cutting the wire or tying it to the branch stems from the trimmings. If time permitted he drove with me to my mom's grave and kept me company.

Christmas Mourning

The presents are placed under the tree,
An empty spot where your gifts were to be
Christmas lights twinkle in the tree,
Carols play on the radio I sit in the dark, sullen and tearful
Pieces of the tree crafted in memorial to share
Our cat stops to brush up against my leg
Tears feel hot rolling down my cheek
Saint Nick finishes up his route
His list finished for boys and girls alike
Scrooge finds redemption before the morning sun
No ghosts have visited me this Christmas Eve
How I miss you!
Your laughter, your smile – All lost to be preserved in still frame
My son, my boy – you were my joy
One day we will have Christmas in Heaven together

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Tim's Christmas Grave Blanket

Tim's Grave Blanket
Home Made from trimmings from our Christmas Tree; ornaments picked by his family.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Where Are You Christmas?

Christmas 2011 is nearly here.  The presents are wrapped and stowed away until Santa comes and lays them under the tree on Christmas Eve while the dance of sugar plum fairies commences in the dreams of my daughters.  The tree is up, decorated and lit – each ornament has an origin.  Some received on the advent of one of the kids first Christmas; others as gifts to each one of my kids found in the stockings that are hung on the mantel.

This year's celebratory preparations were forced more from the need to have a resemblance of normalcy.  The trimmings from the tree collected and set aside to bring a piece of Christmas as a grave blanket to Tim and my mother.  Miniature decorations selected because of color and sentiment.  Even selecting the tree and cutting it down was an effort that had a venom coursing through my blood and a curse with each breath and stroke of the saw as it bit into the trunk of the tree.  Still I had to do what was necessary for Tim’s sisters, his mother, and me.  The Christmas music playing on the radio doesn’t have the same connection to my soul as is did from Tim’s first Christmas.  I think of the last line of Greg Lake’s song “I Believe in Father Christmas.”

Hallelujah Noel be it Heaven or Hell,
The Christmas you get you deserve

I wonder if this is true.  This first Christmas without my son, is it something I or any bereaved parent deserves?  I wonder if the Ghost of Christmas Present were to visit me, with his torch and cornucopia of celebration and joy, would he ask me if I truly invited his brothers into my home.  I could answer “No, Spirit, I only allowed the previous fifteen brothers into my home – if only for a short visit.  I had to work against the children fettered to your robe Ignorance and Want.”

Angel wings of etched and cut glass, along with silhouette of an angel adorn the tree.  A star, fashioned with lights at home after finding the perfect shape and contour at a store is set atop.  Spider-Man ornaments dangle from various branches – gifts Tim received from his mother and me.  We could have not used them, but we did because it truly would not have been a Christmas tree without his presence.

I complained I wasn’t feeling anything from the trees we looked at in the tree farm.  We planned to visit one and move on to others we found in a directory of tree farms in search of a tree.  However the girls found two matching Christmas sleighs for decorations.  If it was by chance, guidance, or luck, we didn’t find a tree that satisfied what we wanted and we left.  With a list programmed into the GPS, we continued our quest and more or less stumbled on a tree farm we didn’t have in our list.

It was late afternoon, while walking through the tree farm, I said aloud, “I miss you!  I wish you were here to help find a tree.”  I thought of how Tim would quote movie lines from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  Unknown to me at the time, Gi was saying similar.  There was no choir of angels or divine light beaming down when we found the tree among the hundreds – only an amber and crimson sky as the sun began to descend, the cry of Canadian geese as a flock flew in a V formation overhead.  Despite the calendar and encroaching chill, it doesn’t seem like Christmas.

The only thing I am sure of is the reality that my son is not asleep in his room, and my love for him.  The one thing I know this holiday season is that each and every time I stepped into a store to get the girls their gifts, I couldn’t help but pick up an item and think Tim, if you were here you would love getting this.  If you were here we would be having Nerf sword fights in the aisle – acting more like Inspector Clouseau and Kato than Christmas shoppers.

As I begun typing, Faith Hill was singing “Where Are You Christmas?” and I was thinking exactly that as I listened.  However, I do remember...



Monday, December 12, 2011

Worldwide Candle Lighting December 11, 2012

A candle lit to remember you to the world
A flame that can not be extinguished in my heart
You are forever loved, my son
You will be forever fifteen
Even with Angels gathered around you
My heart is broken, my tears still flow
My love for you will never ebb, my resilience came from you

~Martin Connors

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Father-Son Chat July 26, 1995

So I sat on this stool, on July 26, 1995 sometime about 9:30 PM, holding this little human-being as he suckled on the nursing bottle. I told him how his mother and I met, how we came to living together, how much I loved her. I made promises to him that only a daddy can promise.  I told him how he came to be, and what happened some nine months or so before his birth.

Nick Delassandro owned a small diner and was huge part of the Ventnor City community. The whole beach community ate breakfast at his shop, deals by politicians were brokered at any one of booth tables, coffee poured by a waitress that won the multi-million dollar lottery and used the payout for her husband to have a much needed surgery and finally could breath without the weight of debt on her wages. Nick was family to my family. His son, Nick, Jr. was my brother’s best man.

The senior Nick videotaped everyone dancing to the Pointer Sister’s “We are Family” when he collapsed. My mom tapped me on the shoulder and told me to help Nick up, thinking that he slipped. Another friend of my brother’s, Glenn Magill, came over.

“He’s not breathing.” Glenn knelt at mid-chest.

“Starting CPR.” I looked around as other guests and family gathered around. “Someone call the ambulance. Everyone backup!” Another Ventnor kid knelt at Nick’s head and attempted to give rescue breaths. He was becoming upset and couldn’t continue. In Ventnor Middle School, we were taught CPR in the 7th Grade. Our Gym teacher, Mrs. Keys, had an uncanny resemblance to the Resusci Annie doll – including the blue sweat suit with white race stripes and white tennis shoes. Sometimes, I wonder if that is why I became an EMT before becoming a cop.

Glenn Magill and I began CPR and rescue breathing. I kept saying to Nick, Sr. between breaths and compressions “Stay with us, Nick. Don’t let the fucker win!”

A few moments later, I felt the soft patting on my shoulder from a responding medic. I stood as he put the Bag-Valve-Mask on Nick’s face, delivering oxygen from a tank with the squeeze of the football like bag. Another medic tore open Nick’s undershirt, placing leads to the portable defibrillator and monitor on Nick’s now exposed chest. I looked at the monitor, seeing the uneven pattern of ventricular tachycardia. “He’s in V-Tac.”

My mother told me to go outside with Gigi. She figured that if Nick was not to survive, it was pointless for me punish myself by witnessing the medic attempt to jolt Nick’s heart into a sinus rhythm. I stepped outside to find a Galloway Township cop backing the ambulance, with the hedges blocking the backdoors just so he could park his Crown Vic in the lot.

“They won’t be able to get the stretcher in with the doors block.” I said this to the cop pointing at the hedges and the back of the rig. “You have to move it up.”

“That’s not my job.” The cop walked with the Barney Fife stride, grabbing his Jim Brown garrison belt, and pulling his trousers up.

Not his job? It wasn’t his fucking job to move the rig in the first place.

I jumped in the driver seat, and looked to my left, as I grabbed the steering wheel, to find Barney Fife standing in an isosceles stance. His knuckles were white as he gripped the handle of his still holstered gun.

“Sir, get out of the ambulance, NOW!”

“Are you going to move the ambulance or am I? Because if my friend dies, I will make sure his family sues you and your department.”

I guess he figured he was wrong, or the thought of being the target of a wrongful death lawsuit must have entered his mind. He nodded and I got out of the rig to stand to the side. The cop moved the ambulance back to its original position and was immediately scolded by the fire chief for being in the ambulance and why it was positioned the way it was. Someone had told the chief about the cop moving the ambulance the first time.

My stomach was churning, and I felt the dry heaves of nervous nausea rip apart my lungs. I walked to the back of the building and vomited, feeling pain as I took in each breath and spewed. Gigi rubbed my back and helped me stand. I went back into the building, only to be confronted by my father yelling about how right the cop was and how I was almost arrested. I held my ground. The cop was wrong…Period. After this it was followed by a dozen or so “Fuck Me? Fuck you!” and other exchanges of the explicative nature.

I walked away and heard him say “Don’t come home either, you ungrateful shit.”

I had never backed away from a fight, but by this time I was 29, and learned from martial arts and experience sometimes it is better to be thought an asshole and walk away than bring myself to the lower level and have it proven. In the end, I moved in with Gigi, became a daddy, got married, and with Glenn Magill gave Nick, Sr. eight more years to see a few more grandchildren born. I saw Glenn again at Nick’s funeral at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Margate. We were thanked for the additional years by Nick’s family, but I felt uncomfortable receiving any praise. There was no need. Even when Glenn and I were handed plaques for heroism by the Galloway Township PBA, there was no need. I didn't want the plaque; I did as was expected of me. It wasn’t until I buried my own mother, and carried her from church to hearse, from hearse to grave, that I understood their pain that October night, 1994. Nicky, Jr. helped me and my brothers carry her.

Once in awhile, when I drive down, I stop where Nick’s shop was on Portland Avenue, just off of Ventnor Avenue, behind the old Gulf Station. I remember when I was a kid, being paid a dollar or a hamburger to take out the trash. I remember how Nick would play the oldies and reminded me of Vic Tayback from “Alice.” Maybe it was because he was a decent man, a good dad, and kind heart who just happened to own a greasy-spoon like Mel Sharples.