Friday, June 5, 2009

In the Shadow of the Evening Trees.

I know not whether it is a universal truth that one can measure the impact that a life had upon the lives of others by the number of people who come to pay their respects at the "visitation", although I suspect that in the case of my mom-in-law Suzanne Bozzomo it was indeed. Yesterday afternoon and again yesterday evening a multitude of people came to honor her and to express their love and support to those of us who shall now be charged with the business of living - the business of keeping on keeping on.

Mother Nature has elected to honor Suzy B. today by wearing a veil of tears. One suspected that between the storms that rumbled through our little corner of the world each of the past two days that the clouds had nothing left to give. Apparently that suspicion was unfounded. This morning dawn broke in a cascade of rain. Whether it is an example of irony or coincidence when inclement weather makes an appearance on the day on which we convene for the funeral of one we love I have never quite figured out. Although - perhaps it is simply the melancholy that permeates my Gaelic bones - it has always seemed to me to be appropriate.

It is almost incomprehensible to me that a woman who has been such a central figure in the lives of many of those who I love the most, and in my own life for that matter, for almost the past two decades shall be that way only in spirit - and not in the flesh - from this point forward. My mom-in-law was diminutive but the hole left by her death is enormous. Thirty years ago, upon his arrival in the Bronx via free agency, Reggie Jackson famously declared himself to be "the straw that stirred the drink". History teaches us he was as ignorant as he was arrogant. Side-by-side with Suzy B he is no better than the coaster upon which the drink is placed on a summer's day to prevent a condensation ring on your woodwork.

Since her death in the wee small hours of Tuesday morning, I have worried about and tried to keep an eye on Suzy B.'s entire tribe. And while I am sure that no matter what happens for us and for our kids from this point forward, my bride shall never look at life in the same way as she did prior to her mother's death I hold out hope that for her sufficient time shall exist to at least affix a temporary patch to this wound. I hope for a similar arc for my brother-in-law Frank, whose joyous, boisterous household is preparing for the wedding of his oldest child, Megan, at month's end.

The focal point of my concern these past several days has been on Joe, my father-in-law. He is a big bear of a man (even at 76) and has a smile and a voice that fill any room - with the personality to match. Over the course of the slightly less than two decades that I have known him, I have had more "father/son" conversations with him than I ever had with my own father during the first fourteen years of my life. Joe is a strong, resilient man battle-tested by life but this week he has been brought to his knees by something that haunts one who has been the guardian and the protector of those he loves for most of his life. He was not able to prevent the relentless advancing force that is cancer from taking his beloved wife from him.

Time will, I hope, eventually allow him to understand that he neither failed her nor her him. The two of them simply were forced to the final part of the vows they exchanged almost fifty years ago by an enemy that has no soul. When we marry, we utter the "til death do us part" language in the vows by rote - without stopping to appreciate its weight. On the day we wed the one with whom we intend to spend the rest of our life, we give little thought to the day far off on the horizon line where the earth and sky meet where one of us shall have to press forward without the other. Inevitably that day arrives.

Tragically, on the 2nd of June it arrived for Joseph and Suzanne Bozzomo. And this morning he shall look down upon the face of his beautiful bride one final time before sending her on ahead of him. For half a century they faced together everything that life threw at them, they celebrated everything that life gave them and they reveled in the joy of their family - their two children, Frank and Margaret, and the eight grandchildren with whom their children blessed them.

Theirs has truly been a wonderful life. And it is far from over. Somewhere a bit further on up the road she waits for him. He has not been left behind. Knowing what a creature of habit he is, she has gone ahead to get the lay of the land. And it is there she shall wait - having made her steps clear for him to see - until he is ready to make the trip himself.


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