Monday, May 30, 2011


Tomorrow morning I will leave on a 12 day trip to visit family, friends, and roots in what was once my corner of the world. The trip will end with my 50th class reunion at Lebanon Valley that is hard to believe.

watercolor by Julio Rodriguez

It will always be home, not Elkton, Maryland or Wilmington, Delaware, but Landisville, New Jersey, even if the only Renzullis remaining are resting quietly under the oak trees at Friendship cemetery. But cousins Joan, Angelo, and Dan are only a few miles away and visiting them has become one of several “traditions” that have come to define my trips home since moving to Paducah 9 years ago. My friend Obie and I will drive the 30 plus miles from Wilmington through flat, pristine southern New Jersey farm land to Joan and Angelo’s home where we will spend the next several hours enjoying memories, wine, and an abundance of good food…always some pasta.

Another tradition also involves cousins, this time from the Rondinelli side of the family. Obie and I will drive another 30 miles, this time north into south Philly to Danny and Linda’s house. Danny’s brother Joe who now lives in central New Jersey will also be there, and once again there will be wine and food (it is impossible to sit at their kitchen table and not have Linda place not one, or two, but three or more tasty morsels before us…bread, cheese, cold cuts, peppers, and even broiled lamb chops…all of this before dinner!) From there, Danny, Joe, Obie, and I drive to a cafĂ© about 12 blocks away (6th and Bainbridge) where we enjoy our annual repast, martini’s and crepes. Family obligations can be demanding, but I refuse to renege on my responsibilities.

A third agenda on every trip home consists of a visit with my dear friend Hal, a man with whom I have shared my journey and my soul for over 40 years. I cannot imagine how it would have been without his presence. We will sit and talk, drink some coffee and talk some more. Probably go out to lunch where we will talk even more. It is a relationship that is quiet, trusting, and without any demands; we are aware of our history and our commitment to one another. On some occasions, I can arrange for Hal, Obie, and I to go out to dinner, and having the pleasure of dinning with two very special friends, I am reminded once again of my very good fortune.

I cherish these visits, returning to old friends and familiar places, eating and drinking, laughing, and rejoicing in mutual memories. But as important as they are, they are steps behind the primary purpose of these trips…to be with my daughters and their families. When I decided to move to far western Kentucky I knew I was placing time and distance between us. I told myself that this was OK because of the wonderful relationship I have with my children, in part because it was true and in part to avoid feeling guilty about doing so. Recently I find myself missing the times we had together, especially the shared dinners. I don’t know if this is a function of my age, or evidence that still another chapter in my ever-evolving life is about to begin. Whatever the reason, it is something I will have to resolve for myself.

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