Italian-style Christmas?

Me with Laura (not Marsha or Jan)

We had a great Christmas despite the fact that we lost a lot of people this year – mainly my mother, my aunt (a second mother to me) and a cousin. We didn’t do Christmas last year due to the pandemic, so it was nice to get together. I have a large family and a few were missing due to illness and one niece was pregnant so she and her husband couldn’t travel – they had the baby last night btw.

Anyway, on Christmas Eve, we were at one of my brothers’ houses. One niece (let’s call her Marsha) and my nephew’s wife (let’s call her Jan) got into an argument. It got heated. I joked that it seemed like a Thanksgiving thing to do.

The next day, Christmas Day, we were all at said nephew’s wife’s house (with my nephew of course). I was the first one there. She (Jan) came up to me and said, “I’m concerned about Marsha. Do you think she’ll show up today?”

I said, of course, she traveled here for the holidays, she’ll come with her parents.

Jan then said, “That’s what I love about your family – it’s so Italian. There’s a huge blow out and it’s over in five minutes. If that was my family no one would speak to each other for months.”

I laughed and didn’t realize we were like that. I don’t really remember arguments, but we do talk loud and maybe that seems like arguments to her, who knows.

I do have a friend whose family don’t speak to each other for long periods of time over stupid things. They’re Italian, so maybe they are the exceptions who prove the rule.

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He’s being held prisoner

The Health Care system in our country is the worst – but that’s no secret.

Last Saturday, we brought my father to the hospital. He had hurt his leg. About three weeks before he fell and ignored the wound and after awhile, it got infected. So we, or I should say, one of my brothers drove him over to the hospital. And he is still there! They are keeping him captive, it’s like he is in prison.

When they arrived, they waited 12 hours for a bed, there’s a bed shortage in hospitals all over the US and today, over a week later, he is still taking up a much-needed bed, because of incompetence at the hospital and the insurance company.

I won’t name the hospital or insurance company, but the people there are idiots and the insurance company would rather pay for his over-a-week stay at a hospital than pay for a wound vac, which is what he is waiting for. He should have gone to a better hospital, one our family has used for years, but he said he wanted to go to somewhere closer to home. But this is maybe 10 minutes closer and he wasn’t in an ambulance, it wasn’t an emergency, he didn’t need to go to the closest place.

I went yesterday and tried to speak with his case worker at the hospital, who was in hiding and refused to come out of her office. All the nurses on that floor lied to me, to my face – telling me she was busy, she was on the phone, she was in a meeting – she wasn’t – she was just avoiding me and the situation. At one point I heard someone say, “Get security,” meaning, throw me out of the hospital!

I can get loud, but I wasn’t loud, I was just insistent and demanding. I had many legitimate questions.

Finally the case worker came and said the wound vac would arrive yesterday afternoon and he would go home, but that was the story for the past week. Nothing came, he is still there today. I don’t believe the case worker is working on the case or pushing to have him receive the wound vac and have him released. I know hospital workers are overworked these days, so maybe that’s her attitude – pure exhaustion.

It’s so frustrating thinking that he is perfectly healthy and could be at home while his leg heals. But he’s stuck in a bed. Every time I go visit, the bed next to him is taken by a different person – those people are in and out, but he lingers.

Bed are scarce during this time of pandemic, is it any wonder when they are giving beds to people who don’t need it?

He is in prison. It is literally as if he is jailed. He isn’t hooked up to any machinery, he is just there – in bed, taking up space. Waiting.

I won’t go there today, I get too upset, more than he apparently is; my brothers and other family members will visit. But it’s such a foolish thing – he is just captive. What really bothers me is that this it the hospital where my mother and brother died. I want Dad out – released today.

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Having second thoughts

I bought a bunch of soda machines for Christmas gifts this year, you know, the Soda Stream, it’s called. I always liked them and wanted one myself, so I got them for people as gifts with all the works – extra CO2 cylinders and flavors and bottles and stuff.

I also like air fryers and thought they would be a cool thing to have, so last year I bought a bunch of those for people.

Funny thing is, I don’t have either for myself even thought I would like them.

But the other day I was watching tv and someone said that the soda maker is the stupidest gift. They said, why not just go out and buy a bottle of soda if you want one? What’s the point of going through all the trouble of making a glass of soda. And now the whole idea doesn’t seem so great.

On top of that, they are big and heavy and last year the air fryers were big and heavy and both a pain to transport around to give to people. For many years I would deliberately buy small things, you know, nice gifts, but small gifts, that I could easily carry around and hand out. I’m not sure why I got the air fryers last year and the soda machines this year, but they are freaking heavy. And hard to wrap.

But after hearing that they are a stupid gift, I can’t get that out of my head. I’m thinking of returning them. I probably won’t, but I can’t get the idea out of my head that you can easily go and buy a bottle or six pack or liter or whatever, of soda any time you want it, you don’t need to make it.

Point taken. But they did love the air fryers last year, so let’s see how this goes with the Soda Stream.

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Christmas commercials

This commercial reminds me of my father and my uncle, who both lost their wives this year. Really sad.

And this, Publix commercial, of course, is my all-time favorite Publix commercial.

The “Last Train Home” commercial was shown for many years in the 1980s and ’90s.

The music in Last Train Home is from Still Life (Talking) an album by Pat Metheny Group, released in 1987. This Publix commercial ran from 1987 to 1996.

To this day, when Pat Metheny is performing, he’ll refer to the song as, “The Publix song.”

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The Christmas card

This year has not been kind to our family. We lost three family members – my mother, my aunt and a cousin. My father lost a wife, a sister and a first cousin (none from covid).

When my aunt passed this past Spring, I asked my cousins for something personal of hers. I wanted something with her energy attached – a coffee mug, an earring, etc. They gave me this little painting she made. It was in her dining room for many years – this little snowman image.

I took it home in July, after I spent time in New York and it sits on a table in my living room.

I would look at it daily. I thought, “It looks like a Christmas card – the snowman, the snow and birdhouse evoke Christmas. And it’s the size of a Christmas card.” And from there, I got the idea of making an actual card out of it. So in late July, that is what I did.

I held onto the card all summer and fall until this week when I mailed it. I didn’t tell anyone about the card, I wanted it to be a surprise. I only had 20 made and I sent it to my immediate family and my cousins and uncle. It went over well, everyone was touched and surprised at the image when they opened the envelope.

Let’s hope for a happier and healthier 2022.

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The Southampton Annual Tree Lighting and Parade of Lights

We made it back to the Southampton Christmas parade this year. We had gone a couple of years ago and last year it was canceled due to the pandemic. I love it for so many reasons, the parade is fun and the tree lighting at the end of the bar is even more fun, but the idea that all of the small villages at the east end of Long Island get together and celebrate with a parade is so quaint. Southampton along with East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Shelter Island and all the others taker part.

My cousins and I hang out for the day, we eat – on Saturday, before the parade, we at at the old standby – the Southampton Publick House.

I wasn’t sure if we would go this year. My cousins had planned to go to the lighthouse lighting event in Montauk, which is just as great, but so much longer to get there. But I put a little bug in one of my cousin’s ears at Thanksgiving and left it at that. By Saturday, we were on our way. Was there ever any question?

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Saved by an angel?

An angel over a car accident

I’ve been waiting to hear from my Mom, you know, some sort of signal, but nothing yet. When my brother passed we all heard from him the first week, then he disappeared. I had a friend jak, who passed away and for two years, I would feel his presence in the passenger seat of my car. Never in the house, but always in the car. His songs would play on the radio and I just had a sense that he was there next to me as I drove around.

But I think my mom saved me from a bad accident yesterday.

I had a friend visiting for a couple of weeks and yesterday he was headed home. We were out and about all morning and my car was fine, but at 1:30 pm, we jumped in the car so I could take him to the airport and it wouldn’t start. I kept trying and nothing. It wound not turn over. So he ended up taking Uber to the airport.

About an hour later, I was arranging to have the car towed to the service station in the morning and I ran out to get the license number. While I was there, I tried starting the car again and it turned over perfectly! I turned it off, turned it on again and same thing, it started perfectly. I drove it to the service station to have it looked at and Ubered home.

I thought that that was quite strange. Then I thought, what if Mom was protecting my friend and me from a bad accident as we drove to the airport? What if she made the car not work and then it started normally just a short time later?

I have been saved in traffic situations in the past by people from the other side. I just know it. I’ve almost been in accidents where I knew they were going to happen and nothing happened. Not too long after my brother passed, I was almost in an accident. The truck was coming right at me, I steeled myself for a side door impact and nothing happened. It was as if by magic, the oncoming, speeding truck missed me. It was as if it just drove through me and ended up on the other side of my car.

An angel over a truck

A few years back a friend was telling me about a dream he had where his mother, who had passed, told him she had protected me in an accident. As he described the details, I remembered the incident from about 10 years earlier. He had every single detail right – the color of the car, the type of car, the location, and even that the guy was on a cell phone, which caused him to drive through the red light. A brick phone at that!

At the time I couldn’t explain how my car squeezed into the size of an inch between two cars. Literally, the car had to squeeze that small for me to have survived that accident. I could never wrap my head around it, but I knew at the time it was some sort of divine intervention and when my friend explained it all 10 years later, regarding his late mother’s intervention, it made sense.

I’ve had quite a few incidents like that. Am I a bad driver or is it others? I believe it’s others, but either way, I was saved from terrible accidents by divine intervention and I wonder if that was the case yesterday where my car would not start when needed and then when not needed an hour later, it started without any hesitation.

UPDATE ON THE CAR: The service station called me this morning. There is not a thing wrong with the car. It starts up perfectly. It starts right up. THANKS MOM!

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My Mom, Madeline Falco

My mother passed away October 20. Madeline Falco.

It was and wasn’t unexpected. She had been ill for awhile and each time she went into the hospital we were told that was it, the end, so we sort of mourned throughout the year. Each time we were told that, I expected the worst and I went through the grieving process. Now that it actually happened, I am not in too bad of a shape, since it was building up to this point.

I’m probably at the funeral as you read this.

I didn’t post the memorial info anywhere and didn’t tell any of my friends until this post now. I figured those who needed to know didn’t need to see it posted on social media and I just couldn’t do it – I didn’t have it in me to post it and make it real.

She was 88, and lived a wonderful life. She did it all, and was into everything. One of her grandchildren wrote this about her: “Grammy, I will never forget your unending love for all of us, your laugh, your sarcasm, your meatballs, and your encouragement to blast the music and dance around the house. You were one of a kind.”

Another wrote: “I’ll never forget playing records and dancing around the kitchen with you, watching endless musicals during our sleepovers, sneaking to the kitchen for ice cream or frozen watermelon in the middle of the night, seeing you at every show and every performance I ever did, and cooking with you and the massive amounts of garlic you used. 😂 You were an extraordinary grandmother and I’ll always be so grateful for our time together. I hope they play lots of Frank Sinatra for you in heaven. Rest In Peace. I love you forever, Grammy.”

Truth be told, “Sweet Child ‘o Mine” was her favorite song, or one of her favorites. I would always request it when one of my cousins, a musician, was performing. I suspect everyone thought it was my favorite song, but I would always request it thinking of Mom, who was alive and well all those times.

Mom not only loved to dance around, she loved to cook, she was a gourmet cook a gourmet baker, an artist – she painted wonderfully, she also loved any type of music, including Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Elvis, AC/DC, Alice Cooper, Van Halen, Guns n’ Roses, Bruce Springsteen and so much more.. She loved it all. I remember her at Bruce Springsteen’s concert at the Orange Bowl one year. She used to call him “Bruce,” just “Bruce”. One name. She used to call “Murder She Wrote,” ‘Jessica,’ She would say, “Jessica’s on.” Or “Archie’s on, for “All in the Family.”

One time we had Merv Griffin on tv, and someone was talking about music not being any good anymore. I think it was the mid ’70s, and he was saying all the good music was from the past. Mom said, “Not true, what about ‘The Spy Who Loved Me?” And I laughed because the title of the song is funny, but she was always up on the latest music.

She traveled – she loved to travel and she loved astronomy. So many times we would get in the car in the middle of the night to drive to a secluded spot, away from city lights, to look for whatever was in the sky that night – a shooting star, Jupiter, a full moon, whatever. I bought her a big telescope once, because she loved it all so much.

She loved Britcoms and would always call me to tell me something funny was on. We loved Archie Bunker, we would quote his nonsense to each other. When I was a kid she would sometimes cut my hair and she would ask me how I wanted it, I would say, in Archie’s voice – “Without blood, ma, without blood. And when you get to an ear, for god sake, stop!”

We would go on adventures, like one time we went searching around Brooklyn for the Moonstruck house in Brooklyn Heights and we would do so many things like that.

She worked out at a gym well into her 80s. She would laugh and say, “I was working out at the gym today and there working out next to me was my grandson!” because one of her grandchildren happened to be working out at the same gym.

She worked when we were growing up and she did that along with all her other activities, but I don’t ever remember her not being there. She fit it all in and always had dinner on the table. She never neglected us. Ever. She was at every school event, every sporting event, gymnastics event, etc. She was involved at both – for her kids and her grandkids.

When she was younger, she drove fast. We used to say she rounded the corners on two wheels.

I heard so many nice things at the wake, that I didn’t know. Our former next door neighbor, for so many years, Brian, my youngest brother Joey’s friend, was telling me about a time when Brian’s brand new car was in an accident about 50 miles from home. He and Joey were out for the night. He was scared to call his father, so my mother ended up driving the 50 miles to bring them home. She never mentioned the accident to Brian’s father. But the father found out and started to shun Brian.

My mother found out and went over and really let the father have it, saying things like, “How dare you treat your son like that ….” She was feisty. Love that. She was the first one to Brian’s mother’s side, when she found out his mother had cancer. Brian remembered all this and told me it all at the wake. But we were next door neighbors or so many years, our fathers worked together, so our mothers were each second mothers to us.

My aunt passed six months ago, another second (third?) mother to me. Two wonderful women dancing with the angels today. My father lost a sister and a wife this year. But he is doing quite well, all things considered.

I sent a big thing of flowers to the funeral home and it says, “Thank you, Mom – Love Tommy.” It sounds like a weird message to have on flowers, but I am thanking her for being my mother.

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Pumpkin pickin’

On Saturday, we went pumpkin pickin’ in the Hudson Valley, one of the most beautiful places in the country.

The leaves hadn’t really turned yet, but it was still fall up there.

We stopped a few farms, got pumpkins, apples, apple cider, apple cider doughnuts, you know, the works. We also got mums for the season.

Going pumpkin picking and the works is a new tradition – a great one.

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