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#WWII

  • MY FATHER'S HOUSE--A posthumous 100th birthday tribute

    MY FATHER’S HOUSE

    By

    Chuck Cascio

    My father, Modesto “Morris” Cascio, was born on August 19, 1919 and passed away far too young.

    This is my modest tribute to him in the month of his hundredth birthday.

         His house blossomed as he walked Brooklyn’s streets helping his father bring home meat, bread, and occasionally a small piece of cake from the Depression-induced lines filled with hungry people in a land that once held promise for them all. 

         Remarkably, the promise remained inside him in the form of the house taking shape slowly within his agile mind, a mind capable of seeing hope during the days and nights on those dark streets miles and years away from the home in the rolling hills of Virginia that gradually grew as real to him as the stench of beer billowing from the brewery near the tenement where he lived with his parents, a sister, and two brothers. 

         His house evolved out of the spirit of his mind and took shape through his own will and desire. But first, he fought in the Second World War and then, four years after it ended, he took his small, beautiful wife and me and moved us out of Brooklyn, leaving behind the tenements, the stale brewery odors, his siblings, and his parents as one life slipped forward and the other slipped into the past but both made up the man who left Brooklyn. 

         The move saddened his immigrant father whose greatest fear was to lose any of his four children. All three of his sons had returned safely to Brooklyn after the War, but their wartime departure and his fears for their safety had turned his hair gray and furrowed his brow. Now this son—the second eldest child, the son who loved jazz and opera and who could make his mother laugh by turning her through a new dance step and who read someone named Shakespeare and who showed kindness to his siblings through a tease, a taunt, or an embrace—this son said he would be leaving because he felt a new life and a house growing inside of him. 

         Before he left, he assured his father, “Papa, you will hear from me often and we will visit, and you and Mama will visit us too. You’ll see; it will be good—good for you and good for me and for my family.” 

         The house he built in that strange land called Virginia became him—solid brick, 

    sturdy with quiet nuances of beauty, and a yard filled with trees and rolling emerald fields of grass. With dignity and simple elegance it faced the street—a street that began as dirt, eventually graduated to gravel and, then, finally to asphalt as the world around both him and his house began to change…a world that had graduated in stages inside him as he grew from a dreamer, to a man making dreams come true, and eventually to his fulfillment of a new life. 

    thumb IMG 6659

    My father’s house—our house—just outside of Vienna, VA.

         Every morning I watched as just prior to sitting at the kitchen table he would silently glance outside at the backyard, a view unimaginably different from the narrow streets and alleyways of his youth. Sometimes he nodded quickly and seemed to smile at the contrast. At other times, with his ever-present newspaper folded tightly under his arm, he would open the back door and stand there for several minutes, carefully surveying what was now his—and ours from him—before quietly sitting down. 

         How many days did I watch him sit at the breakfast table already in his suit and tie, reading his morning newspaper, ready for office work…another thing he had once only imagined but now lived?  He would sip coffee and occasionally give me and my younger brother and sister subtle reminders about how to behave, encouraging us to work our hardest, helping us understand that we must have a dream and we must be willing to pursue it. 

        And there were those times he would call us all together, excited about some small idea that had emerged: 

          “How about if we nail a backboard to that tree way in the backyard so you can practice shooting baskets anytime you want?” 

          “Let’s have a cement patio put in right at the bottom of the back steps connecting to the carport; then we can all eat outside!”

         “Gotta get together this weekend to start raking up the leaves. Fall is here!” 

         And in those brief, informal family meetings, he made his house and his dreams a part of his reality, a part of us, a part of all that we would be.

         His father visited the house only once. I still can see my grandfather, a Sicilian immigrant, sitting on the cement patio by the carport on a plastic and aluminum lawn chair, looking confused, as if he had once again migrated to a foreign country…this place with trees and space and fresh air. Over several days, he gradually sat smiling comfortably as he smoked a short, crooked, black cigar, sipped wine, and looked up occasionally from his Italian magazine to glance at the sky. On the day he left, a tear formed as he held his son, and the son, being the kind of man who could kiss his father, did just that. 

         His father returned to the solid streets of Brooklyn, his  place, the place he  had imagined as a boy who left Sicily with a dream, but he had briefly experienced the air and space of his son’s house and had seen the man his son had become. Neither man had regrets and both men knew they would always share certain realities—the family, the bread lines, the beer stench, the War, the fear of detaching from where you are and losing the essentials of who you are…but the absolute importance of taking that step. 

           After his father left, my father again quietly surveyed what was his and what he had become…the foundation of his being. Through his house he had proved that there is no detachment where there is real love; there is only an emergence of things that at first exist in the spaces of the mind, then take root in the soul, and eventually blossom from the heart.

         I have wanted so much of what he had, but nothing has consumed me more than his house—not the structure or the eclectic décor nor the lasting irrefutable loveliness of its grounds—no, it is not the house itself  that I have wanted. It is his quiet pride, his brilliant vision, his deep courage, his belief that this was it! He had achieved his sense of place and he had fulfilled the hope that had grown from the depths of his heart and his mind. He had absorbed the risks, built a new life, and shared it all with those he loved. 

         My father had taken his dream to reality and, in doing so, he had planted dreams inside us all.

    THE END

    Copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
  • Voices of Concern for Our Imperiled Democracy

    VOICES OF CONCERN FOR OUR IMPERILED DEMOCRACY

    An Introduction by Gerald A. DiGrezio, Colonel, USA, retired

    Below is a letter I signed along with 16 other members of my 1968 Infantry Officer Candidate School at Ft Benning, GA.  While we certainly do not claim that we represent the views of the entire class during this period of extreme political diversity, we are a group of mostly Vietnam Veterans with a very singular concern. The signers come from all political persuasions and areas of this country but are united in our concern for what has transpired during the past four years of this presidency.

    We are in an era of time when each week a discovered situation would bring the demise of an administration, but we have become so shell shocked that it barely causes a ripple in the news cycle.  We are led by a president who is only concerned with his own image and is bereft of any concern for the Constitution and the rule of law.  Just two instances in a very long list are his multiple firings of Inspectors General and the U. S. Attorney in Manhattan.

    The duplicity by the Republicans in Congress and the United States Senate has been palpable.  To watch the demise of a political party that prided itself on  patriotism and support of the Constitution has been mystifying at best and duplicitous at worst.

    While we know that this letter will only be a raindrop in a deluge of national concern, the signers felt compelled to issue it.  After all, we took and oath to defend this country against all enemies “foreign and domestic.”  And while I never expected to say it, the greatest threat to the United States of America is resoundingly domestic.

    ###########

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    VOICES OF CONCERN FOR OUR IMPERILED DEMOCRACY

    We the undersigned are former or retired army officers now in our seventies.  We share a common bond, having graduated from the U.S. Army Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning, Georgia in 1968.  From there, we served in the military in a variety of capacities, wherever we were needed.  As young men, we were committed to defending America’s values, our freedoms, our democracy, and our Constitution.  Some of us made a career in the military, but most of us went on to have productive careers back home in the civilian world.  As a group, we have diverse political views: Republicans, Democrats, Liberals, and Conservatives.  But we are all concerned Americans.

    In the past few months, our system of government has been increasingly under siege.  Our nation has reached this critical point under the current administration of Donald J. Trump.  Important voices have begun to speak out, led by respected members of the highest military rank.  We would like to join this chorus of alarm.

    Our government structure, with its co-equal branches, is in jeopardy.  Our judicial system is reeling.  The FBI, the CIA and the NSA are being mocked and belittled.  Our Attorney General’s office is overtly politicized.  Our State Department is being decimated. Where are the voices of outrage in Congress? The Senate is virtually mute.

    We are concerned that our country is rapidly spinning toward a Presidency staffed by family members and cronies in which the only prerequisite is blind loyalty.  The United States is withdrawing from the world, enjoying little respect internationally.  This cannot continue.  

    Quoting James Mattis, a Marine Four Star General and former Secretary of Defense:

                     “We know that we are better than the abuse of executive authority…We must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution.”

    We honor the General’s courage, and emphatically call on both chambers of Congress to follow his lead in defending our democracy and our Constitution.  We urge all Americans to consider these ideals as you vote this Fall.

             Signed:                                                                   

    John F. Baxter III (1LT, USA)
    Mark T. Creaven (1LT, USA)
    Larry W. Clark (1LT, USA)
    Colonel Gerald A. DiGrezio, USA, Retired
    Joseph F. Frisz (1LT, USA)
    John A. Guy (1LT, USA)
    Gary J. Goodman (1LT, USA)
    Captain Robert R. Hammeras, USA, Retired
    Daniel R. Mabesoone (1LT, USA)
    A.C. (Budd) Mazurek (1LT, USA)
    John F. McMackin Jr. (1LT, USA)
    Carl A. Ohlson (1LT, USA)
    Charles A. Powell (1LT, USA)
    John B. Slidell (1LT, USA)
    Lt. Colonel Charles R. Stone, USA, Retired
    Lt. Colonel Ralph S. Swingler, USA, Retired
    Wayne P. Yetter (1LT, USA)
     

    Copyright: Gerald A. DiGrezio, all rights reserved.