Opening today's newspaper I saw Angelo's obituary. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. He passed this week from cancer. I hadn't even known he was sick.
Death may be every bit as much a part of life as birth but we mourn the former and celebrate the later and no amount of self deception allows us to find any joy in the death of those we care about.
Angelo would be in his 80s, I guess. The obit didn't say. He was an Italian from the old country who worked on the track crew at the company I worked for. Sometimes he was a laborer and worked for my father. Angelo and Dad became friends as soon as they met when they both came here in the early 70's. Angelo with his broken English and Dad with his deep Maine accent, it was a wonder they ever understood each other.
Every year Angelo made wine and every year when it as ready he and Dad would get tanked together. Angelo's wine was peasant wine, high octane.
Angelo retired twenty years or so ago and about the only time I ever saw him was in the super market or the doctor's office. He always greeted me with a huge smile, a big hug, and a "How's Dad?" Asking about my father. Late in life I had taken to calling him Dad when I would see him. A previous illness had taken Angelo's voice away. He spoke in whispers the last of his life.
If you saw Angelo you saw his wife. They were always together. Theirs was an odd story. Fern had been married to Angelo's brother and bore his son. After his brother died Fern and Angelo got married and Angelo adopted the boy, Romeo. Fern and Angelo were deeply in love and in what must have been difficult circumstances at the time.
A couple of years back Romeo dropped dead with a sudden heart attack. I saw Angelo in the market a few days later. I had no idea what to say. He hadn't seen me. I stood for a moment and then walked up to him, took his arm, and said, "I'm sorry, Dad." He turned around and hugged me tight and began to cry. Then his wife saw us, joined the hug and she cried too. I didn't know Romeo that well but because they cried I did too. The three of us in the middle of the supermarket.
I didn't know he was sick. I didn't know he had cancer. I realized the other day that I hadn't seen him in a while. I found myself thinking I should stop by his house, say hello. The last time I had seen him he looked old and frail. I thought I should also see if he needed anything done. Around the house, you know?
But then I didn't. And today, the obit in the newspaper. I felt like I had been hit in the stomach.
I know. I said that already. I don't know what else to say.