Of Apples and Trees, Aunties and Love…

On Friday, April 21, 2017 at 10:00 am, a celebration will take place in a little corner of the world of a little town, in southeastern Massachusetts.

Those of you who read this blog, know that recently our family lost the hub of it’s wheel with the passing of my sister Nan.

Spring has arrived and in this season of new life; we will gather as the Hanson Public Library will honor her life and her heart when they dedicate their Children’s Room in her name.

And thus is as it should be for it was children which shaped her life and who in turn had their lives shaped by her.

A case in point, two cases actually.

Brady, Papa and Jake

Brady is 10, Jake is 13 and Papa, well he’s older than that. They are the great-nephews of Nancy. Last December, they traveled from Florida with their immediate family to gather with their extended family to say goodbye to their great Auntie Nancy.

The week consisted of gathering in Nancy’s home where days were filled with, talking, laughing, crying, hugging and a whole lotta love. We played Monopoly and Clue,  we poured over hundreds of photos. We put together five photo posters, collages which told the story of Auntie Nancy’s life, told the story of all of our lives.  And in so doing unveiling to us all, the monumental role that this sweet gentle soul played in all of our lives.

                                                          Charley and Brady

Several days after returning to Florida Brady told his mom that their week in Massachusetts was the “best trip ever.” Mom called to tell me this and she said “Dad, we went to Auntie Nancy’s wake and funeral, we took a trip for a couple of hours to a book store and other than that, we never left the house.”

One might ask themselves, how could a ten year old, call this his “best trip ever?”

The answer is simple in its profundity…Love! The love that was and is Auntie Nancy. That love which penetrates each and everyone in the blessing of our family.

“Our connection is pure love.” A concept that is not lost on 10 year old Brady. Ah yes, “And a child shall lead them.”

                                                              Jake and Reagan

Jake is a 13 year old eighth grade student. Gathered in the church to say goodbye, he heard these words spoken about his great Auntie Nancy, regarding a small plaque which sat on her bookcase in her home.

“For the past two years as she battled her disease, she did so with a determination, hope and dignity that left those of us around her in awe and at one point simply stating ‘I’m sick of talking about it.’ And in so doing, she refused to let cancer define her, for to her it was simply a storm and there was far too much dancing in the rain to be done.”

He spent the week learning to dance.

A few weeks after Jake returned to Florida, he was inducted into the National Junior Honor Society. Each student was charged with the responsibility of choosing their own quote to define them.

                                                               Jake’s choice!

It is said that apples do not fall far from trees. And in fact to become a tree one had to have at one time been an apple. On Friday apples and trees will gather at the Hanson Public Library.

                       Some apples which have grown into some fine young trees.

                                                            Seven sweet apples

                                                    Apples and trees

                                                           A collection of trees

                                                                The trunk

On Friday we will gather for Nancy Cappellini Family Fun Day. We will honor the indelible mark left by her at The Hanson Public Library. There will be some tears for we miss her so, but the smiles will prevail as we will be reminded how blessed we are, for we were touched by her light and continue walk in it.

            The newest apple will be there, making his first trip to Auntie Nancy’s

We move forward with a deeper understanding, with “our connection of pure love” and with a better ability for dancing in the rain. And as I reread the flyer I can’t stop smiling, remembering that; for so many apples and so many trees, every day was Family Fun Day at Auntie Nancy’s.

Twas always thus and thus shall always be!

                 And so it is on this day, Nancy M Cappellini Family Fun Day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.” John F. Kennedy

Today, April 17th, 2017 a lifelong dream comes to fruition when Arcadia Publishing and the History Press releases this book. It is a pictorial essay about the 35th President with 200 photographs of him at home in his beloved New England.

JFK at the tiller of the US Coast Guard Yacht Manitou, sailing Rhode Island Sound in August of 1962.  

I was a seven year old third grade student in Miss Noyes’ class at the James Humphrey School in Weymouth, Massachusetts when John F. Kennedy was elected the 35th President of the United States.

Three years later my class returned from the playground and gym class to be informed by Miss Rygren that “Our President” had been shot and killed in Dallas TX.

From 1990-1992, while in grad school, I worked as a volunteer docent at the JFK Library. While leading a group of fourth grade students through the museum I was asked this question. “Did you know President Kennedy?” “No”, I replied and the loquacious little fellow followed up with “Then what are you doing here?”

My response went this way. “When I was your age, President Kennedy made me believe that my life could make a difference in the world… So I guess what I’m doing here is passing that message on to you.”

In 2018 I will retire after 26 years as a history teacher in Manatee County Florida. During that time I have noticed a phenomenon which I have named the Iconic Streamline. This is the single event for which icons come to be known. For example, when I ask students what they know about Abraham Lincoln, I would invariably hear, “He freed the slaves.”

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Martin Luther King? “I have a dream speech.”

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Rosa Parks? “Didn’t give up her seat.”

Image result for rosa parks

When I asked what they knew about JFK, the answer was virtually always the same, “He got shot.”

Image result for jfk dallas

My passion for history, which ultimately led me to the classroom, was lit by President John F Kennedy.  The idea that generations later, middle and high school kids identified him simply as “the guy that got shot” was and is unsettling to me.

It was during my tenure at the JFK Library that Jackie, Caroline and John Jr. initiated the annual Profiles in Courage Award. It is awarded each year around the time of the President’s birthday, May 29th, and it was designed to put the focus upon JFK’s life and legacy, not his death.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of his birth. Those of us who are the children of his New Frontier, may have a bit of a problem wrapping our minds around that fact; for images from those days remain vivid and clear. This is especially true if you lived in his home state of Massachusetts and indeed all of New England.

Image result for jfk centennial

John F. Kennedy in New England is my small effort to bring the focus to the life and legacy of John F. Kennedy. And as I researched and wrote I was brought to an epiphany, I am a piece of that legacy. Like so many of the children of the New Frontier, I was inspired by the young president, his vision for America and Her place in the world. Angered and disillusioned by his murder and the decades that followed, it would take me neigh a half century to return to it.

Having done so, I sought to find the man. The man behind the hero, behind the legend, behind the icon.

What better way to do that than to find him at home? I spent weeks pouring over thousands of photos before settling on the photos to use. Several of which have never been published.

Some of them follow.

This one is personal. The gentleman smiling between JFK and the smiling woman, is my grandfather William Kelly. I still have a copy of the October 1952 newspaper in which this appeared. It is a cropped photo and the woman on the far left with the fur wrap is not in that cropped photo. When I found this original it brought a huge smile, for that woman is my grandmother Mary Kelly.

This is a Monday morning in July 1962 as JFK and RFK leave Hyannis Port bound for DC. Note the President saying good bye to his very unhappy little boy in the background.

This was taken in the summer of 1952 as JFK and his campaign manager RFK take a break from the Senate Campaign.

In 1958, it was a forgone conclusion that Senator Kennedy would win his re-election to the Senate. However with aspirations to capture the nomination for president in 1960, it was essential that he win decisively. Jackie said that this was the toughest of all his campaigns. The above photo is from the 1958 Columbus Day Parade in Framingham MA.

In June of 1962, President Kennedy delivered the commencement address at Yale University in New Haven Connecticut. In his speech he said, “The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic.”

Image result for jfk yale university

In so many ways John F. Kennedy has become mythical, “enlarged in death, beyond what he was in life.” What he was in life was:

A PT Boat Commander, whose boat was sliced in two by a Japanese destroyer in August of 1943. Eleven of the 13 crew members survived as Kennedy swam many miles throughout a week of hiding on two different, Japanese occupied, Pacific islands. They were all rescued by virtue of a message carved by JFK in a coconut and delivered to Allied forces in Rendova by natives.

He was,

Uncle Jack, who would drive the kids around the compound of his summer home in a golf cart.

He was Daddy, who would take his son for a swim in the pool at Bailey’s Beach in Newport RI.

Or enjoy a sail or cruise with his daughter upon the waters of Nantucket Sound.

Or who would, one month before he died, leave the Harvard/Columbia football game (above) at half time, slip the Secret Service and visit the grave of his son a few miles away.

He was a husband,

“who wove with a woman, what could not be broken in life”and with whom he shared the loss of two children, stillborn Arabella in 1956 and Patrick at two days old in August of 1963.

President and Mrs. Kennedy leave the hospital at Otis Air Force Base, following the birth and death of Patrick Bouvier Kennedy in August of 1963.

He was Jack, the son who never failed to kiss his father goodbye and…

He was a brother.

Who lost his older brother Joe (right) in World War II and his sister Kathleen a few years later. His beloved “Kick” who was often call his kindred spirit.

Who would ultimately inspire two younger brothers to follow him into the political arena and who reveled in gathering with his family.

He was a fiercely loyal friend,

Who would go for a drive,

Head for the links…

Or sail or cruise the ocean…

He was,

the Commander in Chief of the United States armed forces.

And he was the 35th President of the United States of America.

John F Kennedy was the youngest elected president in US history. Like all of us, he was a flawed human being. Like few of us, his flaws were played out on an international stage.

He was my president and he made me believe my life could make a difference. Within weeks of his death Jacqueline Kennedy said, “now he’s a legend when he would have preferred to be a man.” It is my hope that this book helps dispel “the persistent, persuasive and unrealistic myth” that, in many ways, has cloaked John Kennedy. And you may come away with a better understanding of the man who made New England and in fact the sea, his home.

I further hope that somewhere out there are some who left my classroom believing that their life can make a difference. For then I will have been worthy of his legacy.

Email fenwaypark100@gmail.com for an autographed copy. And feel free to purchase one for everybody you know.

                                            And so it is on this day, April 17, 2017

 

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Billy Rohr, We Will Love Him Forever…

It was 50 years ago today that I was huddled around an eight transistor radio at the soda fountain counter at Reidy’s Drug Store in Jackson Square in East Weymouth Massachusetts.

We were listening to the voice of the man in the middle…

Ken Coleman (center), Ned Martin (left) and Mel Parnell were the Red Sox broadcast team in 1967.

This team was in their second year of broadcasting as Coleman had replaced broadcasting legend Curt Gowdy who was bound for NBC, national broadcasts and immortality. Ken Coleman was a native of Quincy Massachusetts and he arrived behind the Red Sox mike from Cleveland where he was the voice of both the Browns and Indians.

Coleman’s voice was palpable that Friday afternoon, filled with excitement as he painted the picture of Billy Rohr toiling on the mound at Yankee Stadium on his own march toward immortality.

You see, on April 14, 1967 Billy Rohr came within a whisper of pitching a no-hitter in his first appearance on the mound as a major league pitcher.  He came within an out of doing just that and I wrote about it here four years ago.

https://fenwaypark100.org/2013/03/22/billy-rohr-on-the-threshold-eight-hits-in-the-game-all-of-them-belong-to-boston-ken-coleman/

Billy and Russ Gibson, his catcher that day, were both making their major league debuts. They forged a lifelong friendship.

Four years ago I was working on my book about the 1967 Red Sox and I asked Billy to write the foreword.

He was more than gracious and on this day I offer his recollections of his “15 minutes.”

I’ll never forget! “You’re going north”; these words were spoken to me by Dick Williams one spring morning on the practice field at Chain-o-Lakes Park in Winter Haven Florida. I was going to “the Show” and what a show it was. We had a Triple Crown winner and a Cy Young winner. We had the obligatory brawls with the Yankees. We had sell outs, shut outs and blow outs. We had a Boston icon felled by a fastball to his head. We even had a kid get his “fifteen minutes of fame” in Yankee Stadium. When all was said and done, we had a pennant and a crack at a World Championship, Boston’s first since Harvard was a prep school. And the fans went crazy!

On a more personal note, I’ve come to very peaceful terms with my role, my contributions, indeed my fifteen minutes.

Throughout the many years since 1967 the wonderful Fenway Faithful have welcomed us, welcomed me back to Boston on numerous occasions. As time has crept forward I have noticed a palpable difference in the universal perception of my little part in the Impossible Dream. For a good many years the focus was on Yaz and Lonnie-as well it should be. Yet in the past decade or two there has seemed to me a bit more all inclusive view of the team. More kudos for George Scott, Reggie Smith, Rico Petrocelli, Gary Bell, John Wyatt, Mike Andrews, Jerry Adair, my dear pal, the late Russ Gibson. While still recognizing the stars, the role players have become beloved members of the Dream.

As dreams go, the fondest memories blur through the prism of time into a landscape of history seen to anyone under 50 as that distant miracle described indelibly by Kenny Coleman in the Impossible Dream. I don’t hear it much anymore, haven’t for a good many years, but make no mistake, it still brings chills. I suppose winning the pennant by one game gives each individual victory some added meaning and if you do not think the stars were in alignment on April 14, 1967 all you need do is once again hear the voice of Ken Coleman screaming from the Yankee Stadium radio booth….”Yastrzemski going back, way back and he dives and makes a tremendous catch.”

Impossible? Probably.

Dream? Oh yeah.

Thanks Boston

Billy Rohr

At 71 years young, Billy still practices law in California, “to fund his golf habit.”

There has been a flurry of media attention which has come his way as the baseball world remembers the wonder of his magical day a half century ago.

And as for me, I pause remembering a chilly day in April a half century ago, when the “stars aligned” for a skinny, 22 year old kid from San Diego California who knocked on the door, the entry to a new portal. A portal that would click the cosmic tumblers unveiling a, new energy. An energy that would ultimately transform a franchise, a city and the world of baseball itself!

Ah, 1967 how she has marked me…

Thanks Billy, may all your days be played in the short grass.

                                 And so it is on this day, April 14, 2017, Billy’s Day.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/1967-RED-SOX-THE-IMPOSSIBLE-DREAM-SEASON-AUTOGRAPHED-COPY-/222377731700?hash=item33c6bee674:g:KjwAAOSwo4pYb4T2

 

 

 

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Venice High School Baseball’s 6th Annual Veteran’s Night, “The best thing we do every year.”

On December 7, 1941, the country of Japan attacked the American naval base in Pearl Harbor Hawaii, initiating America’s involvement in World War II.

On April 1, 2017 in the little city of Venice Florida, approximately 150 Veterans of the United States of America gathered on the Venice High School baseball field to be honored, to be appreciated and to be thanked.

The field was prepared and ready.

“Old Glory” presided over the festivities.

Among the dignitaries were Veterans of WW II.

                                     These folks range in age from 90 to 96.

There were Korean War Veterans.

                                                                    There were Vietnam Vets

                                 And some from more recent world conflicts.

Over 16,000,000 Americans served in World War II and The National World War II Museum in New Orleans estimates that, in 2016, there were approximately 650,000 still living. It is my pleasure to introduce a few of them.

Sgt. JoAnn Hacay served in the Civil Air Patrol in Roanoke Virginia from 1944-1948. It was the largest air patrol unit in the country.

Walt Glaws (top) and “Clink” Forsberg (below) were both B-24 pilots however in the truest trademark of the “Greatest Generation”, all “Clink” would say about it all was ” yea I flew a plane” and Walt just wanted to talk about his brother who was an “ace” flyer.

Bill Burger, the elder statesman of the group at 96, was a flight engineer who served in the US Army Air Corps. He designed the engines for both the B-24 and B-29 and trained the flight crews.

Chief Yeoman Officer Richard Lapan, served on the USS Mount McKinley which directed the landing of the 77th Infantry Division on the southern coast of Okinawa. He also served in the capacity of Admiral’s Secretary which found him privy to top secret info. He was constantly accompanied by the Navy Shore Patrol.

Jack Hollerback served as a 3rd Class Petty Officer on the USS Vincennes. I asked Jack the somewhat rhetorical question ” so I assume you were in the Pacific?” Jack, “yea.” Seeking to hear about any action he may have seen, I asked, ‘so where were you.” Jack, “we were all over.” It was clear after a bit of prodding Jack was not particularly forth coming. So when I got home I researched the Vincennes. Here’s what I found. She was a screen for the carrier carrying the Doolittle Raid fliers. They participated in the Battle of Midway and in the Guadalcanal Campaign. AND, it was sunk in the Battle of Savo Island taking 332 men with her.

Sgt. Erwin Berg was a Royal Dutch Marine who served aboard the HNLMS Piet Hein which was sunk in the Battle of Badung. He was rescued by a British Allied ship which was also sunk landing him in a Japanese POW camp from which he escaped. Erwin is 95 years young.

This Veterans Night had a special twist for yours truly. The guy in the Red Sox hat is my “big brother” Willie. Willie served in Vietnam in the 3rd battalion, 22nd infantry of the 25th infantry division. He took part in countless search and destroy missions in and around Cu Chi, Tay Ninh, Dau Tieng, Hoe Mon and Saigon. He participated in operations in the Iron Triangle receiving two Purple Hearts. He is surrounded by family who came to honor him. Grandson Gus holds the baseball.

 Coach Faulkner shakes hands with Captain Jerry Biller.

Jerry is a graduate of Venice High School he received his commission from the University of Central Florida as a 2nd Lieutenant in 1989.  He served in the 101st Airborne as a Platoon leader and a U.S. Airborne Ranger Scout Recon Team Leader leading 3 sniper and 3 reconnaissance teams. He served in Central American in early 1990 and in the fall of 1990 through 1992 he deployed to Operation Desert Storm which later became the Persian Gulf War.

As an Air Assault Pathfinder unit, Team Jerry served in the 3rd/187 Rakkasan Unit, leading the invasion of US forces as the first into Iraq determining enemy location and stopping the resupply of Kuwait through his deployment of sniper teams along HWY 8. He was awarded the Bronze Star for Leadership and the combat infantry badge. Team Jerry was featured on the cover of the book Certain Victory which is now taught as military doctrine.

A few of the host of volunteers who made all this happen. These young ladies greeted each veteran and signed them in. Every veteran’s name was read as they walked onto the field.

Four more members of the volunteer crew who worked to make every vet know that they were and are VIP’s.

Countless people offered their time and energy to pay tribute to our veterans.

Venice High freshman Gabe Mopps played the National Anthem. Gabe is the First Chair Violinist Concert Master with the Sarasota Youth Orchestra. The violin he is playing was made in 1910.

Venice High Senior Hannah Jai, who recently opened for Bon Jovi sang God Bless America in the bottom of the fourth inning.

The Young Marines of Venice Middle School were one of three color guards who participated in the event.

The JROTC of Venice High School was the second color guard.

No-Vel Legion Post 159 provided the third honor guard.

And they provided a 21 rifle salute as well.

And their bugler played taps.

                                          The umpires donned red, white and blue.

From left to right, Chris Hunt served in the Sarasota Police Department and he was part of the protection detail for President George W Bush on his visit to Sarasota on September 11, 2001. Josh Copeland (center) served in the Marine Corps for four years and Tim Tate is a 17 year veteran of the US Air Force.

Venice Police Chief Tom Mattmuller and Captain John Jernigan of the Sarasota County Sheriff’s office led the color guards on the field.

Venice Mayor John Holic, here with former Venice High teacher Mr. Mitchell, led the honored guests on the field.

They gathered by the batting cages and were presented with a baseball.

Coach Faulkner and members of the coaching staff greeted each of the nearly 150 veterans who made their way to the field.

Each vet’s name was called and they were invited to take the field and participate in the  first pitch ceremony.

The Venice Indians are ready to receive the first pitch.

The visiting Rams participated in the ceremony as well, but not before applauding the vets as they took the field.

Four different “First Pitch” events accommodated the branches of the service, with the Coast Guard and Navy combining forces.

The game was played, with Ty engaging in his rookie performance as the Indian bat boy.

The Indians prevailed in an exciting 4-3 comeback win and the night came to an end with a fireworks display.  

The real winners, however, were the veterans and all who were present.

It was a celebration of America, replete with…

Reflection…

Respect and gratitude…

And as I reflected on the night I was struck by the notion that these men and women who served our country, continue to do so. For what transpired was the building of a bridge across a century of American generations; the vehicle, the great American game of baseball. Nearly 500 people, in a small town on the west coast of Florida, gathered to simply say thank you to 150 of their fellow Americans. Thank you for answering your country’s call, thank you for your service wearing the uniform of your nation and above all, thank you for joining us on this magical night and building a bridge across generations of your fellow citizens. For, because of your presence on this night, the young men and women, boys and girls you touched, will embrace their future with a better understanding of what it means to be an American.

And embodied in that bridge is…HOPE!

So with honor, pride, respect and the deepest gratitude we say….Thank you!

And thank you to Lisa Guscette for the photos.

                                 And so it is on this day, April 7, 2017, Good Night Colonel.

 

 

 

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As Dad Always Said….

Today marks the 96th anniversary of my dad’s birth. A bit hard for me to believe that it’s been neigh a century since he made his way into this world. Maybe that’s because it’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been stumbling around for six plus decades, but that’s another story for another day.

Remo Sinibaldi

The longer I live the more I find myself beginning sentences with the phrase, “my dad always said, or as dad used to say;” funny thing that wisdom.

A friend told me once, I should write down all the little tidbits dad passed along on the way; so today in honor of him and his birthday, I offer these “Dadisms.”

“The most important lessons in life cannot be taught, they must be learned.”

This may be life’s toughest lesson. Who among us has not known or watched someone we love make a decision or choice that we KNOW is going to hurt them? All the words in the world, all the love in your heart, all the energy of your soul is not going to change anything. Only life can teach said lesson and all you can do is hope that they learn, and from the learning, grow.

Closely related is this one.

“Don’t exert energy over what you can’t control, it’s wasted.”

This one’s a toughie, hard to come to terms with, for sometimes we think just loving one enough can fix everything. But that will never work if said one loved, does not love themselves.

“The only way to process emotional pain is to allow yourself to feel it, give it it’s due but don’t let it consume you.”

An invaluable tidbit, for emotional pain not encountered can cripple and destroy and being consumed by it can do the same.

“There is a never ending supply of idiots in the world and the longer you live the more of them you get to meet.”

Nuf Ced!

His thoughts on raising kids was simple and straight forward. It came to me way back in 1978 when I became a dad. I had purchased a parenting book. The conversation went something like this… Dad…”Bought a book huh?” Me, “Yea, I don’t know what I’m doing.” Dad, “Do you think your mother and I knew what we were doing? Look, teach her this, don’t lie, don’t cheat, don’t steal…Take responsibility for herself and all the rest of that s#@t will fall into place.”

A parenting book in 25 words!

“A one putt hides a multitude of sins.”

Love this one for its truth and am reminded of it virtually every time I play golf. A great metaphor for life knowing that you are always just one shot away from turning your round around. You’re always one step, one choice, one move away from turning your life around.

Related to that, is this…

“If you ain’t scared, it don’t mean much.”

Mark Twain said that “courage is the mastery, not the absence of fear.” Fear is part of the journey. It is inescapable. My own little tidbit has grown from this…”We choose to feed our hopes or feed our fears.” Feed your hopes and you will continue to grow, feed your fears and you’ll die on the vine.

“You can always find 100 reasons why not to do something, find one reason to try and just do it.”

I remember clearly when he imparted this pearl. It was 1986 when I was contemplating a move from Boston’s south shore to Florida’s west coast. I was chatting with him about the pros and cons of said move and was rattling off the cons. He was sitting in his chair, opening his mail, and without looking up he said simply, “Ya know, you can always find 100 reasons not to do something.” And then glancing over his reading glasses, he added, find one reason to try and just do it.” He was telling me to “just do it”, two years before some shoe company coined the phrase. Words to live by…Not always easy, but what is?

At the crux of these words is the simple reality that growth, success and being the best we can be, cannot occur without pushing our comfort zones. To remain in the cocoon of our comfort zone feeds fear, cripples and leaves us imprisoned, often in a golden, gilded cage!

Beware your comfort zone.

“Go about your business, maintain your integrity, do what you do and everyone and everything gets exposed for who and what they are in the end.”

Good to remember when you find yourself preoccupied with exerting energy in hoping that someone who has wronged or harmed you “gets theirs.” Give it up in the knowledge that karma counts.

“Any man worth his salt will face his doubts.”

Self explanatory but not easy. Once again, a situation where we must simply confront our fears. Never, ever easy!

“Always remember there is a fine line between righteous and self righteous.”

I believe this was spawned from the words of one of dad’s favorite poems, If  by Rudyard Kipling.

If you can keep your head when all about you… Are losing theirs and blaming it on you…If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you… But make allowance for their doubting too…”

Needless to say, it’s become one of mine too.

“Don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out women, just accept them for the wonderful creatures that they are.”

Nothing to add here, for the most important lessons in life cannot be taught, they must be learned.

“All of life is bittersweet.”

The longer we travel life’s road, the more the clarity of these words reveal themselves for life is a journey wrought with joy and sorrow, love and pain, smiles and tears and often both at the same time. What gives us the capacity to grow is to always, always. always…choose love. For in the end, nothing else matters.

John F Kennedy described himself to his wife as “an idealist without illusions.” I believe I can say that my dad was a “romantic without illusions.” He squeezed every drop out of this life embracing it all.

He once told me that there is no way to avoid being hurt by life. You will win, you will lose, you will succeed, you will fail. Life victimizes us all. It is inevitable and he summed it up. “There are two types of people in this world. There are those who kick the shit out of life and those who let life kick the shit out of them. Be a kicker!”

Happy Birthday Dad and thanks for the tools…I’m taking my lumps but I’m still kicking! I’ll go out kicking! Oh and Dad…You’re with me everyday,  “Our connection is pure love.”

                   And so it is on this day, March 31, 2017, Dad’s 96th!

 

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” I can sum up what I know about life in three words…It goes on”… Robert Frost

Consider this an official announcement. This blog is officially being transformed. Begun as a baseball blog to honor the 100th birthday of Fenway Park; I am officially transforming and broadening it’s vision.

Throughout the years, I have sprinkled some personal stories throughout these posts. Recognizing that, that will continue, I feel compelled to make it official.

And in the end, it all makes sense, for my great love, for the great game of baseball is rooted in the fact that baseball is truly one of the great metaphors for life itself.

I’m moving forward, still with baseball stories but with more of the nitty gritty of life. What that means, in a nutshell, is that nothing is off the table. I move with the words of legendary UCLA coach John Wooten who once said, “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be;” and with the hope of George Eliot who intoned that it is “never too late to become what you might have been.”

So…Recognizing that this stage of my life calls for a bit of a reinvention, I invite one and all to climb on board and I hope you enjoy the ride.

                                        And so it is on this day, March 29, 2017

 

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OF BLESSINGS, BASEBALL, AUNTIE NANCY, OWEN AND DANCING IN THE RAIN…..

This is a deeply personal story. I offer it here because each of us is a deeply personal story unto ourselves. It is my hope that my story can touch you and your story.

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This is Nancy Cappellini. Nancy is my “baby” sister. The youngest of four children of Remo and Mary Sinibaldi.

This is Remo and Mary Sinibaldi when Mary was known as Mary Kelly.

And this is Mary and Remo with their four cherubs shortly after moving into their new home in Weymouth Massachusetts.

Nancy married Steven, her childhood sweetheart, and they raised a family of four beautiful children; two boys and two girls. They weathered the storms that life delivers us all and all that did was teach Nancy how to dance in the rain. Along the way she completed her required degrees and became first, the children’s librarian, and then its director in Hanson Massachusetts. Steve owned and operated a body shop and the Cappellinis became known to most in this small town of 10,000 people.

This is Steve and Nancy, with Lauren and their son Scott, on the day of their wedding. It was October 1, 2016, Nancy’s 62nd birthday.

The Cappellini household became the sun in the solar system of their extended families. It was here where family gathered during summer for Fourth of July bonfires (yikes), where Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners were held. Kids were everywhere and it was home to not only family but anyone and everyone who needed a kind word, an ear, a place to be valued, a place to be loved, and of course, something to eat! Nancy became mother to many more than just her four.

She is a precious vessel of light, …and she is ours!

A week before Christmas, Nancy succumbed to the ravages of cancer after a two year gallant, heroic battle. And while fighting this battle she brought out the best in those whom she touched. She was the source of energy and strength, she was the encourager, she was the teacher; and through it all her ultimate lesson was the true meaning of the greatest of life’s gifts, love.

I had the honor of sharing her last day with her. A dear friend wrote me and said, “Be ever so present right now. This is part of our journey on this earth and it is sad but also miraculous if we allow that level of understanding and insight.” I was present and during that day I got to watch the manifestation of the love her husband and children shared with and for her. It was a love which sprung from the depths of a divine humanity and it glimmered with a palpability that brought its own breath. It is a love that could only proliferate even in her passing. We all were literally uplifted in its presence.

And it could be no other way. For as she said to her son a mere hours before she passed, “Our connection is pure love.” Twas always thus, and thus shall always be.

This is Margeaux and Brian.

Margeaux is Nancy’s niece and one of those to whom Nancy was a mother. Brian is the daddy to that treasure they are holding together. That little treasure is a baby boy named Owen and this is about one month before his due date of January 3rd, 2017

Margeaux had a very special relationship with her Auntie Nancy and in her “condition” she was deemed “unable” to travel the 1500 miles to attend her services. This was found to be unacceptable.

“Our connection is pure love.”

Her and Brian boarded a plane and made the 1500 mile flight, to say goodbye to her Auntie Nancy and to be with us all. We laughed, we cried, we held on to each other and through a rain, the likes of which we have never known…we danced.

And we watched the love that was Nancy uplift thousands of people. We saw it in the people who stood in an hour long line to simply stop and pay their respects. We saw it in a full church who came to pray and listen to those who loved her so, tell of her unconquerable spirit and undying love. And we were touched by it from a community’s outpouring of kindness, love and support.

This is Kristi and that’s Margeaux behind her wearing glasses.

Kristi and Margeaux have been pals since they were little kids splashing in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean on Cahoon Hollow Beach in Wellfleet MA. Kristi’s birthday is December 30th. When Margeaux got the word that her due date was January 3rd, she said to me, “this baby is going to be born on Kristi’s birthday.”

On December 23rd, the day after Auntie Nancy’s funeral, Brian and Margeaux flew home to Florida. We communicated daily and late in the evening of December 29th, I received the following message. ” I think my water just broke.”

Owen Raymond Imperiale arrived at 3:57 am on December 30, 2016. Happy Birthday Kristi.

It is said that the hour between 3 and 4 am is the hour when the curtain between the spiritual world and those of us fumbling around here on earth is at it’s thinnest. Auntie Nancy was, in Margeaux’s words, “everywhere.”

“Our connection is pure love.”

                                                                       Owen

Little Owen is a happy little fellow who has no idea the special position he holds in our family. But he will come to understand and know all about the love that is his great Auntie Nancy. How could he not?

“Our connection is pure love.”

French philosopher and Poet Alphonse de Lamartine once wrote, “Grief knits two hearts in closer bonds than happiness ever can, and common sufferings are far stronger links than common joys.”

A wise man that Monsieur de Lamartine. For in leaving us far too soon, the vessel of light and love that was and continues to be Nancy; has presented those of us left behind with a precious gift. The opportunity to grab onto those words and live them.

“Our connection is pure love.”

When we lose those we love, we honor them by how we live our lives. We are infused with the responsibility to carry on for them. I must say that I have found Nancy sitting on my shoulder quite a bit these past few months as she refuses to let me be anything less but the best I can be, and when I’m not, I seem to hear about it. Frankly, sometimes she’s a pain in the ass, but I was a pain in the ass to her on more than one occasion so I smile as she works on me.

I believe I have been in love with baseball since my birth. I’m not sure how, maybe I heard dad grousing about the Braves leaving Boston while I was in utero, but I cannot remember not loving baseball. The Red Sox will be opening the season in a couple of weeks and as much as I love the Sox, I must confess my true love for this game comes from hanging with these guys at the Venice High School Baseball Field.

                                          The 2017 Venice High School Baseball Team.

The difference between these guys and the Sox, is that with these young men I have the opportunity to build relationships. And I get to do that with a group of men I admire, respect and with whom I have come to form a brotherhood that extends far beyond the baseball field. They, like my sister, demand my best.

I have known Nancy’s husband Steve since we were in high school together. We have shared many times, happy times and sad times, smooth times and troubled times. However, the “grief that has knitted our two hearts together” has formed a closer bond than we have ever shared. And baseball, specifically Venice High Baseball, has played a part. A link on the chain of that bond formed by simply sharing the dugout during a high school baseball game.

“Our connection is pure love.”

Steve and I in the dugout at Bishop Verot High School in Ft. Myers Florida on Steve’s recent visit.

Baseball will be a part of Owen’s world in some form or another and he has already smelled the grass while his brothers Drew and Seany scurried about.

There is a trendy saying now a days that talks about “moving on.” Nancy has left us, and the hole in our collective hearts in her absence is, at times unfathomable. However, moving on is not the answer, for what fool would move on from the love and light she brought to our lives? Who, in their right mind, would eschew the opportunity to strengthen the “bond of two hearts knitted in grief?”

                                  Some of the “hearts knitted together in grief.”

Who would run from “our connection of pure love.”?

No, moving on is not the answer, moving with is more like it. Moving with a greater understanding of the gift of love. Moving  with a more profound sense of urgency to relish every single moment. Moving with an increased capacity to give and receive love. Moving with a renewed desire to be the very best one can be and moving with the desire to share all of that with those we love.

Life is a miracle, so indeed is death. They are inexorably linked in this mortal journey we all travel. There is opportunities presented to us in the death of one we love however one must be open to it. I am fortunate that my sister would demand nothing less from all of us left behind, other than embracing that opportunity to grow.

“Our connection is pure love.”

There are some who will simply not understand it. There are some who will shrink in fear of it. There are some who will understand it, feel it and maybe even want it but convince themselves otherwise and thus squander the opportunity. Saddest of all will be those who understand it, know it, feel it, want it and believe they are unworthy of it. Thus they will watch it simply pass them by.

As for me, I will effort to not squander a single moment and heed the words of my dear friend whom I love, “this is part of our journey on this earth and it is sad but also miraculous if we allow that level of understanding and insight.” I will effort to take every opportunity to pass my sisters light on to all I encounter and especially they whom I love. Tis a tall order she has left me but she will be with me to remind me when I’ve slipped.

Let it in…Don’t ignore the miracle… and…Dance in the rain.

The following occurs to me as I finish: it is March 18th and Nancy left us three months ago today, tomorrow marks the 32nd year of my mothers passing at the age of 62 and I am sitting on Nan’s couch in the very spot she sat when we last chatted in this place.

“Our connection is pure love.”

                               And so it is on this day, March 18, 2017.

 

 

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