Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Music Never Ends

How do you keep the music playing?  How do you make it last?  How do you keep the song from fading too fast?

How do you lose yourself to someone and never lose your way?  How do you not run out of new things to say?

And since we know we are always changing, how can it be the same?

And tell me how year after year you’re sure your heart will fall apart each time you hear her name.

I know the way you feel for her is now or never.

The more I love, the more I am afraid that in her eyes I may not see forever.

If we can be the best of lovers and be the best of friends

If we can try with every day to make it better as it grows, with any luck then I suppose

The music never ends.

Yes I know the way I feel for her it’s now or never.  The more I love, the more I am afraid that in her eyes I may not see forever….

If we can be the best of lovers and if we can be the best of friends

If we can try with every day to make it better as it grows

With any luck I suppose

The music never ends.


Today was a day unlike any.  All days are days unlike any.  It is October the 3rd, the colors ache as they radiate outward, the oranges and the reds and the yellows, so vibrant, so alive.  After work I went to my bedroom to change out of my work clothes and smelled the air hanging around my room.  It was charged with reminders of spring and summer, warm and promising.  I knew intellectually that it is October and the travel to darker, colder times is upon us, still and all, the gentle fresh warmth hung in the air.  An Indian summer evening.  Hard to define in words, in concepts.  More a visceral experience, an olfactory connection.    

Today was the day we buried Aldo, one of my neighborhood parents.  Aldo and his wife Grace were always unabashedly concerned with my well being.  It mattered to them how I felt, if I was fed or hungry, if I was tired, if I was working too much between college and my job at Sears.  It mattered that my heart ached.

Aldo was there for me through many of my life’s ups and downs.  Through heartbreaks, first love, second love, third love!  Through high school, my first job, learning to drive, college, applying and getting accepted to graduate school in Chicago.  To loving and losing.  To moving away and to coming home.  To marriage and having babies, to matters of the hearth and heart, the centerpiece of Aldo.    

I distinctly remember Aldo and his ever present tenderness and directness.  Aldo to me means the face of a man who always wears a smile.  Back in 2000 I temporarily moved into my parents’ home for a couple of months with my two year old son and husband.  Grace and Aldo were always checking in on us.  I had planned to birth my second son in my childhood home with the assistance of a midwife and my husband.  On December 15th 2000, my second son, Aidan James, miraculously entered this world, all 12 pounds of him!

The birth was easy in relative terms, meaning only that it was not the marathon hospital birth of my first son.  I was relaxed and comforted by familiar surroundings of my family home and neighborhood.  I birthed my son at noon and my older son and the rest of the family returned from lunch by 1 p.m. and by 2 p.m. my neighbors and friends were showing up for a visit. The next day Aldo came to visit.  I was gingerly moving from the bedroom to the living room and not realizing that my stamina wasn’t what it had been, I began to collapse.  Thankfully Aldo was there to “catch me.”  He gently guided me to the couch and sat beside me and my newborn, interested in both of us, mama and nursing baby.   

I recognize that we are all here on earth for a set amount of time.  The beauty of the impermanence is that we get to fill all those moments with our presence, our love, our joy, our genuine goodness.  I knew through his battle with cancer and kidney disease that we would lose him but I somehow could not really come to grips with this reality.  Aldo is just one of those lives that live bigger in breadth and depth than others.  He epitomized joy and we all know that for Italians family is heart and soul; it certainly was for Aldo.  And neighbors were fortunate enough to be brought into this circle of love.

As the priest said today at the start of mass, Aldo was a joy and that when we meet a joyful person, we experience a gift.  That humor and joy reflects God’s goodness.  The way I see it, Aldo’s joy reflected his wonder and goodness as well and that we all basked in every moment we encountered him. 

In all my very soon to be forty seven years on earth, I can never recall a minute that Aldo was too busy for me, too full up to connect, too overwhelmed or driven by another task.  Now I am not saying that he wasn’t a man who had things to do, he was.  His home reflected his natural elegance and was always completely uplifted.  His meticulous lawn and garden, the yellow painted shingle ranch, his roof, his garage, his car, even his concrete driveway.  Always immaculate.  Maybe he was so industrious because Grace always had a home cooked, delicious meal awaiting him; that and the great pride he felt in his family’s home. 

Grace and Aldo always made sure I was fed.  I never went hungry and up till the last time I saw them together, they always offered me something to eat.  They fed our bodies.  They also fed our hearts and souls.  It was the Grace and Aldo show, the comedy hour, the drama, the sit com.  It was all of it rolled up into a couple, a household, a family.  I cherish them.  I will really miss Aldo, his cherubic round bald lovely head and smile and solid presence full of a heart and love and oh so much overflowing boundless joy. 

As the service began, Aldo’s Irish son in law was asked to start this Catholic mass in a rather unorthodox manner, with a tribute to Aldo.  Joe with complete poise and dignity gently requested that we all close our eyes.  Our task was to envision a moment with Aldo that was joyous and made us smile.  We were tenderly reminded to wipe away our tears and replace them with smiles.  Then Joe proceeded to tell a story about Aldo and him.  It was a precious and very human way to begin the service.

There is no way to take away this achy sadness that we all feel.  Only time and space will do that.  We feel sad because we love.  We feel because we love.  We are fortunate because we were touched by a very special man. With a man like Aldo, the music never ends. 
(Tony Bennett, "How Do You Keep the Music Playing")

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