Amelia & Anthony

No matter whether it is a difficult time or a blissful one, I often find myself thinking of my grandparents — Amelia and Anthony.

At the age of 6, an ocean-liner called ‘The Patria’ brought Anthony into America through Ellis Island.  His friends would call him “Breeze.”

Amelia lost her mother when she was  young and seemingly became one overnight, caring for her father, brothers and sisters.

The universe would make them neighbors.  The first time they set eyes on each other, Amelia was carrying boxes into her new home.  Anthony spotted her, smiled (he had a great one) and remarked, “gee, those boxes look heavy.”

She shot him a dirty look, but giggled (she had a great one).  He courted her, and in 1941 they were married.  4 months later, she’d lose him to World War II.  There he’d serve bravely for 4 years while she waited — their love for each other passing in letters that crossed the Atlantic.   He’d lead men on the beaches of Normandy, would take shrapnel to the skull and be brought to death’s edge.   But he would fight his way back and return to her.

It would simplify things to say that they lived an “ordinary” suburban life — I know it to be the contrary.  They raised my Father and Aunt in the same town I would someday be raised in.  They were both looked at as leaders of their friends, neighbors, and family.  When anyone needed anything, they were there — especially Anthony.  Sometimes these very same people that he aided would later hurt him.  Anthony remained resolute with his love for others — especially Amelia.  She enjoyed him.

When I came into this world I was met with the radiance of their love, enthusiasm and encouragement.  I am an only child, and spent entire summers at their apartment while my parents worked.  Most kids might dread this scenario but I knew to cherish it, even then.  As an only child you spend a lot of time alone with your imagination, creating a wealth of adventure within yourself to discover and explore.  They weren’t old-fashioned or set-in-their ways with me — they didn’t ask me to “be like other kids.”  Amelia asked me to draw pictures of dinosaurs for her, Anthony took me to buy comic books and encouraged me to read stories.  I still remember the summer we read Frankenstein together.  They fed my imagination with curiosity and wonder — whether it was dinosaurs, monsters,  and of course…movies.

Amelia’s hearing was fading, yet she seemed to hang on every word I had to say.  I’d sit across from her at their little dining room table and we’d share words and time with each other.  She’d smile and laugh (did I mention how warm her laugh was?) She loved to tell her own stories, with such passion and fervor.   Everything she was seemed to go into each story she shared, you could feel it, as if she were reliving it and you were there beside her.

Anthony loved to take walks, didn’t matter where.  And I loved to go with him.  I loved the smell of his pipe and the way he’d hum songs he made up in his mind.   He was a tough, strong, but sensitive man.  He was a leader throughout his life — no matter the stage.   I know to this day that when I was with him, he felt peace, because I did too.  I still do when I think of him to this very day.  It flows through me as I write this like a strong river.

One winter when I was 12 I was blindsided playing basketball, and when I hit the ground I fell on my ankle — breaking it.  There’s nothing more discouraging to a 12 year old boy then learning that you can’t run around  for a few months.  I saw this time on crutches as a curse.

For those cold months, every day after school, Anthony would come get me and bring me back to my house.  It would be about 3 pm and my mother wouldn’t be home until 5.  Two hours was almost always enough time for us to watch a movie.  He let me pick my favorites to show to him — Robin Hood, Terminator 2, Dick Tracy, Batman, Backdraft.  It was much more than silence that we shared during each movie.   I’d watch his reactions during my favorite scenes.  He’d always sit in the same spot on the couch underneath orange lamp-light, stoic and attentive.  Afterward we’d talk about it, and what he liked in each film.

By April, I was back on my two feet.  One morning, Anthony was on the golf course, like many other mornings.  His heart would seize up on him and I would never see him alive again.  The feeling of loss was incredible, like a piece of me had been ripped away.  On the silent drive to their apartment we stopped at a traffic light.   My mother broke the silence,  somehow able to see what tremendous gift the universe had given to her son.  Through her own tears, she boldly enlightened me that the reason I broke my ankle was so I could spend that time with him before he died.  She was right, I knew it then and I know it now, I can feel it in my very bones.

To this day I think that my favorite movies are the ones I feel he would’ve enjoyed.  He loved epics, “good stories,” as he called them.  He’s still there with me whenever I see a great film, and he’s there when I’ve made my own — and he always will be.  I think sometimes while I’m writing whether or not he’d be proud of the story I’m sharing.  It’s what guides me and my artistic conscience.  He helps me follow my bliss.

And Amelia…she would live on without him.  Instead of growing bitter or angry about the way things turned out, she instead chose to look back on the 50 years they had together for what it was — bliss.  She lived in the moment, she enjoyed looking out the window and hearing about the people she loved, especially when they were doing well.  Each time I left her apartment I would be able to look up into the window and see her smiling and waving down at me.   She took her time, she enjoyed people, sharing stories with perfect strangers.

In her last few years I told her I was going to write a novel.  I was 16 and she could’ve diminished my goal.  She did the opposite.  I asked her for the love letters from the War, and she shared them with me.  Each one Anthony wrote to her he started with “Dear Kiddo,” just like Bogart in Casablanca.  The love between them radiated off of each page.  In each letter he reminded her not to worry, he hid the horrors he was seeing from her, and instead focused his energy and her attention on the things happening with her back at home.   In a time of cell phones and email I was struck by the length between letters — sometimes months without hearing from each other, every day she wouldn’t know if he was alive or dead until another letter came in.

She would pass away in February of 2003.  Immediately upon her death the lesson of her life was very clear to me.  She could’ve been very angry about how a lot of her life turned out, but she never was.   She embraced how difficult life could be and cherished it none the less.  When she died I know in my heart there were no regrets that went with her.  She was happy with her life, the people in it, the decisions she made.  Real happiness takes courage, above all else.

If you ever sit down and think about all of the things that have to happen for your life to turn out the way it is, for you to even be here the way you are, I promise you’ll see that it’s all too much for random chance and coincidence.   And those that love us the most are a part of our journey not only while they are in our lives, but after they’ve passed on as well.

Amelia and Anthony have been gone from this world for a long time now, but I continue to learn lessons from them everyday and I imagine that I will continue to as I proceed on my own journey and in the pursuit of my own bliss.

I thank you for taking this time to read about my grandparents and I hope you enjoyed what I could share from their shared journey.  I encourage you to think about the people that are or have contributed to your bliss throughout your life.  How are you honoring them?  It’s a question I ask myself all the time.

They are not here by chance, it’s not a mistake your life has been touched by them.  Everything happens for a reason…

 

 

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~ by Dan Fabrizio on February 5, 2011.

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