Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The View from Heaven's Highest Hill

If life expectancy was directly linked to the quality of the individual, then Tony Costabile would have made the first millennium without breaking a sweat. As all of us who have lost one who we love know too damned well, one bears little relationship to the other. Perhaps that is why at the far-too-young age of fifty-three, on Saturday Tony lost the valiant battle he had waged against cancer. Pete Hamill said it far more eloquently than can I, "Time itself is long, even if the time of man is short."

Upon hearing the news of his death I thought immediately and regrettably how much time had passed since I had last been in his company. Once upon a lifetime ago, when the young ladies who are our daughters were just grammar school-age children we shared the bond of "basketball fathers". Tony's oldest daughter Shannon was a year ahead of Suzanne at OLMV and the girls were teammates on the school's basketball team for (I think) at least three years - when Suz was in 4th, 5th and 7th grade and Shannon was in 5th, 6th and 8th respectively. For the most part, the only time I ever saw Tony when our kids were in fact kids was at basketball games. Invariably we spent a great deal of time sitting together, talking about our kids and talking hoops.

Kids grow up and as they do they go off into different directions. Suzanne was one of the members of her 8th grade class who matriculated on over to Bishop Ahr for high school. Shannon a year earlier had started high school at Piscataway. Other than running into each other if/when their respective basketball teams played one another while each was still playing hoops in high school I do not know if Shannon/Suzanne ever saw one another again past grammar school.

I realized in fact thinking about him today that the last time I saw Tony for any reason was after both of our daughters had graduated from OLMV; when Rob was an 8th grader. That season I helped coach Rob's 7th/8th grade basketball team while Tony coached the 7th/8th grade girls team; the roster of which included Tony's younger daughter Dana. Not surprisingly, given the disparity in the coaching talent on the teams' respective benches, the girls' team had a significantly better record than did their male counterparts.

When I heard on Saturday morning the news that he had died, I thought with a smile of all of the conversations I had ever had with him. I thought of all of the things I had ever learned about him either from speaking with him or - more pointedly - simply by watching him interact with his family. Regardless of how things went on the court when she and Suz played together, it seemed from my ringside seat that Shannon could always count on her dad for a comforting word or two and a reassuring bear hug. I realized reading his obituary in the newspaper on Monday morning that Shannon is now married. I visualized in my mind's eye her on her father's arm walking up the aisle with him while he whispered one last word or two of advice and right before he gave her one final hug in advance of her exchanging her vows.

Good people should not die from horrible, insidious diseases at any time; most especially at the not anywhere near ripe-old-age of 53. But because life is a rigged game and the odds are against all of us, it happens. It should not but it does. A good man lost an unfair fight last week. One reasonably anticipates though that while he is no longer with his family, he is not now and shall not be forgotten. Missed always but forgotten never.....

.....the way it should be because life ends but love don't stop.

-AK

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