Category Archives: WWII

The Corner.

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The new set up finally felt right.

The laptop should never have been situated anywhere near the davenport. Hardly welcoming to plunk one’s “office” right in the middle of the livingroom. Add to that the endless stream of paper mail – charity pleas, financial statements, natural health provocateurs, catalogues. Burgeoning piles, taunting every, lifelong attempt to keep an orderly house.

No matter that finding the means to actually toss the static stacks forever eluded. This would harken back to that Great Depression mindset and, well, that was inherited.

Yes. The corner was, finally, just perfect. The wicker rocker had been lovely neo-nostalgia, but sprawling, determined to scrape the last of the baseboard paint all the way down to its 1895 darkwood. And, sitting in the rocker was never right; its ergonomics, or lack thereof, had wrecked both her neck and sacra, the latter already pesky after the fall from the stage in ’09. Perhaps the new chair was more than just easy to assemble. Perhaps she could finally extend her spine fully, and expand her lungs. Perhaps she could finally, functionally, actively: sit.

With the sofa pushed forward, making room for the slender pole lamp, peace lily to the left wafting its oxygen, and heat vent just below, she was at last comfortable enough to troll Facebook, watch Showtime, and write without descending into the dull, half-wit of the couch potato. She noted that getting up to go to the piano was a far more frequent occurrence, now, the most encouraging observation of the hour.

Hardly anybody of any social importance anymore even knew that she played piano. The purchase of the Steinway was only meaningful to her, after all. Funny how expectations were fueled by fantasies, and these by notions. Notions of relative value.

Time didn’t actually pass, she’d been told. But, years did. And, she hadn’t been part of the league of pianists since at least 2005. A decade, to the Millennials and those who spawned them, was a lifetime.

She noted that, from this angle, her reflection appeared in the screen. The way the light refracted provided a clear image. Her face appeared to be receding from its head, the absence of estrogen draining the last of its contouring fat. She used to see an exotic Napolitan, even at her loneliest moments marveling at how distinct she was from the sea of Sicilians in the spectre of her locale. Now, she could only ponder the generic picture of a woman toward which nobody would even look twice.

She wondered if anybody would be listening seven days hence, as she made her recapitulating debut on the live airwaves. The year was probably 1990; Mavis Sargeant, ever the pioneer and a rare Brit in a community of staunch Germans and ethnic ghettos, had initiated “Potpourri”, live classical and its corollaries for a solid hour at high noon at the local PBS affiliate. For quite awhile, it stuck; now, nearly two decades in, live music was once again featured at WQLN – FM. Her selected colleagues had agreed to perform a trio program, and the marketing standard included a live broadcast “teaser” to lure attendees to the scheduled recital.

Thus was her life, lived – by the standards of her alleged family – in complete self-indulgence. Somehow, she had missed the importance of being seen out, in the evenings, where people gathered. She had neglected to form relationships with those who would sustain her social standing. Now her words, last testament to the proof that she had lived, were batted about by anonymous ghost writers, grifters in a world of the younger, prettier, and classed.

Pressing the space bar and the shift key, she placed the next set of them onto the template of the laptop screen.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   1/27/17   Post #478, all authentic, created by this writer, whose rights are reserved in spite of all attempts to the contrary. Yeah. To all the pathetic parasites: Someday, all your sins will find you out. To the honest among you, go in peace.

littlebarefeetblog.com

The Bronze.

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Dad, always full of fascinating stories, remembered these details consistently every time he recounted them.

Surrounded by “Krauts”.

Snowing.

A tickle in his throat.

A sugar cube, passed down the silent line, to cut his cough.

Orders: “Infiltrate. Take nothing with you.”

Three days, in the snow.

Three.

Days.

Cpl. Anthony Scanzillo, part of the forward observing team.

Hodges, the commanding officer; General calling the play: George S. Patton.*

The rest, profoundly, history.

I am still not quite sure how to thank my father for all this. Thank him…..for enlisting in the US Army when, as a 20-something vagabond orphan, the military service might have been the only place he could go for three square meals and a bed?….Thank him…..for sticking it out once the war hit, promising his new wife he’d come back to her from Germany?…….Thank him…..for enduring abject fear, horrifyingly explosive sudden death all around him, the demand of primitive conditions and unending misery?…….Thank him…..for using all his internal resources to survive, to come home, to open his barber business, to marry mum twice so that I could be brought into the world.

Thank you, Dad. They tell me that what you did saved the world from an oppressive dictator whose mentality could have overtaken freedom itself. I hope they’re right.

I’m just glad you came home.

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*Footnote:

[ He bit his lip, and kept trudging. And followed orders, and kept breathing, and kept holding his breath, and never closed his eyes (I knew my father. He never closed his eyes, mark that.) and kept watching, and kept looking, and kept listening, and kept trudging, and stood stalk still, and liked to have died, and then the orders came down, and the German prisoners were lined up, and shot dead, and then more trudging, and straight ahead, and no thinking, and then suddenly the orders came down, and surprise attack, and blood, and heads being blown off right beside him, and ear splitting booms, and meemies, screaming, and carnage, and more shooting, and then the orders came down, and they all turned, and back they trudged, and trudged, and trudged, and then they were clear. And, the end. Of that. And, probably peeing and drinking, and eating, and smoking, and finally sleeping.

Dad came home with PTSD that never left him. He was 95, and it still haunted him. My one, retrospective relief is that he died dreaming, in feverish sepsis, turning his left wrist like he was still playing the bones.]

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo 7/3/16  All rights those of the author, including the photographs, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com

Honor.

 

[ formerly titled “Objection.”]

Dad never knew his parents. He heard about them both, from his Uncle Gabriel and Aunt Marietta in Springfield, on the rare respite they’d give him from the foster home or the Walter E. Fernald School in Waverly. They’d tell him things – how his brute of a father sang opera that you could hear down the block, in between the storied rumors of his philandering….about his mother, being committed, speaking only Italian, with no defense….and, about his cousin, Jerry Marengi, who would go on to become a world famous Munchkin. These things we all, as his family, would carry forward in the form of his legend.

So, when Dad escaped the confines of his anonymity,  via the freight cars that carried him all the way to California from Boston, joining the US Army seemed almost logical. Free room and board, a hot meal (for which he’d panhandled so artfully as a self taught harmonica and bones man), a little physical agility, and he was in. In, to await deployment by the powers in place to submit him. No ties, no accountability; he was their easiest prey.

Fort Riley, Kansas was the first destination. Having had a few trumpet lessons in the Fernald school, he was ripe for lead bugle – and, played Taps and Reveille dutifully on the horns the army gave him. Organizing, and then leading, a parade for the dignitaries on base earned him the rank of Corporal, which he held proudly until his death.

Dad, however, didn’t die in battle. Oh, no. He was one of the survivors. In fact, when the war commenced, he being third fastest runner in his outfit they shipped him to Germany right off. But, from that point, his always colorful stories were few; Dad would only speak in detail of the day he, as a member of the forward observing team of the 3rd armored, had to “infiltrate the enemy” at the Bulge. It was snowing, and he had a cough, and they had to shoot all the German prisoners on orders. But, they all lived through that hell and, in exchange for it, every infantryman received the Bronze Star.

But, somewhere between enlisting and coming home the victor, there were less celebratory if more defining moments. There were the AWOLs. There was the all night guard duty. And, there was the guard house – where he’d frequently qualify, to all who would listen, his presence on Pearl Harbor Day, which was also his birthday. Dad’s role in all this emerged as a stand alone story; he wasn’t there for the medals.

I can’t remember what year it was. PBS was airing several mini-series, most of them documentaries, and the historian who stood out above the rest was Ken Burns. Ken Burns made his life work the chronicle of America, and he did it well. Never before seen footage, all the real thing, of everything from the jazz greats to, yes, American soldiers, in action.

Naturally, in the course of the Burns chronology of World War II, America’s most outstanding general received his own, multiple chapters. George S. Patton, the formidable, would be displayed in all his imposing force, with selected film clips in abundance. One of these stopped me in my tracks.

I’ll never forget the evening. Probably dull of wit from a snacking binge, I had to be jolted awake by the scene. But, the image. The image was unmistakeable.

Patton, Burns narrated, was always hard on his men. He never entertained the faint of heart, for any reason, chasing them down whenever he could. On one particular day, seems he’d found one: there, before our eyes, underscored by the unwitting Burns, was an army hospital, and one, lean, lone, raven haired soldier on a cot by the wall. The General loomed, raising his hand over this cowering young man, even in silent film barking forcefully at him to get up. The cameraman did not include the strike, but rumors were well circulated that this was part of the Patton package.

I recognized my father instantly.

No one knows when this happened. All anybody knew was Dad left the war a decorated forward observer, shell shocked, a victim of PTSD for the rest of his life. He could never tolerate fireworks (“screeming Meemies”) or sudden explosions of any kind, and would warn us repeatedly until his final years never, ever to come up behind him in the dark.

I wrote directly to Ken Burns, asking him to edit that segment from his series. The next time it aired, as God is my witness, actors portrayed that scene.

But, no actor could characterize my father as he was. Dad was a transparent innocent. He had none of the conventional role models, not a one. He was blessed with many gifts, one of them being the honest candor for which he was beloved by all. Dad was nobody’s victim.

God, in the wisdom mankind will never understand, spared Dad’s life – his, along with so many others, a fact for which the man himself always gave his Creator the glory. I like to think that Dad was protected because of his honesty. There is a fearlessness in such truth.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   5/30/16    All rights, in whole, in part, in word, and in letter, the sole property of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for your respect.

littlebarefeetblog.com