is unexamined is not worth living
The death of someone close to you demands examination of how that
life affected yours. By analyzing that concluded journey, we upgrade
its value and take Socrates one step beyond the grave. Reflection
by the living retroactively changes the life of the dead. You thus
possess the power to stand time on its head.
We now know that
Einstein was right. Time is relative and can even be altered at high
speed. We also know that radio signals travel to infinity.
The best opportunity
to use our time travel capability lies in examining lives which have
touched our own.
By doing so, we impact
the past, the present and the future. All fall within the internal
control of each of us.
Once we do that,
we can shed our fears. Like the superstition that death comes in threes.
On January 28, I lost an old friend and Sparks High School lost one
of its greatest athletes. Merlin Shea was a speedy trackster and standout
all-around football player. He was a three-time all-state honoree
on Coach Tip Whitehead's back-to-back state championship teams in
1940 and 1941.
His teammates and
opponents in both high school and college read like a map of Nevada
city streets, a directory of businesses, a gallery of public officials:
Quilici, Sorenson, Foote, Garrell, Hug, Eccles, Yuill, Sheehan, Kearns,
Keller, Piazzo, Beasley, McClure, Leavitt, Melton, Gardella, Van Meter,
Barbagelata, Laxalt, Borda, Molinari, Hicks, Kellison, Solari, Burgarello,
Trachok, Lawlor, Aiken, Sampson, Hastings, Ensslin, Getto, Westergaard,
Olguin, Bell, Oppio, Cecchi, Matteoni, Frediani, Waller, Kottinger,
Mirabelli, Dodge, McClure, Rude, Byars, Hastings, DeRicco, Drakulich.
All names which built Nevada.
I remember the friendly,
athletic Irishman with the thick, graying hair I met in 1975. Merlin
and his wife, Martha, had invested in a little saloon called Del
Mar Station, Reno's first fern bar. Merlin kept his building management
job. Martha remained as head nurse of Washoe Med's ER. (She originally
met him when he sought medical attention while working as a Reno police
The Sheas bought
out their partners in 1976 and quickly discovered a stack of unpaid
bills. They knuckled down and turned the place into a winner. A quarter
century later, Del Mar still rules local rock 'n' roll.
Martha Shea entrusted
me with Merlin's athletic scrapbook, compiled by his mother. It's
quite fragile but so alive. One photo in an old Sparks Tribune haunts
me. The yellowed page crumbles like old money. Across it, a young
and strong Merlin Shea charges into the line against an eternal foe.
But the face on the newsprint has almost faded away.
by the living, Merlin Shea can run forever. Time won't merely stand
still, it will everlastingly expand with just a kind thought
every now and then.
a future installment: Tales of the fabled Eleven Old Men; an early
day Deion Sanders in Utah; the goofiest ballgame UNR ever played and
childish Nevada north-south rivalry. Some things really never change.
TWO AND THREE.
An old Yiddish proverb advises that the Lord made great burdens, but
he also made shoulders.
Last Tuesday morning,
I lost my Grand Aunt, Lena San Filippo, born in Italy Feb. 28, 1900.
Her heart had recently deteriorated and she lived in great pain. She
died enroute to a Chicago area hospital.
When I last talked
with her, she already spoke in the past tense, scoldingly lamenting
that "we never got to see each other again."
She also said "it's
not good to live too long." Alas, there was no joy left in that sweet
voice. She was a magnificent individual about whom I will reflect,
write and tell stories for the rest of my life.
Her son, Frank San
Filippo, operated a Reno business for a time. Unfortunately, I had
no idea who my cousin was. My wife noticed his name in the phone book
and suggested I call him. I didn't think he could possibly be related
to me, so I didn't. When he died in the mid-1980s, my Aunt Lena traveled
to Nevada to settle his affairs. She did not know I had lived here
since 1971. Please don't fail to make such a call should you ever
get the chance.
We eventually found
each other and in 1992, she came to visit me. It was the last time
I would see her.
The Illinois family
received another blow within 24 hours of her death. My aunt's son-in-law
did not wake up last Wednesday morning. Lena San Filippo and George
Mostardini, 74, were put to rest in a joint service on Feb. 13.
In such situations,
I remind people that in this life, you're never given more than you
can handle. God made shoulders.
My grandmother once
advised us how to care for the dead. Nana said that when you taste
something especially good, think about those who have gone before
and make a wish that they can share the flavor.
With you to sustain
them, they can live forever.
Be well. Raise hell.