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Substantially Similar--A Blog on IP Issues, Writing and Film

Memorial Remembrances of Philomena Aquino

by John Aquino on 05/07/17

This is the eulogy I delivered for my mother on April 25, 2017 at St. Ann Church, Washington, D.C.

It has been so overwhelming for me to read family members and friends write on Facebook and hear them in person referring to our Mom, Philomena Zappi Aquino, as an angel. It has special meaning to me because that is my first memory of her--coming into our room at night, with the light from the hall behind her bathing her shoulders and angelically crowning her head. Today, she surely is an angel. But throughout her entire life she acted like an angel in so many ways.

She was like a guardian angel, watching over us, caring for us, giving us guidance and hope. If you had a problem, she had a problem. And this was true for her children, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, her brothers and sisters, her nieces and her nephews.

I remember her brother Pat telling us that after her wedding he, his brother Sam and their sisters Mary, Edith and Joe stood and cried because their elder sister had always been there for them and they would miss her so. When her grandson Robert Pascucci wanted to go to California to look into working in films, Grandma went with him. Now Grandma never possessed a credit card and as a result they had difficulty renting a car, but in the end they bopped around Hollywood together, the ultimate road trip. Her niece Linda in Texas wrote that it was our Mom’s example and advice that inspired her to get her Master’s, and all of her nieces and nephews knew that if they needed help they could dial “A” for Aunt Phil Aquino. Just a few years ago, Mom heard that the ring bearer at her wedding, who had gone on to become a monsignor, was dying. She wrote him and said she would be happy to pay his way to Washington and that she would take care of him in his last days. She was 95 and he was 75, and she was going to take care of him. And Mom has continued to take care of her son James—his cremains will be buried with her in her coffin today.

Mom was generous, kind and, like an angel, also fearless. It never dawned on her that that something couldn’t be done. Our Dad used to recite a poem that went,

Everyone said that it couldn’t be done,

But he with a chuckle replied

That maybe it couldn’t but he would be one

Who wouldn’t say so till he tried.

So he hurried right in

With a bit of a grin on his face,

If he worried he hid it.

He started to sing as he tackled the thing that couldn’t be done

And he did it.

 

Dad recited the poem. Mom did the poem. She lived the poem. She was the poem. Mom spoke Italian before she spoke English but went on to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English and teach English language and literature. She drove until she was 95, she mowed her own lawn until she was 98. When her children sent her to Italy in the wonderful company of her brother Sam, his wife Barbara and their daughter and Mom’s goddaughter Mary for her 70th birthday, she was the one who insisted that they climb the Spanish steps. I remember one evening Deborah and I were at Mom’s house for dinner and she said, “Will you go up to my bedroom, open the window and reach out and pull a strand of ivy that is growing up the brick. I’ve been working on getting rid of the ivy. I’ve been stretching out and I’ve gotten most of it but I’ve stretched and stretched and I can’t quite get the last bit.” I said, “Mom, I’ve going to come to see you and find you lying on the front lawn!” We got her one of those necklace buttons to push for an emergency. She fell and fractured her pelvis and didn’t tell anyone for three days, even though we called her every day. We said, “Mom, why didn’t you push the button.” She said, “Why would I press the button. I could get up.”

In addition to watching over us and being fearless, she was like an angel in other ways, one of which was that I actually thought sometimes that she could fly. She would spend the day teaching students and helping them, and then fly home and care for a dying husband, care for an ailing mother, and feed and help her children do homework. It was like she was in three places at once, and in each place she was helping someone.

Mom lived a long and beautiful life. At every birthday party after she was 65, I, with my pigeon Italian, would toast her, saying “Cent’anni, ” which means may you live 100 years. And she would look at me, smile, and say, “Bite your tongue.” When she turned 98, I started toasting, “Cent’anni, et altro cent’anni”—a hundred years and another hundred years, and she shot me such a look.

And, as always, mother knew best. As the saying goes, growing old isn’t for sissies. I remember reading that in ancient Rome, the life expectancy was 30 but a few people lived to be 100, maybe 105. Today, the life expectancy is in the high seventies, but the body still doesn’t last much beyond 100. It was difficult, I know, for Mom, who was so used to taking care of other people, to have to have people take care of her. It was frustrating for her not to be able to talk to family members on the phone and to give advice and help out. But she went with the flow—one of her favorite expressions—and kept her good humor. And she was often very funny. We showed her the invitation for the 90th birthday celebration of her brother Pat, who was 10 years younger than she, listing some of his many accomplishments, and she said, “Gee, he really got to be a big shot.”

Now, she’s gone, but not really. My wife Deborah quotes a statement of St. John Chrysostom (shared with her by a dear Benedictine friend) that when a loved one dies they are no longer where they were, they are where you are. Mom is here in our hearts and minds, and she is elsewhere. She told us so herself in a way. When Mom was still able to talk, she was lying in the hospital bed in her living room speaking to her daughter Jean and her husband Bob on the phone, and they said, “Mom, you’re still so young at heart. What do you want to do? What do you want to be?” There was a pause, and then Mom said, “Guardian of the Galaxy.” And what had happened was the television was on, and there was an ad for the film “Guardians of the Galaxy,” the type rolled across the screen and Mom read it aloud. The more I thought about what she had said, the more sense it made.

Mom, you’ve always been like a guardian angel for all of us. If anyone can be a guardian for the entire galaxy, it’s you. We miss you. We love you. We know you’re with your loved ones in heaven and are watching over us—and the galaxy—and we know you’ll keep doing your usual excellent job.

Copyright John T. Aquino 2017

Robert Osborne, Late Friend of a Friend

by John Aquino on 03/09/17

Robert Osborne, main host of the cable, we-have-no-commercials, classic movie station Turner Classic Movies (TCM), passed away last week. I didn't know him, but he was a good friend to Richard DeNeut, my friend and client, who died just over a year ago.

My wife and I began watching Robert (his good friends I am sure called him Bob) on TCM in the mid-90s, soon after the station began and the exact time we bought our first color television set. He was a refreshing host--knowledgeable, a good interviewer, and correct in what he said the vast majority of the time. His questions to an actor or actress he interviewed were never gushy, never superficial and never overly deep or complex. He had been an actor and a journalist and knew a lot about films.

I remember his opposite, a university film professor interviewing Gene Kelly, the actor-dancer-director on a public television show about movies. The man told him a story of how Kelly went on performing a particular movie until his feet were bleeding. Kelly listened to him stone-faced and then said, simply, "That's apocryphal."

Robert Osborne had a winning way of talking with these movie stars and never to them: Betty Hutton, Charlton Heston, Tony Curtis, Alice Faye and Mother Dolores Hart, who left movie stardom in 1963 and joined the cloistered abbey, the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Connecticut.

Dick, an old friend of Mother Dolores too, co-wrote her autobiography. I was their attorney. His is friendship with Robert at least got his foot in the door to arrange for Robert to interview Mother Dolores to help promote the book. He was gracious and at ease with her and she with him. She was the "guest programmer" for the night and they watched and discussed "The Song of Bernadette," "Lisa," in which she starred with Stephen Boyd, and "The Rose Tattoo," starring her "Wild Is the Wind" co-star Anna Magnani.

I never met Robert Osborne, but I told Mother Dolores and Dick about my one tangential connection. TCM showed "Where the Boys Are" 10 years ago. Dolores Hart was one of its stars, three years before she left the movies. The alternate host to Robert said something like, most of the movie's stars went on to better things except for Dolores Hart who became a nun and joined a convent, although it is unlikely she engaged in "wet habit" contests there. My wife's Mom, Adelaide Emken Curren, was so upset at this disrespect that she had me write TCM and say, "What do you mean she didn't go on to better things!" I got a form letter back thanking me for my message. Two weeks later, TCM showed "Where the Boys Are" again and Osborne was the host. While he didn't apologize for what the other host had said, he spoke with obvious respect and appreciation for Mother Dolores' work and what she is doing now. He was a very gracious fellow indeed and will be missed.

Copyright 2017 by John T. Aquino

Richard DeNeut--Client and Friend

by John Aquino on 09/20/16

Richard DeNeut passed away in January, and his ashes were laid to rest on Friday, Sept. 16 at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut. He was an actor, a writer, a photographer, a photography executive, a veteran, and a terrific raconteur. He was also my client and my friend. Some of what you will read here I said at his gravesite.

I represented Dick and the Abbey of Regina Laudis as their attorney for the book The Ear of the Heart: An Actress' Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows by Mother Dolores Hart and Dick. In addition to reviewing, revising, and negotiating the contract, I was asked to be a mediator of sorts between Dick and everybody else. He could be demanding, primarily because he cared very dearly about his work. He could also be easy-going, compassionate, kind and fun. He was very gifted at all of his jobs.

Dick took to me gradually, finding that we were both movie fans. Soon, he was asking my opinion and advice. There was always an element of uncertainty when Dick called--happy or annoyed? Most of the time it was a joy to talk to him and to be with him. He would call or e-mail me about the film he had just seen at the Screenwriters Guild and send me his notes on the Oscar ceremonies. Other times he called--something was terribly wrong and I had to fix it!

As a child actor, he appeared at the age of 4 in the Meglin Kiddies short films and then moved on and was featured in six of the Hal Roach Our Gang comedies. His credit read "Dickie De Nuet."(At one point, he had four separate listings with different spellings of his name on the International Movie Database. Dick told me he had tried to get the IMDB to fix it without success. After Dick's death in January 2016, I tackled the IMDB correction process, and the changes were finally made.) He appeared in the Shirley Temple Film The Blue Bird in 1940 and in 1943 in The Song of Bernadette.

He attended UCLA and staged a college show in which his classmate Carol Burnett appeared. She later credited the show with giving her the performing bug. After army service in Alaska, he joined the staff of Globe Photos and eventually became its West Coast Bureau Chief. His work at Globe led to his being the compiler and editor of the coffee-table size photo book Inside Hollywood: 60 Years of Globe Photos (Konemann, 2001), which I have in front of me, a gift from my lovely wife. A photo of Marilyn Monroe that I had never seen before is on the slip cover.

In 1958, he met Dolores Hart, and they became life-long friends. She left a successful acting career in 1963 and became a cloistered Benedictine nun.

He also co-wrote in 1977 with Carl Gabler the screenplay for an exceptional tv movie titled Night Drive starring Valerie Harper about a housewife who witnesses the  murder of a highway patrol officer and is stalked by the murderer. In 1988, his-friend Mother Dolores Hart asked Dick to help pull together Patricia Neal's autobiography As I Am from tape recordings Neal had made while staying at the Abbey. I was told by a number of sources that the publisher insisted that he receive credit--"with Richard DeNeut"--and royalties, so impressed was the publisher with his work on what became a best seller.

In 2001, Mother Dolores Hart asked Dick to work with her on her autobiography, which became The Ear of the Heart. He fashioned it as a combination of Mother Dolores' and his voice narrating events and commenting on them to one another..

The book had a long gestation period, with Dick traveling from Hollywood to Connecticut several times a year and interviewing and forming strong relationships with members of the Abbey community; he worked with Mother Dolores in person, by phone, by mail and, eventually, by e-mail. I was brought in in February 2012. We settled on a publisher, negotiated the contract and the book was published in May 2013. It has gone into three printings

I'll always regret that Dick wasn't feeling up to recording his part of the dialogue of the audiobook for the Ear of the Heart, which was instead done by Mother Dolores and Matthew Arnold.

The last exchange of e-mails and phone calls I had with Dick was in October 2015. The book and audiobook were out and an option agreement on the film rights had been negotiated and signed. I was casting around for possible projects and read about a proposed and unrealized sequel to Come to the Stable, a 1949 highly fictionalized account of the founding of the Abbey of Regina Laudis made by 20th Century Fox and starring Loretta Young and Celeste Holm. One of the invented bits was about a composer who owns the land where the nuns, newly arrived from France, want to build a hospital. He resists until finds out that his hit song was based upon a Gregorian chant he heard the nuns singing during the war at their Abbey in France when he was stationed nearby. I mentioned to Dick that this there was a connection or at least a parallel between this Gregorian chant and the compact disks the Abbey of Regina Laudis released years later of its members singing Gregorian chant.

Dick--I mentioned that we were both film fans--e-mailed me back that the song, "Through a Long and Sleepless Night," was nominated for an Academy Award for best song but lost to Frank Loesser's "Baby, It's Cold Outside," which shouldn't have won because Loesser had written and performed it with his wife years before; this led the Academy to change the rules and require that a song must be written for the film to be nominated.

I answered that "Through a Long and Sleepless Night" shouldn't have won anyway because Alfred Newman's melody for the song was derived from the "Miserere" by Gregorio Allegri in the 1630s.

Ten minutes later, Dick sent me another e-mail that had the complete lyrics for the song. And ten minutes after that, he called me and sang the song all the way through, "just in case you thought I didn't know the melody." He added in both the e-mail and the phone call, "I don't know why I can remember this and sometimes I can't remember my own name."

I think I may know why. The lyrics have something of Dick about them--clever, romantic, sad but ultimately hopeful. It begins,

"Through a long and sleepless night, I whisper your name./Through a long and sleepless night/A fool is to blame./Can't help but wonder if you are lonely too./As I lie here and toss about/So at a loss about you."

And it ends,

"I know that someday my heart will see the light./ Until then I lie here sleepless/And I pray my heart will weep less/All through a long and lonely sleepless night."

Dick had a wonderful expression to end his e-mails : "Arms around you." Dick our heart's arms are around you and we know yours are around us.

Copyright 2016 by John T. Aquino

Muhammad Ali--Lessons Learned

by John Aquino on 06/05/16

News of Muhammad Ali's death made me think of when I used to follow the fights. There are lessons to be learned.

My Dad and I used to watch the Friday night fights together on television sponsored by Gillette (their commercial went, "How are you fixed for blades, dum dum dum/How are you fixed for blades, dum dum dum). My Dad had great affection for Rocky Marciano, a heavyweight boxer whose parents, like my Dad's, had come to the U.S. from Italy. Marciano became heavyweight champion and retired undefeated. He was a stocky man but very fit and a slugger. After Marciano retired, there were a lot of slugging heavyweights but they were heavy heavweights. They'd stand in the center of the ring and belt each other. I remember one named Mike DeJohn who was like that. Mike died in 1988 at the age of 57.

Then Cassius Clay--who Muhammad Ali after he converted to Islam--came along. He weighed over 200 pounds, but he was muscled, lean and fast, so fast. In 1964, he fought the then-champion, Sony Liston, who outweighed him by 20 pounds. Liston was called the bear.

I remember seeing a documentary of Ali that featured an interview with the colorful sports writer Bert Sugar describing the first fight between Clay and Liston. While Sugar was talking, they showed the film of the weigh-in. Liston, who was sitting on a folding chair, was crouched over, waiting for the weigh-in to begin. The film footage focuses on Liston, but we hear Clay come in and he's running around saying, "I'm the greatest! I'm the greatest! I'm going bear hunting tonight. Someone's going to die in the ring tonight!" We hear Sugar saying that  Liston was tough and mean--he'd been in prison for armed robbery and battery; he was a scary man "and he wasn't afraid of anything--". And the film closes in on Liston's face and it's clear he's looking at Clay running around out of the corner of his anxious eye. And Sugar continued his sentence, "--except crazy people."

Clay was playing mind games on Liston. And he was also fast where Liston was slow. Liston didn't come out for the seventh round and lost the title by a technical knockout. In their rematch, Clay knocked Liston out in the first round.

Clay said he turned boxing into a science. I've been at meetings and heard people ask if a competitor was playing 'rope-a-drop" with us. Clay developed the technique by pretending to be hurt by his opponent's punches and covering up and letting the other fighter wail away while Clay bounced off the ropes and looked like he was being hurt more than he was. When his opponent became tired from his exhausting and fruitless barrage, Clay turned around and finished him off.

Clay/Ali was the best fighter I had ever seen. He changed the entire pace of boxing. Was he the greatest? Maybe. If you score it on points, to use a boxing term, Marciano retired undefeated, Clay was beaten a number of times--later in his career and after a forced retirement when he was in his prime.

Interestingly enough, in 1969, during the time Ali was suspended from boxing for his refusal to participate in the army draft during the Vietnam War period, someone came up with the idea of having a computer decide who would win a hypothetical match--Ali or Marciano--and hired them  to spar for the camera and then edited the footage to match the computer's outcome. The computer thought Marciano would have won. The "superfight" wasn't broadcast until 1970, by which time Marciano had died in a plane crash. Admittedly, the computer made its decision before Ali was reinstated and went on to regain the heavyweight title that had been taken from him and before he lost the title and then won it back for a third time. Ali said the computer was racist because it was made in Mississippi. And it was, after all, a 1969 computer.

And I didn't mention that he was a poet, or at least a very facile rhymer, which Marciano, for all of his skills, never was.

I trained as a boxer. But then I lost interest. I hung around in locker rooms with a lot of older fighters who were clearly showing the brain damage that also affected Muhammad Ali, whose Parkinson's Disease was reportedly brought on by the blows he took to his head. I remember hearing someone describe how when a boxer takes a blow to the head it's similar to what happens to a yoke when someone shakes an egg. That's when I quit.

I admire Muhammad Ali for his skill and fondly remember the times I watched him in his prime with my Dad. I could probably teach a management class using Ali as an example. But I am still amazed that boxing is allowed. 

Today we are hearing  all of the complaints about concussions and pro football. But boxing is designed to cause concussions. Boxing should be outlawed. That's the last line in Humphrey Bogart's last movie, 1956's The Harder They Fall, which was about the fight game--it's a thinly disguised portrait of the 1930s heavyweight champion Primo Carnera. "Boxing should be outlawed if it takes an act of Congress to do it," Bogart says. But he was really talking about the criminals who were controlling the fight game and owned boxers whom they forced to throw fights to others--supposedly boxers like Carnera--who were big and imposing but less skilled. Boxing should be outlawed because of the damage it causes to fighter's brains.

There's a lot to be learned from the life of Muhammad Ali--his grace, his skill, his courage, and banning boxing--because of what it did to him and others and is doing to boxers every day today--is one of them.

* A footnote on the movie The Harder They Fall, which was written by Philip Yordan based on a novel by Budd Schulberg. Schulberg had the Carnera-based character Tony Moreno fight the champ played by Max Baer. Baer won the title from Carnera in 1934. They appeared together the same year in another thinly disguised movie suggested by fact in which Carnera played the champ and Baer the challenger--The Prizefighter and the Lady. In The Harder They Fall, Schulberg/Yordan took a real incident--Baer beat up the boxer Ernie Schaaf so badly that he died after a fight with Carnera who had just hit him with a left jab, and Baer got the blame. Some say the accusation was unjustified, but the blame remained. And Baer had beaten another fighter, Frankie Campbell, so fiercely that Campbell haddied. Baer was charged with manslaughter, acquitted but banned from boxing for a year. The coroner's report was that Campbell's brain had been knocked loose from his skull by Baer's blows. In The Harder They Fall, Baer plays the champ and Mike Lane plays the challenger, Moreno. The champ tells the gangsters he won't take it easy on Moreno because he got the credit for killing the boxer and champ takes pride in having done it. So Baer was, in a way, playing himself. In real life, according to his son Max Baer Jr., who played Jethro in the tv show The Beverly Hillbillies, his father was devastated by Campbell's death. But the two Baer-related incidents show that brain injuries have always been part of boxing, long before Ali.

  Copyright 2016 by John T. Aquino

 

My Brother Jim

by John Aquino on 01/01/16

My brother Jim died in August as a result of early onset Alzheimer's. 

People were very kind and said that it was a great loss. And it was and is, but for me the loss started about three years ago, which was the last time I had a real conversation with him.  

We grew up together, sharing the same room for 10 years until my sisters got married, and we took over theirs. Jim painted his walls purple. One of the reason was that his high school, Gonzaga, had purple and white as its school colors. Another reason was that he was Jim, sometimes outspoken, seldom shy.

Until the big move to separate rooms, we would watch television together with the lights out and the sound down so Mom and Dad wouldn’t hear, gazing up at a 10-inch screen situated on a three-foot stand. We'd listen to records, including the comedy routines of a stand-up comic who is not highly morally regarded at this time but whose name rhymes with Bosby and who had an album titled "To Russell My Brother Whom I Slept With."

To Jim, my brother, whom I slept with.

We'd also listen to the records of the parodist Allen Sherman. Both Cosby and Sherman formed some of my cultural understanding, and I think Jim's too. We learned about parody from Sherman, who would use the melodies of popular songs and write funny lyrics. 

Sherman did a parody of a song Doris Day sang in the 1953 movie Calamity Jane, “Secret Love” and not only took the melody but wrote lyrics that matched the surprise of the song. The original song by Sammy Fain and Paul Francis Webster begins, “Once I had a secret love,/That lived within the heart of me,” and ends, “Now my heart’s an open door,/My secret love’s no secret any more.” Sherman’s parody was titled “Secret Code,” and begins, “Once I had a secret code,/Where A was B and B was G,” and ends, “That is how we won the war,/My secret code’s no secret any more.” 

We realized that parody actually takes original, possibly copyrighted material and makes fun of it. In law school, I learned how this meets the fair use exception of the copyright law because its purpose is satire and comment. In a similar way, when Jim and I watched Walt Disney's Fantasia, we realized that what made the hippos and alligators in ballet costumes doing Americare Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours Fantasia" really funny is that the music was actually Ponchielli's and they danced to it perfectly except for the fact that they were hippos and alligators. 

Cosby would talk about things like how the captains of opposing teams in football games are introduced by the referee and during the coin toss pick heads or tails. And he would imagine that happening in conflicts in history. "Captain Custer, this is Captain Sitting Bull. Captain Sitting Bull, this is Captain Custer."

Our Dad had a workshop and used to take time to show us how to build and fix things. Jim listened. Me, not so much. I may have picked up something about problem solving by osmosis, but it was Jim who learned to fix the plumbing and build a table. He was inquisitive and always eager to learn. 

As a result, Jim was the one family members called when something was broken. And he would always come. He would also come when you didn't call, when he just heard that your sink was stopped or you had a flat tire. And he made things. My wife and I still have the nice bar he built for us as a wedding present.

He was a selfless, caring, generous person. 

His inquisitiveness may have sometimes made him too eager to spread new knowledge. I remember we were having dinner with Mom and Grandma, my mom's mother, a sweet and gentle Italian-born lady. Jim had just read a book on religion that indicated that angels were a Persian myth that the Bible took over. Jim announced this at the dinner table, and Gram dropped her fork and said, 'Oh, Jimmie. You have to believe in angels. You have to."

Jim, are there angels? You would know now.

He also ran and exercised and managed to work his pulse rate into almost every conversation. “Do you remember how many home runs Babe Ruth hit for the record?” “60, Jim.” “Right. And did you know my pulse rate is 60!”

Stubborn? A little bit. The only phrase Jim knew in Italian was “Teste de Calabrese,” which means, “You have a head from Calabria,” which is very stony. He knew it because Dad used it a lot about both of us.

He married young and divorced 10 years later, the father of three children whom he pretty much raised, selflessly, making sure they received catechetical training and that they would be able to go to and complete their college educations. They're grown now, Professionals, and pretty darn good people, making contributions to the world. Their Dad would be proud, and there’s a new grandson whose middle name is James.

He always wanted to be a writer. He had a very inventive mind. I remember a short story he wrote about a little boy bringing an elephant’s tooth to a museum. But I think he was too busy helping other people to spend the time. Instead, he worked in human resources, once again helping others.

About five years ago, for my birthday, my wife gave me three tickets for a Washington Nationals baseball game. She remembered my telling her that our Dad would take us to games when the team was the Washington Senators and the stadium was called Griffith. We'd sit on the first-base side near the home team dugout. The team moved to RFK Stadium, and after Dad died my two brothers and I joined the "Knot-hole Club," with cheap-seats so far up in the bleachers that we're talking nose-bleeds and eagles but also the only way we could afford to go. The players really did look like ants playing pin-ball. But then baseball left D.C., only to return in 2005. 

I value that day beyond measurement. My wife had given me the perfect gift. Washington lost, but we had a bright, sunny, brotherly day. It was during that day that Jim told me the doctor thought something was wrong with his memory. 

He stayed with Mom for a while, and my wife and I would go visit for dinner. I remember once Jim said, "Didn't you write a play in high school that was a parody of Shakespeare's Richard III called 'Richard the Toity-Terd?’" I had, and he remembered it decades later. It's funny how the mind works.

He just accepted his fate, talking about how at a certain point his children should just put him on a bus to Milwaukee. He didn't want to burden them. Selfless, as usual.

I've missed him for years. We'd try to visit him at the facility every two weeks. After a while he didn't seem to recognize us. But it was good to be with him. And there was always the hope that he knew we were there, that he knew who we were and that he understood what we were saying.

And one day I had reason to believe he did know, he did understand. Among the records we used to listen to in our shared room was the original cast album of the 1955 musical Damn Yankees. We liked it because it was about our Washington Senators and also because it has a great score, especially the song “(You gotta have) Heart” that the manager sings to his team.  The manger sings it through once, and then there’s a musical vamp when the players strut around before singing the song themselves: Dum-da-dum da, dat-dat-dat-dat-dat/ Dum-da-dum da, dat-dat-dat-dat-dat.” One day when we were visiting Jim in the assisted living facility, we were talking to him, and he wasn’t responding. So I reminisced about Damn Yankees and sang “Heart” all the way through. And when I had finished, Jim suddenly started singing the vamp: “Dum-da-dum da, dat-dat-dat-dat-dat.” And I said to myself, “He’s still in there. Not only does he know who we are, he knows the vamp from ‘Heart.’”

He’s no longer here for us to visit. But he's in our hearts. He's the song we'll remember when someone else smiles in a certain way or helps another person.

Good person, dependable, loving, kind. That’s the example he set.

We love you, Jim, and always will. We’ll also always remember.

 

Copyright 2015 by John T. Aquino