Dad never knew his parents.
Uncle Gabriel and Aunt Marietta told him stories. Raimondo was a foreman, a tenor, a brute and a womanizer; Giovina, defenseless, speaking only Italian dialect, had been committed to a sanitarium by her husband. Tony, her third child, was born there.
Dad would be taken from her, at birth, to live alternately at the Bracchi’s foster home or the Walter E Fernald School in Waverly, Mass. But, on or about age 15, to bolt, literally running away, he with his institutionally bequeathed harmonica and trumpet trained lip, caught the freight cars and rode them all the way to Louisiana.
From the deep South, this rambler would take odd farmhand jobs and then head West, learning life and copying a cigar box set of “spoons” by carving a John Deere plowhandle into his own hand held rhythm section. Together with harmonica in his right, bones in the left, he became a bona fide panhandling drifter, his travels reaching their ultimate end at the California coast. After a week invited to stay with a touring big band, he joined the US Army.
The Army would send him back east, to Fort Riley KS. Training there for the impending war, he would ride yet another rail, this time a steamer to New York on a final R&R, and meet Mum, with whom he sat and sang and played out his life story all night. By the time the fighting broke out, they were already married.
Deployed to Germany, where he would serve under Patton as a forward observer, reach Corporal as lead bugler organizing a parade for the dignitaries, and earn the Bronze during the Battle of the Bulge Dad had many interactions with every walk of life. Somehow, along the way, he acquired mementos: two decorative swords, of fine silver; a German luger pistol; an emerald cut topaz from a fraulein named Kitty; and, a bloodstone pinkie ring, set in gold.
When I was eleven, Dad gave me that bloodstone as a reward for learning his favorite piano piece, “Alpine Glow”. I have worn that ring, nearly every day, for the past fifty one years.
In spite of everything he did tell us, there was still so much we never knew about Dad. There were gaps, in time, for which there was no clear explanation. There were the repeated AWOLS, and the stint on Pearl Harbor day (his birthday) in the guard house, and one more memento, that oval silver tag with the name Tony Marino bearing his social security number which he wore as a cabbie.
Still, there was his sister Frances and her husband Al, who played clarinet for Artie Shaw, first cousins, same surname; his brother whom he’d met at the Fernald, Luigi, whom everyone called Tom, no physical resemblance, living as an electrician in Hartford. There was his niece, Rhonda Lee, who died tragically at age 51; his nephew, Richard, whom we’d only seen once; and Rima, beloved to Mum, who actually came back with her husband Ange to see Dad in the year before his death. These were those we did know, only as we did know them.
Research reveals that the bloodstone is claimed as an excellent blood cleanser and powerful healer, heightening intuition and increasing creativity, grounding and protecting against geopathic and electromagnetic stress. My memory speaks that Dad’s bloodstone was acquired in exchange for a pack of smokes. It’s owner never revealed anything about the ring to him, as far as we ever knew.
My hand, through which his blood still flows, bears Dad’s ring to the end. What Dad never knew, and what we never knew about him, are in God’s.
© 12/18/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Neither copying, in whole or part, nor translation permitted by anyone at any time. Thank you for being the better person.