This piece was written in memory of my brother, Raymond Valentino Recchi. He died from Pancreatic cancer in 1999 at a horribly early age. Like most things I do these days, I was late getting this post to my niece, Ray's daughter, who started a memorial site for the family a while back. I felt under the gun and am not particularly thrilled with the outcome, but it is from the heart and it's all true. I am missing him, so I thought I'd make him part of this world too. PS Isn't he darling? I love that face!
Most of the significant moments I shared with my brother were just that, moments. I don't have any sad or funny stories to tell, just a series of moments. But I'm happy to share them.
Ray was my big brother, but he was also my friend, my go-to guy, my shrink, and at times, a father. When I was little, we spent lots of time together, but it was mostly him babysitting me. I felt very safe in his arms. It was like being held by a huge friendly bear...He taught me lots of valuable life lessons... For instance, he is the person who got me to stop whining when I was a kid, by teaching me what it was.
RAY: "Min, you REALLY have to stop that whining".
ME: " IIIIIIIII dooooooooon't knoooooooow what yoooou're taaaaaalking aboooouuut!!!"
RAY: "The waaaaaaay yooooou're taaaaaaaaaaalking... It's caaaaaalled whiiiiiiiiiiiiiiining!"
He was great at getting me to stop being hysterical when I was little too, by instructing me on the finer points of taking a deep breath. (I used to be somewhat of a dramatic and convulsive crier.) He also MADE me eat the cecis in my ceci and pasta... I hated him for that! I used to roll them to one side of my bowl in a nice, neat pile, and eat the pasta. Because let's face it, to a kid, ceci beans (garbanzos) are just plain gross! Well, they were to me anyway. I remember holding quite the grudge about that one!
Then there was his old Mercury... "The Merc". We would race down the road with the windows down singing to the radio. It was grand! He usually had the dial (back when there actually were dials) set to an oldies station, Sunny 106. Sweet City Woman was a particularly fun one. Other favorites: anything by Abba, Buddy Holly or Elvis, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, OOga Chuga Ooga Ooga!... those kinds of songs. The songs that make you feel the whole world is still shiny and new.
As we got older we became more and more like friends. I was the baby of the family, so Ray was quite a bit older than I. And although I spent many years of my youth lost and confused, he never talked down to me or made me feel badly about it. He taught me how to drink a real drink... proper and lady-like. (Which is about the time I really began to drop my grudge about the Ceci beans). He taught me to order VO whiskey and soda. I could not understand this, because Kahlua and Cream tasted SOOOOOoooooooo much better! I said something like: "Ack! I can only drink this in little sips it's so bad!" And he said something like: "Yea! That's the whole point." You've just gotta love that. I didn't always take his advice, but when I was out with a guy I really liked, instead of "the gang," that was how, and what I drank...
We also watched a whole lot of football. I used to be a huge fan, as did most everyone in our family. The day the Fins won the Superbowl and had their historic undefeated season, our whole family was there. My mom and my aunt Esther were the scariest of the whole bunch... Seriously! That was a great time. We were all together and everyone was ecstatically happy! Years and years after that when I would visit Ray's family at his own house, there always seemed to be a football game on. If I wasn't in the mood to watch, I'd do something else in another room, but I could still hear it going on in the background. I always found that comforting.... and I still do.