Pride in Port: A Legacy

Pride in Port: A Legacy

The continuation of a legacy has always been very important to me, particularly continuing the legacy that my family has created within the Port Washington Fire Department. Starting with my grandfather, John “Jay” Alexander, joining the Protection Engine Company, with my father’s cousins, John and Bobby Gennusa, following shortly after. Next, my father, Donald Alexander, became a member, and quickly rose to the office of Captain within the company. My mother, a former firefighter from Glenwood, joined the Fire Medics Company after meeting my father in the department. Each of those names, each of those family members, all passed down a legacy, from one person to another, and have placed it in my hands today.

I was always destined to follow the legacies of those before me. Despite being named after my grandfather, John Alexander, I was also named after my father’s aforementioned cousin, John Gennusa. John passed away due to health complications while in the prime of his life, and my parents saw it fit to bestow his name upon me in his honor. John’s legacy, however, was one that was very hard for me to uphold. I wasn’t a firefighter, I didn’t have children, and I had no athletic ability. I didn’t play softball for the PWFD, as he did for many years. My father joined the team after John’s death and took on his number, 77, for his jersey. One of my brothers took on 77 for his baseball number, the other taking it on for lacrosse. I never had the necessity to have a “number,” which discouraged me: how could I possibly make him proud if I couldn’t properly follow his legacy?

In April 2019, I was sworn in as the 6th member of my family to join the Port Washington Fire Department. My photo is on the wall with that of my grandfather, my father, and my cousins. Finally, I was following John’s legacy by joining the same company that he, and all of my other family members had joined. The next day, we looked at the roster for Protection. Listed was every single active member in the company. My name, placed last on the list, as I was the newest member, came in at number 77.

My Pride in Port is passed down like a legacy. The pride that my family has in serving the community cannot be satisfied by a parade or a plaque, or even by uproarious applause. Our pride comes from the members of the Port Washington Fire Department, the members of our family, that have served before us. We pass it down to each new member of the department, the Pride in Port that exists when serving your community with your family behind you the whole time.

I never did find the BBQ Sauce

Trace Adkins Lyrics

“Your Gonna Miss This”

You’re gonna miss this
You’re gonna want this back
You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast
These Are Some Good Times
So take a good look around
You may not know it now 

But you’re gonna miss this

I know I know, I will indeed miss this one day.  But as the last few weeks of the end of the school year have been passing by I am struggling with the thought of missing this chaos. While I do have my wonderful husband to help me through all that life has to throw my way, is he really worrying about all this stuff?  So in the last few weeks I have jotted down the thoughts of a Mom as the end of the school year approaches.  2020 brings my oldest to graduate High School and my nephew MJ to start Kindergarten.  Good luck to my sister whom will now not only be the teacher but the parent at this end of school madness.  Can you relate?

Do you have your Math Calculator?

#2 pencil?  Is it sharpened?

A snack?

When’s your next orthodontist appointment?

Wait did you get a physical yet this year you need one to enter 9th grade.  Are you up on all your shots?

Wait is the dog up on all her shots?

I think I threw out your flash cards. Shit.

Make sure you drink enough water.

Potato chips do not provide protein, please bring another snack.

Did anyone feed the dog?

I know that your 15 and 6’ tall and the lunch lady only gives you three chicken nuggets… what do you want from me, order two lunches.

I know you have no more socks, I am tired of matching them go see if Dad has any in his dresser.

Anyone remember where I put the pool passes from last year?

I am sorry that I am not one of those “good parents” who show up to everything with bags of non-generic treats and Pinterest-style crafts in tow. Take your stop and shop brand water and stop and shop brand pretzels and get the hell to school. I bitterly assume all four grandparents live nearby to help whenever they’re needed. 

I am only gonna unload the top of the dishwasher and reload it again and turn it on, I am too tired to unload the bottom don’t tell Dad.

Do you know the end of school year bus schedule because I am not getting your ass in the middle of the day, actually you know what here is a metro card, take the bus.

Does your bathing suit still fit?  You better go try it on cause if it doesn’t your gonna end up at the pool in your boxers.

Please go get your hair cut, looks like you have a helmet on your head and graduation is next week.

I am sorry today is wear purple day in honor of something I am sure is very important but we don’t own one, ask your Grandmother it is her favorite color.

You do know if you do not pass your regents you can’t graduate High School.

Cleaning the boys sheets this week – found three socks I was missing.  #winning

Thank GOD Johnny is driving.  We are in need of a third body to get the gang all over town, wearing whatever attire they need, with whatever they need with whatever friends are joining them. 

Oh crap Christian is graduating, did I buy him a yearbook?

Listen kids if I get a notice from any librarian that there is an overdue book fee for the end of the year YOU are paying.

For the love of God did I renew your trumpet?  What about your clarinet?  Should have bought these friggin things in the first place I think combined its cost $4000 to rent. 

Why is there microwave popcorn and a can of soda under your bed??? Late night studying??? I am guessing NOT.

Family announcement – The checkbook, debit card and American Express have come out regularly this time of year. There have been teacher gifts, graduation gifts, multiple fines for anything you kids can’t seem to find, religion teacher gifts, coach gifts, prom flowers, prom suit alterations, prom tickets, travel baseball balance due, camp balance due, deposits for next year’s trips, graduation party fee, Confirmation gown fee, Confirmation Party, AP exam fees, Renewal fees for instruments, Summer show fees etc.  So NO we are not getting new sneakers that’s what flip flops are for.

START YOUR SUMMER READING NOW.

In these final weeks of school, sorry kids you will walk around in clothes that are too small, not-quite-clean, or simply inappropriate for the weather. And I won’t find the motivation to care.  Sorry

John just texted that he wrote a total of 40 essays for his Junior year.  Where did this kid come from?  I am fairly certain that this kid is capable of doing anything in the world he wants to.

Breakfast feeds your brain please eat something Christian, test taking needs energy.

If you fail you do know you will have to attend summer school and I will not be driving so you will need to walk, or take the bus so do me a favor and don’t fail.  Thanks

I have a profound need for a nap, but I can’t I have to go clean my car before your Dad gets home.  It’s in desperate need of a car wash and I need to unload discarded food bags, muddy sports equipment, empty water bottles, jock straps, sneakers, cleats and I think some BBQ sauce I could smell yesterday. I really need to find the BBQ sauce. 

Blues and Blahs 2019

Here we are again in the long and cold New York winter.  Trying to make the best of the tail end of winter and suffering from the February Blues or ‘Blahs’. It’s the time of year when we’ve had enough of hibernating inside away from the cold and often dreary outdoors, short days and lack of sunshine.  The gloomy days of February are mirrored in my life as the month brings me much sadness, anxiety, low energy and zero motivation.  This year February brings even more sadness as I remember February 19, 2003.  You see the 19th is my Fathers birthday.  I can remember that day stopping by to see my Dad to have some birthday dinner with him with my 11 month old baby Johnny.  On the next day February 20, 2003 we lost my Mom suddenly.  My eternally youthful mother.  For years and years the birthday card she gave him sat a top of the very large 1999 projection screen TV in the den on Maple Street.  She was pulled off this earth in an instant and on June 21, 2018 so was Dad.  At age 42 I was left an orphan and February is even darker than before.

Coupled with the normal anxiety the month, I have been dealing with the after effects of MRSA that hospitalized me on and off for three months this fall.  This infection took a heavy toll on me and left pretty deep scars, physically and emotionally.  Not being in control of what is going on with your body… nothing makes you feel more helpless.  Most nights are sleepless for me.  Crippled with the terrible anxiety that the infection will return for the THIRD time. 

The snow is old, it’s cold, I mourn my Mother all over again and now my Father.  It’s the cruelest month.  But this year rather than hunkering down and waiting for the month to pass, I am trying to be present and remember the lessons this month and this past year may teach me.  So like a Mr. Punxatawney Phil the groundhog wherein we hope for the release of winter’s purgatory, I have not seen my shadow.

Yesterday the New York Yankees reported to Tampa for spring training.

The relief of spring and brighter days ahead is on the horizon.

Like an insult, I take February personally. Like an Italian, I take it to heart.

The luckiest unlucky woman on earth.

9/5/2018 What’s that scar on your leg from? Is it new ? Oh wait what is that scar on your other leg? the emergency room nurse asks. “Uhh . . . you should have seen the other guy,” I say, which is ridiculous, really, because I despise when people say that. I despise that phrase in particular and I despise clichéd cover-ups in general, but I say it anyway. I’m not going to tell this nurse the hour long story of my 43 years and my 13 surgeries. I am in too much pain. But I had to tell her my story. I pull out my phone it sadly holds a note on all my surgeries and all my medications.

When I became twentysomething with an array of medical issues (umbilical hernia repair, incisional hernia repair, kidney stones – days before my sister’s wedding, hysterectomy , MRSA, torn ligaments and ruptured Achilles) to name a few – an improbable series of health crises that swiftly changed my idea of youth. And because my father, who’d had muscular dystrophy,emphysema, lung infections, asbestosis and more, I became even more aware of the ways that different people react to their bodies. Unlike my father, though, I want very much to live.

What ended being a one week stay this time found that the MRSA has returned from five years ago. The mesh in my abdominal cavity has attached to my small bowel and there is a possibility of a fistula. It was determined through Infectious disease and my general surgeon I could be released after a drain was placed in my pelvis and I’d be on massive antibiotics for three months to kill this nasty bug. Just another note in my medical history to be entered into my phone.

9/19/2018

I’m back – waking up from a nap with a 101.8 fever and an abdominal cavity that felt like a balloon ready to pop, off I went back to the emergency room. My sister in law Suzanne drove me and stayed with me as I cried and cried and cried. Why me? What’s next? The pain is unbearable, my poor husband, my kids are worried, here we go again. I want my MOMMY!!! My job – my multiple jobs, the loss of my income from my side business, my husband loosing days of work without pay, my life yet again came abruptly to a stop. She rubbed my legs and cleared the tears from my cheeks. She really had no words, nobody does. Nobody understands, nobody knows what to say or do anymore. Donald came after he finished cooking dinner and making sure all homework was done. He and his sister had no words to each-other we all just can’t believe this. Suzanne and Laura did a switch and Laura came in and Suzanne went home where my wonderful Mother in Law holds down the fort. These girls now have their own babies to care for, they both have spent many years caring for me and my children during my many sicknesses. They know the routine. I continued to cry and with each sob the pain in my belly got worse and they tried to calm me down as none of this was going to make the pain go away. As I write the tears run down my face I miss my brother he is so far away and besides my Mother he is the only one who truly knows how to calm my soul. God blessed me with wonderful siblings, my own and Donald’s we have all grown up together. They have all given me my greatest joys my nieces and nephews and nothing makes me happier then to be with them. Stephen and Kim’s daughter Ava texted me yesterday checking on me. The smile on my face forced my nurse to ask what just happened she hadn’t seen me smile. A reminder of what’s most important in life is to be surrounded by the ones you love. When trouble comes it’s the ones you love that will support you.

9/26/2018

I wake to a thunderstorm and soaking wet sheets from my bodies attempt to get rid of a fever last night. I’m attached at both arms to machines at the moment one is a pain management pump and the other is dripping a heavy duty antibiotic Vancomyocine to rid my body of the MRSA. I am also secured to a tube allowing me to use the bathroom from bed along with a wound vacuum that works to constantly clear the infection. There are drains and drawings all over my belly. It’s all so amazing that here I am 5 years later doing this again. I was able to walk to my chair yesterday and the bathroom and did a few laps around my room. A huge accomplishment being only 24 hours after my abdominal cavity was cut open for the 7th time in my 43 years.

9/27/18

Another painful night full of fevers and gas pains. When they open up your abdominal cavity one of the biggest issues patients have is the inability to get rid of gas. On top of this I had to have part of my bowel removed and put together again so we need to make sure it’s working again. I haven’t eaten in days I am not even one bit hungry.

It’s been 9 days. NINE long painful anxious days.

9/28/18 day 10 at the St. Francis hotel. While the room service is superb and the under 25 year old super cute nurses occupy my husband. I really want out. I was seen by surgery and infectious disease this morning and I’m one bowl movement away from breaking outta here. The wound vac was removed and the last dose of vancomycin is invading my central line at this moment. Tonight I should be home. Fighting for the boys to help me and kissing my puppy. It’s just where I want to be. I hope and pray that this truly is the end of a long road for me over the last 10 years and most specifically this past year. Thank you for the phone calls, texts FB messages, meals and love. My life is blessed with the best.

Rest Easy Daddy

I can’t seem to sleep, I am up all night with mini panic attacks replaying the last weeks of my Fathers life in my head.  I describe the last week like a record player…. the needle lays down to play the music and as the record spins so does my head…. spinning and spinning the thoughts of the last weeks.  The record is over and the needle picks up and it plays again.  I just can’t stop spinning.  The questions and speculations swirl in my head and likely will be doing so for quite sometime.

I’m feeling a bit selfish as well because I want my dad back. Well I want my 1999 dad back.  I’m selfish to think that there’s something I could have said or done that would have kept him around longer. I’m selfish to think that his love for us could have trumped his depression. I’m selfish to keep asking “why” when I know I’ll never get the answer.

For now I will try and enjoy life, work to slow the spinning and try and seek joy. Oh and I promise to never ever leave my family wondering.

My father had a choice. He chose to leave. Janice didn’t have a choice, she did NOT choose to leave. An orphan at 42 years old.  Yes I am angry.

Friends have asked me to share my eulogy.  Its not edited and was written on my phone mostly on my flight home from Florida in April.  I knew this was coming.

 

Hello my name is Christina Ann Marvullo Alexander and I am an adult child of an alcoholic.  A remembrance of my days where Mom and Dad had me attend al anon meetings as a child.  Our Father was a 30 plus year member of the 12 step program that worked on a model that you can not maintain sobriety unless the drunk surrenders to a higher power became a staple of our everyday life as both my Father and my brother are friends of Bill W.  Our alcoholic family was one of chaos, inconsistency and sometimes unclear roles. I think that’s what has happened to me my husband tells me I think I am everyone’s MOTHER!

 

The death of someone whom is essentially a hard person to love is complicated.  The death of a person with whom you have had a broken relationship means now that relationship can never really be repaired.  My Father was himself too a broken person but Laura and Joey and I are left with what remains and we now begin the process of making peace with it.

 

I have often thought about what I would feel like in this moment.  Because ever since I was a little girl our Dad was sick. Sick with a physical disease and dealing with addiction  struggling with sobriety and what I can now see as struggling with mental illness. In thinking about this day it has opened up many places inside of me revealing long hidden places that hold both anger and joy.

 

Every parent wishes to pass along some wisdom to their children and our Dad was no different.  As I sat and considered what I would write today I tried to focus on the lessons I have learned from him.

As a child I never really thought much about our trip to concerts, backyard listening to baseball games on the radio while working in the garden or our fishing adventures.  In retrospect, however, I now understand that Dad was – consciously or not – imparting some useful lessons on life.

 

Long before there were i phones or satellite radio or any of these highly addictive electronics to keep children entertained and planted on the family couch for hours.  Fishing was my Dad’s method of spending time with me and teaching me something that he loved. Reading the Newsday and checking the schedule of the incoming tides was a daily routine.  Then off we would go to do some fishing. Now the drive there was usually me in the front seat with a six pack of miller light between us. The beer wasn’t even placed in a cooler and the thought of me wearing a seat belt was not something that crossed his mind.

The days were long and hot but I learned how to celebrate the success of the catch but more importantly I learned about waking up ridiculously early, how to purchase bait, prepping for the day and sometimes we wouldn’t catch a single fish.  I suppose this is what I learned – how to accept failure and patience. The lessons were that waiting and waiting was just another variable in my Dad’s meticulously constructed equation on how catch a fish.

 

Gardening was another love of his, all done while listening to the New York Yankees on the radio.  Well if Janice was outside she would change the station to listen to the New York Mets and that my friends began my love for the sport.  Baseball like fishing were his perfect summer companion, the game has a rhythm that mirrors summer – the pace is gradual and sometimes slow and often laid back.  Fitting as Dad passed away on the summer solstice the longest day of the year, my beloved first day of summer. Indeed these sounds of summer ring in my head when thinking of Dad – from the shed radio where an umpire calling balls and strikes to a vendor hawking hot dogs and peanuts , these sounds come loud and clear in my mind.  The sprinkler running on his beloved garden as Joey and Laura and I along with our neighborhood friends would slide down the lawn on our famous yellow slip and slide .

 

Music was another of his passions.  Rides in the car always had a 8 track in of Billy Joel or Led Zeppelin or Willie Nelson or many of his doo wop favorites.  Singing along was Janice whom most don’t know took vocal lessons for years and had a beautiful voice. I can still hear her sing Barbara Streisand and my Father sang the Bee Gees part and funny Donald and I do the same thing today.   We went to countless concerts together the best being Eric Clapton and Elton John he took my friend Alexandra and I and we were in awe of the whole experience. Dad went to see Willie Nelson a few months back calling to tell his son in laws Donald and Mike all about it and wondering how much longer that old goat would be on stage.

 

Joe Monroe as he sometimes was called or also known as the boss – had a huge loving family.  Too many Marvullo’s to count. But in the end it was his six grandsons that made him smile the most.  John Joseph whom was named after him, Daniel who just a month ago chose Joseph as his confirmation name, Christian (that was his middle name), Michael Joseph who too was named after him and babies Antonio and Max.  A few more boys and we can make a baseball team! He was so proud when the spoke of those boys I think the thought of that being his biggest accomplishment. When we told the boys of his passing Daniel said “but he said that he would come back up and help me perfect my curve ball.”  MJ said but we were going to have ice cream Nina but now the is an Angel with Nanny Janice.

 

You died exceptionally early Daddy, the young and fit and handsome man I see in the garden picking your beloved tomatoes died  when you lost your beloved Janice and that man had been replaced with someone we really didn’t know for the last fifteen years.   A man you didn’t really even know for the last fifteen years either.

 

So as we head into the dog days of summer where the calendar turns faster then we would all like and playoff races heat up in major league baseball I encourage you to stop and LISTEN to a baseball game, turn on some old tunes on the radio, head to Joe’s beloved Long Island Sound, throw in a line, sit and listen to the boats go by.  For we shall not pass this way again.

 

 

Dear Johnny Angel

Johnny Angel how I love YOU.  The song that my late Mother would sing to you when you would cry at night during the first few weeks on earth.  Our first born son came to us one day before we celebrated our two year wedding anniversary on March 30,2002.  An early Easter Bunny and a reminder of the foundation of our Christian faith. The resurrection established Jesus as the powerful Son of God and now I have given birth to my first son.  Easter includes some of the most ancient and universal symbols of birth, nature, fertility, birth and re-birth, hence the rabbit and the egg.   In the Old Testament, the firstborn son was the one who normally received a double inheritance, and was the one who would inherit his father’s role as head of the family.  I’m not so sure about the double inheritance  thing, but you are certainly  in the early learning stages of making your way to take on you’re Father’s role as the family head.

Now right about now Johnny is reading this saying why is my Mom writing about ME?  The answer is simply I am in constant awe of your accomplishments and the young man you are.  My son you are a:

Deep critical thinker

Dependable

Have a thirst for knowledge beyond anyone I’ve known

Have deep empathy for others

Honest

Passionate

Curious

Creative

Confident

Humble

To name a few.

I have met many fathers who want their boys to follow in their athletic footsteps. Either to potentially fill the void they were not able to fill when it was their time to shine or to continue the legacy they started years beforehand.  There are also many Mothers like myself that wanted to have all sons and have them follow in the footsteps I started years ago.  You see I believed that children learned to be confident on the field.  I never realized you can feel just as confident on the stage.  I knew that being a part of a team sport helped children learn to  reach a common goals and help develop communication skills and problem solving skills.  I never knew the comradeship that is built in clubs like the drama club could do the same.  I’ve also learned through you that like sports these clubs develop tight bonds and provide fantastic support systems.  In fact you have taught me that there is a close kinship between art and sport.  The more that I digest what you have taught me the more I think baseball is the best kinda drama around!  See we DO have something in common!  Remember when I made you come with me to the 2016 opening day game at Yankee stadium?  We danced on my favorite stage to Frank Sinatra’s New York New York.  Do you remember when I forced you to watch a post season Yankee game this year?  There was real drama there for sure.

I began writing this blog in November 2017 when I had been home from my most recent surgery.  A lovely Achilles tendon rupture due to the fact that I can’t sit still!  I found myself unable to finish until today January 10, 2018 when an early morning text went kinda like this…

AGAIN you have done it.  Made me cry.  Made me proud.

When the ultrasound wand confirmed you in my belly on September 11, 2001 I and your Father cried at the loss of life that day and cried for the new life we were bringing into this world.  I once held you in my arms rocking my sweet baby boy to sleep and before I knew it we stood eyeball to eyeball.  Today growing too fast I now look up to you both literally and figuratively.  Nearly every day for the past 15.5 years you have touched my soul in some way.  If you didn’t do another thing, win another award, get another A,  I want you to know I’m proud of the young man you’ve become. I love the way you love your brothers (most days). I love the way you are a good friend and listener to others. I love the way you give generously. I am proud of you, son.

So lets get on stage again my son.  My kinda stage or you’re kinda stage we can start spreading the news cause I find your king of the hill, top of the heap.

Farewell Legends

In one of the most surreal and remarkable farewells in Yankee history, leave it up to Derek Jeter to deliver the dramatic game-winning hit in the Yankees’ 6-5 triumph over the Baltimore Orioles, just minutes after the Yankees had blown a 3-run lead.  The air had that chewy sense of hope; here is always call for a miracle.

“It’s gonna happen, I told Donald.”

And in one swing of the bat, Jeter slapped his trademark single to right field and there was Jeter, jumping up and down as he rounded first base. This is what baseball can do to the soul: it has the ability to make you believe in spite of all other available evidence anything can happen. It’s the feeling I get now as my Danny Boy completes his little league career; anything can happen – it’s a remarkable farewell.

My son, Daniel, has been playing little league baseball for the Port Washington Legends travel baseball team since he was 9 years old.  Just like that, his years of little league baseball have ended and we are off to the “Bigger Boy“ league.  As I write, we are completing an almost week long competition at Cooperstown Dreams Park.  A competition where we played against some pretty amazing teams.  My boy suffered a devastating radius and ulna fracture on June 9th after a fall off playground equipment.  We really were not sure if he would be able to play on these fields when we sat in the hospital as the Doctors non- surgically put his bones back together.  Just like Jeter in his remarkable farewell there was that chewy sense of hope, that Danny would be back to playing at his best.

The week began on Saturday, teams assembled for the opening ceremony and the procession of the athletes.  There were parachute jumpers that dropped from the sky and landed in Little Majors Stadium.  Alphabetically, each team entered the stadium to the cheers of family and friends.  It truly was an amazing procession to see.  The teams dressed in their Cooperstown uniforms of either blue or red and carried their team banner.  The National Anthem was sung by none other than Donald Alexander!  Yes you got that right, my husband tried out for the job to sing to over 6000 fans and he won!  What a great way to start the week.  The boys truly loved seeing their coach in center field belting out our nations song.

There was so many great memories made in the days following.  This was truly a Disney World for 12/13 year old baseball players.  The experience of this tournament will provide the players and their families with many treasured memories that will last a lifetime. For my Danny Boy not only did he play but he killed TWO homers over the fence in Cooperstown Dream Park and had a few inning back on the mound!  In addition Danny was lucky enough to have over TWENTY FIVE family members travel to the fields to watch him play.  Nothing beats seeing my Marvelous Marvullo’s (and Himmler’s) on the field all wearing ALEXANDER 77 shirts that my sister had made up, on my birthday chanting “give it a ride Danny give it a ride’”  My Gennusa peeps proudly wearing the Alexander shirts  as that was the number their Father wore when he played baseball.  Aunt Lisa drove to Long Island to watch Danny Boy play in his intermural playoff game on June 9th.  She got the call to please go get Christian we were in an ambulance Danny had broken his arm.  Aunt Lisa was there in Cooperstown to hug me as he hit a homer on my birthday, his triumphant return to the game he so adores.  Who can beat hugging my Godfather Uncle Anthony as my son rocked a homer over the center field fence or watching my Aunt Annie see my boy play for the first time.  I am the luckiest woman on earth to have the family I had there this week and I will not soon forget what you all did for me.  In dramatic fashion the Legends lost their last game in a 6-6 bottom of the 6th nail biter.  When the game was over the kids were super emotional as were the parents and coaches.  For many it’s the end of the road for the Legends team as we have known it for all these years.  Danny could not stop the tears from flowing down his face.  He kept hugging me as I pressed to find out why he could not stop the tears.  Finally he looked at me and said “It’s been a long spring for me and I finally made it back and now it’s all over.  I am not sure Mommy if I will ever have this much fun again ever in my life.”  A couple of other boys came over to console him and I knew this thing, this Legends thing was the real deal and how lucky were we to be a part of this whole thing from the start.

It’s been a remarkable farewell for my Danny Boy and all of our Legends family.

There are a ton of emotions going through me. So many things to be feeling as we usher in the end of our 12U season.  Maybe what’s getting me sadder than ever is this is the end of Little League.  In the past as each season ended I would say “yay!”  Well, sort of “yay!”  I’d say no more rushing around to baseball games three to four days a week.  No rushing around to and from practice.  No deciding between a friend’s Bar Mitzvah or a double header.  No more freezing cold nights huddled in blankets on cold metal stands.  No more blazing hot afternoon games melting in the hot Long Island sun.  You see, every time a season ends, I get a little sad.  I enjoy the fresh air, watching our sons play and cheering as loud as I can for the boys I have grown to truly love.  But this feels different. To me, it feels like when you see your son and his friends choose colleges.  They are in the process of choosing where they will go next and all we have known for the last 6 plus years is gone just like that! So as we have said this fond farewell, here are just some of the few things I will miss about this moment in time.

I’ll miss the sunflower seeds next to Illyse’s lawn chair and seeing what ice cream choice Alisa made for today’s game.  I’ll miss endless coffee with Julie and in depth conversations with Deb. I’ll miss Charlie’s endless energy and sitting on the sideline chatting with Sarah and Jen.   I’ll miss watching the famous Daniel McVeigh hugs that Irene is so lucky to have and watching Kara smile when she sees her boy on the field.   Have you ever really looked at Kara when she watches him?  Her smile says so much for the pride she has in her little man.  I’ll miss the coaches meetings with my fellow first ladies sharing wine and laughter each time.  Wishing I had more seasons with the Koch family but quickly enjoying our chats each game.  I mean, who’s not gonna miss sitting with Marina’s mom and seeing her cry tears of joy when she watches her beloved Christopher on the field. I think it’s safe to say we will all miss Pam’s parents-our number one fans!  I truly will miss dinners with Mike, group texts and daily conversation.  Mike has given so many years to our kids both through the grade coordinator for the intermural league and for the lead manager of our beloved Legends.    Joe, Donald, Steve and Mike together have put so much time into our boys’ lives; time that these men could be attending business meetings, working overtime or be out golfing or fishing.  They chose to give of their time for our boys, and for that I will be eternally grateful.   There is something so special about the way baseball stitches families together.  As much as we try to connect with our own families and loved ones, it can be hard to find common ground.  You see, that is just another thing I love about our national pastime.  I’ve come to believe that it’s not whether the team wins or loses that counts, it’s how you share the game.  I wouldn’t have wanted to share these games with anyone other than my Legends family.

Recently Donald and I went to the Yankees v. Mets game in the Bronx, sharing the game with 50,000 + baseball fans. A different kind of baseball family.  There were the typical sights and sounds we all have been accustomed to that day.  The sound of the machine checking your ticket in.  The D train rumbling above.  There were the hustlers, the bustlers, the bored cops.  The constant up ramps and the huge green field.  The hot dogs and bad expensive warm beer.  The cat calls. Siddown. Shaddup. Fuheddaboudit.  While there is always the allure of the big leagues, I have to say that these years of playing Legends baseball have been some of the best years of my life.  I look fondly on those memories and each day, knowing they receive new life with every new 8U tryout.

This is what Legends baseball is to me.

I never meant to fall in love with baseball, but I did.  I learned to realize that it does what all good things should do: it creates the possibility of joy.

 

“This is the last pure place where Americans dream. This is the last great arena, the last green arena, where everybody can learn lessons of life.”
– A. Bartlett Giamatti, former Commissioner of Major League Baseball

Little Miss Anxiety

Next Sunday on my 42nd birthday it will be exactly 14.5 years that I lost my mother unexpectedly at the ripe ole age of 50.  Janice left this earth on my “half birthday” February 20th 2003.   I was 27 and she was ONLY FIFTY. I was her oldest child and she was my ONLY Mother.  In recent weeks I have been struggling with my on again off again friend Miss. Anxiety.  Do you know her?  She is really not nice of a person more like a destructive and hurtful bitch that exhibits queen-bee like behavior and likes to invade my mind every so often.  You know mental health issues are still stigmatized, so it can be awkward to open up about them.  I don’t find anything awkward in talking about it.  I find that sometimes talking about anxiety can help or it can give me even more anxiety. Next thing you know the evil partners of overthinking and anxiety become my BFF’s.  My anxious brain is hypervigilant and if these situations burned calories, I’d be a skinny bitch or almost dead.

YES I know most of the things going on in my head are irrational!  Yes, I am intellectually aware that I probably won’t die if my kids don’t know what’s for dinner tomorrow or that someone may come into my house and find dirty laundry on the bathroom floor.  If my kid had a fight with his friend I know it’s really not my problem but I take it to heart and examine it to death! Yet that awareness doesn’t change the fact that there are things outside of my control which make it nearly impossible not to have an emotional (and physical) reaction to stupid crap (and sometimes not so stupid crap).  The not so stupid crap these days seem to be all about Janice.  I lost my Mother so young, so beautiful so full of life.  And when dates approach, Miss. Anxiety shows her ugly face.  I suppose turning 42 next week reminds me that Janice had only 8 years left.  EIGHT years left…. In EIGHT plus years I want to be preparing for retirement.  I want to be watching my children graduate College and meet their spouses.  Dance at my sons weddings, join AARP and receive a senior discount at the local pizzeria.  I want to be a grandmother and celebrate my 50th wedding anniversary with the love of my life.  I want to travel and visit each baseball stadium in the USA a dream we talked about doing together.  All things she missed, all things that were ripped from her.  Will I make it past 50? Until I lost her I never considered limitations, only possibilities.

When a parent of an adult dies, there is an almost unspoken expectation that it will not hit you head on.  Question, is 27 years old an adult?  It sure did not feel like it at the time.  I think we are expected to understand as an adult that death is an expected part of life and we should handle these situations in an appropriate manor.  What the hell is appropriate?  What does that even mean?  That you should not be sad?  That you should be grateful they didn’t die when you were younger?  This loss does not diminish because you are this so called adult.  Society places such pressure for you to get over this loss and to get over the grief “in time.”  What the hell is a good time?  How long is it ok to grieve the loss of someone whom gave your life and took care of you for 27 years?  For me this loss happened in a 6 second phone call ~ Come quick Mommy can’t breathe and we just called 911 ~ it happened in a moment but the aftermath is still there 14.5 years later.  I doesn’t matter how old we are.

After Janice passed I was forced to take another look at her life and impact on my life.  I realized, perhaps for the first time, all she did for me as a child.  My Johnny was 11 months old when my Mother passed and I was able to appreciate the challenges she may have had with her own children.  Just the other day my potty training nephew Nicholas needed his Mothers help in the bathroom.  While my sister in law Suzanne was cleaning him she looked at my youngest son Christian and said “remember this when your mean to your Mommy, she did this for you a day not too long ago.”   I gained a new perspective on her life and her effect on mine.

My mom (and I) always attracted humans with unteachable charisma, in the days after her death, the gravity of her death was unexplainable. The house overflowed with people asking to ease the pain, mostly through our stomachs, cooking enough food to feed a moderately sized petting zoo.   Food is my family’s religion, and our kitchens are our sacred temples.  There are too many memories from that time in my life. Many of them are slipping from me. Others are so faint that only the rarest combination of triggers—snow, French onion soup (the last meal she cooked with my sister), a kitchen with baked goods everywhere—bring the embers back to life.

So as Miss. Anxiety is still here visiting my brain like a bad houseguest.   I am beginning to stand up straight after this latest spin as I call it.  Standing up because I now can see what started this spin in the first place.  Realizing that the love we shared and the relationship we had will not die.  That depth of love, that depth of caring, is everlasting.

Now if that bitch Miss. Anxiety would kick the bucket all will be right in the world.  My world.

 

“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

My Light Janice

During the winter season, the trees, the grass, my garden all look so cold, lonely and depressing. People tend to stay inside, walks to the park are rare and it is so dark so early in the day. Even the ground below my feet seems to gain metaphoric qualities as I walk anywhere I constantly stumble along the uneven pavement. That dirty and sandy snow covered pavement.  There is power outages, buried cars, thermal leg hair and thick socks that can’t fit into my boots.  Sure there is hot chocolate but there is also flu viruses, dry skin and an increasing amount of daily laundry.  It’s a feeling that I can only explain as my life being off balance.  Often for me in the winter that cold world grabs a hold of me, a part of me feels like giving up my efforts for the search for light.  Often because the open platform ahead just seems too impossible to reach. I know in my head that the cold dark days always bring light, I know that but on that cold February night in 2003 the light of my life walked a path to the other side.  My beautiful Mother left this earth at the age of 50 and the cold dark days of February are now only a harsh reminder of my hatred for winter.  Today as I write this that walk seems so parallel to what I am currently experiencing.  Continuing on is currently feeling like a hopeless walk.  Searching endlessly for the light I lay awake last night (due to Donald’s snoring) telling myself that I wasn’t giving up.  Tonight I find it hard to imagine that this earth could ever look beautiful again.

There is a season approaching where the trees will be full of life, the flower buds will begin to grow on my beloved garden and the sun will be warm on my face.  I know that, I keep telling myself it is on its way but as the day approaches and I am up on my computer unable to sleep it seems so far away.  The days approaching the anniversary of my Mother’s passing are always the longest and anxiety filled  hardest days.  Once the day passes the fog seems to clear and the hope for that light is within my reach.

Thankfully I don’t have to walk down this uneven path alone.  I have my beloved siblings that I could not live a day without.  We were babies, at least in my eyes and now all Motherless, forced to continue experiencing life without our Mother.  I have my children to share the stories with.  Mine and Donald’s huge extended family that I am thankful for every single day of my life.  I have the most dedicated friends that never let me walk alone.  Then there is my best friend Donald John.  Donald always is able to fix my problems with logical answers or with his tools.  I knew he couldn’t fix this back then and he certainly can’t fix it now.  Back then his hugs couldn’t make it get better and his encouragement could not help.   Today with the painful acceptance of this new life those hugs and encouragement actually were and still are my saving grace.

I understand that life is not forever and the circle of life continues, just wish I could have gotten to ride that wave just a little longer with Mom by my side.  When you have lost and overcome something as important as this you are a forever changed human.

I am going back to sleep now, I have no regrets I was a good daughter to my Mother.  Someday’ s are better than others and today was a particularly rough day for me.  For no reason in particular other than I longed for her voice and because Monday will be 14 years that I have not heard that voice.   I keep hearing this song tonight in my head and they are some of the most quoted words of the Bible :

“For everything there is a season, and
a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up
what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to
build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a
time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to
refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to
throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to
speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”

This sacred list represents all the seasons and the important matters of our lives. Some are happy times, others sad; some are productive while others seem wasteful; some inspire peace and others bring pain.

Tonight I allowed myself to feel the pain and to miss her.  Tomorrow I will continue to laugh and love deeply like Janice would want me to.  Tonight my gremlins surely made a commotion.  But I won’t let that stop me, I will firmly stand looking for that light and in the end it will only allow me to shine brighter.

Janice Christine Vesloski Marvullo

12/5/52-2/20/2003

Spring Training Countdown

It’s the middle of February, Janice and Joe have a fire going in the den and they are watching the Sopranos. Mom loves the series and can’t wait to see what happens in the life of her favorite mobsters. Dad seems interested however, he looks at the photo above the couch of Shea Stadium and he asks Mom, “How many days till pitchers and catchers?” Well, without Google in those days, I am not really sure how she knew how many days – But she knew. Today I just ask Siri or google it.  At 8 Maple Street the TV really only had a few channels on at any given time; it was the weather, news or baseball. My parents and my entire family’s love for the sport has made me this baseball nut that I am today.

Baseball comes along every spring, and with baseball comes sunshine; two of my favorite things. Baseball signifies the end of the dreaded winter and the rebirth of my beloved garden. Today I am dreaming of the marathon of the long season. This marathon gives a man a chance to prove himself or redeem himself. I love baseball’s ups and downs- it’s my very favorite kind of soap opera.  We can find a story in almost anything, and it allows me to evaluate, speculate, and like a true friend, it’s there for me (almost) every day.

I attended North Shore High School in Glen Head where I was a part of a senior year experience called Long Island Studies. We were immersed in all things Long Island. We had to choose a project that we were passionate about, and my choice was the history of baseball on the Island. My friend Brett Clancy’s grandfather is Whitey Ford. Edward Ford, or as the Yankees called him, “Chairman of the Board,” was a pitcher for the Yankees for his entire career. He grew up in Queens and mastered the sport on the streets. Brett took me to her grandfather’s home with my teacher, Dr. Stark, and we sat for a day speaking to the beloved Yankee. In 1993, the Major League Baseball expansion added the Florida Marlins and the Colorado Rockies to Major League Baseball. While on my visit with Whitey, which was during Christmas time, the pitcher took a call from Mickey Mantle, of which I was fortunate enough to be sitting in on. Mantle was calling to see if Whitey wanted to get the expansion team Christmas ornaments for his Christmas tree. As he cracked open his beer, this Cy Young award winner leaned back in his chair chatting away with Mickey Mantle, I was in awe. This was history in front of me and I was honored to be there. Whitey spoke about signing for the Yankees for an amount of money that would only buy me a backyard patio set these days.  The first thing he did with the money, he told me, was he purchased an “ice box” for his Mother whom had to go out and get ice each day, and now she can have a real refrigerator. Soon after, he was able to get her all new kitchen equipment. He spoke in depth about his years of playing stickball on the street and his endless workouts running around the neighborhood.  He recounted stories of Joe D and Yogi and the antics they would get into on the road. He told me all about the 1974 induction into the Hall of Fame and when the Yankees retired the number 16. I was in my glory and at that moment my love for the game exploded.

Today, I get to enjoy the game through the eyes of a mom. I am watching my young son fall in love with the game, much like I did in the 1980s. I am the mom with the huge camera trying to capture every single moment of this time, as I never want to see it end! I am also the screaming mom. My vocal cords have a built-in microphone with fully charged batteries. To say that I am a tad vocal is the understatement of the season. People from miles away can hear me yelling, “Danny Boy!”, yelling at the umpires, the coaches, the concession stand workers, the grounds crew and occasionally Jesus Christ. Speaking of sounds….

Ever really listened to the sounds of baseball? When I arrive to the ball field, inevitably the boys will begin batting and pitching practice. Have you ever closed your eyes standing next to a batting cage?  Have you listened to that bat “crack?” You can hear a good hit from the sound of that contact with the ball. Ever sat next to the bullpen at a major league game and listened to the snap of the ball as it reaches the catcher’s mitt? Or how about a shortstop trying to keep the runner on second base? Can you hear him slap his glove? How do you know there is a man on first base? Donald is sometimes the first base coach, and I can hear him, even while chatting it up with other moms. I hear him talking to the runner leading off, saying, “You’re good, you’re good, you’re good, back back back back!” That is the sound of a man on first. Ever hear the sound of the pitcher looking back a runner? You hear his deep breath then you watch as the pitcher turns and wheels around to throw to first. Then there is that sound of the runner diving back into first base.

Have you ever experienced the smell of baseball? Can you smell the fresh cut grass as you make your way onto the field? The gloves are leather and bats are wooden. Well, at least in the major leagues they are. Chewing big, fat, sugary bubble gum is a favorite of the young boys. How about the chalk used to mark baselines and the batter’s box? I love the fresh air smell mixed with the pine tar that gives a batter a good grip on his bat. Can you smell the oil used to condition a young man’s new glove? My kids’ favorite are the food scents, smells from the concession stands, hotdogs, popcorn and hot pretzels. I think Danny Boy would say that baseball also smells like Gatorade and sunflower seeds, the local snack-of-choice.

 

To be at a baseball game is to be outside of the confines of time. In particular, I love that baseball has no time clock. You can’t just get a lead in the game and wait for time to run out on the other team. In order to win you have to get 27 outs one way or another.

“You can’t sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You’ve got to throw the ball over the goddamn plate and give the other man his chance. That’s why baseball is the greatest game of them all.” – Earl Weaver

 

A baseball game is chicken soup for my soul, with its sights and smells and sounds. As they say in the movie, “Bull Durham,” “Baseball is a simple game: you throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. And sometimes, it rains.”

How many days till pitchers and catchers?