I stood at the bedroom window staring at the devastation caused by the previous night’s ice storm. My wife Patrice is going to be crushed when she see’s what happened during the night – Mother Nature at her fiercest. I heard Patrice stirring in bed.

“Glenn, It’s so early. Watcha looking at?” she asked sleepily.

“We had a pretty bad storm last night. It’s not good, hon. We lost some trees” I replied.

Patrice threw off the covers and sat on the edge of the bed, feet skimming the rug searching for discarded slippers. “Not Red. Please don’t say we lost Red.” Her voice was pleading as she spoke of the redwood sapling she planted 30 years ago when we first moved into our little farmhouse in Colorado. Over the years Red had grown to a majestic height, his branches reaching out to the sky as if in prayer.

I wanted to shout “Whatever you do, don’t open your eyes” but I knew I’d be asking her to do the impossible. Instead, I reached my hand out to my wife. Holding tightly onto my hand like a child learning how to walk, she took a few tentative steps toward the window. Patrice gasped loudly and she buried her face in her hands. Then the tears came. She cried inconsolably for what seemed an eternity. I held her and let her cry; this was not something carelessly brushed aside or easily forgotten.

Finally her sobs lessened and with a broken heart and a cracking voice she exclaimed “Poor Red! How I loved that beautiful old tree. Look at him now, laying there like a toppled monument.” Patrice yanked a few tissues from the box on our nightstand, dabbed her eyes and blew her nose.

“Oh Glenn, I wouldn’t blame you if you thought I was being ridiculous. I can’t help it; I’m totally shattered.”

We sat on the bed side by side and I put a consoling arm around my wife’s trembling shoulders. I kissed her hair and spoke tenderly: “There’s no shame in mourning the loss of a tree. It’s not silly. It is, after all, a living thing. Does it feel pain when a leaf is plucked or a branch broken? Does it thirstily lap the rain after a dry spell? Does it feel your heartbeat as you rest a weary back against its old, sturdy trunk? Does it cry when cut down? How dare we presume that it does not. Some time ago, a round slice cut from the trunk of a fallen tree was placed on a record player, just like a vinyl LP; the rings of the tree were like the grooves in an album. When the stereo needle was placed on the tree rings and the volume turned up, the most beautiful and haunting sounds emerged – sounds only a living thing could make. Who are we to say a tree cannot feel? Yes, my love, it’s fitting to mourn.”

“Is that true, Glenn?”

“Yes! Come, listen.”

NAR © 2022

(Though the actual sliced pieces of the tree do not have qualities of sound in piano form, the converted record player analyzes the tree rings for their thickness, rate of growth and strength. It maps that data and outputs it as piano music through the stereo as captured here.)



“Manga il cibo sul tuo piatto, Sophia, o lo mangerai dal pavimento.”

(“Eat the food on your dish, Sophia, or you will eat it off the floor.”)  

Without changing her expression or taking her huge brown eyes off her father Vincenzo’s face, three year old Sophia picked up a meatball, extended her arm over the side of her high chair and very calmly let it drop to the floor. 

Silence. Everyone sat in suspended animation as Vincenzo deliberately put down his knife and fork and removed the napkin which was tucked into the neck of his shirt. Slowly he stood up, went behind Sophia’s chair and grabbed the back of her dress. He lifted her up and holding her feet with his other hand, lowered her face to the floor. Sophia’s mouth touched the meatball and she turned her face away, but Vincenzo pushed her face into the food, forcing her to take it into her mouth. Satisfied, he sat her back in her chair, returned to his seat and resumed eating. Sophia languidly chewed the meatball. 

Hesitantly everyone resumed eating except Sophia’s mother Francesca who sat watching her daughter. At the end of the meal as the women cleared the table, Francesca placed a napkin over her daughter’s mouth so she could dispose of the uneaten meatball. “Mai più, Sophia. Fai il tuo dovere!” Francesca said. (“Never again, Sophia. Do your duty!”)

Francesca was a frail woman and as Sophia grew she helped her while Vincenzo worked 12 hours a day on construction. When Sophia was 11, Francesca came down with a terrible case of scarlet fever which affected her heart and kidneys and left her housebound. Early every morning Sophia would cook breakfast for the family and pack lunch for her father before she left for school. At lunchtime she would come home to check on Francesca and make something for them to eat before going back to school. After school she would stop at the pharmacy to buy Francesca’s medicine. Sometimes she would surprise her mother with a piece of her favorite candy. First she would care for her mother, then cook dinner before her father came home from work. When dinner was finished she would do her homework and get ready for bed. Since Francesca was sick, Vincenzo slept in Sophia’s room while she slept on the small sofa. It was the right thing to do – her duty – because her father worked so hard and needed his rest. 

Eventually the family began struggling financially. Vincenzo decided that it would be best if Sophia left school and took a job in a sewing factory. Sophia would have preferred to stay in school, but she knew it was her duty to help the family. Francesca’s sisters would take turns checking on her while Sophia was at work. Occasionally they would bring food but they all had large families and were struggling themselves. Sophia still woke up very early to make breakfast and prepare lunch for herself, Vincenzo and Francesca. She worked from 8:00 until 6:00, then came home to cook dinner, clean up and care for her mother. It was a hard life but Sophia knew it was her duty. 

Sophia was an excellent seamstress and her work was always done quickly and perfectly. In the time it took the others to sew one blouse, she completed four. And because her work was beyond compare, she earned more money. She was promoted to making dresses and suits and the other girls were jealous, calling her “your majesty” and “princess”. One girl was so envious of Sophia she began working hurriedly and carelessly, accidentally cutting off most her pinky with the large shears. It was not Sophia’s fault but everyone treated her like it was. 

One Sunday after Mass Sophia’s cousin Gaetano introduced her to his friend Paolo Rossi. By now Sophia was 20 and had never been on a date. She was too busy doing her duty. The young couple were immediately attracted to each other, began dating and married in 1940, just after the start of the war. One year later their first baby was born and fortunately men with children were not being drafted so Paolo was able to remain at home. Tragically, the baby developed nephritis and died at the age of two – and a grieving father, now childless, was drafted. 

Sophia was devastated; no husband, no baby. She devoted all her time to caring for Francesca. The days were grim but thankfully Paolo returned home safely and two more babies followed – healthy girls. The young family, Francesca and Vincenzo moved to a house in the Bronx and Paolo found work in a mechanic’s shop while Sophia stayed at home with the girls and her mother.  Five years later Francesca died and Vincenzo became ill. Of course the ever-dutiful Sophia  cared for him until his death. 

In 1970 Paolo suffered his first heart attack. Three more followed over the years. He developed aortic and abdominal aneurysms and struggled with emphysema and bronchitis until his death in 1996. Sophia cared for him as a dutiful wife for all those years.  

Dear readers, in case you haven’t realized by now I was one of those little baby girls born to Sophia and Paolo. Throughout my childhood and youth, my mother was constantly busy cleaning, cooking, sewing. She was a dutiful mother and took very good care of us, but I never felt a true mother’s love. 

The first time I met my boyfriend’s mother, she was ironing. She immediately stopped her work, brewed a pot of coffee and placed a crumb cake on the table. We sat and talked for hours. That was an afternoon of fun and laughter and I felt the love in that room. I married that boy whose mother did everything out of love, not out of a sense of duty. 

Sophia died in 2010. On her headstone was intricately carved her life-long creed: “FAI IL TUO DOVERE”.

NAR © 2019

Reposted for Fandango’s #FOWC


As we drove down the gravel road to our summer house, I opened the car window and inhaled deeply. Mixed with the salty scent of the ocean was the fragrance of lilacs and honeysuckle – the delicious aroma I missed last year. The pool was still beyond our sight but I saw it clearly in my mind … our private haven … the sensation of floating, feeling all stress evaporate, stillness interrupted only by an occasional breeze. 

Our house is large with floor-to-ceiling windows affording us spectacular views of the distant ocean. Located on a cul-de-sac, there is no traffic and we are invisible from the street.

Last year was the first time we didn’t make it to our sanctuary. 

It all started on June 3rd when Bill fell off a ladder. I was sitting in our den overlooking the backyard and saw him fall. In the seconds it took me to reach him, he was sprawled on the deck, barely conscious, a lump on his forehead the size of a peach. But it was the sickening angle of his leg that made me realize this was serious. 

I called 911, then our kids and we followed the ambulance to the hospital.  Bill had a badly broken femur. Surgery was done that night which would be followed by a lengthy hospital stay and rehabilitation. We all realized our long-anticipated vacation scheduled for June 30th would be cancelled. Priorities. 

Surgery went well and I visited Bill every day, staying all day. At night when I closed my eyes I saw him falling off the ladder. Stress took its toll on me, my arthritic knees screamed in agony and my back began to spasm.

Compounded with Bill’s physical pain was his guilt over “ruining our vacation”. He felt far worse for me, our kids and grandkids, convinced that we were too disappointed to forgive him. Again, priorities.

As Bill began to improve, I thought I would also but my pain became excruciating and I began a months-long regimen of spinal injections to relieve the torment in my legs and back. 

And the year from hell ravaged us, bringing with it more hardship and tragedy than we could imagine – all difficult, some almost unbearable. The most crushing of all was the overdose death of our dear nephew – ripped so cruelly from our lives. We cried in pain, sobbed in anguish. We woke every morning of that hellish year, putting one foot in front of the other, somehow managing to go on. A missed vacation paled in comparison.

Now rebirth … another summer. Driving down the gravel road to our vacation house all I can think about is floating in the pool with Bill, the sun shining down on our battered bodies. The unpacking and settling-in will get done soon enough but right now the warm blue water of the pool and the smell of honeysuckle and lilacs is all we need.

NAR © 2018


It is raining. Little Joseph, only four years old, is riding in the back of a big black car, his mother Carla by his side. They are following a long flower-covered car. Mommy said daddy’s in that car but Joseph can’t see him. Their car stops; other cars arrive. Everyone is dressed in black. They’re all crying. Everyone follows some men carrying a long black box into a grassy field. ‘Is this a picnic?’ Joseph wonders. The men lower the box into a large hole in the ground and mommy tells Joseph to “say goodbye to daddy.” He is confused but follows her lead,  tossing a flower into the hole. They return to the car. Carla lights a cigarette, smiles and tells Joseph daddy won’t be coming back. Joseph is sad and doesn’t understand why daddy would leave without saying goodbye. Looking out the window he waves bye bye with his little hand. 

It is raining .. again. Joseph wants to play with mommy but she says “No .. I’m busy on the phone”. He goes exploring the cellar where there are lots of boxes .. great for climbing and building. Joseph spots a small box among the big ones and decides it’s perfect for the top of his fort. Just as he’s placing it on the tippy top, it slips from his hands, scattering torn  photos of daddy. There’s a newspaper clipping, too, but he can only read a few words – ‘BOAT’ .. ‘LOST’ .. and ‘ROMANO’ – his surname. Joseph doesn’t understand any of it but he instinctively knows mommy would be mad at him. He puts the box back where he found it and goes upstairs. 

It is raining but Joseph hears laughter outside. From the window he can see mommy and a man kissing under a tree. The man takes a suitcase from his car and he and mommy run to the house. They throw open the door, dripping wet, still laughing. Joseph thinks it’s all very strange for grown ups to act this way. Carla looks at Joseph and scolds, “Naughty boy! Don’t you know it’s rude to stare?” But Joseph just stands there, looking at them. “Well, silly goose”, purrs mommy, “say hello to my friend. He’s your daddy now.” Laughing and hugging, they ran up the stairs, leaving Joseph alone in the hallway. Slowly he walks to the window and starts to cry. Will it ever stop raining? 

NAR © 2018