Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mario, My Butcher, Lost His Fight

Mario and son, Joe

About three months ago I walked into my butcher shop and instead of being greeted by the owner, Mario, I found myself standing in front of a see through plastic container. The container was filled with yellow bracelets for donations to help fight cancer. I was familiar with these bracelets that were distributed by the Lance Armstrong foundation. I started ordering my meat and never took notice of the sign that was taped in front of the container. But, when I asked the butcher for my second item, the note caught my eye. It said something like, please pray for our boss, father and friend Mario, who has been diagnosed with cancer. It’s never good hearing someone you know has been stricken with cancer.

I see Mario’s son and he has a somber look. I know that look. It’s the same look I had when I was told my father had colon cancer years ago. It’s the look I saw on my daughters’ faces when I told them I had been diagnosed. It’s the look of sudden grief and loss, like someone had just kicked you in the gut or pulled the rug out from under you. I get up the nerve to ask him how his father is doing. He tells me he wasn’t feeling well, but it took the whole family to get him to the doctor. When he was diagnosed he refused to go to the hospital, but they got him to go. The cancer was in three places. It had spread already. It didn’t sound good. As he was talking to me I could see his eyes well up with tears, as were my own. I knew what he was feeling for his dad all too well. I also knew what his father was going through, the fear, the anxiety, the denial, the worrying about his family, his business. I knew both sides of what this devastating news does to people.

Mario fought the good fight. He had operations to remove the cancer. But, they hadn’t caught it early enough. It was too big a battle for him and in three short months he was gone. I found that out today when I went there to get something for dinner. From a distance I could see the store was closed. As I got closer I saw a sign and a wreath in front. I passed several people who had stopped to say a prayer and then I got to the note. Mario died. There was all the information for the viewing and funeral services. Very sad.

Mario was always smiling. He loved his business and he always seemed happy. His son worked there too. When Mario got sick it seemed like his son took great pains to run a tight ship. Every detail was paid close attention to. The store always spotless was cleaner than clean. The meat aesthetically arranged in the window. I could almost read his son’s mind. He wanted to make sure the store was in pristine condition for when his father came back to work. It’s a little game the mind plays when you are in denial and refuses to accept the truth. My heart aches for him today as he makes the arrangements with his family, to bury a father who was taken away way too soon.

I have been going to Mario’s store for years. I’ll go to the viewing tomorrow. I’ll miss Mario’s smile and the pride you could see he took in his business. I acknowledged that many times as I complimented the store and he always thanked me. He had everything in that store. One day I had gone to the fish store next door to buy shrimp for my husband’s birthday, they didn’t have any. I was so disappointed because my husband always expects shrimp on his birthday. I walked into Mario’s knowing it was ridiculous to try and find shrimp in a butcher store. Still I was looking around there. Mario comes up to me and asks if he can help me. I said to him I know this is a stupid question, but do you have shrimp? The fish store is out and it’s my husband’s birthday. Mario said, with a big grin on his face, “I don’t have any raw shrimp, but I have cooked shrimp.” I said “You do?” I was in a little speechless. He tells me they are just getting done and he wants me to try one. I told him no I couldn’t (it was back in January and I was on that 17 Day Diet). He says, no I want you to try it. So I did. Let me tell you, after being on a diet for a few days that shrimp tasted like a million dollars. I got a pound of it. Mario wrapped it up and my husband had his shrimp for dinner. I didn’t even have to clean or cook it and it was cheaper than the fish store! The next day we went to the butcher to get some meat. Mario asks my husband how was the shrimp and wishes him a Happy Birthday. That was my butcher, Mario.

May you rest in peace, Mario. You will be missed and never forgotten.

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