My mother’s birthday was March 7. Were she alive today she would be 108. This was another story I wrote after the accident. It has been 13 years now (seems like yesterday), and I was numb for the first five. Right after, I was asked by MADD and a Youth to Youth group to give talks to high schools, churches and youth groups about the tragedy wrought when someone drives drunk, fast, reckless and takes the life of some innocent person or people.
My talks were powerful and had good effect.
Those talks took a lot out of me. I told the kids that, if after listening to me, they went out prom night or any night and drove drunk and got into an accident in which someone died, I would scream out, “I hope you die! Not some innocent old couple crossing the street, or a mother taking her two kids out for ice cream, or a father returning home from a hard day’s work. But you!”
The kids would be wide-eyed, shocked and some crying. I didn’t care how they reacted. If it saved one life it would be worth it. Many kids came up after and told me how powerful the presentation was and how it affected them. If they are still going today, and maybe married with a family of their own, then I feel I did what I set out to do. I know the telling affected me and I had to stop eventually.
The following story tells about the real people who were affected when a drunk teenager, who was one of the more entitled people I had ever met, decided to drink, do drugs and drive.
She really killed four people that day, as two more died who were affected by the accident and the deaths were directly related. I will not go into the circumstance here.
What I want to show is how beautiful the people killed were and how traditions and ways that existed for years can be traumatically affected by someone who cares not for their fellow travelers on this good earth.
Again, this was written for Mother’s Day back then and I will not adjust it. You can relate to your own circumstances, your own parents or kids.
This Mother’s Day will not be a happy one for us. As many of you know by now, a teenage driver who, according to police, was driving while intoxicated and on drugs, crossed the centerline on Route 1A in Narragansett, and hit a car driven by my sister, Karen.
Dead on arrival at South County Hospital was our beautiful Aunt Vicki. Two days later, the injuries sustained by my mother claimed her, overtaking her valiant fight for life.
My sister Karen sustained a broken leg, broken ribs, multiple bruises and neck and back injuries.
When I think of beautiful people, I don’t think of Hollywood stars, jetsetters, or the rich-elite. I think of my mother and my aunts. To me they have always represented what people should be like. They were caring, giving, always thinking of others before themselves. They were always fun to be around because they could encounter the simplest things and have a laugh over it and enjoy it to the hilt. They were not greedy, or envious. They just enjoyed life.
One of my joys in this life was to pile all of them into my van for a trip to Foxwoods, or Mohegan Sun, where they had more fun playing with $20 or $25 than any people I have ever known.
They anxiously looked forward to my summer returns from Las Vegas for these events.
We would drive down, gamble, have lunch, walk around and look at the sites and the people.
You would have thought I gave them the world.
One day my mom won $250. You would have thought she won a million! Of course, she shared it with her sisters and sister-in-law, and with the leftover moola she bought food and drinks so we partied at her house that night.
When I took them out for clam cakes and chowder, I took them to the Portsider in Galilee, because I felt they had the best clam cakes in Rhode Island. Plus, they carried the three kinds of clam chowder: New England (cream); Manhattan (red) and Rhode Island (clear or broth).
When I was away, my sister took them for rides on an almost weekly basis.
On one of our trips down to the shore, I sauntered into the Portsider with eight women. My aunts and their “soul” sisters. I made a big deal of sitting them down, called the waitress over and introduced myself as a Mormon from Utah, vacationing in R.I. with his eight wives.
The aunts were laughing like crazy. I quieted them down with a stern Mormon admonition and frown and told the waitress if we liked the food at this restaurant I would recommend it to my brother, who was coming in the next week. I said he would give them a lot of business as he had 37 wives! My Aunts were roaring by this time and every ear in the place was cocked and the people were buzzing about “those Mormons” over there. We had everyone in stitches.
On the way home we would always drive by the first million dollar home in East Greenwich. They always got a kick out of that.
“OOooohhh Deeeee!” they would say and laugh and laugh. Never envious or jealous, but amazed that someone could live in a place like that, and be happy for them.
I have met a lot of rich people, and famous ones, too, on my journey on this mortal coil. Actors, generals, senators, congressmen, millionaires. But, I have never met anyone who got so much pleasure out of life as my aunts. Simple pleasures. Simple tastes. But a deep love of life.
No. It will not be a happy Mother’s Day for us this May (or anytime, really), but we will console one another with the stories and the sayings and the memories, and the pictures of two beautiful women, who only brought good to this world, and to the lives of all around them.
Sweet, beautiful, gentle Aunt Vick, and my mother (our mother), Dora. She was our “Mother Theresa,” our beloved woman. A font of knowledge and wisdom that cannot be replaced. Akusa Adora ! Akusa Avicki!
Of course, this Mother’s Day will be extremely hard for my sisters and me. My younger sister, Gail, was only 8 when we lost our father. I was 12, Karen 11. Our Mother had been our strength. She was 95 and still going strong. We were sure she would have made it to 100! The loss has been hard on my sisters and I know I have not functioned like I thought I would be able to. The lack of remorse on the part of that teenage driver has not helped much either.
As I said, we were sure my mother was going to hit 100. I used to tease her that I was sending her picture to Willard Scott for the “Today” show.
“Here we have Mrs. Theodora Mastracchio (he would mispronounce Mastracchio, of course) of East Greenwich (he would mispronounce that too ), Rhode Island. Isn’t she a lovely lady? One hundred years old today!”
She would scoff at me as she usually did when I came up with one of my schemes that put her in the spotlight. Secretly, though, I think she was proud of the things I did and I had every intention of pulling that one off if I had to go meet Willard personally.
She and I had been through a lot, and our bond was a little different from most mothers and sons.
Having been “the man of the house” at an early age, I often talked about financial matters with my mother – family decisions, taking care of my sisters, and of course, behavior (though I was not great there). I never told her of any of my personal problems. I took care of them myself, or sought advice from coaches, priests or mentors. I remember it was at the Thanksgiving dinner table when some of my “cuzzones” and I were discussing some things that we did in high school that she first got wind of what my life was like back then.
Also, you never even mentioned the word “sex” in front of her, never mind talk about it at any level, or you got what for. She never hit us but always came through with a story, parable or saying that covered just about every situation and she could lay a guilt trip on you (me) like you wouldn’t believe. Some of her friends were Jewish and I think she got a lot of that Old World wisdom from them.
Of course, she waited on me hand and foot, whether I wanted her to or not. I was her parttime Mammissimo (Italian Mamma’s Boy) even though in reality, I was anything but.
Yet, she insisted, even at 95, that I sit and she would get whatever I wanted. She would be insulted if I got up to get a fork. Now, my wife sits and I get the fork.
At her wake, one of my former closest “buds” told me he always remembered that when his mother sent us out to play, she would say, “Don’t you get into any trouble.” But that my mother would say, “Have a good time playing and enjoy yourselves.”
If there was too much noise in his house, his mother would send us all home and him to his room but my mother would just admonish us, ask us to be better and let the fun go on.
Little things, yet it was his memory, not mine. I guess, when you grow up with that kind of love that you take it for granted.
When my father passed, he not only didn’t just leave us. He left us in debt. She paid everything off, sometimes 50 cents and $1 at a time.
“Drip by drip the bucket will fill,” she said, “Chip, chip away til the job gets done.” I still use that approach today.
She was just an amazing woman. It was always, “make do”; family hold back”; “simple pleasures: do good for others and don’t expect anything in return”; and “do good, forget about it; do bad, remember it.”
All those things you hear in church every Sunday were practiced by her on a daily basis. Some of our priests should be so good.
At 85 she volunteered in a nursing home (a Jewish one at that), taking care of people in their 60s and 70s. Putting them in wheelchairs. Taking them down to eat. Putting them back to bed. Aunt Vicki volunteered there too.
She knitted hats, scarves, mittens and booties for schools in South Providence, Indian Reservations, the Our Lady of Mercy outreach program, the Episcopal church (she was Catholic), Christ Church and anyone who came to the house, who looked like they needed their head covered in the cold Rhode Island winter. She was knitting them right up to the day she died.
On that morning she was at the Golden Agers doing another thing she was good at – having fun. She was dancing up a storm in the line dances. She could do a mean tarantella and even did the jitterbug with her grandchildren.
We have pictures of her shooting baskets (and making them ) at age 88!
There’s not much more I can say. She touched the lives of many people. The line at her wake never stopped for 5 1/2 hours and it was pouring rain the whole time that day. She just had a knack of bringing people together. I know of at least three “mended feuds” that took place at her wake. To us she was love, peace, and quiet beauty.
She was not rich. She was not famous. At least, not by society’s standards. But, she was
rich and famous in the things and the people, who were important to her.
As we gathered at her house one day to reminisce and talk, my sister Karen summed it all up beautifully. “How do you spell love?” she asked.
D – O – R – A .
That is how simple it was. That is how simple it is. We will keep her in our hearts and minds. We will tell our kids and our grandkids and our great grandkids about her.
And, as long as we keep her alive in our hearts and minds and our memories, she will never be far from us. She will never really die.
Akusa Adora! We are all Creek Dora’s Blood! We are proud to be!
As I said a while back in another story, hug your mother hard this Mother’s Day. Hold her close. Then hug your dad, your brothers, your sisters, and anyone else you can.
Because, as we found out, a simple ride down to the shore for clamcakes and chowder; a quiet, scenic ride taken traditionally for many years without incident, can turn into a nightmare from hell, because of the thoughtless action of someone else.
And, though she is no longer here, my mother – who, as she lay there after the accident with two broken legs, broken ribs, a broken collarbone, a skull fracture and internal injuries, was asking the rescue personnel how her sister and daughter were – would want to make sure that you had a good Mother’s Day, and cherished those you love and those who love you.
And you know why? As we who loved her know.
Because that was the kind of woman she was!