Tag Archives: truth

Uncle George O’Keefe.

Some men just stand alone.

George O’Keefe was an instantly recognizable American Irish. He’d been born in Erie, PA but never spent hardly a day in any run of the mill fashion. Devout, one might say precociously, as a young boy, while other kids rode bikes or played army this kid stood on the steps and played church, preaching to his sisters’ dolls.

Amen.

And, lest one think him a shirker, George had perfect attendance at public school. For 12, solid years.

Mum met him when he took up with her sister, Frances.

As a very young man, he’d prove traits like constancy. Our grandfather, Pappy, loved to tell the story. George would always reappear, at the door, no matter the misunderstanding or disagreement. See, George was hooked – on God, his Savior Jesus, and Fran Sweet – and, he never looked back. Not once.

Defying virtually all other Irish, not a drop of alcohol could be found at his table, unless he had just poured out the wine for Communion. Then, it was the sacred blood of the Lord. He knew this, like he knew his own reflection in the mirror.

George would marry Frances, and move to Spartansburg PA and then to Clendenin, WV. His bright bell tenor rang out everywhere he went – whether founding Bible study classes or camps, or playing outside with his children no matter the season. Becky, the eldest, said he was up at dawn every day, making breakfast for the whole family and packing each lunch for school. And, even into his late 70s, still water skiing, fishing, and hitting the racquetball courts.

Beyond all this, his influence extended into the lives of countless others. One of these was my father.

Dad had met mum on a train, during R & R from the US Army. The week he decided to travel to Erie, to check out her digs, George and Frances were on hand.

Calling the Bible a comic book, Dad had no use for the obvious brand of Christianity he would confront as he stepped foot into the home of Henry and Mae Sweet on 29th Street. Mammy, the first to hand Dad a small New Testament, set about praying for his conversion; Pappy, the hardliner, was sure this WOP was a lost cause, gruffly declaring:  “He’ll never be saved”.

But, George O’Keefe was also in the room.

And, the day Dad decided to propose marriage to Mum, he’d set his shrewd little ducks in a row; praying the “sinner’s prayer” aloud, he managed to convince Pastor George O’Keefe that he meant business.  And, George, filled with the kind of faith that gave even the hardest sinner the benefit of the doubt, was more than ready to believe it. In fact, he rejoiced; when Mum and Dad got hitched, George O’Keefe “married” them.

Two years in, Mum was pregnant and Dad’s cover was blown. He’d admitted to one of his customahs in the bahbuh shahp that he was “tired of the charade.” When Mum found out, he had no choice but to divorce her.

Ten years into that chapter, God finally made His move. Drawing Dad into the church of a family friend, Pastor LeBeau, the Almighty spoke the Gospel to him one more time. So convicted was Dad of his sins that he walked out of that service and drove to Cleveland, in search of a Burlesque show to distract his heart.

That lasted about twelve minutes.

Back to Erie, into his small one room apartment, Dad dug out his New Testament and read all the verses which Mammy had underlined for him. This time, he prayed in earnest, and repented, and accepted Jesus as his Savior. And, then he told Mum.

George O’Keefe, almost as happy as she was, rejoiced once more. And, George married them all over again, the second time – performing this ceremony in the living room of the new house they would call home for the next 50 years.

In 1995, Mum was stricken, for the second time – with cancer. This time, the disease was in her brain, and terminal. After a mere five and a half weeks, she lay in a hospice bed in the room I had always called mine growing up – mute, the tumor having taken her speech entirely.

Those closest to Mum had come to visit, if they could. Among them, her youngest sister, ending an estrangement that had lasted for years. Then, early one evening, Frances and George drove in from their cottage on Lake Chautauqua.

Mum’s face had taken on the shape of the tumor’s affect. Her mouth, drooped to one side. Her eye, nearly closed. George and Frances walked into the room, and George leaned down close to her ear.

In his bright, bell tenor, with that ever present, big broad grin, George told Mum a joke about a horse. The joke, and its punchline, would be lost to the ether but Mum, as soon as she heard it, burst out laughing – the laugh of recognition, indeed of comprehension, in a rush of affirmation. And, her number ten smile flashed across her face, obliterating completely any sign of palsy or paralysis.

Then, her eyes closed and she went to sleep, never to wake again. By morning, the sun streaming in through the windows, Mum had released her spirit and was gone from the earth.

But, Uncle George had brought the gift of his presence into the room. He’d provided us one more glimpse of our mother, before death came to take her body.

This past Sunday, Uncle George passed away. He was 98 years old. And, he left with that same broad smile on his face.

Thank you, Uncle George. Thank you for being such an important part of our family and the far more inclusive family of God. When the voice of the archangel heralds the trump of God, we’ll be ready to rejoice with you for all eternity.

 

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   4/11/18

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KEEP YOUR MONEY.

URGENT:

Dear beloved members of the Erie Chamber Orchestra audience: KEEP YOUR HARD EARNED MONEY.

Via a letter mailed to all patrons of the ECO, Gannon University is luring contributions. Do NOT give any money to Gannon, on our behalf! The money they receive will not come to us; it will be redirected to another, distinct entity.

Our ECO manager just told me, in print, that there are sufficient funds in our ECO budget to completely cover the cost of our final concert in April. Any money you send to Gannon, at this time, will therefore be considered “surplus”, and THAT money will never reach us.

I have that information, straight from the horse’s mouth.

The whole thing smells of some attempt to bolster funding for the hand-off initiative created by Gannon which, on the surface, appears to sustain the “dream” of Bruce Morton Wright. It doesn’t; rather, it sidelines the vast majority of his orchestral musicians, indeed the entire orchestra, selecting only the handful from within it who already have contracts with the other orchestra. Bruce was fiercely loyal to each and every one of his musicians, and eliminating even one of them from any effort which takes his name is nothing short of blasphemy.

By the way, citing Bruce’s historical role on the Board of the other orchestra is also deliberately misleading; disaffected, Bruce withdrew from that Board, years and years ago.

So, stop.

KEEP.YOUR.MONEY.

Wait for the actual Erie Chamber Orchestra to provide you the information you may seek. Attend our final concert, April 28th. We’d love to see you!

Thank you.

 

Sincerely,

Ruth Ann Scanzillo, principal cellist

ERIE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA

member since 1986.

 

© Ruth Ann Scanzillo   3/21/18

littlebarefeetblog.com

New York.

July 23, 2015  11:20pm

Just because you stay home doesn’t make you any less qualified to be alive.

I’m from a city that just barely made it to the big map. Bad council decisions, insular geography, what have you. The rest of the world moved on without it.

About twenty five years ago, my friend Sally found me a house here. She said it was the prettiest in town. More importantly, this one and a half story original from 1895 was located on a corner between two main arteries, a full ten minutes max from anything I needed or wanted to do. For $34,5. I grabbed it, and never looked back.

And, then I went back. To work.

Work. Studs Terkel had quite a bit to say about work. In fact, he wrote the book. And, Studs was from a county town only minutes from here.

Work, for me, would be the becoming. Being an artist, I set about to make a thing of beauty. First, I used materials. Later, I would use people. Children. Sometimes, losing sight of the fact that the materials in my works of art were living, breathing organisms with worthy needs and wants of their own. Young beings, fragile and sensitive. That was probably my biggest failing; I would wonder, to this day, if I’d ever hurt a child irrepairably in my determination to complete the masterpiece of my imagination.

But, no one could say that I hadn’t worked. And, the efforts made bore their own fruit.

We are all called upon, whether we hear the voice doing the calling or not, to make something of value out of our lives. Some of us are given more than one set of gifts, of a type easily identified by the masses. These are called Talents. Each are meant to be developed, and then expressed, in some meaningful form. Sometimes they come forth easily, finding their place with little effort; others take more care to refine. But, sooner or later, one born with talent is just going to be out there embodying the gift. There’s a certain inevitability to it all.

Others are given quieter functions. Curiosity. Compassion. Empathy. Nurture. These, too, are gifts. And, when all are presented to the greater society, everybody benefits. From every nook and cranny of the world, people who are actively contributing to truth, and beauty, and growth, are the lifeblood of the planet.

I’ve also been to New York – the center of the known universe. And, I know plenty of others who have. Some have even lived and worked there. And, the report from the front has not always glittered with gold.

Moving to the bigger city to seek one’s fortune has, historically, been the pattern of the emerging fledgling. Somewhere, somebody said that, the greater one’s inherent potential, the more important to place oneself in the midst of the most recognized centers of society.

This may have been truer when life was smaller, overall. When the perimeters could be more cleanly defined. When the goal could be more clearly visible, the horizon within view.

But, for every expectant bundle of energy that gets off the plane or the bus or the train, there is a lifetime of encroaching realization waiting at the station. A tiny apartment, on a dusty sidestreet. One precious collection of minor opportunities that somebody says will eventually grow into the bigger one. And, perhaps a decade or two of increasing isolation, anonymity, maybe even disappointment.

Mostly, those who become self sustaining in New York do so because they manage to find a smaller collective. A studio. A neighborhood. An extended family of others, who share their loves and propensities. You know. Like a small town.

Mary Engelbreit said: “Bloom where you’re planted.” Oh; maybe she wasn’t the first. But, she said the words out loud. And, then she repeated them, using pretty colors and shapes, until they were everywhere. Back in the 1980’s, Mary’s constitution of this meme had quietly found its place on the greeting card rack of life. Most never knew Mary. But, many lives would come to benefit from what she did.

Friday evening, I will be meeting a lovely young woman for, as they say, coffee. She’s in town for a few days, visiting family and friends, and we haven’t seen each other in over twenty years. But, back in the day, Charline was my student, and neither of us ever forgot the other. Like so many who are part of the thriving throng, she made a life for herself as a teacher in another small town, much as I had. This will be a good reunion, the best kind. We will celebrate the most important part: mutual human value.

We won’t be meeting at a cafe in Manhattan. We won’t have to. There will be no agents, eager for a piece of us. There’ll be no wannabes, seizing our favorite table. We’ll be attending Gallery Night at our local art museum, where just as many beautiful things and people can be found as any of their kind, anywhere. And, those who gather there will have every bit as much to offer the world as anybody else.

We’ll be thankful for our village, the place we call home. And, we’ll be fully qualified to say so.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  7/23/15    Thank you for reading. Sharing permissible by request.

littlebarefeetblog.com