A Son Remembers
We all come into this world for different reasons and with different contracts with different people. With specific regard to my Mom and Dad, towards the end of their lives here on Earth, they became more than my parents. Our roles were reversed as their needs increased.
Ultimately, my mother and father became my “children” — and my best friends. And today, I make every attempt to live to the fullest the life that I believe God gave me through my parents.
I am compelled to never forget and forever celebrate their legacy — by living as joyfully, generously, and productively as possible — sharing along the way the kind of loving-kindness they taught me.
I don’t always reach that daily objective. But I make a valiant attempt to do so. And it is my great hope that somehow I inspire others to do the same.
Here’s a little background on my parents.
My Mom, Francesca Mary Turri Pilato, succumbed to a combination of heart disease and Alzheimer’s on May 5th, 2008. But as I wrote in her eulogy, her Earthly-demise was concealed in so many beautiful new beginnings:
“St. Frances of Turri,” as I call her now, died in the Spring, the season of rebirth, shortly before Mother’s Day, on May 5th — Cinquo de Mayo — a joyful 24-hour period that kicked off her hometown Rochester, New York’s week-long festival of Lilacs, which bloom in the many shades of lavender — which her favorite color.
I’ll never forget her — or my Dad, Herbie P. — a.k.a. “St. Pompeii,” who died of lung cancer in 1995. They left me with wonderful memories and instructions, all of which I interpret as whispers of guidance from heaven.
I have countless recollections of my parents and frequently share them.
For one, my Mom was the least judgemental and confrontational person I have ever known.
Many years ago, when I was maybe ten or eleven-years-old, I journeyed with my parents to see my father’s sister and her husband who lived in Greece, New York, a suburb of my hometown of Rochester, New York. En route to Greece from my childhood home (on Erie Street in the inner city) we traveled down Mount Read Boulevard to the roundabout entrance way to West Ridge Road.
In the center of that roundabout was an empty field of green grass, which is still there.
This one particular day, circa 1971, as we made our way about that circular turn, a group of teens were standing, in confrontation to each other. One group was on one side of the field; a second band, on the other. A few of the kids had broken bottles in their hands, while others had knives.
These two groups were either two formal rival gangs or two very opposed bands of kids who were planning on a nasty fight.
But they had no idea with whom they would soon be dealing.
Upon noticing these two opposing young groups, my Mom turned to my Dad in in 1969 green Pontiac Catalina, and instructed him to “Stop the car.”
My father was like, “Uh? What?!”
My Mom reiterated with a slightly firmer and halting tone.
So, my Dad gave in and pulled over on the side of the circular exit near the field where cars usually never tread.
My Mom then exited the vehicle, shut the car door behind her, and stood, glaring at the two groups of kids. She wasn’t budging — and she wasn’t kidding.
Meanwhile, I turned to my Father and asked, incredulously, “Dad — WHAT the heck is she doing?!”
“Who knows?!” he replied in complete exasperation.
We then both looked on in awe and in fear of the scene before us, waiting for God only knew “WHAT.”
By this time, my Mom and all the kids from the two rival gangs were staring at each other. It had now become a contest not between the two opposing groups of teens, but between both of those bands — and my Mom.
A few minutes passed, and as my Mom remained firm in her stance and her glare, something miraculous started to transpire.
One by one, each of the teens from both sides of the field, started to drop their knives and bottles. In a few more minutes, the two groups began to disband, and get into the cars of their own, or walked away into the distance.
Soon, the field had become empty again, save for that beautiful green grass.
At that point, my Mom got back in our Pontiac, and we drove away.
Somehow, my Mom prevented a riot, and possibly some very tragic, if not fatal injuries.
Years later, when I saw the movie Gandhi, starring, Ben Kinglsey, I was reminded of this one day with my Mom. In many scenes of the movie, Kingsley’s Gandhi remained steady and calm — as violence transpired around him, experiencing threats many times against his own physical being. And still, he never struck back. He remained firm in his stance and belief that violence solves nothing — and that aggression is weakened by doing nothing in retaliation.
That’s how my Mom was that day near the green field of troubled young souls. She stood there, as Gandhi would, but looking like Clint Eastwood (minus the “hardware”), as if to say, “Go ahead…make my day.”
But for my Mom, “make my day” meant, “Put down your weapons, hurt no one, and cause no harm.”
And somehow those bands of kids listened as my Mom spoke her “peace” — her silent wisdom — all the way across that field and around that circle — and into their hearts.
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