I ran into my neighbor Angelo again a couple mornings back. I hadn’t seen him for a while on my morning walk. I usually run into him once or twice a week. He seemed glad to see me and yelled out, “Happy New Year!” He said he’d been out of town for two weeks over the holidays visiting his daughter. He asked me how I was feeling. Now, its kind of eerie when a 92-year-old asks you how you’re feeling. I wondered if I was looking particularly old and tired: I did endure another b-day since I’d last run into him. But Angelo remembers that I suffer with allergies and that I’d had a couple bad colds during the fall and it’s just his way of being kind.
He said he was happy to be home. I asked if he took morning walks at his daughter’s. He said that he did, but that it wasn’t the same–not as beautiful as our woodsy neighborhood. I’ve written about Angelo before. He loves life and is interested in everything: the weather, nature, history, politics, sports, etc. His memory for events both recent and remote is astounding. One of the characteristics of getting too old is that recent events are not well imprinted. That’s certainly not the case with Angelo; he can recall our last conversation in detail. Running into him is a pleasure and I value our conversations. No need to watch the History Channel when you can experience living history with Angelo.
Since I last wrote about him he told me about going deer hunting every year after Thanksgiving. He lived in the Bronx then, and after T-day dinner he and a couple of his buds would drive a few hours up into the Adirondacks and spend the rest of the weekend at a cabin. I think he enjoyed the fellowship, being in the quiet, snowy mountains and coping with the elements more than the actual hunt. In many places and cultures deer hunting is a male-bonding event. He related a story about a buddy serendipitously bagging a huge 12-point buck. I would imagine he shot some too but he didn’t talk about his exploits. He’s a very sensitive guy and I’m almost surprised that he would even go hunting. He wears a big wooden cross around his neck and openly talks about his faith. One reminiscence he shared with me recently had to do with WWII. He was a ball turret gunner on a B-24 Liberator in the 8th Air Force. He mentioned that when returning from missions they would start to disassemble their guns over the Channel. They had to remove and clean them between missions. The ever resourceful Germans apparently figured this out and while nearing the English coast a Ju-88 slipped into their formation and started shooting. They had no way to shoot back with their guns taken apart. He talked about how upsetting it was to have to help remove the dead and wounded after they landed. He got teary-eyed while recalling this memory. And so it’s hard for me to imagine him shooting a deer.
God’s speed into 2012, Angelo!