Saturday, November 1, 2014

May, 2001 - A Poem To My Uncle Frank

Forgive me, friends, for I have sinned.  It's been a month since my last poem.  There are no excuses, Rest assured, I'll be mercilessly berating myself over the next few days for this, my unforgivable, transgression.

Today's poem:
Frank's Mystery

How old are you oh Frankie mine
Are you just three or are you nine
Are you twenty or are you ten
Or are you counting over again
The other day the moon was new
I guess that made you forty-two
It's hard to add as you can see
Cause last year you were thirty-three
Tomorrow we might know the score
But by that time its thirty-four
You lead a life that's pretty nifty
By counting backwards under fifty
One day (I know) I heard you say
Another year another day
But with that quirky Frankie knack
You go one year forward, count ten back
Whatever your age will be just fine
So Happy Birthday, Frankie mine.

                    May, 2001

Discussion: The "Frank" in this poem is my uncle.  He's married to my mother's younger sister Teresa and they are my cousin Josette's parents.

My uncle Frank's been 39 for a few decades - despite the fact that his daughter Josette was born years before was born and I'm 51.  I have it on very good authority that he is, in fact, 83.

If that's the case then the above poem was written when he was a spry 70.  And as you can tell, Uncle Frank was never one to stick to any particular number for his age.  He also knows every Henny Youngman joke ever told.  He's a huge sports fan and he once let me borrow a clipping book he made - it held every (EVERY) newspaper clipping about the 1948 Yankees that he found in the New York papers.

He and my dad had a very warm relationship despite some vast differences in their personalities.  Dad was a bodybuilder in his youth and who, with very few breaks over his life, exercised at least twice a week.  My uncle did none of those things.  At every recent family gathering before my dad passed away, my uncle would (jokingly, of course) challenge my dad to a boxing match.  As dad would be sitting comfortably immobile in a chair, Uncle Frank would bob and weave in front of him saying, "C'mon Al!  You and me!  Three rounds!  You and me!  You may be big but I'm fast.  I'm fast!"  My dad, completely nonplussed and equally joking back, would retort, "You don't want me to get up, Frank.  All I'd need is one shot, Frank.  Just one and you're down."

They did this every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and 4th of July for many many years and it was funny every time.  One year, my dad got up out of his chair during the bobbing and weaving and I don't think I've EVER seen my Uncle Frank move that quickly - out of the room.

And they had this odd thing: despite the fact that none of those gatherings weren't at his house, dad sat at the head of the table and Uncle Frank sat "down table" a bit.  I am not sure why this took place, as it just did.  And after dad passed, Frank was far quieter, even turning down a seat at the 2 cent/4 cent poker game that always took place afterwards.  And I was given the seat at the head of the table.  I can't tell you how that decision was made or when.  I was just told that's where I'd sit - in my dad's old seat at the head of the table while Uncle Frank sat down table and quiet.

I can't tell you how uncomfortable that was.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Undated - A Poem (Unfinished?) To Me

This one's a bit of a mystery, I'll admit.  I have two drafts of this poem (one rougher than the other) and no final typed version.  Perhaps the final version solves the mystery.

Here we go:
David D. was playing on the ground
When all of a sudden, guess what he found?
A magic ring all gold and bright
Shining and new...a sparkling sight!!
It spoke to him in the tiniest voice
"To own this ring, you have no choice
Make three wishes 'fore the sun has set
Or the Anger of the Genie is all you'll get."
So David thought to make one wish
"I wish for cake" and Boom! Bam! Swish!
A Genie appeared and tapped his hat
Out of fog and smoke and just like that
Came delicious cake sooo tall and white
So he dove right in oooh what a sight.
He ate from the middle, he ate from the top,
He ate and ate till his tummy cried stop!!
"Ow how it hurts I'm much too stuffed"
Said David D. as he huffed and puffed.
"I wish this hurt would go away!"
And Boom! Bam! Swish - it was gone Horray!
I think you can guess the mystery but let's let that sit for a bit.

By the poem's imagery (there's a cake and wishes) I am guessing he wrote for one of my birthdays, though I have no memory getting of the poem at all and there's no indication anywhere which birthday of mine it was or indeed whether it was written for a birthday.  But given this slimmest of evidence I think it's a very safe guess.

By the way, here we are (my dad and I) from a long time ago:

The date on the back of the photo reads "Oct 64" and since I was born in early October, 1963 we can safely assume the photo was snapped sometime around my first (of about 50, so far) birthday.  Dad was a mechanical engineer (NYU '56, I think) and so the ballpoints in his pocket aren't that out of place.  Neither are the mid-60s tie, probably with a neat tie-tack safely securing it to his white short sleeve shirt.  I'm not sure if you can see this, but my dad's wearing two rings; his college ring on his right hand and his wedding ring on his left.  I was already engaged to be married when he passed away in 2007 (the wedding took place in 2008) and my mom let me have dad's wedding ring.  So the ring you see in the picture of my dad with his one year old on his lap is the same ring I'm wearing right now.

The picture itself was taken in our dining room.  The windows behind us opened up to the back yard and to our left was the kitchen.  The wall paper was eventually painted over (thank goodness) at some point though I can't remember exactly when.  I do know that I repainted both the dining room and kitchen sometime in the late 80s and the rooms remained unrepainted over when we sold the house a few years ago.  I'm thinking, though, that that wallpaper's still there, underneath a few coats of paint to be sure, but it's still there.  Just knowing that makes me fear for the republic.

And now the mystery.  Were you able to spot it?  According to the poem, in order to avoid "the Anger of the Genie," I have to make THREE wishes.  But in the poem, I only make TWO (one for cake and one for the cakey-tummy ache to "go away.")..

But what of the third?

As I said, perhaps the final version of the poem offers a solution, in the mean time, let me offer a post hoc.  The poem also recounts a special ring, all golden and bright.  My wedding ring (which was once Dad's wedding ring) is all shiny gold.  It may have taken a few years to get it but I eventually got the ring.  And I still have it, my precious.

So it looks like I still have my third wish.

Thanks, Dad.  I'll let you know what it is when I discover what it is.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

October 7, 2005 - A Poem To My Cousin

My mother, my father's wife, was the third of four sisters.  The other sisters (in order), were my aunts Elida, Micky, and Teresa.

Here's a picture of mom's immediate family, circa 1946:

My mom's in the upper right hand corner, in the plaid.  Sitting to her right is her father, my grandfather.  He (or at least his red hair) is mentioned in this poem and he was called "big boy" by his extended family, though I never ever called him anything but Grandpa.  He was a wood worker who built us some amazing wood things for Christmas gifts.  When playing poker, his hands would shake a little more than a little when he had a really good hand.  When we saw Big Boy's hands shake, we all knew enough to fold.

My Aunt Teresa's in the lower left hand corner, with her arm around her oldest sister, my Aunt Elida.

Within a decade or so of this picture, Aunt Terry would be married and she'd have a daughter, my cousin, Josette.

And when Josette turned 50, my dad sent her this poem:
Happy Birthday Josette
Let us pause to contemplate
This special day we celebrate
Twas on this day that you were born
One early early autumn morn
What a day this work has known
Snce you were sent "on loan"
Your mother thought, "Oh, what the hello,"
"Well just keep her." "How can tell?"
"She might grow up to be a saint"
And then promptly went into a faint!!
No! "She'll grow into something better"
"Like a labrador or Irish Setter"
So she kept you and what she got
(A Lab or Setter you are NOT!)
A lady lovely, thoughtful, nifty!
Better still you're only fifty!
Happy Birthday my nice nice niece
May your wonders never cease.

Your Uncle,
        Albert DeAngelo
Josette never fails to inform me that when I was little (I'm about 8 years younger) she and my cousin Judy (who is my Aunt Elida's second child) used to fight (FIGHT!) over who would play with me.

I'm fifty now and I can not contemplate being so cute as to provoke such familial rivalry.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Undated - A Poem to My Mother

While sifting through the folder looking for an appropriate poem for this week's posting, I found this one among the pile.  It was undated and hand-written on a 5x8 sheet of blue-lined yellow paper.  It had been folded into eighths (one horizontal and four vertical folds).
I do not think of you at all
Be it Summer, Spring or Fall

Neither Day nor Nighttime find
My need to bring your love to mind

No outside help need I recall
No-one, nothing. None at all

For you are my thoughts my very senses
My glowing dawn when day commences

You are the sunsets of of my days
Tomorrows, nows & yesterdays

You are me in all I do
You are me & I am you.
I picked this poem because it's just a short message from my Dad to my Mom.  No in-laws (wonderful as they are), no children, grandchildren (ditto and ditto).  Just a note from Dad to Mom.  A note just about them.  Together.

We buried the two of them this past Friday and they're now interred together at the National Cemetery of the Alleghenies Bridgeville, Pennsylvania.

Dad passed away in 2007 and was cremated a short time after. When we cleaned out her house a few years ago, after Mom went into assisted living, my wife and I brought his cremains back with us to Pittsburgh.  Mom passed February of this year and was also cremated. Their cremains had been side by side on a bookshelf in our home until a few days ago.

You can see both containers on the table in the photo above.  Dad's was the darker brown and Mom's was the redder.  A few times when I was with mom when she was still living at her house, I overheard her talking to Dad's cremains.  She said good morning and good evening at the appropriate times of the day.  I don't know if she said anything else, but I wouldn't be surprised if she did.  What I heard was very sweet and very sad at the same time.  I know she missed him terribly.

The service itself was quite moving.  My wife and I were there as were her parents, my friend Tony, who served as best man at my wedding, and my friend Joe, who played Taps for the funeral.  There was a Chaplain who said a few words (few of which I can remember), a color guard with flags, an honor guard to give the gun salute and two officers who unfolded and then refolded the American flag that's on the table.

The flag itself came from the VA on the occasion of my father's passing, as he had earned an Honorable Discharge from the Army for his service in the early 50s.  He was a tank commander stationed in Germany during the Korean War.  He later when on to get a college degree via the GI Bill, from NYU.  A few years later, he started writing love poems to the woman who would later become my Mom.

The folding of the flag was intensely interesting.  Two officers a few feet in front of me.  Both with white gloves and in full uniform.  A Lt Colonel to my right holding that part of the flag with the blue field of stars.  The field was to his left.  He and a Captain (the officer in the beret above) held the flag open tight and then folded it twice over, the stripes folded over the stars, so the blue field held by the Lt Colonel remained visible.  The Captain then folded by triangles has he moved towards the Lt  Colonel. By tradition they folded three of the spent shell casings from the salute into the flag.  I have the rest with no idea what to do with them.  They were still warm when they were handed to me.

There were lots of very slow salutes and I didn't think the service would hit me as much as it did.  But it did.  It was my final big responsibility to my parents.  All that's left is some minor paperwork and (of course) taxes.

But what's important is that my parents are now together as they had been on my book shelf, as they had been when Mom spoke to Dad's cremains, as they had been since they met in the late 50s.  And they'll be together as long as the Republic maintains the cemetery in Bridgeville, PA.

And that's all that's really matters.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

June 2, 1999 - A Poem To My Nephew

A week or so ago, I posted a poem my dad wrote to his first grandson, Drew.  Here's a poem written a few years later for his second, my nephew Chris:
June, 2, 1999

Christopher David's 2nd Birthday

Well! Well! Christopher look at you!

While we weren't looking, you turned TWO!

You turned TWO before our eyes!

What a marvelous surprise

You learned the sound a tugboat makes

And how to eat those tasty-cakes

You learned to YEAH! When all else fails

No matter if its heads or tails

We knew as soon as you could walk

Not far behind you'd learn to talk

And talk you did for us to hear

And be so proud that we will cheer

"To Christopher David who is now TWO

Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday to You!"

Albert Andrew DeAngelo I

[All formatting, punctuation and capitalization in original]

I held Chris for the first time when he was about a week old.  There's a picture of it somewhere and it shows me, in round glasses and a white button down, my head just beginning to clear itself of that pesky wavy hair that helmeted me in my youth, holding a new born boy who slept, made some odd crackling noises (a mystery to me still) and then unceremoniously pooped.  I'm pretty sure I handed Chris back to his mother at that point.

Some context on the poem is needed.  In lines 7-8, Dad is referencing a guessing game he played with Chris.  This is what I remember: Dad would take a coin and spin it on a table top and ask Chris to guess, before the coin stopped spinning, whether it would come up heads or tails.  If Chris guessed correctly he got a point.  If not, he didn't.  After 4 or 5 points, Chris always won the game and did a little celebratory dance each time he won.  It was very cute every time it happened.  About as cute as Drews "Lord of the Dance" dance.  But that's another story.

The line just before (line 6) needs some explanation as well.  My dad was born in Trenton and thus grew up in the culinary shadow of the mighty Tastykake.  Dad loved Tastykakes and was obviously overjoyed that his grandson (even at TWO) was taking to them kindly as well.  Growing up in Southern New England, we discovered that while they weren't exactly unknown, Tastykakes were certainly not a major player in the local snack kake cake market.  There was Hostess and Entenmann's and Drakes to be sure, but my memory is that a Tastykake find was indeed a rare one.  Mom wasn't a big fan of the Tastykake - which is a huge mystery to me as I am, like my father before me, among the Tastykake addicted.

One Christmas I surprised Dad with some Tastykakes:

Yea, they were probably gone by the middle of January.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

November 2, 1996 - A Poem to My Nephew

My father had two sons, a half-dozen siblings, many in-laws and many many nieces and nephews and finally two grandchildren.

Both boys, Drew and Chris and both my older brother's.

When birthdays came around, at least when the boys were little, Dad would plink out some rhymes to commemorate the event - as he did for me and my cousins when we were that  little.

Like this one:


NOVEMBER 2, 1996

A miracle happened to us this year
It brought us love & light & cheer
A child was born to us that day
To Steal our hears & show the way
Who is this tiny ball of glee
With wrinkled nose & dimpled knee
His name is Drew

This little boy who came with love & hope & joy
I can't believe what you have done
You've joined our Clans
Now we are all one

You came from no where overnight
A part of all, a beautiful sight
You brought with you a brand new way
A whole new path, a happier day

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, your first one DREW
With all my love
From me to you


[Formatting, Punctuation and Capitalization in original]

Drew, by the way, was born November 26, 1995.  SO either the title's a typo (and he left out the "6") or Dad wrote this a few weeks short of Drew's first birthday.  Could go either way, I guess.  His poem for Drew's second birthday has the correct date on it.

The original poem I have was obviously produced on a word processor and printer.  I recall Dad had a heavy Smith Corona that looked like this:

So I am left wondering: how did he print it out?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

March 27, 1959 - A Poem To My Mother

This is a short one, written to my mom while they were still dating.
A voice of the sweetest of rhymes
An image of Beauty & Grace
A laughter the music of chimes
A portrait of your smiling face
These things I see tho I'm alone
With the aid of my telephone.
The post script on the poem includes a time: 11:25 P.M.  And according to this page, March 27, 1959 was a Friday.  So, presumably, dad wrote this late one Friday night possibly after a late night phone call with my mom.

I think I may know the circumstance of this poem.  Mom told me that when they were courting Dad would see mom home at the end of their date and then get on a subway to go back to his apartment.  She said it was a rather long commute. Once he was home, he'd call her to let her know he got home safely.

Perhaps this was one of those nights.

Dad was very traditional when it came to such matters.  Mom told me that even after they got engaged (and, of course, dad dutifully asked her father for his OK before he proposed) whenever they were at his apartment before getting married he made sure the front door was always open.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

October 30, 2000 - A Poem to My Mother

This is where I'll begin - with a poem from my father to my mother.

Let's look at the things we've done
We went and had our "number one"
A short time later "David fair"
Who didn't quite have "Papa's" hair
We came and settled on our hill
Where by the way we're living still
How great these early years have been
The things we've done and loved and seen
Our times at Basel's were the best
It put our stamina to the test
From years of laughter and of joy
To an ocean cruise and ship ahoy
My years with you have been quite good
Far far better than I knew they would
One of the things that can hold true
Is that you love me and I love you
Thank you Giulie for a wonderful life
For being my friend, for being my wife

Commentary: The "number one" mentioned in line two is my other brother, Albie.  He was born in late February, 1961 and I followed "a short time later" in early October, 1963.  My mother was one of four sisters and their father had (or so I am told) red hair.  So whenever the sisters would get together if they detected any sort of ginger glint in any of the cousins' hair, it was immediately pronounced "Papa's hair!"  By the time I knew him his hair was white so I had to take their word on it.

I grew up in a very nice house in Southern Connecticut.  It was warm and wonderful but unfortunately it was built into a notch carved out of a moderately steep hill.  Its driveway curved upwards from the street to the house.  Not much of a big deal for most of the year but during the New England winters, when there's snow and/or ice and/or sleet followed quickly sometimes by a sunlit deep freeze, the driveway seemed to get longer the deeper the snow and/or ice and/or sleet that fell upon it.  We sold the house a year or so ago and someone else lives there now.  I wish them well with their warm and wonderful house on the steepish (and sometimes snowy) hill.

Basel's was a Greek Restaurant in New Haven.  It closed in the mid-80s and became, for a short time, a Japanese restaurant but now it's now a Subway sandwich shop.  When I was, I think, in 5th grade my parents discovered the place and then spent every Friday and Saturday night there for the next 2 decades or so.  There was Greek music and Greek dancing every weekend and they were regulars and they loved it.  After Basel's closed, they'd plan their summers around the Greek festivals in Connecticut, hoping to enjoy again the moussaka and the misirlou, the spanakopita and the tsamiko.