Thursday, February 12, 2015

In Memory of my cousin, Frank Viola


 (I wrote this the day after I heard about my cousin, Frank, passing. I didn't post it immediately because I did not want to add to the sadness of his family in their time of mourning. Not only has his family lost a cherished husband and father, but the world has also lost an amazing and loving man and is the lesser for it.)
Sunday, February 8th, the world lost a wonderful man, my cousin, Frank Viola. It pains me to write this through tears of sadness, but I can’t think of anything else. Frank came in our family in 1981 when he married my cousin, Maria. Together, they had three beautiful children: Frank, Joseph and Deanna. It was always Frank's dream to be a father and together he and Maria made that dream a reality.
Frank was a stay-at-home dad who was very much hands on with his children. He was a loving and affectionate father who adored his family. He was soft spoken and gentle in his ways. Frank had a lot of love in his heart and he gave it all away every minute of every day. He was always thinking of and finding ways to help others. Frank was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis shortly after he married Maria and, over the years, the disease progressively slowed him down physically, but his mind was always sharp and his heart always full of love. He may not have been able to do the things some fathers do, like throw a ball and run bases but, as a father, he hit a home run every day. I can’t think of any man I have ever met who was a more loving and devoted father to his children and husband to his wife. Family was absolutely everything to him and anyone who knew him, knew that.

The last time I spoke to Frank was right after Thanksgiving, when he had come home from one of his many hospital stays. I went into his room to say hello and to tell him I was happy they had released him before the holidays. Despite his many battles with this disease, he was in great spirits. I have never seen him feel sorry for himself or heard him complain. He always had a smile on his face. We talked about our children, his favorite subject. His eyes always lit up when he would mention his children. We chatted about how good they all were and how very proud we were of all of them. He told me he was happy that our kids were getting together outside of family occasions, like friends. He said it was his hope that our children would be close, that they would have each other throughout their lives. I told him that was my hope too and that I worried because my kids have no one once our generation is gone. He said his kids didn't have anyone either, they weren't close to his brother's and sister's children. It was unspoken, but we understood in that moment how reassuring and comforting it is for us as parents, to know that when we leave this world our children will have close family that can count on no matter what trials life brings. Family who will be there to share in their joys and support them in their times of sorrow. Even during this conversation we had, Frank was thinking about his children, and I totally understood how he felt.

I cannot begin to imagine the void that Frank’s passing will leave in Maria’s life or his children’s lives. Maria and Frank were soulmates. She and the children were always the center of his world, as he was in theirs. I know in my heart that his great love for his family will transcend death, and he will be watching over them, loving and protecting them, as much as an angel in heaven can.

May you rest in peace Frank, until you are reunited with your family again.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Right from Wrong . . .


My parents always taught my brother and I right from wrong, and that included no lying, no cheating, no hurting anyone. But this week the news has been about well known and admired people who didn’t seem to learn those lessons early in life or just don’t care. Their actions show their indifference to the moral codes of conduct and integrity. These are people who really should know better, people in respected positions, people who are well off and have absolutely no excuse for committing their wrong actions and then not taking ownership of them when confronted. It's disgraceful.

We had weeks of Bill Cosby’s accusers coming forward to speak up about how he drugged and raped them. He was already famous and could have had many willing sexual partners. Instead he chose innocent women, some just young girls, to victimize. Why did he hurt all these women who trusted him? Because he could? Because he has an arrogant massive ego? Because he knew he would get away with it? He knew it was wrong, time nd time again, and he did it anyway.

We had the number one football team in the country, the Patriots, deflate footballs to give themselves a game winning edge that they didn’t even need. They were willing to tarnish their reputation by breaking the established regulations of the game. Why? Because they felt they are too important to the game to be punished? Because they needed to win by an extra point or two? Because winning by cheating is more important than an ethical loss by fair play? They knew it was wrong, but they did it anyway.

And let’s not forget the biggest cheater in the history of cycling, Lance Armstrong. Armstrong took steroids and used other unethical medical means to gain an advantage and “won” seven Tours de France. The whole time he denied ever doing anything against the rules. When he finally confessed and apologized on Oprah, long after the cat was out of the bag and he was disgraced, his apology wasn’t the least bit sincere. I say that because he summed up every single unethical act, over the course of seven years, as “one lie.” I was disgusted with his so called apology. Can a man like this sink any lower? Yes he can. This week Lance Armstrong was driving, hit two parked cars, and then sped off. When authorities caught up with him, he had convinced his girlfriend to take the blame and say she was driving. Lance’s luck ran out when his girlfriend wasn’t nearly as skilled at lying as he is. Her story wasn’t consistent and authorities soon figured out Lance was driving that car. Why did Lance lie? Because he has a massive ego? Because he is arrogant? I don’t get it. He knew it was wrong, but he did it anyway.

And then we have highly respected news anchorman, Brian Williams, of NBC, who just signed a 5 year contract for 10 million a year, misremembering “facts.” Yes he apologized for conflating the details of his stories, to inflate his own self importance. He altered the facts when he is supposed to be reporting the truth. His career lives or dies based on his credibility and yet he put that credibility and his career at risk. Why? To make himself sound more important than he is? For the glory? To make himself a more newsworthy subject in addition to a reporter? He knew it was wrong, but he did it anyway.

When my parent instilled the principles of right and wrong in me, they stuck with me. My parents lead me to believe that good citizens in society would behave according to the same code of right and wrong. I’m sure most people do. I like to believe most do. And maybe what really bothers me about these four situations is that these are powerful, influential, people who are well known and have significant wealth. They are in the public spotlight. They are looked up to and respected. They should be setting examples and acting as role models. Instead, they are liars, cheaters and rapists that walk around unpunished with their heads held high. How do they look themselves in the mirror? I have no idea.