enter my train of thought
2006-01-07 19:33:43 (UTC)


I guess I feel like I am at an important enough period in my
life that I needed to write some of the things that are on
my mind. You know how when you are a kid, adults are always
telling you that things will change when you get older, or
things will change when you get to high school, or things
will change when you get to college, etc. And you know how
you know they are right, but you don't really think about it
too much? And when the time comes, you are so caught up in
the changes that you don't even really think about the fact
that you've taken some irreversible turns in your life,
either intentionally or because of something beyond your

Well, I've been pondering this a lot lately, because it has
occurred to me as I relax over this long winter break that
my life has pretty much changed and I haven't even been
paying attention to it. I'm not talking about daily changes
or even monthly changes, or even such big changes as moving
out and going to college. I think most people take those
kinds of changes in stride. The kind of changes I'm talking
about are, well... It's the kind where you wake up one day,
and you suddenly realize you aren't a kid anymore. And while
you still may be living the college life and enjoying
yourself before you are seriously thrust into the adult
world of work, the truth is, you've just realized that your
childhood is over. Essentially, everything you have any
memories of... it's all gone. Maybe while I was still in
high school I could still tell myself that I had a few more
years yet, of participating in the same family traditions,
the same vacations, seeing the same people wherever I went.
And if I'm honest with myself, I'll admit that even now I
probably still have a few years left for some of those
things. But even though I can admit that to myself, I have
to acknowledge the fact that none of that will ever be quite
the same, that I can never quite recapture the magic of my
childhood and the feelings that went along with it.

See, my problem is - and I shouldn't even call it a problem,
because I realize I am way too fortunate and blessed in my
life to pretend that I am the only one who has ever felt
this way - but the issue here, that I've been pondering,
feeling nostalgic over, and even becoming very sad over, is
that certain people (I won't say everyone like my first
inclination was, because I realize that would be a gross
overstatement, even if that's the way I feel) - certain
people from my childhood are gone - whether dead, moved
away, or just out of touch. Now don't get me wrong - I
realize this happens to everyone, to some more than others,
and to me probably a lot less than most. But maybe that's
why it struck me hard in the past couple of weeks - because
I'm not used to it. In any case, there are a few people that
I want to write about, who I suddenly realized touched my
life, my whole childhood, and I never appreciated it until
it was too late.

Actually first come a few people that I only recently grew
close to, in my high school years. Mr. Melillo, for one.
Although he may have only been a daily presence in my life
for two or so years, he was pretty special. And being able
to talk and laugh with him meant a lot to me. And when I was
a senior, he retired and moved to Florida. Now, that isn't
to say that he was as good as dead to me - I email him
frecuently, and he even came up to Williamsburg to take Pam
and I out to dinner, and it was a lot of fun. But these
visits every once in awhile, and emails every once in
awhile, while nice, don't change the fact that he lives 1000
miles away, and I can never get back the good times he and
Pam and I had in high school. I took them for granted at the
time, never realizing how much I would miss them once he
moved away and Pam and I went off to college. (It helps that
she goes to college with me, so we can still reminisce!) So
Mr. Melillo isn't so much an issue of someone I can never
see again, but it's still sad to realize when a part of your
life is over. Another man to add to this group is Mr.
Ritter, one of the best men I've ever known (outside my
family) in terms of faith, loyalty, support, and a ready
smile for a high school girl. When he and my dad had a
Cursillo weekend together, we got introduced to each other,
each knowing that we had seen the other around church and
given smiles and nods in acknowledgement. But when I met him
that weekend, he admitted that he couldn't remember my name,
and when another man on the cursillo weekend, Andy, told him
it was Anna Banana, he promised never to forget it. And he
never did. After that weekend, I would see him in church
randomly, and give him a hug and quiz him on my name, which
he always remembered. Then I started seeing him even more
often at choir practice, when he came to pick up his
daughter. It got to the point where I looked forward to the
end of choir practice because I knew he would be there, and
I got disappointed when his wife came to pick up their
daughter instead. But when he came himself, he had become so
dependent on seeing me in church and getting hugs from me,
that he began to seek me out himself, and give his own hugs.
He would ask me questions about my life in high school, and
I knew he was truly interested, and we would talk about his
daughters, and his job as a professor at VCU. Then when I
was invited to sing with the adult choir (which he is in) at
the Easter Vigil last year, he took me in as his own
daughter. He introduced me to his friends in the choir, and
he would brag to them about me, and about my family, who he
really likes. He would always catch my eye after I'd done
something, like sing in the solo group, and give me a wink
or a smile or some form of encouragement. Also, since his
daughter was in the choir, he often showed up at the mass
which I was cantoring - and after every mass I would get a
hug and a compliment. It got to the point where I would get
disappointed when he didn't show up at that mass, and he
would start to come simply because I asked him to. One day
stands out in my mind - two, actually. The Christmas before
that Easter when I sang with him - I saw him in church on
Christmas Eve, and I was running around getting ready to
cantor, and he was sitting a few rows back in the
congregation, and he even called out my name to get my
attention and say Merry Christmas. Then when it was over, I
got the biggest hug ever, and an admission from him that he
counted me as a blessing in his life. But the other day I
started to talk about was my little sister's First Communion
- it was at an 11:15 mass, and the adult choir had already
sung at the 9:15 mass, and Mr. Ritter told me at the end of
the 9:15 mass that he wasn't going to be able to stay for
the next one, because I had work to do. I was pretty sad
about that, because I was singing the special song that our
choir director Judy always sings at First Communion, but she
let me sing it this time since Elizabeth was one of the kids
getting it. I wanted him to be there, but I told myself it
wasn't the end of the world if he couldn't come, after all,
my parents and Lauren and my grandparents and Elizabeth's
godparents (my Uncle Pat and Aunt Anna) were all there,
which was great. But when we started that mass, and I caught
his eye about halfway through and saw him sitting there, I
was incredibly happy. He caught up with me after mass,
telling me that he decided he could hold off on his work and
be there. He gave me a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek,
told me my song was beautiful and caused him to have tears
in his eyes, and I knew that my last year of truly being at
Epiphany every Sunday had been blessed because I knew him.
So to come to the point after all that rambling, things
aren't the same anymore since I left home, naturally. When I
do make it home on breaks and get to go to church, I don't
see him often, because I'm not in the choir anymore, and
it's hard to guess which mass he and his family will go to,
since his daughter isn't in the choir anymore either. I see
him every once in awhile singing in the adult choir, but it
isn't the same as getting a hug and a kiss, and a few
moments to chat. I was lucky enough to come to the
realization that, while big, celebrated events can mean a
lot and stick out in my memory, every once in awhile it's
something little, something that begins as a polite action
but turns into a weekly routine, that I will miss as an
adult, more than anything.

Since I'm on the theme of people I love at church, I want to
talk about Judy - and thus move on to the people who have
affected my whole childhood, not just in recent years. Now,
Judy Lewis has been my choir director at Epiphany since I
was 6 or 7, which means she has been a constant presence in
my life for almost 12 years. I have her to thank for my
ability to harmonize, since she made me be an alto one year
and it just stuck that way. I have her to thank in part for
not being as painfully shy as I was as an elementary and
middle school kid - you just can't be shy around Judy, it
doesn't work. And when Lauren left the choir, Judy pretty
much forced me to be a leader, whether I wanted it or not,
and it changed a lot about my personality. Judy has been a
mentor, too - giving recommendations, signing CAS forms,
teaching piano lessons, holding together the choir, and
asking me for help holding together the choir. And even once
I was done with choir and gone to college, I knew that when
I came to Epiphany on random breaks, and for holidays, I
would be guaranteed to see her, and she would more than
likely ask me to sing with the choir, either adult or kids,
at something or other. Now, most of us couldn't stand Judy
at the time - she's overbearing, has to get her own way or
sometimes she cries, and can get impatient pretty quickly.
But she can also be a lot of fun, and know how to joke
around with a bunch of teens and preteens, and in the end
you know she is there for you. So while we all knew she had
her quirks, and made us all mad as heck sometimes, I think
everyone loved her anyway, if only for the constancy of her
breakdowns and fits. So I went back to church at Christmas,
and might have sung with the choir if I hadn't already
missed a week of my break having to go to NY, and saw her
and got hugs, and reassured myself that everything still
went on the same in my absence, and thus something existed
that I could come home to, that would always be the same. I
like those kinds of things. But then I went back to church
by myself one day, I think it was New Years Day, and I had
to go to 9:15 by myself, since I had to work at 12, and the
rest of my family was going to 11:15. The adult choir was
singing, but Mr Ritter wasn't there, so I didn't even have
anyone I really wanted to see. And then Judy got up on her
stand, and anounced that she was retiring, effective January
15. And I was shocekd. I mean, in my head I knew she must be
getting older, since she had been around in my life so long,
and I certainly got older. But that didn't stop me from
assuming that she would always be there, leading the music
at Epiphany. So now, I have to face the fact that when I
come home for my next break, and if I make it to church, she
won't be there. And I, being the sensitive, emotional person
that I truly am inside, who doesn't handle change very well
and wishes that everything could always stay the way its
always been, have to accept that one more thing that has
been a constant in my childhood will no longer hold true.
That I can't always come back from my new life at college,
and expect everything in my old life to have stayed exactly
the same as I always knew and loved it. And while I will
handle it, and more than likely get over it quickly, and
soon it will hardly bother me at all other than a twinge of
nostalgia every now and then, at the same time, I feel like
a part of me is gone. With Mr. Melillo leaving, and my
relationship with Mr Ritter not staying the same, and Judy
retiring - with each of these people bowing out of my life,
they take something of me with them. As corny, and trite,
and fake as it sounds, the only way I can think of to
describe it is that I feel as if something inside of me
breaks off each time one of these people no longer has a
presence in my life, and I can never get it back - because
memories just aren't the same as having it remain be a reality.

Which brings me to what I feel most of all, what leaves the
biggest gap somewhere inside me, whether I acknowledge it or
not. On December 8, 2005, my grandfather, my dad's dad,
passed away. Ok, he died. I hate euphemisms. Before you go
thinking well that can't be such a life shattering event,
that happens to everyone, at least it wasn't one of your
parents, etc., let me say, that for me, it is a life
shattering event, and I apologize if it seems menial or if I
seem unfeeling to those who have had worse tragedies in
their lives. I mean, I have a humungous, close, family - my
parents are still alive and together, and until December,
all four my grandparents were still alive and together, and
even a great grandparent is still alive. So I know I'm
incredibly lucky and shouldn't even be complaining about one
elderly man who had been sick for a few years and was going
to die sooner or later, anyway. I just wish it had been
later. And if that's selfish of me, so be it - at least I'm
being selfish because I love my family so much that I never
want any of them to leave me in this life - there are worse
ways someone can be selfish. In any case, whatever you think
of me, I was crushed that Thursday morning, when my dad
called - the first bad sign, that my dad was calling my cell
phone at 10:30 on a Thursday morning - I knew right away
something was wrong. I probably even knew what it was that
was wrong - and I'm going to sound like an evil person here,
but I even almost tried to convince myself that he was going
to tell me that my great grandmother had died - which, while
it would have been sad, would not have been such a blow,
since she is in her 80s and sick and feeble and in a nursing
home, and I don't see her nearly as often as I do my
grandparents. I knew my grandpa had been having health
problems, but not too long before this morning, I had heard
reports that he was doing better than expected, and was
moved out of the ICU in the hospital. And come on, I had
seen them at my graduation in June, and while he looked
tired and worn out, it never occurred to me that it would be
the last time I would see him. You see, my family is big.
And loud. And like to laugh. Because my dad is one of 8
children, and most of them have multiple children of their
own. And while every single person may not have been as
close as can be to every single other person, I love them
all and wouldn't have it any other way. And my grandfather -
well, his 8 kids were his pride and joy, even more so as
adults with families of their own, then as kids, I think. He
knew no greater joy then when his sons and daughters came to
visit him, the more the merrier, or when he got to go visit
them. I take that back, I lied. He did know a greater joy,
and it was in his grandchildren. All 16 of us (wow, is that
all?) He loved to hear about our endeavors, about our
triumphs and failures - he loved to repeat to each of us
funny things that one of the others had said or did - he
loved to quiz our parents about how we were doing, whether
in school, whatever sport we played, whatever. And in my
eyes, even if they are naive and idealistic, my family
revolved around him, especially as he got sick in the last
few years of his life. Because his birthday was the fourth
of July, and so one family or another, or more than one at a
time, would always somehow make it up to Rochester, NY, what
seems to be the coldest, grayest place on earth, even
sometimes on the 4th of July, to celebrate his birthday with
him. My family has done it every summer since I can
remember, except maybe the one where Elizabeth was born. In
any case, I can't remember ever doing anything else for that
week in July - and I pray to God that it will stay that way,
even now that he is gone. Realiistically I know it can't
stay that way forever, not only because he is gone, but
because I'll grow up and have a family of my own, and that
trip won't be the center of my life anymore. One thing I can
remember about him especially - he gave the biggest,
hardest, longest hugs I've ever experienced. Maybe it was
because he knew he was sick and never knew which time he saw
us would be the last. He loved to tease - everyone.
Grandchildren, children, wife, siblings, nieces and nephews.
As a grandchild, I can personally say sometimes it was the
hardest thing I'd ever done to figure out whether he was
telling the truth or pulling your leg. And he loved to
surround himself with music - if not that of his
grandchildren, then he himself would whistle a tune, or hum
a few bars, or belt it out. He had a song for every occasion.

Anyway - my grandpa is dead, and there are so many things I
will never experience again with him around, that it makes
me want to cry just thinking about it. And I know that's not
a healthy way to be - you have to move on, think about all
the happy times, yadda yadda yadda. And I will move on, and
will constantly remember such times, but the point is, it
just struck me one day, how much my life has truly changed
lately. Whether I want it or not, I am growing up, and
leaving my childhood behind me, and I find myself
floundering, at a loss for what to do now that all these
gaps in my old life exist. I guess the only thing that gives
me comfort at this point, besides the fact that I am still
incredible happy in my life right now, despite all this
nostalgia, is that maybe one day I'll help my own children
establish traditions and relationships as strong as mine
were as a child, so that they will love their childhood so
much, that it hurts to leave it behind, as I did for me.
Because I guess, despite the sadness it brings to me, it
really is the best thing I could ever hope for - that the
pain is the best kind I could ask for, since it stems from
not wanting to let go of the joy.