This column’s a lot easier when someone else writes it for me. Think I’m bad for skipping a week or several? My brother’s got the right idea, he writes every fifteen or twenty years.
This is a reprint of a letter we just came across. You don’t have to know the names of the people he mentions. If you love Rockaway, you’ll get it. And who knows, your tear ducts might get a work out.
This is a love letter to a small town between the green ocean and the tranquil bay and is filled with everyday saints who don’t know they’re holy and would laugh if you told them they were.
Peggy, my darling wife and life partner, died of leukemia on January 24 at the cruelly obscene age of 42, just four short years after we moved to Rockaway. We had met as kids in Brooklyn, bought our first house there and saw our kids born there, but, after a while we had outgrown our first small house and were looking for a place to move. My brother, Kevin, already lived in Rockaway and told us what a wonderful place it was.
It was the best piece of reporting he had ever done.
He mentioned the magnificent beaches, of course, but he also said the best thing about Rockaway was the people. It was this great small town where everyone watched out for each other, he said.
We bought an old house, began to slowly renovate it (the women on our block still haven’t forgiven me for letting Peggy haul rubble to a dumpster on Mother’s Day) and I learned he was right as we fell into the social, religious, and athletic life of Rockaway.
Small towns are supposed to be at their best in a crisis, and we found out how really rare and beautiful the people of Rockaway are after our world turned upside down last April.
I want to thank every person who touched me on the elbow to ask how things were; who helped my kids in a thousand ways; who just made us feel like we weren’t alone. If I don’t mention you by name, it’s not that I’ve forgotten you—every little generous gesture is burned into my mind—it’s just that there are simply too many decent, stand-up people in this small town to mention by name.
Saints in the Rockaway version come with self-mocking humor and they’ll probably kill me for using that word in connection with them, but saintliness comes in all forms and if it means generosity and charity, it’s more common in Rockaway than sand. Juliette Geary and Marian Dunn adopted us and performed so many acts of mercy and tenderness that I will never be able to repay them. Marie Rudolph, the first person to welcome us to Rockaway, was there as a rock solid friend to Peggy when she needed it most. Carol Werner made so many dinners for us, her husband, Harry, started coming to our house looking for a square meal. Thank you, too, Linda Spadaro, for getting my daughter home for those meals.
Our block is a small town within a small town and the Jacksons, the Militanos, the Martens, the McDades, the Woods, and all our neighbors gave us support and friendliness we’ll never forget.
I’m about to blow the covers of two would-be curmudgeons, who like people to think they’re crusty, but sorry, fellas—like it or not—I know you’re nice guys and everyone else should, too. Thank you, Jack Meade and Bernie Heeran—and you know why.
To all The Graybeards, especially Steve Stathis, who showed why Greeks are the best cooks; and Kevin Kelleher, who gave a gift that carried Peggy through her loneliest hours; thanks all you guys for your wise-cracking friendship.
To all my St. Francis ballplayers who showed me such support, especially Ray Corrigan and Yogi Barra. I’m ready to take on any team with you guys. St. Francis' Monsignor Geraghty showed a steadfastness and humanity that went well beyond normal pastoral obligation, for which I’ll always be grateful.
Finally, my mom, transplanted to Rockaway herself, was as heroic and loving as always.
In the midst of all this generosity the world turned as it does, joy mingled with pain, and the day before Peggy was buried, my newborn nephew, Sean, who had been in intensive care, was released to his home in Rockaway.
Welcome to a wonderful town, kid.
With love and gratitude, BRIAN BOYLEBLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS