Monthly Archives: September 2011

My Childhood Memories:

This is an open letter I wrote a few months ago about growing up in Bayside, New York during the late 1960’s – 1970’s.  It sure was a great time to be a kid.  We may not have had video games and game boys and cell phones, but we DID have an imagination.  I think that no matter where you may have grown up, you can relate to the times and the life style.

Riding bikes around the court, sleigh riding down the “big hill.” Mr. Fisher, Jimmy the Maintenance man, the painters and the dumpsters!

The air was filled with sounds of “Snag on you!” “Right on!” and… “Groovy!”
Each day we were visited by the candy man, the pretzel man; Good Humor and Mister Softy (remember him selling pizza from his truck in the winter?) How about Chow-Chow Cup? Chow mein, rice, eggrolls and french fries… off of a truck! Who could forget Tony and “The Ride?” How we loved to get a seat up on the top row as he would swing us to and fro. Then as each ride ended, he would help us down from the truck and give us names like, princess and Superman.

Springfield Boulevard offered us, Larry’s Record Shop, Lamsten’s 5 & 10, Walbaum’s, The Candy Store, pizza by the slice for 25 cents from Joe’s Pizza or the same quarter could get you a Kinishes from the window of the Kosher deli! There was also the drugstore, Rudy’s Italian restaurant and Jahn’s Ice Cream Parlor (The Kitchen Sink… yum!) Just to name a few favorites.

 
We started our education at Cloverdale School P.S. 213 and wrapped it up in Cardozo High.

We loved Alley Pond Park and its woods filled with wild blackberry bushes… and ponds filled with frogs! There was Oakland Lake, The Fresh Meadow’s Theater, Red Light Green Light 1-2-3! Sticker bushes, Crabapple trees, collapsible pools, water fights, jumping off the garages into the snow banks, Big Wheels, Hoppity-Hops, skateboards and pogo-sticks. When we tired of all that, we threw roof shingles like ninja stars to see how far we could make em’ fly (not nice, but we really didn’t know better!)

Back then our names were “Donald” “Billy” “Lori-Jean” “Reesie” “Ninin” and “Lee-Lee!” We drank Lipton iced-tea from paper containers, Coca-Cola from bottles and water from hoses. We waited on line at the truck to order our “Ding-Dong Sundaes, had summer carnivals to raise money for Jerry’s Kids and everyone shared. Remember that? Sharing?

Each spring, one Sunday night the court would be deserted as we all sat glued to our televisions watching “The Wizard of Oz.” I also remember one summer night when my dad set up our TV outside so everyone could gather to watch “Psycho” when it aired on network television.

We played “Lost In Space” “Time Tunnel” and even “Gilligan’s Island!” We watched and cheered together as man took his first step onto the moon, the Miracle Mets won the world’s series and Nixon went to China. However we also watched… the many trials and tribulations of the Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family, laughed AT Archie Bunker and along WITH Mary Tyler Moore.

Basements were clubhouses and cardboard boxes were tanks. Summer nights, we kids pushed the envelope to see how late our parents would let us stay outside, especially if they were all gathered on the “Abate” lawn enjoying May Hansen’s whiskey sours! We filled the sky with kites by day and searched for constellations by night as we lay in the grass.

We loved each other like brothers and sisters and we thought of each other’s mothers as our aunts. We were a large family scattered into 24 units along 65th Avenue, which numbered from 223-21 to 223-43. (odd numbers only, maybe that’s fitting!) Our zip code was 11364 and our phone numbers began with the exchange 224 (which originally stood for Bayside-4) There was magic in a small town in Queens New York during the mid 60’s through the mid 70’s and if you were a part of it, you know it. It was the happiest time of your life and just the very word “Bayside” touches your heart in such a way, that you can’t help but smile and wish you could really jump into that old “Time Tunnel” and go back… for one more magical tour! 

Summer 1970

Until next time,

Don

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Meeting Family

Today I received a photo of a beautiful cake via Facebook from my cousin Lucille, who used this past weekend to try her hand at the now famous “Aunt Lucy cake.”  I was pleased that Lucille tried the recipe and delighted that she and her family enjoyed the cake, but to me what is most remarkable about sharing a simple recipe with my cousin is that until last year, we didn’t even know that the other existed.

Lucille is a cousin from my biological father’s side of the family (my dad’s sister’s daughter).  After my father passed away and my mother eventually remarried, we somehow lost touch with the Massetti family and for nearly a half century my sister and I have been, long lost relatives.

That is until one fateful Saturday afternoon when I got a Facebook message from a man named Michael, who claimed that he believed that we were from the same clan.  I had gotten my hopes up before from possible relatives discovered over Facebook, and they always turned out to be  false alarms.  The only way I could test to see if this Michael was truly the son of my father’s brother was to ask a “security” question.  I told him that a bunch of our aunts (my father had 6 sisters) had very unusual names and then sat back to see what his response would be.  I stared at my laptop’s screen not knowing why I was feeling anxious but I was.  After a few moments that felt more like an hour, I had mail in my box and upon opening it, Michael had indeed given me the correct names of my aunts (who were named after famous Italian opera stars from the early 20th century).  My heart began to race.  Suddenly the emails were flying back and forth and information about my biological father’s family began to emerge for the first time in my life.

Michael put me in touch with his sister Joanne and we were even able to swap some old photos (taken in the 1950’s) of our parents together.  Then Joanne gave me the telephone number of one of our four surviving aunts.

I wrote the number down on a piece of paper and tucked it into my shirt pocket.  I was very apprehensive about speaking with the Massetti’s who had not seen me since I was a four years old!  So many thoughts ran through my mind.  Had they ever tried to find my sister and me before?  How would they react to me magically appearing with no warning?  What if everyone was happy enough with their lives as they were and I was about to rock the boat?  How would I react if I were rejected?  I waited several hours pondering what I should do.

Was I rocking the boat?  After all, the man who raised me was my father.  As far as we are concerned, sharing the same blood could not have made it any more so.  I adore him more than words can express and he could not be prouder of his only son.  What’s more, his wonderful family was also my family.  It was his brother’s wife, my Aunt Lucy, who passed her famous cake recipe onto me.  And my two aunts… I can’t say enough about them.  My dear Aunt Evelyn, who is still with us at 91 years old and is as feisty as ever, living on her own in the same Brooklyn apartment she has lived in for almost 50-years.  My aunt Millie was a genuine Pied-Piper who loved children and always looked for the good in all people.  She gave everyone the benefit of the doubt and I always admired that about her.  Aunt Millie also owned a candy store/Luncheonette and whenever we would visit, she would close the place down and lock us kids in there with a sack of quarters to play the pin-ball machines and have full run of all the candy, ice cream and food we wanted.  She was one in a million and I miss her every day.

I took the paper with the telephone number out of my pocket and reviewed it once again.  The number was for an “Aunt Millie.”  It seems BOTH my dads’ had sisters named Millie.  I thought about my sweet aunt, her kind heart and how she looked for the good in everything.  Maybe that name was a sign.  Perhaps both my Aunt Millies would be remarkable women.  I sat down on to a chair in a quiet corner of my house and dialed the long distance number.

My heart raced as I heard it ring on the other end.  I quickly pondered how many rings I should give it before I hang up, but before I could come to a decision; a voice on the other end of the line was offering the friendly greeting, “hello.”  There was no turning back now so I went on, “Hi… is this Millie?”  When she responded in the affirmative I continued.  “Did you have a brother named Mario?”

“Yes, yes I did…”she responded quite hesitantly,  not yet knowing where this was going.

“I don’t mean to shock you, but I believe I’m your nephew, Donald,”  I informed her hoping for a positive reaction.  The reaction that I got was more than I could have dreamed of.  This Aunt Millie was a doll as well, and she was absolutely jubilant to be hearing from me at long last.  Trying my best not to cry, I asked questions about my long-lost family and answered as many from her about us.  Although she was sad that my mother had passed before our reunion, she was delighted that fate had finally brought us back together.  She ended our conversation by saying that my call had made her day and then added… “no, you made my year!  I know that my brother is looking down from heaven with a big smile on his face!”

As we prepared to hang up from our call, I confessed my apprehension to her.  Aunt Millie told me not to worry about anything.  “Call my brother Tony next,” she said giving me his number.  “I know he will be happy as well.”

When I did call Tony, he was not at home and I wondered if I should leave a message on his machine.  If I did, what should I say?  How much should I tell him?  I wound up leaving a message that basically told him who I was and that Millie had given me his number.  The ball was now in his court.  If after all this time he wanted to reunite, all he had to do was call me back.

Once again I was more pleasantly surprised than I can explain.  Tony called me back quite excited and we talked for a long time.  He was a great guy and he had been very close with my late brother.  The two were only five or so years apart and Danny looked up to Tony like a big brother.  This was a remarkable connection for me to be linked with someone so close to Danny.  Tony, like Millie before him had told me to make sure I come and see him when I get to New York.

My partner James was as excited as I was.  He and my dear friend, Jeanne thought that I should just take some time and head right up to New York and have a face-to-face reunion with my newfound family.

So without any delay, I called them both back and asked if they would be available to see me if I came up the following week.  The schedule worked for all of us, so the tickets were bought and the plans were made.

Uncle Tony was the first Massetti I was to meet.  I walked up the steps of his front porch and rang the bell.  In a moment, the door flew open and there before me stood a man who looked so much like me that I couldn’t help but smile.  You see, I look like my father so I didn’t really bare any resemblance to my mother’s family, and for obvious reasons, no one in my dad’s family looked like me either.  For the first time that I could remember, I was looking into the eyes of my own gene-pool.

I didn’t know whether to offer my hand for shaking or to just give him the hug that I felt compelled to give.  Tony made the decision for me as he embraced me with genuine love, in a way that I think you couldn’t fully understand unless you too were from a similar reunion situation.

I spent the whole day with him catching up and learning.  He is an avid antique car enthusiast and has restored several of his own to their original glory that he kept in a large garage, which he had custom built himself.  He took me on a tour to see the beautiful autos and the afternoon flew by.  Before I knew it, his wife (my Aunt Bonnie) had come home from work.  She was charming and charismatic and I wound up staying with the pair late into the evening.  Tony wanted to see me again before I returned to Florida, so we made plans for him to take me to see another of my father’s sisters, my Aunt Elda that Sunday.  Elda was my father’s third eldest sister.  Del, the oldest of the girls, had passed away.  Dee, who was in poor health, was in a nursing home in Upstate New York and Jo another surviving sister lives in South Carolina.  She and I also had a wonderful talk and I am still waiting to be able to take a trip to SC so we can meet at last.  She too was warm, kind, and very gentle.  I know that our reunion is going to be very special and I eagerly await that glorious day.

Saturday was scheduled to see Aunt Millie.  We hugged each other like we never wanted to let go and she couldn’t get over how much I looked like my father (her brother).  I had a wonderful time at her home with her husband, my Uncle Bill and her daughter, my cousin Debra.  We shared pictures and stories and again before I knew it, it was late evening and time to leave.  I think for me the most profound moment of this whole family discovery came when Aunt Millie hugged me tightly as she said, “Don having you in my life is like having a piece of my brother back after all these years.”

That’s really what it’s all about.  We were forever connected by people that we loved and lost.  As long as we have each other, we know that our loved ones are never really further than the smiles we share, the same twinkle in our eyes, and most of all… the love in our hearts.

So now after a half century, I have come full circle.  I have a great relationship with my Massetti cousins, which I am still waiting to meet, but thanks to the magic of Facebook we can chat, catch up on family news and even exchange heirloom cake recipes!

 

Aunt Millie & Me

Until next time,

Don

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Another Excerpt from “Unforgettable (Trudy’s Story)”

Just a little lighthearted smathering from my novel (don’t want to giveaway too much!)    Trudy sets out to find her first job…

Click here for background music for this reading: 02 I’ve Heard That Song Before

Unforgettable (Trudy’s Story) 

Copyright  2011 by Donald Philip Massetti 

All rights reserved.  No part of this book or blog may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. 

This is a novel based on the true-life events of Gertrude Abate. 

Aside from immediate family, names have been changed to protect the privacy and the rights of all other individuals.

July, 1942: 

Trudy opened the classified section of the newspaper.  This was a big day for her.  She thumbed through the pages scanning the want ads waiting for something to catch her eye. 

The war was in full swing and with so many men away in the service; there seemed an endless supply of job possibilities that, much to Trudy’s delight, required “No Experience Necessary!” 

With her heart still set on a career in show business, what she really wanted to do was seek out an agent and acting classes.  However, Trudy knew if she even so much as alluded to such a thing, her mother would bring down the hammer.  Well as the old saying goes “there’s more than one way to skin a cat.” 

The mind of a small-town, seventeen-year-old girl can be an amazing and magical place and Trudy was no exception.  She recalled that according to all the fan magazines; Lana Turner was discovered sipping a soda at the lunch counter of Schwab’s Drug Store.  That was a perfect example of being in the right place at the right time. 

“Hmmm…” Trudy pondered, “I wonder if I’d have similar luck?” 

Of course the young girl knew that she couldn’t spend all day sipping sodas at counters hoping for the best, but she could try to find a job that might be advantageous in getting her to the right place.  Then all she would have to do is wait for the right time to follow. 

She thought for a while before deciding that everyone, no matter how important their job, will stop into a coffee shop at some point to grab a cup of coffee or a quick lunch.” 

Then it caught her eye.  “Waitress wanted for busy midtown coffee shop in Manhattan’s theater district.  No experience necessary. Will train.  Start immediately.” 

“Perfect!” Trudy thought.  The theater district, where all the producers, directors, casting agents and even fellow actors gather!  It shouldn’t take longer than a few weeks before someone spots her.  

In her mind, Trudy envisioned exactly how it would all unfold.  She would be waiting tables when a man in a pin-striped suit comes in and sits down. 

He’d order a cup of coffee; probably black and Trudy would notice that he was reading Varity.  She would strike up a conversation about the trade magazine being the “bible of the entertainment industry.”  The man would be quite impressed and ask her how a waitress knows so much about Variety.  That’s when Trudy would smile and explain that she wasn’t really a waitress.  She was actually an actress waiting tables because she needed the money until her big break comes along.  The man would be delighted to hear this news.  He would confess to Trudy that he was a big-time Broadway producer.  He’d go on to say that he always keeps his eye open for new talent and present her with his business card.  

“Come on down to the theater” he would tell her, “I’d like you to audition and show us what you got.  We’re casting for a new show and I’m looking for some new fresh faced talent.”  

Whether or not this could truly happen was irrelevant, because in Trudy’s mind, it was a reality.  She had certainly seen it unfold just like this in countless movies over the years.  If they’re writing these stories, it must be based on some truth.  So, Trudy headed on down to apply for the position of coffee shop waitress with all the confidence in the world that this job was a stepping-stone to theatrical success. 

As soon as she turned the corner of Forty Sixth Street just off of Broadway, Trudy felt a rush of excitement.  She could see the Fulton Theater marquee announcing that Josephine Hull, Jean Adair and Boris Karloff were staring there nightly in Joseph Kesselring’s “Arsenic and Old Lace.”  This was really Broadway.  The Broadway that Mrs. Harris had spoken about.  The very place that the kindhearted theater teacher had said she hoped to see Trudy performing on stage one day.  

Trudy could almost feel her adrenaline pumping through her body.  She was so close to recognizing her dream and she could not have been happier.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

What do you think happens next?  Does she take a coffee shop job or does something else come along?   Does Trudy actually get an unusual break?  Ahhh… sorry, those answers are in the book.

Trudy

 

Until next time,

Don

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Has Anyone Seen the Fitness Fairy?

Yesterday afternoon I worked on reformatting the story to my children’s book “Donald and the New Baby.”  It had to be re-submitted to the editor in a format that they can manipulate to strategically design the lay-out and the final number of pages that the book will contain.  

They sent me a link to their special web-page, which helped take me through the entire reformatting process.  It wasn’t bad at all.  Of course, I don’t want to think about it having to be done with 500-plus pages of “Unforgettable (Trudy’s Story)” when it gets that far.

I enclosed a small dedication and I am waiting to see if a photo of Sharon Rose and me (circa 1970 – as Donald and the New Baby) may be able to grace the back cover.  I thought it might be fun for kids to see the real-life characters.  Of course while going through the photos, I hadn’t realized that I was the original Justin Bieber decades before the “pop fenom” ever emerged.  LOL… What can I say?  It was the 70’s and I was young.

I think the bigger issue I have on my hands is, how to rid myself of 40 extra (and very unwanted) pounds before a book tour in the spring?

Don’t hate me, but I’ve never had to lose weight before.  Until recent illness has left me unable to exercise or exert myself, I was one of those people who could eat anything and everything without gaining an ounce.  In my entire adult life, standing at 6’1” I’ve never been more than 177 pounds (and that was my “heavy” weight) usually weighing in at 170.  Now I am topping the scale at 210!  Yikes… how did it get away from me so easily?

So I guess what I really want to know is… Shy of getting liposuction or gastric bypass, does anyone out there know the secret to losing 30-35 pounds in six months?  Oh yeah, one more thing; I’d like it to be done without dieting too!  What can I say?  I still want to believe in magic, Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and… the Fitness Fairy.  Just tell me that she exists and if you’re a good little boy (or old man) she will wave her magic wand over you as you sleep, so you can wake up in the morning, slim, trim and fit.  Oh what the heck, as long as we’re dreaming; why not also 20 years younger with a full head of hair?

I know, I know… the fact of the matter is, although my nerve damage and bone density may cause me pain, I suppose I can still do low impact activities like bike riding.   After all when I think about it, I’m going to hurt even if I were to lie in bed, so why not hurt while getting my circulation pumping and my weight down?

{{{SIGH}}}  Life was so much easier back in the “Donald and the New Baby” days.

Possible back-cover photo option. What do you think?

 

Until next time,

Don

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Okay, Okay… Here’s the Aunt Lucy Cake Recipe!

Okay folks as promised, here is the illusive “Aunt Lucy Cake” recipe.  I told you that I would post it by the end of the week.  I have never received so many emails in my life!   Thanks for being patient (well sort of… LOL!)

I hope that you all enjoy it as much as my family and friends have.  It’s a perfect easy-peasy cake and the ingredients are always on hand.  I did my part by posting, now it’s up to you to let me know what you thought of it!  

Aunt Lucy Cake:

Ingredients 

(2) sticks margarine –softened (Butter does now work as well and you actually DON’T taste it.

(2) cups sugar

(4) Lg. eggs (room temp.)

(2) teaspoons pure vanilla extract

(3) cups flour

(4) teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

(1) cup milk (Room temp.)

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream butter and sugar together in mixing bowl.  (If crumbly don’t worry, eggs will take care of that!)  Add the eggs, one at a time, just until mixed.   Do NOT over beat.  Add vanilla and beat until blended.

In medium size bowl, stir together flour, powder and salt.

Alternately, add flour mixture and milk to butter/egg mixture, beginning and ending with flour (mixing after each addition).  If batter separates after milk is added don’t worry, it will come together again once all of the flour is incorporated.  Again, do not over beat – mix only until ingredients are evenly incorporated into the batter. 

Grease and flour a 10” tube pan and pour batter into it.

Note: Batter will be thick.  Place into center of oven and bake for about 60 minutes  until cake tester comes out clean.  (test in about 50, as ovens vary).  Cool on wire rack and remove from panLet cool completely and liberally dust top with powdered sugar.  Cake taste best when allowed to sit for a few hours or overnight. Use a serrated knife and a sawing motion when cutting.

Aunt Lucy with her Famous Cake

While we’re on the subject of my posted recipes; I would love to share this photo with you from a reader/fan/dear friend.  It’s in regards to Trudy’s Baked Mac from the “Accidental Recipe for Success” blog that I ran about a week and a half ago.  It arrived via email with the caption “Not even enough left over for lunch!”

Until next time,

Don

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Donald and the New Baby… The Countdown Begins!

Click here for the background music to this story:  Please Dont Eat The Daisies

The last of my contract is finally signed, sealed and delivered.  My children’s book “Donald and the New Baby” is about to become a reality! 

The overnight deliveries have been flying back and forth.  I have signed and or initialed the last 21 pages of documents that will now truly get the publishing process started.  I have not only signed off on printed copies, but also e-books, audio books and even ancillary items, i.e. tee shirts, music CD’s, bookmarks etc. to be designed around my story, should I ever be that lucky! 

My publisher is now going to put my story in the hands of a few illustrators so we can collectively decide on the best fit for my book.  It is indeed a very exciting time for me.  I can hardly wait to see a few artists’ interpretations of my characters. 

I have already been contacted by two different teachers that are interested in having me come to present my book to their school once it is out in print. 

My new acquisitions editor, Noel is an absolute doll.  We had a wonderful phone conversation today and I am more amped than ever about “Donald and the New Baby.”  Noel told me that the publisher is excited about the story for many reasons.  They like that it was written in honor of my sister and recalls the true-life account of her birth and our childhood together.  They like that the story has a good message and most of all; they think that the book is very marketable.  Let’s face it, when a publisher decides to publish your book, they need to know that it will make money for them.  As wonderful as it would be to simply publish stories out of kindness, they would soon find themselves bankrupt!  

Noel followed-up our phone conversation with an email that has left me inspired!

The following is a direct cut and paste from Noel’s follow-up email:

“Donald, You are such a gem! I loved talking to you and can tell you have the “IT” factor that it takes to get this book moving and shaking!!”  She than added, “I’m soooo excited about your blog!! Email me the link. Also be sure to post it on our www.facebook.com/tatepublishing page!!”

So I am moving forward with a company that seems to be as excited about my book project as I am, and that is a really good feeling. 

I’ll keep you all posted on the progress, and who knows?  Maybe I can even share with you an illustration rendering… if it is allowed. 

The Real-Life Donald and the New Baby AKA Sharon Rose

Until next time,

Don

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An Open Letter to My Sisters

Today I came upon an open letter that I had written to my sisters about a year ago.  In lieu of my traditional blog, I hope you will indulge me by excusing my behavior whilst I wear my heart on my sleeve by posting the letter (so full of raw feelings) here in honor of my special family.  I thank you all in advance.

My 1970’s

To me the 1970’s will forever be the happiest decade of my life.  The radio airways were filled with cheery, innocent pop tunes, that made the perfect soundtrack for the happy, innocent, if not downright puritanical, teenage life that I led. 

As the only brother of five children, I was totally devoted to my parents and sisters.  In my world, I had the most beautiful and perfect mother.  With her hair always done, make-up applied and smartly dressed, she kept a lovely decorated, neat-as-a-pin, home and cooked the best food I have ever tasted!  She was funny, loving and very cool.  What more could a teenage boy hope for?  I had a father who adored his family, worked hard to get us all that he could (sometimes holding down three jobs to do so) and still managed to teach us respect for people, places, things and ourselves. 

Then there were my sisters, all four of them!  Now I know that you may think that the only boy surrounded by four girls every day of his life, would have longed for a brother.  One might think that the girls might have even formed a special “sister bond” leaving me to feel a bit left out or isolated.  Well nothing could be further from the truth.  You see, I was so proud of my sisters and my heart overflowed with love for each and every one of them.  So much so, that they became the source of joyful memories that would forever help me through the roughest times in my life. 

Maureen, my only older sister, was a knockout beauty who was smart, funny and always seemed to have the best advice whenever I found myself in need of it.  She and I had been through an awful lot together and we knew that come what may, we would always be there for each other.  She had the honor (or the burden) of being all the firsts.  She was the first to graduate and get a job, first to get married, have a baby and buy a house.  She was beautiful, excelled in school, made friends easily and all in all, was a very tuff act to follow.  However, I was too busy being proud of her to realize it. 

The remaining three were all younger… much younger and I felt protective, proud, and most of all, responsible to do all that I could to create happy memories and show them the best time any big brother could. 

You see earlier on, before the three younger sisters were born, I lost my only brother to teenage suicide.  The mark that his death left on our family was astounding.  This tragic and senseless death came only two years after Maureen and I helplessly stood by and watched as our thirty-nine year old father suddenly died of a massive heart attack in our mother’s arms.  

If there could be a sliver lining to a cloud so dark, it was that I knew that my family was the most important thing in my life.  I wanted my sisters to always be aware of how much I loved them and hoped to protect them from the pain that my older sister and I had gone through. 

Putting tragedy behind us, my mom eventually remarried to the man I call my father and their love created three beautiful girls who are anything but HALF sisters.  The best way to describe our “unusually functional” family would be “Leave It to Beaver” meets “The Brady Bunch!”  In our house there was no swearing, no sibling rivalry of any kind and hardly any arguments (well, at least in MY recall!)  We always shared with each other because it was “the right thing to do” and were all totally supportive of one another. 

While other guys my age were involved in sports, dating, and partaking in that great American teenage pastime, “hanging out”, I was content to “hang out” with my family.  

I was happy to help my mom around the house and I actually had the joy of teaching two of my younger three sisters to walk.  I taught them all to ride a bike, jump rope and swim.  I was there each year for their first day of school; I picked them up from religious instruction class and I made sure that each of them had their own special time with their big brother.  

Weekends were spent taking them on day trips to Oakland Lake or picnics at Alley Pond Park.  There were afternoons at the movies, and in the winter, probably our favorite pastime of all; holiday sightseeing at the local florist where Santa would set up a full workshop and hot chocolate flowed freely!  I would try to buy a Christmas decoration that we could all enjoy for the holiday season and a small gift for my mom that would be from all of us kids. 

The amount of joy that these small, inexpensive items gave could not have been any greater if they had cost millions.  To this day, our Christmas would not be the same without hearing songs from a one-dollar record album that I purchased from a wire display stand.  I Want An Elephant For Christmas It immediately brings to mind bundling up my sisters in their warmest jackets complete with scarf & mittens for the long trek to Kiel Brothers florist.  We would laugh and sing all the way there, and I always had my trusty camera in my pocket! 

What guy anywhere was as lucky as me?  I felt as thought I had the world on a string and thought that these moments would last forever.  Sadly, time slips by quickly and the present becomes the past all too soon.  However, one of the best gifts that God gave mankind was the ability to hold memories in our minds and hearts forever.  My heart is chock-full with the most beautiful memories of wonderful times and I will feel forever blessed because of them. 

Here’s to my sisters, Maureen, Janice, Theresa and Sharon!  Thank you all for filling my heart with more joy then most others will ever know in their lifetime.

I love you all more then any words I can possibly pen onto these pages could ever express. 

Your brother…

Don

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