Today we drove to Providence and back with Mimi and Tim to be at Bern's uncle Frankie's 90th birthday party. Then drove to the train station to send Tim and Mimi back to New York and us back to Cheshire. A great day. A very great day.
Frank is one of the most gracious, generous, friendly men you'd ever meet. And he has a great, great sense of humor. And he is sharp as a tack, correcting details for his daughter, Francis and son, Anthony when they were honoring him.
Frank is much more computer literate than I will ever be. He is on the Internet about as much as he is in dialysis each week--which is quite a lot. And physically, if you can over look his kidney problems, he is fine except for the neuropothy in his legs that makes it hard for him to dance, which Fran invited him to do, but he can walk with a cane.
I've known Frank as long as I've known Bern--since I was 17--and I'm older than than now.
Here's something interesting that will tell you something about Frank--two of his doctors, one of his nurses and the dietician and social worker from the dialysis unit came to the surprise party. I don't know any of the medical people I deal with who would come to a party for me! Everyone falls in love with Frank, and for good reason.
He was Bern's father's youngest brother. Born in this country, his parents--Bern's grandparents--were from Bari, Italy. Both Dan, my father-in-law, and Pete, were Italian born. Frank was born here and though he speaks and writes and reads Italian fluently, he has a West Virginia accent and 'Americanized' in ways his older brothers never seemed to.
He is charming, almost courtly in manner and when you talk to him you have the feeling that he thinks you're the only person in the world with something of interest to say. My wife loves him dearly, as do I, as do most everyone who ever met him. He is a man without enemies. A man who never met a stranger. A man who, in the 1950's in the coalfields of West Virginia, objected to the separate showers for black and white miners.
He's always been amazing to me. And equally amazing was his Croatian wife, Annie, who died 7 years ago. Frank's children thought he would fall apart since Annie did everything--laundry, cooking, even balancing the check book even though Frank was an accountant for US Steel. But he didn't fall apart. He learned to do all those things and helped everyone who loved Annie to get through their grief....
There is so much to tell him about him that I don't have space or time. I'll just use a story Tony told when talking about them. In 1959, when Tony was 9, a steel strike shut down the coal mines just before Christmas and things were lean all around. Frank took Anthony with him to Welch, the only place in McDowell Country that passed for a 'town'--6000 people and the county seat. Fran went a day or two before Christmas when he usually did last minute shopping, but he didn't do any shopping that day. Instead he went to the bank and exchanged paper money for silver dollars and filled his pockets. Then he and Tony walked through town, meeting person after person who they knew, and Frank gave all the children they stopped to talk to a silver dollar for Christmas instead of buying gifts for his family. The coal miners were out of work, but Frank was management and still had his job.
When they got back to the car, Frank had one silver dollar left and gave it to Tony, telling him, "what goes around, comes around...."
Tony kept that silver dollar for over 50 years and had it framed with the words, "What goes around, comes around" and gave it back to his father.
No dry eye in the house. I'm getting that feeling in the back of the throat you get before you weep just writing about it.
That generous, compassionate, good and true man, has something now to remind him that is it True with a capital T that 'what goes around, comes around....'
Happy birthday, Frank. And as many more as you can have.....
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