Day 1 and Day 2 of 12
I have neither a partridge in pear tree nor two turtle doves. And I would not consider either to be a fabulous gift. In case you had any ideas.
But it is symbolic of the "counting down" toward Christmas..
If you have been tracking with me for any time, you know two things. I am motivated by a set number of days or projects. October - 31 Days to Being a Real Writer. November - 30 Days of Gratitude. 12 Days of Christmas. I don't always fulfill each day, but I like the concept.
The other thing you know is that I have been absent for a time. There have been many factors. The biggest one is that sometimes my gift is shut down by difficulties.
Sometimes, the frustration that comes from a 3 year unresolved challenge has been responsible.
And other times life is just painful beyond words.
Let me tell you about one of the best men who ever lived...
Giambattista Andreassi and his family moved from Italy to Brady's Bend, PA when he was eighteen months old. He lived the rest of his life in a ten mile radius of his first home. He married Joanne, a woman from the same town.
People called him Tittino or JB or Greaser or Papa or Dad. I called him Uncle John. He called me Bessanne.
Every person who crossed paths with John Andreassi is better for it. I never heard him say a bad word about anyone. Never. Truly.
And it would shock me to find anyone who had a negative word about him.
In 1951, John and Joanne bought a tiny house and three oil wells. They added on to the house, raised seven kids there. They bought more oil wells. John worked a second job. Joanne was a substitute rural mail carrier.
They were never featured in a national magazine or on a reality show.
Not glamorous by any standards.
He loved this country and was fond of saying that in the United States a person could be whatever he or she wanted to be - all it took was hard work. He certainly knew about that.
In time, the oil company grew to the point of being able to sustain his family. But that meant being willing to answer calls and make repairs at all hours and on any day. No customer went without gas because he was tired or it was a holiday. Not even the year he was called out on Christmas and his kids sat and waited for his return before opening gifts.
He was a devout Catholic. Many times, in the face of tragedy or heartbreak, I heard him say, "Whatever the Lord wants - that's how my life will be...whatever the Lord wants." And he lived those words.
Still, if you ask me the first thing that comes into my head about Uncle John, it is this: He loved his family so much. You might say, "Of course he loved his kids- what good man doesn't?" And he did love his kids, and their spouses, and his grandkids.
But it was the depth to which he adored Joanne-ee (his name for her) that sticks in my mind.
My Aunt Joanne was a wonderful lady. I spent at least one week every summer at the Andreassi home, and she treated me like one of her own. I loved her dearly.
She had an abundance of gifts and graces. Being easy wasn't one of them.
But John thought she was the best ever. For him, there was no one like Joanne-ee. It was evident to all who knew him.
Five years ago, after she passed very suddenly, I stood beside her casket with my arm through his, and he said, "Look at her, Bessanne - isn't she beautiful!" Others have told me he said the same to them on different occasions.
Her passing hit him hard, took a bite out of his spirit. But he never complained, never bemoaned his fate, never cursed fate.
He went on living.
He had a family he loved.
His integrity and kind spirit had fostered a great and wide circle of friends and business acquaintances. He had obligations at the Sons of Italy club in Brady's Bend.
He went on living.
Last summer his garden had 103 tomato plants. He had learned to make homemade pasta noodles and sauce - that had always been Joanne-ee's job. When he entered the hospital in late October, there was one batch of sauce left to make.
Instead, on November 26, he went to be with Joanne-ee, with his parents and brother.
He left a giant hole.
It has been hard to write. Impossible.
I knew this had to be the first blog I wrote, but the words were hidden under grief and tears. Not just mine, but the grief I see on the faces of my beloved cousins, the sadness I hear in their voices.
But we are counting down to Christmas...and he would want us to go on living.
We know he is where he wants to be. With Joanne-ee. With the others he has missed so much. With the Savior whose birth we celebrate.
Our hearts are torn open...but he would remind us that our lives are in the Lord's hands.
And he would urge us to go on living.
Ten days left in the countdown.
Finally I am able to write again.
Thanks, Uncle John. Give Aunt Joanne a kiss for me.
We'll see you both later.
Time to go on living.
Day 3 brings French hens - no idea what to do with them!
We will talk tomorrow...